Saturday, February 23

Cats are Weird: Staring at the Wall

Sometimes when I go into a dark room, I discover Isabelle sitting there, her face a half an inch from the wall, just staring.  This is not "She's a cat and was watching lint" staring, but the "Um, did I just walk in on the Kitty Witch Project?" kind of staring.

Does anybody else have a cat that does this?

Saturday, February 16

Stupid Chick-Lit Book:

So I'm a voracious reader.  I have been in love with reading ever since I successfully read "Go, Dog, Go!" by myself.
My tastes range far and wide, and I'm not snobbish about giving books a chance.  I love all kinds of books - from chick-lit to medical history to biography to mystery.

Occasionally I come across a book that really pisses me off.
Today, we are going to discuss ones of those books.
Ladies and gents, I give you:

White Girl Problems, "by" "Babe Walker" - brought to us by Hyperion Publishing:

I randomly saw it on the shelf and thought "ha ha...funny..." total chick-lit/faux memoir - what it would be like if Sydney Andrews wrote a memoir.  Fun.
I honestly did not give two pieces of crap if the "memoir" part was entirely fictionalized or not.  Don't care.  Just want to be entertained.
And while I wasn't particularly enjoying the story and was already ripping apart the writing, I was still reading it. And then I discovered a huge, glaring error in continuity and the writer in me went from eye rolling at poor writing to "oh, hell no!" on my internal shit-o-meter.  

Let's take a look at Chapter 1, Page 6:

Okay, so Babe's grandmother Tai Tai left her at the store on her first birthday, and this inspired Babe's father to hire Mabinty, the Jamaican nurse to watch her.  Okay.

Now let's take a look at Chapter 3, Page 28:

Oh, she was hired when you were two days old, not a year old?

So which is it, because there's 363 days difference between the two, you know.

You can't keep track of one of the single most basic pieces of continuity over the course of 22 pages?
I immediately put the book down, accepting that I was not going to review it.

But I was so worked up that I kept coming back to check that I had read and interpreted the sentences right - because while small errors are bound to happen, a five year old would have picked this one out. This is the kind of lazy bullshit my 7th grade English teacher would've dropped someone down to a "D-" for.  What's worse - it's not like this is a little rinky-dink private publication - it was published by a major publishing house!  How many people read this book before it went to print? Did anybody?

So I started doing research to look into the origin of this book some more.  I began to wonder if "Babe Walker" was telling fiction in the form of memoir (which I originally thought) or if it was an actual memoir.  And I discovered that yes, it IS fiction (thank God) and that Babe Walker herself is actually not enough a real person, she is the creation of three people:  David Oliver Cohen, Tanner Cohen and Lara Schoenhals. 

And I started to read reviews to see what other people thought of this book.  Overall, it seemed to be pretty much a love/hate spectrum with very few people feeling "meh" about it.

I read TONS of reviews and now I'm not only concerned about the authors but about the world.  A ton of people read it as an actual autobiography rather than a satirical fiction.  A lot of these same people were pissed about the spoiled, bratty nature of the central character, Babe.  (It's like that time I watched that documentary about Walmart and the reviews were all about whether Walmart itself was good or not, rather than the actual presentation of the movie.)  Also...really?  What did you expect from a book with that title?  Have you not been on the internet or turned on the telly in the past ten years?  
(I also read a lot of reviews from people where I encountered the phrase "I seen" and I think we know how I feel about that.  I fear for America's children.)

I read several reviews that compared this book to Jen Lancaster, either favorably or not.  Some said she was "no Jen Lancaster" while others said Babe Walker was "funnier and truer than Jen Lancaster."  
Really?  Here's the issue: I'm a big fan of Jen Lancaster.  I have read (almost) all her books and I own several. I follow her blog.  She's an actual person who writes actual memoirs of things that actually happened.  (Note: Jen Lancaster doesn't know I'm alive or anything, so it's not like she's paying me to defend her, and I'm quite sure she doesn't need me too. Just saying.) I don't care if a book is fiction and told in the memoir format - there's even something very fun about that.  But don't compare that to real memoirs written by real people.

On the other end were people who think this book was hilarious, witty, and well-written.
Drinking Pregame animated GIF

Well, it could have been.
But it was such crap.
And that's what really bugged me.  Outside of the character, how was the book itself?  How was the writing? I couldn't find a single review that focused on the actual writing style, the content and formation of the words.  
Problems I had within the 50-or-so pages I read:

1.) The dad is supposedly British, but the writing for his dialogue is just as homogenized American as everyone else's.  Throwing an occasional "bloody" in a sentence doesn't make a character British. 

2.) The texting dialogue was utter shit.  There is no way anyone of the age of 17-22ish texts that way.  I'm in my thirties and very much NOT HIP and I use more abbreviations in my texts.

