Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Amazing Wife, part 2

I am sure that, after reading my previous entry, many of you are thinking the following: "Wowzers! Your wife is fantastic! I wish I had one just like her!" Well, my dear friends, I sadly must inform you that she is one-of-a-kind, not to be found elsewhere. Notice how I refrained from saying "one-in-a-million". The reason for this being that according to the US Census Bureau's World Population Clock, at the time of this writing there are just shy of 6.8 billion people on the planet. If I said my wife was one-in-a-million, that would mean there are 6,792 other people on the planet just like her. As this is not the case, I will stick to my original statement, but shall add a modifier: my wife is one-of-a-kind, or in other words, one-in-six-billion-seven-hundred-ninty-three-million-five-hundred-thirty-seven-thousand-two-hundred-ninety-eight.

Pictured: her
Arrested Development Button
As was mentioned earlier, my love for Arrested Development knows know bounds. Never has a show been so cleverly witty, hilariously slapstick, and amazingly amazing. It certainly changed the way I watch/judge TV shows, and to this day I still get jokes for the first time whenever I rewatch it. (I mean, the bar where Jewish lawyers go to on Friday nights is called Miss Temple's. Come on!) In one particular episode, Buster wears a pin with the following saying: "The only scary thing about a one-armed man trying to scare someone is the fact that he feels that his one arm is good for nothing but trying to scare someone." When I watched the episode with my wife, I noted that if I had my choice, the button would be probably the one piece of Arrested Development memorabilia I would ever want. In the words of GOB: "Ta-da!"

"And that's why you don't use a one-armed person to scare someone."
All Your Base Shirt
If you played video games in the late 80s, you might have come across a game called Zero Wing. In the opening cinematic, a very, very poorly-translated conversation ensues between the heroes and the villain. When the villain tries to explain that they have taken over all the military bases, he does so with the following phrase: "All your base are belong to us." Since that time, the "all your base" joke has become somewhat of a joke/meme in nerd circles and has gained worldwide notoriety. How much notoriety, you ask? Well, if you go to Google and type in "all y", the phrase shows up second in search popularity, just below "all you need is love". That being said, though I am sure my wife had no idea what the phrase meant when I first uttered it, she was only a few clicks away from finding a most excellent shirt.

Somebody set up us the bomb.
Jolly Roger Flag
While I am not into pirates as much as some people are (read: the whole pirates vs. ninjas debate), I have always enjoyed romanticizing a time that, in all actuality, was anything less than glamorous. When my wife visited an awesome store in Gardner Village called Anastasia's Attic, she brought back with her a super awesome jolly roger. And while the rest of the items on this list were presents that had an occasion (Christmas, birthday, etc.), this one was "just because". Although, in actuality, I think it was because she bought herself tons of stuff that night and wanted to lessen the blow by distracting me. Either way, it is a rad flag.

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate flag for me
Steampunk Bag
  Reader: Steampunk? What's that?
  Me: It is a genre of fiction taking place in kind of an alternate history, where Victorian-era lifestyles also included futuristic technology.
  Reader: Sounds deliciously nerdy.
  Me: It is.
  Reader: I'm glad that I, being the non-nerdy type, have steered clear of such a strange movement.
  Me: Ah, I am not sure you have. Have you ever watched Wild Wild West, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen?
  Reader: No. Those are all geeky things.
  Me: Fair enough. Have you ever read anything by Jules Verne or H.G. Wells?
  Reader: Sure. I love Around the World in Eighty Days.
  Me: Well then, my friend, you love steampunk.
  Reader: Oh... drat...
This most recent gift-from-my-wife is also hands-down the best. Not to be outdone by her previous gifts, she had this bag specially made by an artist in Seattle. That means that the bag, like its giver, is one-of-a-kind.

Professor Pfefferneussen's Contraptions and Haberdashery
So when it comes down to it, I think my wife is amazing. Would I love her just as much if she never got me an awesome present again? Absolutely. Do I think that she will constantly embrace my inner-nerd and get me awesome stuff? Definitely. Are all of you super-jealous? Extremely.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Amazing Wife, part 1

My whole life, I have been taught that buying people things is not a good way of showing them you love them. This makes sense for many reasons, as it can cause a myriad of problems in the mind of the givee:
  1) If the gifts stop or drop in quality, that means your love does is well.
  2) If you give someone else a better gift, it means you love them more.
  3) If the gift breaks, then your love is equally as fleeting.
This was told to me time and time again throughout my youth, including the Full House episode where Uncle Jesse buys DJ a drum set to apologize—presumably because sexiest men alive lack qualities in the "caring for children" department.

