Vampire Love

My sister got the first two books of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series for Christmas and read them in a day, so I proceeded to read the first book after she finished. I hadn’t really intended to read them, but I was in the mood for something light, and it was in the house, so why not? Of course, I knew about all of the hype, and my mother reports that her middle school students are all reading them. So I am here to offer my own verdict.

First off—shame on whoever tried to liken this book to Harry Potter. The Harry Potter series is about all of Harry’s life—it’s about all different kinds of relationships, and more than that, it’s about the epic struggle between the forces of good and evil. It makes references to all sorts of mythology and holds appeal across countries and social groups. Twilight, on the other hand, seems to be catering primarily to preteen girls. First quarter of the book: girl meets vampire. Second and third quarters of the book: girl and vampire make out. Last quarter of the book: there’s finally some action aside from the “action” our main characters have been getting from each other for the past however many pages. Harry Potter is practically an epic. Twilight is practically a paperback romance. There is no comparison.

Second, I have major issues with the story and the characters. Bella is supposedly unpopular and has trouble relating to people her age, and suddenly, for no apparent reason, she is the most popular girl at her new school. I have trouble buying it. It bothers me that she basically ditches her friends to spend all her time with Edward, that she’s so quick to give up her life to him. It bothers me that she’s so eager to become a vampire—whatever happened to her supposedly being smart? Has she thought through this whole immortality-and-blood-lust thing at all? Her relationship with Edward scares me. He’s supposedly the perfect man, but I find him creepy and controlling. He’s constantly physically overpowering Bella and forcing her to do things she doesn’t want to do—granted, they’re small, harmless things for the most part, but he is convinced that he is right in every situation and doesn’t really entertain her opinion. And she is utterly smitten. It’s rather disgusting.

And third, Stephenie Meyer’s writing style annoys me after a while. By the end of the book I didn’t know how many more descriptions of people’s eyes or “the note of ______ in _____’s voice” I could take. She’s not a terrible writer but she’s not amazing either, and I’ve been reading so many good writers lately that I think her style may have been grating on me a little more than it should have.

Conclusion: Is it worth reading? If you’re into vampire smut, and you’re not looking for any sort of deeper meaning in what you’re reading, then sure—I mean, it did keep me reading. I sincerely hope that no misguided preteen girl out there is taking Bella as a role model, because I think she’s pretty stupid. Oh, and the movie is fairly terrible, mostly because of whoever plays Edward Cullen—a) he’s not attractive enough (his hair just looks silly), and b) he can’t act, at all. Edward is supposed to be all suave, and the movie Edward just comes off as awkward and creepy.

On another note, I also recently read How We Are Hungry by Dave Eggers and A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engel. They were both excellent and definitely worth reading. One might ask why I gave such a long review on a book I didn’t really like, and only wrote a line about two books I did enjoy… and I would answer that everyone knows that complaining is fun.  :~)


Old Journal Excerpts…

Every time I come back home, this place is less and less the house I grew up in: over the past year we’ve gotten all new carpet, new banisters, new curtains, and a new toaster, and we repainted the entire exterior of the house in addition to chopping down a big pine tree in the front yard. None of this was my doing and I find it all a bit disconcerting, but I basically don’t live here anyway, so I’m not going to worry about it too much.

One of the most interesting parts about coming home is that I can go through all my old stuff (since I am a packrat and never throw anything out) and kind of get back in touch with my roots. This time it’s giving me a chance to read through some of my really old journals, and since I haven’t so much as glanced at them for months and months and months, it’s an interesting experience. I started yesterday with my journal from senior year of high school, which was (oh god) five years ago now. I’m continually surprised that I’ve changed so much in some respects but not at all in others. Reading back through it is kind of cool, almost like I’m able to have a conversation with my former self. Senior year of high school, I was engaged in trying to figure out what I was doing after graduation, and therefore I was muddling through thoughts on life and the future and adulthood and change, much as I am now, although my perspective was very different. I find that my past self actually has some potentially useful insights to offer me. My life was a lot simpler back then, and I had experienced a lot less of the world and life, so initially I didn’t think whatever insights I had at 17 would be worth much. But what I discovered was that sometimes simplicity is insightful in its own way—all this other crap in life (endless debates that go nowhere, trying to tear every issue into pieces for analysis, constantly second-guessing myself) can be unnecessarily confusing, and sometimes it’s nice to go right back to the start and remind myself of where I stood instinctively, before I became mired in all of that.