3.) The spoken dialogue between the characters - especially the friends - sounded like what a forty-year-old would think a "young person" sounds like today.  (Which is even more disturbing given the ages of the writers, but we'll come to that later.)  It was extremely faked - like people reading lines - and badly.  

4.) The voice was not authentic. That is, Babe Walker is supposed to be a spoiled, upper-class, bitchy, L.A. socialite, but her exposition is very much middle-American-girl-next-door-except-kinda-bitchy. Additionally, the book tries too hard to be blase about drugs.  The drugs aren't the problem I had - it was that in trying to make it sound all "it's no big deal," it comes across as super forced as if the author is saying "Look how cool we are, we've been doing coke since we were fifteen.  We're so cool. Look at us."  Instead of it just being, it's wedged in there. 
Another matter on the voice of the narrator: the book is meant to be something Babe is writing in rehab from which she looks back and learns about herself and discovers she wants to look deeper and blah blah blah.  It's meant to be a conversational tone, stories written by a girl in rehab about her problems. 
You know what?  Shit written in rehab doesn't sound like this.  Trust me on this.
There will be a couple of sentences of conversational tone and then it's back to exposition without emotion.  

So let's look at the 3(!) people it took to create this stink pile.
Honestly, I don't know these people.  Never heard of any of them.  I'd never heard of the #whitegirlproblems thing on Twitter.  But apparently this is a whole thing.  (And in all fairness, the faux socialite's twitter feed may be hilarious and well-composed.  But the book is not.)
I don't know the two brothers or their friend - maybe they are as bad as their character, maybe they are really good, kind, people.  I don't know. What I DO know is that they've been in this world - the world of spoiled actors and heiresses. They're NOT old. They're young enough and get around enough that by all counts, they should be able to write this fauxmoir (my new word for it) - really-really-really well.  It should be authentic and true and something that really hits the core of that world.  
Nope. The writing is terrible.  The voice is not authentic or true. It's forced. It has big, fat, glaring continuity errors (without which, I would've just written it off as another poorly written book).  

So that's White Girl Problems for you.  It probably would've been better called "Rich Girl Problems."  (I did see a lot of reviews stating that, and I have to admit that yes, I have been known to complain about my "first world problems" but I certainly didn't have any of the alleged "white girl problems" listed in this book.) So "Rich Girl Problems" would definitely be more apt.  

To finish this post off, I'm going to suggest some books you might want to read in place of this:

- Rachel is an out of control brat.  When she finds herself in rehab, she thinks it'll be like a long spa holiday. That's not really what she gets.

Valley of the Dolls, by Jacqueline Susann (Fiction Inspired by Reality)
- Kind of a classic.  Surrounding three women and their fast-lane lives.  These are women you will genuinely both love and love to hate.

- The book is better, and this is significantly evident with this.  Seriously, don't even bother with the movie.

- Amusing personal essays about everything from shoes to rehab.

- An actual memoir telling what happens when a rich narcissist gets knocked off her pedestal. 

- A fiction that centers around two sisters, their family, eating & psychological disorders.  (Apparently now a Lifetime movie.  Huh.  I confess, when I read this several years ago, I never would've guessed it would be made into a movie.)

Also just watch the first few seasons of the original "Melrose Place" and follow Sydney's storyline.

So there you are - pick your poison, there's something better than White Girl Problems out there for everyone, no matter what you read or watch.

Thursday, February 14

Happy Birthday, Isabelle!

Not sure how this is comfortable, but hey, cats are strange.

Rolls into this position whenever she wants to say "Look how cute I am!"

Has a weird habit of sitting on Shawn's lap and burying her face in his elbow to take naps.

Feeling good about dropping her toys in the food & water dishes.

As Shawn & I prepare for a move, she goes in for the kill.

Teaching my hoodie a lesson.

Please, oh please!

Playing fetch with a pair of Daddy's socks.

A few minutes mischief free.

-This is Isabelle's 7th birthday.
-To this day she is still very active, athletic, and playful.
-Her favorite birds are Mourning Doves (she gets most excited to see these out the window).  -She doesn't really care for Starlings - they show up and she's like "whatever."  (Oh, but Mourning Doves, she gets so excited she starts trembling and smacking her gums together and trying to jump through the glass.  Dork cat.)
-She now recognizes what the word "birdie" means so much that if Shawn or I say it, (even without inflection, just in normal conversation) she will come running from another room and look out the window to find the birdie.
-One of the original names I considered for her was "Professor" because of her highly intelligent and inquisitive nature.
-She does not go outdoors.
-She thinks everyone who visits us is here to see her.
-She doesn't like cat treats, but gets a small can of wet food or a bit of tuna fish almost every night.
-Her last weigh-in showed her at 6.5 pounds.
-She was the runt of her litter and also the most spirited - she was the first one of her litter mates to try wandering away from the nest box; she had to keep being put back with her siblings 'cuz she kept insisting on exploring.  Basically, she was the smallest but the most piss-and-vinegarish.
-When she was a nursing baby, her brothers and sisters would all be sleeping in a pile together and she would run up and jump onto them as if they were a pile of leaves to get them to play.