Pictured: the sexiest man alive
I bring this up because for the next two blog posts, I am going to share with you one particular aspect in which my wife rocks: the presents she gets me. Now, do not get me wrong: there are many ways in which she shows her love for me, and there are many ways in which I think she is amazing. However, many of those would probably rank too high on the Lovey-Dovey Scale—a scaled algorithm discovered in 1921 by Doctors Aloysius Lovey and Leopold Dovey—and would not make for good reading. And so, without further ado, allow me to present the following gifts. (Get it? Present... gifts... ah, never mind.)

Dr. Lovey and Dr. Dovey would rank this a 9.34 on the L-D Scale.
The Fifth Element: Ultimate Edition
A few years back, my girlfriend (as she was, at the time) and I were at a friend's house. As we were looking through his DVD collection—I find that you can tell the most about a person from his/her movies—I saw The Fifth Element: Ultimate Edition. Now, those who know me know I have a deep-rooted affinity for The Fifth Element; one might even say my love for it is super green. Seeing the two-disc special edition before me mustered up all sorts of feelings inside of me, and I turned to the not-quite-yet-Mrs. and told her that if she loved me, she could get me it as a present. Granted, I could not have been more overt had I had taken a cue from Monty Python and said, "Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more"; but sure enough, a few days later, she came to my house bearing a DVD-sized gift in her hands.

We were engaged just a few weeks later.
Volt for Steve Holt shirt
It took probably an hour from meeting the wife before she realized that I was and to this day am slightly obsessed with Arrested Development. And by "slightly obsessed", I mean that if I go 24 hours without referencing/quoting from the show, it is a bad day. (If you do not know what Arrested Development is, stop reading immediately and go to, as it will change your life.) Imagine my surprise, then, when I opened up a birthday present from the Mrs. and found a shirt featuring one of the show's most memorable puns: Volt for Holt.

Four more years! Four more years!
DuckTales Quilt
Anyone who denies that DuckTales is not only one of the most amazing cartoons ever made, but also saved/molded cartoons as we know them today is either uninformed, a hermit, or a communist. Aside from being one of the only outlets of fiction that takes place in a made up state (Calisota, but that is for another entry), DuckTales pretty much served as manna from heaven for me while I was growing up. Knowing my love for all things DuckTalean, my wife got a crew of quilters together and handmade me a DuckTales quilt, complete with fabric that has been out of production for the better part of two decades.

D-d-d-danger walks behind you...
Soylent Green shirt
**SPOILER ALERT** Soylent Green is people. To be a bit more specific, Green, the latest addition to the Soylent Corporation's food ration line—which includes other such favorites as Yellow and Red—is composed primarily of the euthanized elderly members of an overcrowded, underfed society. If none of this makes any sense to you, you just must not be a big enough nerd... or you have not seen the movie. My wife falls in both of these categories, but that did not stop her from finding me an amazing, spoiler-filled shirt.

Remember: Tuesday is Soylent Green day.
Coming up next time: the presents get even cooler...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's Christmas Eve (and these shoes are just her size)

With Christmas virtually upon us, no doubt many of you—myself especially—have been flooded with Christmas music at all turns. As the number of days before Christmas have become shorter, an inverse proportion of Christmas songs has risen both in number and ubiquitousness, starting as simple musak instrumentals playing over the PA in the mall and culminating in the 100 Hours of Christmas on 100.3 FM, "Utah's Official Christmas Radio Station"—a claim that is as perplexing as it is unfounded, as I doubt FM100 has endorsement from either the state of Utah or the holiday of Christmas. How one even gets an endorsement from a holiday is beyond me.

Utah's Official Arbor Day Stud
During the barrage of Christmas music, we are occasionally exposed to a legitimately good tune. The Ukranian Bell Carol is probably the coolest thing to come out of eastern Europe, and Handel's Messiah is phenomenal—especially when given the fact that it was written in 24 days. Sadly, for every good Christmas song out there, there are a bevy of horrible ones. And while discussing songs such as Have a Funky, Funky Christmas by New Kids on the Block would be fun, the real problem is not songs like it; for they come and are forgotten quickly. Nay, dear readers, the problem lies in the songs that are absolutely wretched, but are still played every year.

