Category Archives: Uncategorized

Where Babies Come From

IMG_2982

The author and family, enjoying the original Cabbage Patch Kids. circa 1984 or so.

It started a year ago.

Melissa brought it up, all casual like. I don’t remember the context, but she mentioned, “Babyland General.” She said it like I would know what it was. Like it was the mall.

“What’s that?” I asked, not really that interested. It sounded like a baby supply superstore. As a rule, I don’t love baby supply stores. At that moment, I was concerned she might make me go to one with her.

“The Cabbage Patch place,” she told me. Her tone suggested I’d forgotten something as basic as a birthday.

And now she had my undivided attention.

“I’m sorry. What now?”

And then she explained.  And it turns out Babyland General is where you shop for babies, not where you shop FOR babies.

“So is it like a factory tour?” I questioned, not quite getting it when she told me it’s where Cabbage Patch Kids are made.

No, no, no, no, she laughed. Cabbage Patch Kids are born, not made.

And then, because I stared at her with my mouth and eyes round as marbles, she told me everything.

Most of us buy our Cabbage Patch Kids at toy stores. Children in Georgia adopt them from Babyland General, this actually real hospital devoted to the birthing of cloth dolls with plastic faces.  Their parents drive them out to Cleveland, GA, where there is not much else going on, so they can view the delivery of their dolls from the loins of Mother Cabbage. Who sits at the base of a magical lighted tree. That has pixie-esque BunnyBees dangling from it, impregnating the cabbages with gender crystals. And upon following a viewing of the miracle of Cabbage Patch life, our sweet Georgia brethren sign adoption papers with a nurse or doctor on staff. They take oaths to care for their cabbage babies forever, an oath it appears almost none of them have taken seriously into adulthood. I’ve been to their homes. I see only the rare Cabbage Kid.

The doctors and nurses wear scrubs, by the way.

“WHAT.” I replied to her staggering description.

“Oh, yes,” she said, still viewing me like I missed a step on the stairs.

“For real? There’s a magical cabbage patch? And babies come OUT of it?”

“Yes!” she repeated, starting to take some great delight in my wide-eyed questions.

I couldn’t quite believe it. No one who grew up in the days of Cabbage Patch mania hears of Babyland General as an adult and believes it. It sounds like some acid trip fever dream yanked from the fuzzy-edged days of our childhood.

I insisted that we visit, and Melissa  acquiesced readily. A quick survey of other friends born and raised in Georgia confirmed her incredulity that I’d never heard of it. They’ve all been. More than once. This is, to them, how you get a Cabbage Patch Kid. And all of them acted like it was completely normal and not bizarre. Well, that’s not totally true. Some of them do laugh and say, “Yeah, I guess it’s kind of weird.” But, they’re all pretty matter of fact about it. It’s like they thought every state had a Babyland General. I suppose this is like when I left Louisiana and realized nobody else got a week’s vacation from school for Mardi Gras. Except with Babyland General, there are animatronic babies. Animatronic. Babies.

We waited a year for our trip so that Melissa’s daughter would be old enough to enjoy the experience. Not that we needed a reason to visit the Cabbage Patch mecca, but having a small child along legitimized our adventure. I suspected it would be cruel to just go there and snark. Children really do love it, and I didn’t want to be that smirking adult slinking around with a cell phone camera.

Even though I kind of did that anyway. But I did it with reverence. Like a Catholic calling the Pope “Frankie” with fondness in her or her voice.

The sign that greets you. I would argue the stork is misleading. As you will soon see.

The sign that greets you. I would argue the stork is misleading. As you will soon see.

Babyland General in its current incarnation, which I’m told is an upgrade from its original location in a smaller venue, looks like a grand estate. The pillared white mansion with the wrap-around porch sits atop a gently sloping green hill. If not for the massive sculptures of baby heads nestled in cabbage leaves, you might expect to see Civil War re-enactors mustering over the hill.

Babyland General, still decorated for the holidays.

Babyland General, still decorated for the holidays.

As children of the 80s, we’ve seen the baby-in-a-cabbage image all our lives and never questioned it. But have you ever stopped to think about the science or the logistics involved? Is there a fully formed body under the ground, growing like a potato? What happens when it rains? Is there great tragedy in a flood?