~So that's our baby.~
~Happy 7th to Isabelle!~

Sunday, February 10

Vapid Consumer Beauty Products Post

Okay.  I make fun of commercials a lot.  If aliens are watching and studying our species, they are wondering "What the hell is so hard about picking out a soap/bottle of shampoo/toothbrush/body lotion?"
And I fall victim to it, too.  I go grocery shopping and before I start, I have to look at the hair stuff, just to see if there is something new and magical that is somehow going to transform my hair from the frizz fest it wants to be to the sleek, smooth, soft, swingy mane I fantasize about.
(No luck yet.)
Shawn gets on my case sometimes.  "Can't you just stick to something you like?" he demands.
Well, yes.  If I know I REALLY like it.  (And then I'll stick with it forEVER.)
But what if there's something better?
And sadly, while I mock these commercials, at the same time, there is a nice thing about having so many choices. 
Take body lotion: I have sensitive skin and I'm allergic to a lot of smells.  I can't use Suave or Jergens on my arms and legs, no matter how much I might like the smell - both brands burn my skin.  Many years ago, I was a St. Ives fan, but I can't use that now because the fragrances give me headaches.  I can't even walk into a Bath & Body Works without my sinus cavities starting to burn and my head pounding.    

It would seem simple to pick a shampoo - just grab one that smells good.  But some shampoos do strip my hair down.  Some really do leave my hair feeling oily.  Some conditioners really do make my hair feel heavy and sticky.  In fact, the only reason I'm still on the hunt for that special magical hair tonic is because the few I've found that do work well - I'm allergic to the friggin' smell!  Eragh! It is frustrating.  It's frustrating when I see shampoos to gently clean without weigh-down for fine hair sitting next to the moisturizing next to the de-frizzing.  Can't they make one thing that would do all three of those things?  No ---- that would mean the endless cycle of alternating moisturizing shampoos and clarifying shampoos would end - therefore less money.
I just want a hair product that smells nice, that I can put on my hair when it's wet or dry, that will de-frizz and not make it stiff or sticky.  Will just make it feel nice.  But it has to smell nice!  It can't smell like a chemical dumping factory.

And what's worse - I'm pretty low maintenance.  I don't blow dry my hair very often and I iron it even less.  I use only a handful of makeup products and even then, it's kinda iffy.  I honestly don't know how the women who use a myriad of products every day handle it.

Recently, I was browsing at Ulta and I had very conflicted feelings.  All the girls working there were so . . . shiny.  They were so glossy and polished and done.  These women used more make-up, hair product, perfume, and polish than I did on my wedding day.  In my jeans, hiking boots, and snow cap with only a bit of pressed powder on my face, I felt like Vivian Ward being asked to leave the store on Rodeo Drive because she was "obviously in the wrong place."  (Note: the workers were actually very friendly, my inferiority was my own feeling, not their treatment.)
So there I am, just having a look around at the hair clips and such and I see the wall of face care.  It was daunting.
Remember when I said I was low-maintenance?  Yeah . . . I use Curel lotion on my face.  But standing here, staring at the wall of face care, I felt like such a simplistic moisturizer was surely somehow a sign of my inferiority.  I mean...there were eye serums for night and eye creams for day.  There were oil free age-defying moisturizers for day and there were anti-wrinkle moisturizing creams for night.  There were lip plumpers and deep wrinkle treatments and moisturizing washes to be followed by makeup removers to be followed by alcohol free toners.
And I was like:
holy shit.  I am obviously the runt of the beauty species.

And I'm wondering not only who has the money to spend $30+ on a bottle of freaking shampoo, but who has the time to
Wash her hair,
Apply a smoothing cream,
Blow-dry with a round brush,
Apply a shine serum,
And finish with a light coating of hair spray?
Seriously, who?
That's like, three steps and two products too many for me.
(That was the run-down of a video I saw showing how to get smooth, soft hair - "quickly.")  Note: anything that takes 20-30 minutes is not "quick" unless it's dinner or a holiday TV special.

I'm not really expecting any kind of "fix" to this problem any time soon.  I'm just wondering: am I the only one who feels intimidated by a world of women who seem to have the whole thing figured out? Am I the only one standing in the hair aisle and wondering why Pantene can't make a conditioner that does everything it says it will - but without making my hair feel coated and weighty?  Am I the only one who thinks needing three or four or more styling products for hair on any given day is insane/scary?  Am I the only one who has a problem with the overwhelming scent of chemical fragrances in her stuff?
What are your thoughts?