Pictured: the best version of Carol of the Bells
Wonderful Christmastime
Paul McCartney, 1979
While it is a well-known fact that the Beatles are dying in reverse-coolness order—and, as such, Paul McCartney will live forever, as he never had even an ounce of cool—there are some things that Sir Paul has done that are beyond reproach. While the project known as Wings was quite possibly one of the worst "bands" ever, McCartney performed the ultimate sin against mankind when he released Wonderful Christmastime. I understand that synthesizers were getting big in the late 70s, but Wonderful Christmastime has more synth than the Main Street Electrical Parade.

Paul, Paul, Paul... even The Simpsons couldn't make you cool.
Last Christmas
Wham!, 1984
Wham!, the band made of George Michael and the other guy, have a very interesting song repertoire. They have released some really good music (Careless Whisper comes to mind), and they have released some really bad music (Bad Boys, I am looking in your direction). But they took the plunge in 1984 with Last Christmas, a song that is not only one of the most annoying songs of all time—a statement proven by the fact that anyone, anywhere can hum the melody, even if they hate it—but being a completely vindictive and harsh song with the theme of "You are a cheating ho and I am the one who is too good for you!", it completely detracts from the Christmas spirit.

"Maybe it was the other George Michael. You know, the singer/songwriter."
Do They Know It's Christmas?
Band Aid, 1984
Imagine you gathered all of Britain's greatest musicians of the 70s and 80s into one room. Who would you have? Amongst the ranks you would find Freddie Mercury, Phil Collins, Sting, and Jareth the Goblin King himself—David Bowie. If you had all these greats gathered together, what would you do with your never-before-been-topped concentration of talent? Well, if you were the creators of Band Aid, you would write one of the most horrible—and horribly depressing—songs ever and have them sing it. Yes, Band Aid was created to help raise money for a famine in Ethiopia, and yes, famines in Ethiopia are by definition not very funny; but that is no excuse for the travesty of a song that not only uses such great holiday words as "dread", "fear", "bitter", and "doom", but that also suggests that while eliminating the problem would be good, it is equally good to "thank God it's them instead of you". While I think I understand what is trying to be said, something tells me Jesus does not want the celebration of his birth spent by a bunch of privileged white people thanking him that there are the less-fortunate in the world... so that they do not have to be the less-fortunate.

"So two Ethiopian famines walk into a bar..."
The Christmas Shoes
NewSong, 1999
The Christmas Shoes is the worst of the worst. It is specifically written to be as emotionally exploiting as possible, complete with the little-kid-choir singing the refrain at the end. And, believe it or not, the worst part of the song is not when the poor child reaches into his pocket and finds that his meager savings are not enough to buy his sick mother some shoes—or, you know, medicine, which probably would have been a better purchase. No, the worst part comes near the end:
  "I knew I'd caught a glimpse of heaven’s love/
  As he thanked me and ran out/
  I knew that God had sent that little boy/
  To remind me just what Christmas is all about."
That is right: the narrator of the song is actually so full of himself, he assumes he is so special that God would set a huge chain of events in motion to teach him the small and easily-teachable-in-other-ways lesson of the true meaning of Christmas... a chain of events which, if you did not catch it, ends with the little kid's mother more-than-likely dying.

The Christmas Shoes, a bad movie based on an even worse book based on the absolutely worst song in existence
There are also a few honorable mentions the deserve a bit of attention:

Baby It's Cold Outside
Frank Loesser, 1944
Do me a favor and read the lyrics of this song really quick. Notice anything amiss? Perhaps the fact that the entire song is about a guy trying to get a girl drunk, despite her pleas to go back to her parents? And to think: it won an Academy Award... the first song about statutory to do so, to my knowledge.

Here Come Santa Claus
Gene Autry, 1947
The song ends with the following lyrics:
  "Peace on earth will come to all/
  If we just follow the light/
  So let’s give thanks to the Lord above/
  That Santa Claus comes tonight."
Not to presume what the Savior’s likes and dislikes are, but I am fairly certain he would not appreciate it if people thanked him for the existence of a fictional character whose presence has led to people forgetting why they celebrate Christmas in the first place. And on a similar topic, it is probably not a good idea to blur the line between Santa and Jesus, unless you want your child's faith utterly destroyed when they find out the truth about the former.