Melissa and her daughter and a giant baby head in a cabbage.

Melissa and her daughter and a giant baby head in a cabbage.

You can’t worry about these adult-minded issues for too long at Babyland General.

Once inside, you’re greeted by the many faces of previous celebrity visitors- Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Selleck, and Michael Keaton, to name a few. I wonder how many of them used their status to scoop up a handful of hard-to-find Kids for their children and nieces/nephews in the 80s.

Mary Martin is in there too. It's like a bunch of People Magazine covers from the 80s.

Mary Martin is in there too. It’s like a bunch of People Magazine covers from the 80s.

Once you’re past this hall of fame, there’s an actual admissions desk where you actually sign in with a nurse in a white cap. Admission is free, but they’re building an illusion here. At our visit, we also spotted a Santa statue holding out an arm to welcome children into his lap. Melissa’s daughter seemed most interested in this, having just experienced the cognitive dissonance of befriending an old stranger and getting gifts in return at Christmas.  She climbed right on to his lap, like an old pro, and seemed a little befuddled when he pulled her away.

She's the only one I saw posing in this box that actually fit inside it.

She’s the only one I saw posing in this box that actually fit inside it.

After the nurse’s desk, we found cases filled with some of the original hand-stitched dolls crafted by Xavier Roberts, and they look like they might come alive in the night and gum you with their colorless lips.  Melissa and I viewed them with wrinkled foreheads and cringes. Melissa’s daughter angrily tried to pry open the locked cabinets with her toddler fingers and made shrieky little growls of annoyance that she couldn’t get to these creatures of horror. I guess we don’t get a sense of which dolls will kill us until we’re in middle school.

Wonder if the Peanuts people know about this.

Wonder if the Peanuts people know about this.

We hustled her into the next series of rooms: the nurseries. The nurseries contain the limited-edition dolls. These are not the dolls you buy your two-year old to love to life like a Velveteen Rabbit. Collectors salivate over these hand-stitched dolls with that characteristic nose and hidden lower lip. Melissa’s daughter didn’t get the memo that these dolls are worth more than my monthly cable bill, and she carelessly scooped up low-hanging babies and dragged them from one nursery room to another.  The staff at Babyland General would never shatter the illusion by tsking at her and making her stop. I imagine there’s some poor underling nurse who has to scurry into the nursery rooms  to straighten them every time a toddler blusters through like a sticky hurricane.

Remember how we all wanted preemies? And now that you know people with actual preemies, it seems kind of sick, yeah?

Remember how we all wanted preemies? And now that you know people with actual preemies, it seems kind of sick, yeah?

We finally made it to the main area, the big event, the delivery room. Against the back wall, we saw the centerpiece: the Magic Tree of Life. Or whatever they call it. Magic Crystal Tree, I think.  All those little baby faces you see below? They move. They rotate like it’s The Exorcist. There’s constant whirring as robotic Cabbage Kids turn to eye their surroundings.

The BunnyBees hang from the trees to pollinate the Kids.  I think a better story would be how they got bunnies and bees to crossbreed.

The BunnyBees hang from the trees to pollinate the Kids. I think a better story would be how they got bunnies and bees to crossbreed.

About every half hour or so, they stage a live birth around the roots of the tree, but there’s plenty to do while you wait.  And here is why Babyland General has no admission fee.

As you’ve read this, though you might have some nostalgia for the Cabbage Patch Kids of your youth, you might also be questioning the popularity of Cabbage Patch Kids in the modern day. Sure, you’re going to have your rabid collectors and your curious spectators, but you’re probably wondering if there’s enough Cabbage Patch traction to justify a whole tourist destination.

Oh, don’t worry. Babyland General thought of that. While you linger around waiting for the tree to have contractions, your waiting room is basically a toy store. Amidst the elaborately staged dolls in treehouses and newborns in cribs, you can find plenty of Cabbage Patch Kids and accessories. But you’ll also see My Little Pony, Sesame Street, those weird animals with bug eyes, puzzles, paper dolls, craft kits, and tons of stuffed animals.

NOT a magic crystal tree. Just a basic treehouse tree. With baby fairies. Which no one ever explained.