Disclaimers: When I was 17, I wrote like an early 20th century novel in translation, and said things like “alas.” It’s ridiculous and I was probably picking it up from whatever I was reading at the time (early 20th century literature in translation, as well as fantasy novels and ancient Greek stuff for class). Also amusingly, the most I used to swear was “bloody” and “darn.” It just sounds silly. Apparently college did away with my linguistic censorship. And finally, I had a tendency to be exceedingly vague, redundant, and sentimental in my writing. I try harder to avoid those things these days.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

“I know what I want and I know what sort of life I want to lead. I want…to fall in love with life. I want to live to the fullest extent of the word; I want to keep myself surrounded with that energy and vitality… I want to experience everything and revel in it, every pain and joy. I am thankful that the world is filled with love and poetry. The rain in the lamplight speaks with more eloquence than words ever could, if people know how to listen—and love, of course, is the reason for everything. Love is beautiful and exists everywhere—what more could one ask?”

This is an example of where I still essentially agree with my 17-year-old self, but I tend to lose sight of this all the same. And it just sounds so freaking sentimental.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

“I want life to invigorate me… I want to revel in the beauty of each and every moment, however seemingly commonplace some may be. I’m not actually bad at that… I guess I’m just afraid of forgetting. I don’t want my life to stagnate. I think I’ve mentioned that before, so I must really mean it. I don’t know what I want in my future, but I want to be enthusiastic about it… You know what I’d really like? I’d like to fall into a poem. I want to wake every morning with the mist and the sunrise, to run through purple meadows with my hair loose in the wind, to lose myself in the starry night sky…to savour every little sensation and to believe in the love that pervades the entire universe, that turns planets and lives and hearts and fills every particle of air.”

Sunday, December 28, 2003

“On another note: I have ambition tonight. This is completely alien to me, this whole attitude, but I kind of like it… I’ve become stubborn and determined and idealistic to go along with it. I don’t know… I’ve decided I’m going to take my life where I want it to go rather than sitting around complacently trying to figure out what might become of me. I know what I like, and I have my ideals and halfway decent judgment… I want to come into my own. I seek knowledge and understanding of myself, all people, and the world around me. I know generally what sort of a person I want to become, and I should apply myself to that and to adjusting that vision based on what I learn from life. I know my own faults and weaknesses, too, and can apply myself to the conquering of them. I will not be ruled by fear or by doubts of my own abilities, and I will not submit to anyone else’s concept of me or of how I should live my life. I refuse to settle for someone else’s dream… Whatever I do I will be passionate about it, and I will keep my heart and mind open to the freedom and possibility breathing everywhere.”

Back then, I identified as an optimist and not an idealist, so the whole idealism thing was somewhat new to me. I like the spirit of refusing to settle for what people think I should be doing. What I need to do is dig deep inside of myself to figure out what I want, and then I have to get out there and go after it.

Saturday, January 3, 2004

[Regarding studying abroad in college:] “The thing is that going to a foreign country for a semester where no one speaks English, facing an entirely different culture and even taking classes in a foreign language scares the living hell out of me—well, not yet, but I’m sure it would the first week or so of me being there. This is good. I need to have the hell scared out of me so that I can overcome my fears, learn about people all over, and become a functional, world-savvy adult. Face your fears to overcome them, I guess…”

I think that I still need to have the hell scared out of me—ideally, I should have the hell scared out of me on a regular basis throughout my life. I don’t grow by being comfortable; I grow by challenging myself, facing my fears, and beating them into the ground.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

“I wonder if most people will ever know silence? Silence like darkness, silence like the light from a single star, the immensity of the silence of a snow-covered Earth. It’s a beautiful thing, but I think that it’s overlooked by too many people… The silence of existence, of eternity. Inner silence is probably the most difficult to find; I know for me it’s difficult to calm the thousands of thoughts racing across my mind and just to concentrate on being, where I am, as I am, and accepting everything. It sounds new-agey, I know; but I’ve been into it lately—especially in my most boring and most aggravating classes. Just breathe, and then try to find my perspective—I start by waking myself up, becoming more aware and observant. Then I get to thinking about stuff…deeper stuff than I’m usually thinking in school…like life, and people, and the whole world and how it works. I enjoy having a bit of perspective, I guess, and remembering that we’re all part of something larger; and then the more trivial concerns start to fade away… Life is beautiful, and I know it best when I can simply enjoy living for the sake of being alive, listening to the world around me and savouring every moment for itself without rushing time.”