Please Daddy (Don't Get Drunk This Christmas)
John Denver
Please daddy, don't get drunk this Christmas. Oh my goodness.

You know you are in a bad way when "Please Santa, don't get drunk this Christmas" is the better alternative.
That being said, Merry Christmas to everyone!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Twilight Saga, part 4

It is no secret that I am not Twilight’s number one fan. The first response I usually hear when I tell people this is the suggestion that perhaps I am secretly a Twifan deep down and am in a severe case of Twinial. This puts me in between a rock and a hard place*, for if I agree, I am joining the ranks of Mike the park ranger, and if I disagree, I am usually slammed with a variety of questions, most of which fall along the lines of, "OMG, how can you not just loooooove it?!" Eventually, every conversation usually boils down to the J-word, and I am accused of being jealous of Stephenie Meyer, Twilight, and the success the former has achieved with the latter.

*As opposed to being in between The Rock and a hard place.
In light of the aforementioned accusations, let it be said here and now (and in no uncertain terms) that there is not a single jealous bone, muscle, or tendon in my body when it comes to Stephenie Meyer or Twilight. While it is true that I certainly would not mind dumptrucks full of money arriving at my house on a daily basis, I also would not want to take the risk I am convinced Stephenie Meyer did—that is, entering a fiddle contest against the devil with the stakes being my soul against a #1 selling teen romance series.

The devil bowed his head because he knew that he'd been beat/ He laid that golden series on the ground at Stephie's feet
When it boils down to it, the scariest thing about the Twilight Saga is not the vampires, the werewolves, or even the writing (zing)—it is the fanbase. Fans of Twilight run the gamut from screaming preteens to hyperventilating quinquagenarians and everyone in between. Little girls read the books hoping their future husbands will be exactly like Edward (or, if they are really little girls, exactly like Jacob). Older women watch the movies and wonder why their husbands are not exactly like Edward. And the occasional guy who stumbles across the series cannot help but wonder why every woman in the world, regardless of age, wants her husband to be a distant, domineering, powerful creep with a thing for girls 1/6th his age.

By those standards, this is as close to Edward as a man can get.
Now, do not get me wrong. I am fully aware that with every major cultural phenomenon—especially with books and movies—there arises a large, devoted, nerdy following. Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter (to name a few) all have a similar partisanship. All the heretofore mentioned groups have devotees who dress up to attend midnight screenings. All have disciples who rant and rave for hours on internet forums as to why their series is so much better than the others. And all of them even have conventions where fans can buy and sell truckloads of paraphernalia.

What separates Twilight fans from the previously mentioned ones, however, is the level at which Twilight fans operate. I would dare say that of any of the listed phenomena, Twilight has the fans that could most easily filed under "obsessed". If you do not believe me, just go to any opening-day movie showing. Yes, the Star Wars nerds will be in costume and having lightsaber duels; but it is all in good, lighthearted fun. Nowhere do you have girls literally screaming and gasping for breath whenever Obi Wan walks on the screen. (And I am sorry, ladies, but Ewan McGregor is ten times hotter than Robert Pattinson could ever dream of being.)

It's simple algebra, really.
And when it comes to homemade collectibles, Twilight fans take the cake. My mother recently told me about her run-in with something called the New Moon Experience, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. And what did she see during her sojourn? Vampire teeth necklaces, sparkle-in-the-sun-like-Edward cream, and pretty much everything on this list. (Take special note of the plush Bella womb, complete with stuffed zygote.)

How this can be construed as anything other than "really, really creepy" is beyond me.
Sadly, Twilight fans, as crazy as they are, have recently proven that they are a force to be reckoned with. New Moon was released in theaters a few weeks ago and—much to the surprise of everyone who has ever watched, you know, an actually good movie in their lives—it made more on its opening weekend than any movie. Any movie. Ever. (Even more than The Dark Knight, which was, you know, an actually good movie.) And thus it was proven that Twilight and the culture thereof cannot be stopped. For if a group of girls can prove that they have more zeal than comic book nerds—who, for the uninformed, are hands-down the most zealous people on the planet—then I suppose it is only a matter of time before they have completely taken over.

Le sigh.