NOT a magic crystal tree. Just a basic treehouse tree. With baby fairies. Which no one ever explained.

I overheard one little girl having a tantrum to her aggravated parents, “But I don’t want a baby! I want this dog!”

(By the way, that seemed pretty progressive and feminist of her. I think I would have been proud.)

Her parents, clearly anticipating a golden afternoon adopting a Cabbage Patch Kid with their moppet in a dewy eyed rite of passage, told her the dog wasn’t for sale.

The kid, I think, knew they were lying. But then a kindly nurse came over to talk to her about the impending birth of a brand new Cabbage Patch Kid. It’s one thing to pull a demon-child routine with your own parents, but it’s another to show your brat-face to a stranger in scrubs. The kid backed down.

Meanwhile, Melissa’s daughter trailed around the toys, proving to be a questionable mother as she alternately hugged babies and then casually left them lying on the ground when a different baby presented itself.  She gave her love indiscriminately and often while Melissa tried to determine which one of these dolls might be the one her daughter actually wanted to take home.

This is just one of many.

This is just one of many.

While her daughter squeezed a new baby with yarn hair sprouting from its head like radish leaves, Melissa leaned toward me and whispered, “The ones with teeth freak me out.”

And then came the big show, the main event, the moment of live cabbage birth.

Overhead, a cheery announcement summoned a doctor or nurse to the Magic Crystal Tree because, “Mother Cabbage is going into labor.”

(By the way, every time they refer to “Mother Cabbage,” it brings to mind “the mother” of a vinegar culture. And then I start to get squicked out.)

A young doctor, clearly someone who went into doll medicine for the money and not the passion, made his way to the tree and led us through a Cabbage Patch birth. I want to make a crack here about how his enthusiasm level suggested a high volume of pickleback shots the night before, but I worry someone from Babyland will some how read this and he’ll get in trouble for not being appropriately sincere and bouncy in his delivery, and I don’t want that. He did his job, okay? And the truth is, even when you work at a Magic Crystal Tree, work is still work, and we all have some where else we’d rather be.  I saw Britney Spears in Vegas last year, and even she is just going through the motions for a paycheck. So let’s cut Dr. Cabbage some slack.

IMG_5339

Really, i bet this guy could tell you some good stories. I bet he’s met Tori Spelling.

But still, let’s stop and marvel for a moment that this is HIS JOB. When he’s out with his buddies and they’re talking about work, he has to talk about cabbages giving birth.  I really hope this kid is saving up for grad school or something. Maybe medical school for humans.

Some highlights of our live birth experience:

– The BunnyBees that flutter over the patch impregnate the cabbages with pink or blue crystals that determine gender. I sense some interesting “birds and bees” talks in some parental futures.
– A hole in the tree shows the Sonogram. That’s right. The tree grew with modern medical technology in it.
– They check to make sure Mother Cabbage is, “a full 10 leaves dilated.” The doctor assures us this is normal and gives her a dose of Imagicillin to, “loosen up her leaves for the delivery.” The level of detail here is IMPRESSIVE.
–  While we’re translating real world medicine to cabbage birth medicine, let’s also mention the doctor’s use of an “Easy-otomy.” He’s never once had to do a C-section, which is a Cabbage Section. Which is what some farm-to-table restaurants serve for the salad course. Which reminds me of the disturbing Cabbage Patch Kids villains from the cartoons who said things like, “Cabbages, Cabbages, yum, yum, yum. Cabbages, Cabbages- GIMME SOME.”
– The doctor also lead us through breathing exercises and yelling the word “push” in order to assist Mother Cabbage in her delivery. This is the part where all the adults exchanged looks with each other like, “This is… uncomfortable.”
– And when Mother Cabbage at last expelled her baby (Do cabbages have muscles? What exactly was contracting?), our friendly doctor finished his act by cutting the cord.  Cutting. The. Cord.  What do we think the Cord connected to exactly? OUR IMAGINATIONS?

The doctor’s act really ends with a new baby wellness check-up in a glass windowed nursery, but I didn’t pay attention to that part. It’s hard to top a Magic Crystal Tree with animatronic babies at its base.