What I’m describing here is something that I forget about a lot these days. I’m constantly trying to drown out the silence, drown out my thoughts, distract myself with music or movies or talking… I’m always up later than anyone else in my house (whether in Webster or San Francisco), and those last couple of hours are always tough because I am alone. I’m no longer used to it like I was before, and maybe I need to start learning how to enjoy it again.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

“There’s just so much—so much life, so much world—that I’m sure there is no way in heaven or in hell that we can appreciate it all. For that we would have to be—just be, without anything following the verb. Any words that might follow would by their very nature qualify and constrain the word “be,” which entirely destroys the meaning. Be what? Be everything, be nothing, be here, be not here, be human, be the air, be space, be time itself—in short, to exist totally, completely, in every form and moment imaginable or unimaginable. But unfortunately that cannot be done. The best we can do is absorb what we can… Time is passing so quickly for me I cannot seem to get any sort of a grasp on it. The start of spring has gone by in the blink of an eye, and it’s left me with nothing but giant question marks. I’m standing barefoot in the grass with my arms spread wide and my head flung back to take in the Life raining down on me—liquid sky running down my face and over my bare shoulders, collecting in my hair and pooling in the curve of my back.”

This is me being silly and overdramatic and seventeen, but it’s also me trying to express something inexpressible… some aspect of time and existence that’s completely breathtaking and overwhelming and that I’m still trying to grasp. This also relates to my theory on why I have so much difficulty making life decisions: I’m ever reluctant to confine myself to a single existence, although there is no feasible alternative. I want to be everyone, feel and experience everything. I want as much life as I can get my hands on.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

“My problem is that I’d like to feel assured of future success, know that I’m going to lead an exhilarating and meaningful life, make lots of amazing friends, fall in love, etc. and so on. Part of me (a very human part) would very much like to have my whole life planned out neatly before I live it so I don’t suffer any surprises. But then an equally human part of me answers back that if what I want is an interesting and meaningful life, I’m just going to have to take things as they come, no matter what they bring, and face them as best I can. I need to trust that there is an ultimate plan for my life even though I don’t see it and that life will bring my rightful share of both joy and sadness. I need to live from moment to moment, delighting in every moment and seeking the beauty in each; and I need to accept whatever circumstances in my life while always trying to improve. I need to learn to love life’s very fickleness and unpredictability, and I’ll cease to fear for the future.”

Loving unpredictability is a very difficult thing for me to do, and this is something that I still struggle with all the time. I’m not sure anymore whether I believe that there is an ultimate plan for my life. I’ve kind of strayed away from that idea over time, although it would be a comforting thing to believe. I’d like to think that things will take care of themselves somehow—I have free will, and my decisions do matter, but life itself will guide me. I read Madeleine L’Engle’s A Swiftly Tilting Planet on the plane on the way home, and in it, Charles Wallace must learn to let go of his desire to control every situation and instead listen to the guidance of the universe, which knows how to fix itself if given the chance. It’s an interesting theory and I haven’t fully worked out my thoughts on it yet.

My First Chain Letter Post?*

*(What do you call these things, anyway? I was under the impression they were called “memes,” but I looked it up and the definitions didn’t seem to match. Whatever. This is one of those things where people post their answers to some kind of survey or question and tag other people to do the same. Except that WordPress doesn’t have a people-tagging feature as far as I know, so I’m opting out of that part.)

I was tagged by my brother on Facebook, and since I don’t have any better ideas for posts right now, here you go.

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 16 17 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 16 17 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

1. I’m an information packrat.  I save EVERYTHING.

2. The four things I fear the most are being alone, failure, the unknown, and death, in that order.

3. I consider myself a feminist but sometimes I hate being female.

4. I do a halfway decent duck impression.

5. I am the most metatextually aware thinker that Zac knows, which I would argue is a fancy way of saying that I think too much, although that’s not really what he means by it.

6. I get motion sick really, really easily, which is unfortunate in a city as hilly as San Francisco.

7. I have kept a journal in various notebooks since the summer I turned 14, and I have not stopped writing on a regular basis (at least once a week) for seven years now. This adds up to a lot of paper.

8. I wish more people read this website, but not badly enough to open it to search engines. (Yet.)

9. I would often prefer to suffer and consequently resent the people around me, than to advocate for myself at the risk of inconveniencing them. I recognize that this is bad.

10. I acknowledge that I am weird, but at the same time I don’t like it when people feel the need to point it out constantly. Why state the obvious?

11. My favorite band for years was Counting Crows. I’m not sure what it is right now.

12. I have never been an extrovert and probably never will be. I am not exactly okay with this.

13. I was on the synchronized swim team in high school. There were no tryouts, so that doesn’t necessarily imply that I was good at it…

14. If I could have three wishes today, I would wish for teleportation, for the ability to fly, and for the ability to relive memories as my present self—both my memories and other people’s. An invention akin to the pensieve would do nicely.