And so it is.  But do not fear, fellow nerds.  Though we may have lost the battle, at least we still have our dignity—for you will never see a Star Wars fan with this on their wall:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sensory Swept

Firstly, allow me to apologize for not having an entry yesterday. I was all ready to finish off my fourth installment of the Twilight Saga when I remembered I had won tickets to an AFI concert, having been a fan of the band since high school. Needless to say, the concert was sweet—although, it concerned me somewhat that Davey Havok no longer looks like the long-banged singer I remember and now looks more like the (admittedly sexy) lovechild of George Michael (the singer/songwriter) and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Men of Greatness
While I will finish my Twilight opinions on Thursday, today I would like to talk about something akin to bloodsucking, though perhaps a bit out of place on (what I hope is) a funny blog. (For those who know me, you will recognize the following story. For those who do not, just know that I was (sadly) caught in the middle of all this.) Without further ado, I bring you the words of Mr. Jesse Fruhwirth from Salt Lake's own City Weekly (

Sensory Sweep Shortchange
Game Over: Utah videogame company shortchanges its employees.

Last year's video game Major League Eating for Nintendo Wii and other consoles got mostly lousy reviews, but it might seem even less fun to play if players knew that the Utah programmers and artists who engineered it were not paid for their work, and the company president is now facing tax-evasion charges.

Salt Lake County independent video-game developer Sensory Sweep Studios closed this year in a fantastic implosion of overdue bills, unpaid wages and criminal charges against its owner and his wife. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the company owes nearly $1 million to about 200 former employees, some of whom feel slighted that prosecutors are using the threat of incarceration to collect unpaid taxes but applying relatively "toothless" civil actions to collect their unpaid wages.

"I would love to visit him in prison," former employee Paul Grimshaw said of Sensory Sweep president Dave Rushton, echoing the sentiments of other former employees who spoke to City Weekly. "I have a $4,400 dental claim that is probably going to force me into bankruptcy because they weren't paying dental insurance premiums. ... We started not being to able to pay our mortgage when Sensory Sweep stopped handing out paychecks on a regular basis. That put us in a hole, and we haven't been able to dig ourselves out yet."

Grimshaw says he is owed about $10,000 in unpaid wages alone.

The Rushton clan's history of financial tumult starts years before the founding of Sensory Sweep, including a personal bankrupcy filed by Dave Rushton in 1996. Sensory Sweep was cobbled together with employees and contracts from Saffire Corporation, another Utah independent video-game developer owned by Dave Rushton's brother, Hal Rushton. Hal later worked for Sensory Sweep.

Grimshaw worked for both companies, although most employees of Sensory Sweep say they were only vaguely aware of Saffire's history. Grimshaw says he quit Saffire in 2001 when the company was late with paychecks because "they almost went out of business in 1997, and we went three months without pay [then]."

Grimshaw filed an unpaid-wage claim against Saffire in 2001 and was awarded $3,000. Years later, he agreed to work for Sensory Sweep because he needed health insurance and didn't have other job offers.

Sensory Sweep's financial troubles began less than two years after it was founded. Court records from 2005 show the company received multiple judgments from the Utah Labor Commission and the Utah Department of Workforce Services. The largest of those judgments was more than $64,000, for not paying unemployment insurance between May 2003 and December 2004.

In September 2005, Sensory Sweep filed for bankruptcy, but the workers didn't notice, says former employee Todd Smith, who stayed with the company through two business name changes. "Whenever they filed bankruptcy, nothing changed for us. I was on the same project, I had the same cube [workspace]. … I ended up working for a totally different company and didn't know it."

Sensory Sweep Studios had already been registered in February 2005, months in advance of Sensory Sweep LLC's filing for bankruptcy in September. The original company remained in bankruptcy proceedings until October 2009, nearly a year after the company registration expired with the Utah Department of Commerce.

That was not the last time the company gathered debts and quietly reorganized under a new business name, according to records and employee statements. In 2006, Smith says, "I got two [W2s], one from Sensory Sweep and one from Fooptube." Each of the three companies was registered under the names of different Rushton family members. For example, Christopher Rushton was listed as the registered agent for Sensory Sweep LLC, and picked up a civil bench warrant—records show it was never executed—for failing to appear for a court hearing in 2005 tied to the $64,000 judgment from Workforce Services.

The game-ending troubles began in 2008. Grant Heath says that employee's 401(k) stopped receiving contributions in early 2008, yet their paychecks were still deducted for the next few pay periods. After a company meeting, "they stopped taking the deductions, but they never did anything to rectify the fact that money had been taken out and just kind of lost to us. Soon after that, we started getting bounced paychecks." The paycheck problems started when a big customer, California's Brash Entertainment, folded in October. Employees say Dave Rushton claimed as much as $2 million was owed by Brash.