Melissa's daughter pushed to the front of the crowd and watched carefully. I imagine this some how scarred her for life.

Melissa’s daughter pushed to the front of the crowd and watched carefully. I imagine this some how scarred her for life.

Melissa’s two year old daughter actually managed to stand still for the duration of the live birth, but she trundled off with her purloined stroller and baby-of-the-moment as soon as we got through “pushing.”  As she bustled around the store, bossing babies and giving side eye to a blond girl who stole her chair at the Cabbage Beauty Salon, Melissa scooped up a grinning toddler Cabbage Kid for adoption.

“Is that the one she wants?” I asked.

Melissa watched in resignation as her daughter abandoned yet another newborn in the clutches of an overstuffed gorilla.

“No. But it kind of looks like her.”

Melissa paid the “adoption fee” while I looked for suitable adult souvenirs. Sorry, friends, no shot glasses. But you’re good to go if you want a shot of Imagicillin. Before you get excited, that’s not a fanciful liquor. (Though I suspect they could make some bank if they invested in that.) It’s a ballpoint pen designed to look like a syringe filled with the magical drug that “loosens up Mother Cabbage.” I bought two.

Here's one of them. I use it to make my daily To-Do list.

Here’s one of them. I use it to make my daily To-Do list.

In the end, Melissa’s daughter had to be herded into the adoption room, where she repeated the adoption oath back to the nurse on duty. Sensing the importance of the moment, she embraced her new baby, Ruby Jane, for Melissa’s cell phone camera. These modern kids…. they know exactly what to do when you hold up your iPhone.

Already, she has the frantic eyes of a woman whose life has changed forever.

Already, she has the frantic eyes of a woman whose life has changed forever.

We left the adoption room, and Melissa’s daughter trailed her baby behind her for a moment before abandoning her completely in favor of a cradle of newborns. Sighing, Melissa leaned down to scoop up the newest member of her family.

“Well,” she said, tucking Ruby Jane under her arm, “Was it everything you hoped?”

“And more,” I told her. “Did you know you can get married here?”

We headed for the exit. On the way home, we stopped for queso. Basically, it was the perfect day.

The babies... THEY'RE ALIVE.

The babies… THEY’RE ALIVE.

Advertisements

2013: The Year in Books

2013books

Total Books Read in 2013: 144! (That’s 9 more than last year’s 135!)

Average Number of Books Per Month: 12

Highest Volume Month: August, with a whopping 19 (but I cheated a little with some short stories)

Lowest Volume Month: May, with a weak sauce 8

Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic Societies That Concerned Me: 10 (11 if you count The Bling Ring)

Steampunk Books That I Accidentally Read: 4 (more if you count all 3 of the Matt Cruse books)

Fractured Fairytales: 13

Books About Teenagers Getting Up To No Good in Eastern Europe/Russia:  4

Girl Spies: 9

Books about Book Lovers: 14

Favorites for the Year:
The FitzOsbornes series, by Michelle Cooper
Enchanted, by Althea Kontis
Texas Gothic, by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Criminal, by Terra Elan McVoy
The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Silver Linings Playbook, by Matthew Quick
September Girls, by Bennett Madison
Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell
Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell
Mothership, by Martin Leicht Isla Neal
My Booky Wook, by Russell Brand
The Grisha series books, by Leigh Bardugo
Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu
The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield
Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter (audiobook)

Favorite New Author: Rainbow Rowell. I read her entire canon of books this year, in a manner of months. Also, I saw her speak at my local indie book shop, and she’s as funny and real and friendly as you want her to be.  I’ll read anything she writes, forever more.

 For 2014, I have an unread book list that is fairly intimidating (over 90- gulp!), but I’m working on giving myself “book amnesty” and only reading books that I really want to read.  My goal is to hit 150 and to throw in some more literary fiction to up my brain  game.   What do you think I should read, faceless Internet void?  What were your favorites from the last year?

December 2013 Books

december2013

 

December 2013

1. Skybreaker, by Kenneth Oppel, finished 12/1/13 Second Matt Cruse book. This time with a treasure lost in space! Sometimes, this series takes on the feel of a serialized British children’s program that one might find on PBS or BBC America.  Or maybe like The Goonies meets steampunk meets Romancing the Stone?