15. The first cd I ever bought was the Newsies soundtrack.

16. I strive to embrace the hilarity of awkward moments, because otherwise I don’t know how I’d get through life.

17. I collect subways: I’ve been on/in ten so far. My favorite is the Rochester subway, purely because it’s abandoned. My second favorite is London.

So I’m leaving late Saturday night for good ol’ NYS, and I’m dreading the airplanes. Going home should be nice though. I’m looking forward to getting a haircut and seeing my friends and playing the piano. Work this week has been craaaazy. Oh my god. It felt like finals season all over again. I had to send out 215 non-holiday-specific “Happy holidays” cards to all our volunteers, which involved combing the four Walgreens within walking distance multiple times, culminating in my trip this afternoon to procure the one last card that I needed to send out. Every single card they had left said “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” on it. I was on the verge of wishing an attorney “Mazel Tov on your Bat Mitzvah” when at last I spotted a plain old thank-you card that was blank inside: mission accomplished. But seriously. I also had an article due today for the newsletter, and I had to send out individual emails to each law firm requesting the 2008 Clinic statistics for one of our grants, which I had completely forgotten about, plus I had to get my Americorps paperwork filled out before I left for vacation. But somehow I got it all done, with fifteen minutes to spare for drinks in the ED’s office at the end of the day.

Oh, and here, for your listening pleasure, is my most recent song obsession:

I have nothing particularly profound to say.

It is. FUCKING FREEZING. In here. The environment and I are having a lovers’ spat. I hate freezing my ass off, but using heat kills mountains. Paper towels kill trees, but I hate drying my dishes on dirty smelly dishrags. What to do, oh God of JVC? Continue to freeze and bitch about it, that’s what.

[Insert clever transition here.]

For the record, I am glad that I decided to do JVC. I remember at the time I was hedging over whether I really wanted to leave all my friends and gad off to the other side of the country, and although it’s not fabulous here all the time, it was definitely the better option. I’d have been wasting away back in Buffalo. I’m reminded, however, that moving to random places is not in itself a way to change my life. I’m still me, with the same strengths and the same hang-ups as always. Moving has been very much worthwhile, but it doesn’t fix everything instantly. There’s still a lot of struggle involved.

So, it’s December, which means that I really need to start thinking about what I want to do next year. The most sensible option so far is applying to UB for their teaching certification program for adolescent ed. Trouble is that although I like the idea of teaching, I still kind of want to amass more life experience first—and it still feels too soon to go back to school. I’ve totally had it with writing papers. I kind of want to move somewhere random (but not completely random—somewhere where I know at least one person already), and just get a job and live and figure things out. I mean, I’m sort of doing that now, but it’s very structured. I have this whole “thirst for adventure” thing coupled with this whole “self-doubt and fear of the unknown” thing, and I need to work something out between the two of them. But I can’t imagine much that’s more fulfilling than facing one’s fears and kicking their collective ass. The self-doubt part is what makes that difficult.

Why You Should Come Visit Me: A Top Ten List

(The long-awaited list to complement the “East vs. West” post from a couple months ago.)

10. Free peanut butter chocolate samples at Ghiradelli Square. Mmm… :)

9. The sourdough bread here is delicious, and you can get it practically anywhere. I first heard this tip from The Blur and now can vouch for it myself.

8. You can enjoy generally pleasant weather all year round. This past weekend it was in the seventies and sunny. In late November. Go figure.

7. If you mingle with the locals, you can pick up rad lingo like “dude,” “tight,” and “trippin’.”

6. Come walk through Haight-Ashbury and observe the wild Hippies in their natural habitat.

5. Drum circles and street parties. If you don’t know what a drum circle is, it’s basically when a few people start drumming in a group and then more people join in–people drumming, people playing whistles, guitars, harmonicas, and whatever other instruments they may have, people improvising by banging on bottles and pots with sticks, and people dancing like hippies or “hooping” or “devil-sticking”. Drum circles tend to form kind of randomly around the city (but primarily in parks). You really have to experience it to understand.

4. All the freakin’ crazy folks around. If you have ever been thought strange, San Francisco will make you feel so normal. People walk around in costumes here on an everyday basis. I once passed a man on the street pushing his cat in a baby stroller, with a boom box strapped to the top blaring music. This past weekend, a few strangers started barking at each other from across the street. These occurrences are not at all out of place.

3. There are free concerts and festivals here all the time–odds are, something cool will be going on when you come visit.

2. You can do all the touristy stuff that I’ve blogged bout so far! Walk or bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, see the sea lions at Pier 39, ride a cable car, stroll through China Town, check out the park and the beach, count the Obama signs, join a protest…

1. And of course, you get to hang out with me O:-)

~The End~

Hope you enjoyed my list; have a nice day and come again soon!