But the company didn't lay anyone off immediately, despite the huge financial blow, and Rushton reassured workers that the company would recover.

Several employees filed unpaid-wage claims at the end of 2008. In January 2009, the U.S. Department of Labor filed a civil suit against Fooptube—the latest of the company's registered names—and Dave Rushton individually, on behalf of 196 current and former employees. The case led to a consent agreement, signed in February, in which Rushton promised to pay $942,000 by September, a promise that was not fulfilled.

In April, the Utah Attorney General´s Office filed six felony charges against Dave and wife Maureen Rushton for failure to file a tax return, tax evasion, unlawful dealing of property by a fiduciary, communications fraud and for a pattern of unlawful activity, or racketeering.

In June, the Labor Department filed a contempt petition alleging they had received six more complaints from employees, beginning in May, claiming they weren't being paid. In September, the Rushtons were slammed with a $654,000 judgment in an eviction case in which Fooptube and Sensory Sweep were also named.

Citing the criminal charges, the Rushtons declined comment, but Dave Rushton's defense attorney, Darin Goff, says his client was not living a lavish lifestyle. "I can assure you, I don't believe there were any expensive cars or expensive homes. Mr. Rushton is a fairly ordinary individual with a very normal standard of living. … The company has met with some very difficult problems related to the economy and industry."

No former employees claim Dave Rushton was living the high life. He drives a minivan, one said. But employees City Weekly interviewed claimed Rushton was a terrible manager who employed too many unqualified family members and deceitfully reorganized his company to avoid paying bills, taxes and workers. They want him stopped before he does it again.

While the tax-evasion and racketeering charges could put Dave Rushton in jail, several employees are disappointed that the threat of incarceration is not attached to their unpaid wages— only the unpaid taxes.

The Utah Labor Commission has also been investigating Rushton for unpaid wages. Wage Claim unit manager Brent Asay said he cares about workers, but with eight people total in his unit and 2,700 wage claims filed in the past fiscal year, they are doing all that they can. Asay said his office needs the cooperation of prosecutors to file criminal charges against an employer for unpaid wages, something that has not happened in Utah—in his memory—in about 10 years.
"[Government regulators] don't care about how many people have suffered without their money for this long period of time," says Kimberly Howell, whose husband and daughter are owed a combined $20,000. "They're focused on their money."

Game over, indeed.
I could add to that, but I believe the article pretty much covers it. Please (and I mean that ever so sincerely) help spread the word in any way possible; hopefully, once enough people know about it, something will get done.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Twilight Saga, part 3

While the Twilight love story no doubt raises a slew of "awwww"s from the majority of the audience, it raises a few very large, very red flags to me. For starters, despite knowing that Edward is a vampire early on ("Say it. Out loud!"), people seem to forget that by virtue of being a vampire, he is actually quite old. Like, over 100 when Twilight starts old. And Bella? 17. Taking that into consideration, Twilight is no longer the story of a teenage boy liking a teenage girl. Rather, it is the story of a 102-year-old man—who has not been with a woman in quite some time, as he makes clear—who breaks into a 17-year-old girl's bedroom to watch her sleep. And for some reason, not only is this not frowned on, the exact opposite happens—people think it is the cutest thing ever. Keep in mind, though: in any other context, this situation would involve people instantly crying "Foul!" and a visit from Chris Hansen.

Why don't you have a seat right there, Edward.
Another red flag is raised by how quickly Bella not only falls in like with Edward, but how quickly after he leaves she starts hanging out with Jacob, and then how much she jumps back into Edward's stone cold hands when he returns. Now, those who know me know that I have nothing against romance and falling for people—in fact, those who know me best could probably retell stories from my past where, romantically speaking, I was even more of a girl than Bella.

strictly romantically speaking
But the way that Bella pines and bounces over/between guys basically establishes her as a girl who not only wants a guy, but needs a guy to be complete. Where that gets scary is when the aforementioned hormonally-imbalanced teenagers read the books and start blurring the line between being able to be with someone and not being able to be without someone. And that is precisely the moment at which girls do utterly stupid things, thinking they will be able to be with their guy again. And that, my friends, is a perfectly normal and healthy mindset which always leads to good results.