2. Starclimber, by Kenneth Oppel, finished 12/10/13 The final Matt Cruse adventure (so far?).  Good finish to a swashbuckling series!

3. Snowed In, by Rachel Hawthorne, finished 12/12/13

4. Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter,  (audiobook), finished 12/14/13   Engrossing story crossing generations and oceans to tell the story of a sickly actress and an Italian hotel owner.  Great voice actor on this one– aces with multiple kinds of accents and soothing to the ear.  There were times when I turned on the audiobook while hanging out in my condo just because I wanted to keep listening to the story. Kind of wish I’d read this one on paper. 

5. Blood Red Road, by Moira Young, (audiobook), finished 12/21/13 Yeesh, but this is a dark one. I feel kind of like Stefan from SNL as I describe it. This post apocalyptic YA has everything: cage fights, deluded dictators imitating Louis XIV, a pack of quasi-Amazonian teen girls seeking to liberate a corrupt city, and magical heart’s desire necklaces that really work.  Every time you think the heroine has hit rock bottom, something else really awful happens.   It really is a blood red row to hoe.

6. Across a Star-Swept Sea, by Diana Peterfreund, finished 12/21/13  Sequel to the great For Darkness Shows the Stars. Fun science laced re-telling of The Scarlet Pimpernel.  Dug the world building and the secret spy stuff. 

7. Etiquette & Espionage, by Gail Carriger, finished 12/26/13  Steampunk Victorian finishing school for teen girl assassins! What could go wrong?!

8. This Song Will Save Your Life, by Leila Sales, finished 12/27/13

9. The Gift, by Cecelia Ahern, finished 12/28/13

10. Cinder, by Marissa Meyer, (re-read), (audiobook), finished 12/29/13  Just had to snap up this audiobook when I saw it as a travel deal on iTunes.  Listened as prep for the forthcoming third book in the Lunar Chronicles trilogy, Cress. Excellent female narrator on this one!  

11. Bittersweet, by Sarah Ockler, finished 12/31/13  Uh– cupcakes, figure skating, a losing boys’ hockey team, a cutesy diner, and snowstorms.  This book is basically a great teen movie.  Upbeat way to finish out the year of reading!

Total Books Read in 2013: 144!

Last month’s list: November

November 2013 Books

november books

 

November 2013

1. Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers, finished 11/1/13  Dark revisionist history of late 1400s Brittany in which a convent trains the progeny of Death (a god of some kind?) to be assassins.  Our heroine has some special gifts that take her to the court of Anne of Brittany… and straight into the arms of a hot romance.  Ha cha cha. 

2. Mothership, by Martin Leicht & Isla Neal, finished 11/3/13   This one could have gone either way– in the future, a group of pregnant teenage girls are sent to live on a spaceship orbiting earth. Get it…. MOTHERship?  The pun is so great, you have to try the book;  but you know it’s a risk.  The good news is that the risk pays off, and the whole book is as delightfully funny as the title.   In discussion with my male cousin about this book, we agreed it’s a crying shame that the sequel is not called Fatherland

3. My Booky Wook, by Russell Brand, finished 11/5/13  A legitimately good memoir.  My friend J says that it sounds like an erudite English gentleman is politely commenting on the rascally antics of his raunchy alter-ego, and that’s about right.   Brand writes frankly but also humorously about addiction, and he gives all the gory details of his debaucherous early life.   Surprisingly great. 

4.  Booky Wook 2: This Time It’s Personal, finished 11/7/13  More of the witty prose of My Booky Wook, but with a coda about Katy Perry that will make you feel unreasonably sad that the pair of them didn’t end up working. 

5. Fierce Reads, by various authors, finished 11/8/13 A collection of short stories written by YA authors signed under the Fierce Reads imprint of Macmillan Publishing. You can download it for free from your favorite ebook retailer!  I picked it up for the sake of the prequel to Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles (such a good series, y’all!), but it also turned me on to the fantastic Leigh Bardugo with her short story, “The Witch of Duva.”  In fact, I picked up the first book in her Grisha Trilogy after reading it. It’s a free download, so you really can’t lose. 

6 . Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo, finished 11/11/13  Seriously good start to an epic magical trilogy taking place in some kind of alternate universe Russia where some men and women known as Grisha can command the elements. Raised in an orphanage, Alina shows some early signs of Grisha ability, but she stomps down on her powers when they threaten to separate her from her best friend Mal.  When they both serve in the army, her powers come to the forefront again when she catches the notice of the sinister Darkling.   Alina is swept into the glittering world of the Grisha– and away from Mal. Great world-building and page-turning writing. 

7. The Willoughbys, by Lois Lowry, finished 11/11/13  Lois Lowry just writes a little of everything, doesn’t she? Here she writes a gentle parody of all the literary tropes found in “old-fashioned” children’s literature: incorrigible children, the dotty nanny, the baby left on the doorstep, the reclusive wealthy man, and so forth.  Quick and fun, but possibly more amusing for the adults reading it to their kids than to the actual kids. Hard to say since I am no longer a kid and have limited access to kids. 

8.  Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu, finished 11/12/13 Lovely re-telling of the Snow Queen that also ruminates on the struggles of transitioning from childhood to adulthood.  Hazel and Jack are BFFs…. until Jack just shuts down on Hazel. Maybe there’s an ice chip in his heart and he’s been taken by the Snow Queen, but maybe they’re just growing up.   Regardless, Hazel is bravely facing the magical  snowy woods to save her friend.  Some really wonderful lines about reading and childhood and life. Beautiful illustrations too. 

9. Siege and Storm, by Leigh Bardugo, finished 11/13/13 Sequel to Shadow and Bone. Alina and Mal are on the run from the Darkling and his scary new abilities, all while Alina is still learning to control her newly discovered powers.  A good example of a sequel that manages to move along the story without getting stuck in the boring middle ground. 

10. Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh, finished 11/14/13  Allegedly, this collection of Allie Brosh’s greatest hits from her identically titled blog also features some new content, butI didn’t notice it.   I’ve read several of her essays/comics more than once, and they still make me laugh out loud. And did you listen to her interview with Terry Gross in which Terry Gross boldly asked about her suicide plan?  Damn, Terry. I’m a crisis counselor in my real life, and I don’t even ask that question so casually.

11. The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield, finished 11/18/13 A gothic style mystery for all the book lovers out there. Reclusive beloved writer Vida Winter contacts quiet Margaret Lea to write her true biography– significant because she’s given so many false stories to reporters over the years. While it is a twisty mystery story, it’s also a love letter to books and the power of stories.  I highlighted many sections  in this one. 

12. Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel, finished 11/27/13 First entry in the Matt Cruse books. Another alternate universe story with a steampunk vibe in which we use Zeppelins for air travel. Matt loves to fly, and he’s embarking on an unforgettable journey on his home, the Aurora.  Also on board- spunky, burgeoning scientist Kate.   In a YA landscape packed with doomed romance and supernatural whatevers, it’s a refreshing story with high adventure and scientific discovery. 

Total Books Read to date in 2013:  133

Last month’s list: October

The Bling Ring

from Nancy Jo Sales' website

from Nancy Jo Sales’ website

 

Lately, I keep having conversations with people in which I explain The Bling Ring. I’ve been fascinated by the story since I read the Nancy Jo Sales article in Vanity Fair in 2010, “The Suspects Wore Louboutins.”   I keep dropping the story in conversation casually and then acting all amazed when my friends have no idea what I’m talking about.    It seems I have an unhealthy interest in celebrity news that most of my friends/family do not share.

But this story is different.  It has Implications about Society In General. And it’s also just really interesting.