Oh, wait...
Perhaps the largest and most crimson of flags (you know, the ones Max Hall hates) comes from Stephenie Meyer's strange double-standard of what it means to be an independent woman—or an independent woman part II, if you are of the Beyonce persuasion. Over the course of the books, Bella travels her obligatory (and textbook) character arc, with each plot point ending in her becoming stronger. Great, right? It would be, except for at the end of the saga, Bella is forced to sacrifice everything about her past, her life, and her beliefs and completely conform to Edward's lifestyle, his family, and his convictions in order to be with him. So in the end, we have a story that supports being an independent girl, as long as you do everything your guy says—including joining the ranks of the undead.

strictly, strictly romantically speaking
Coming up next... the Twilight culture. Or, as I like to refer to it, the Cult of the Virgin (Until Book 4, When They're Married And It's OK).

12th-century history jokes, anyone?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Twilight Saga, part 2

The Twilight Saga consists of four books, all with cosmothemed titles—Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn. A fifth book, Midnight Sun, was planned and half-written, but then abandoned, presumably because Stephenie Meyer grew tired of swimming through gallons of Twilight revenue, Scrooge McDuck-style.

The S is for Stephenie.
Now, from here on in, I am going to be discussing various parts of the books, so a big Spoiler Alert to the very small percentage of people who have not yet read them, but who still have the desire to. (Which, in all honesty, probably amounts to nobody at this point, because I think everyone is pretty much firmly rooted in their camps, whether they be Team Edward, Team Jacob, or Team Does-Not-Live-My-Life-Vicariously-Through-A-Harlequin-Teen-Romance.)

Not Pictured: Team Sane
That last part is a good note to start on. One only has to open any of the books to any random page to see that the Twilight Saga's cup runneth over with sexual tension. From the moment when Edward and Bella meet to when he has to suck another vampire's venom out of her system (in an amazingly thinly-veiled analogy to sexual purity) to when she finally commits necrophilia—ignore it all you want, but that is what sleeping with someone who is dead is, regardless of how sexy his hair is—the books are full of raging libidos. However, since Stephenie Meyer knew her audience would be comprised primarily of screaming 14-year-olds (and 40-year-olds who scream like 14-year-olds, but more on that later), she toned down the tension and put it in teen-acceptable terms.

Stephenie Meyer, hard at work
The problem with doing so is many-fold, the most prevalent of which being this: when you tone down romance novel situations (i.e. "He grabbed her heaving bosoms, caressing her silky white skin.") to teen levels (i.e. "He touched me with his cold hands, sending a chill to my very core."), it still brings all those feelings that romance novels bring (you know what I am talking about), but now it introduces them to a whole new audience—an audience that already has a hard enough time figuring out what their hormones are telling them without the aid of what is essentially PG13 porn.

The original Twilight cover
At the core of the Twilight books exists a love triangle between Bella (a girl), Edward (a vampire), and Jacob (a werewolf, if you could not see that one coming). Actually, I guess it is more of a love V, because to my knowledge, Edward and Jacob never have feelings for one another. Although, who knows? That very well may be the subject of the Twilight Saga's next book, Midnight Sun Cowboy. It is no secret that Bella is in like with Edward, but when he leaves her (to save her, like in Moulin Rouge), she immediately throws herself into the waiting arms of Jacob—and by "immediately", I mean she throws herself off a cliff in hopes that Edward will save her before she splats at the bottom. You know, what every teenage girl should do if her boyfriend leaves her.

This one is free, Stephenie.
In the end, Bella ends up with Edward (surprise) and they get married. While the subject of "How can we grow old together when one of us is immortal?" bounces between them, it only truly comes to fruition after Bella becomes pregnant. Because the baby is half-human, half-vampire (like Blade), it has all sorts of powers, including super-strength—super-strength to super-kick her mom's spine in super-half during delivery. And if that was not enough, the baby also has the power of super-placenta, which eventually results in, as readers of my previous posts may remember me mentioning, Edward performing a cesarean section on Bella with his teeth! After the thorough trouncing that is childbirth, Bella has one foot in the grave. Edward has no choice but to turn her into a vampire to save her life. Precious, right? Oh wait, aside from the utter morbidity of that situation, did I mention that Jacob, Bella's former semi-beau, sees Bella's baby and immediately falls in love with it? And not the "oh, I love that baby" sort of love... the "oh, I love that baby" sort of love.

Hey cutie. Nice umbilical cord.
I think that shall be all for today, but do not fret. There is plenty more yet to come.