In case you’re one of those people unaware of The Bling Ring, here’s their brief story:

A few years ago, a string of celebrities reported burglaries in their homes: Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Rachel Bilson, Orlando Bloom, and Audrina Patridge   Some, specifically Hilton , later found out their homes had been robbed multiple times before they even noticed anything was missing. The police didn’t initially connect the burglaries, but it turns out that all the robberies were carried out by a group of teenagers from the Valley.  They admired these celebrities for their fashion sense and started breaking into their Hollywood homes and taking their clothes and other items.   In almost all cases, they walked right in to homes not protected by alarm systems and used unlocked doors or keys hidden under mats.   Their Bling Ring went on for at least a year; these fame and money obsessed teenagers some how managed to elude the police for that long.  In the end, they got careless and started to take massive noticeable amounts of clothing and jewelry and left the homes in disarray, thus leaving a trail that led the police to connect the dots. One of their number, Nick Prugo, blabbed everything after the police were able to connect him to one of the crime scenes.   Even though he pointed fingers and gave tons of incriminating details, none of them were charged with everything Nick says they did. There’s no evidence other than his Word. Which…. is not that reliable, when you think about it.   Some of them got some minimal time in the slammer, some of them just got probation.

It’s crazy, right? These kids just walked into people’s homes and took things, and it seems like they did it pretty casually. Nick Prugo alleges one of the teens felt so relaxed about their actions that you actually took a dump in Rachel Bilson’s bathroom mid-robbery. Gross. I mean, just think about the themes here: narcissism, celebrity worship, the decay in American Youth (that one is a crowd favorite), the pull of peer pressure, the power of the crowd mentality…. someone should make a movie.

And someone did: Sophia Coppola. The Bling Ring movie just released this summer, and it stars Emma Watson (That’s Hermione Granger, Dad) as one of the teens allegedly involved in the Ring. I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s on my list.

If you want to know more, here’s a list of related links:

Start with the original Vanity Fair article, “The Suspects Wore Louboutins.”

Alexis Neiers features heavily in that article, and you can see her freak out about her poor representation in said article in this infamous clip from her short-lived reality show, Pretty Wild.

For a longer version of events, read Nancy Jo Sales’ recently released book, The Bling Ring, which is basically a fleshed out version of the Vanity Fair piece.  I read it at the beach, and it is completely absorbing.  In addition to telling the story more in depth, she philosophizes about the cultural implications of these events. She also drops some scary stats; for example, she reports 31% of high schoolers “expect” to be famous. WHAT. She also made me think twice about watching reality shows in which women tear each other apart.

If you don’t have time to read the book, Vulture did a round up of interesting tid-bits from the book that didn’t make it to the movie.

Oh, and you should totally see the movie. Here’s the trailer.

Also, Emma Watson started a fake tumblr to get into character as Nikki Moore, a character in the movie loosely based on Alexis Neiers. And someone found it. 

And finally, Paris Hilton is loving her return to relevance  and agreed to cameo as herself in The Bling Ring. Sophia Coppola took pictures of her house to help promote the movie, and she really does have pillows with her face on them.

 

 

 

Books, books, books.

I’ve been lax about posting here lately (something I continually resolve to change), but I’ve been quite busy over at my personal book blog. I’m not much of a reviewer since I like most books I read, but I like to keep track of what I read and my general thoughts about it. I’ve been on a “book report” bender for the last week or so, trying to catch up on documenting all the books I’ve read in the last couple of years. Here are some recent faves to check out if you’re into that kind of thing:

20120419-105705.jpg

A list of my favorite books. I made a page of my actual favorites from over the last few years (and a few standouts from high school and elementary school). Helpfully sorted by category!

A Book Report on Countess Below Stairs. People! Downton Abbey wishes they had a countess below stairs! It’s a lovely little romance, and the world needs to be more informed about stand out light romance writer Eva Ibbotson. Read and then spread the good word!

Book Report for the Chaos Walking Trilogy If you liked the Golden Compass and Lyra and Will and all that, you might enjoy this one. Really painful to read at times due to the continual violence and heartache heaped on these two young teens on an alien planet, but it’s well written and the two main characters are just so well done. Similar message to the Hunger Games, but more brutal– if you can believe that.

Book reports on 2 John Green favorites: Abundance of Katherines and Fault in Our Stars. John Green is like a gateway drug to YA fiction for adults who sniff at YA plots. He writes from a teen POV, but his characters are crazy smart and witty. Some of his plot lines sound like bad Lifetime movies (Two teens with cancer fall in love, kids at boarding school face horrifying loss), but he’s anything but hackneyed.

Book Report for Ready Player One. A futuristic virtual scavenger hunt based around knowledge of 80s trivia. Do you need anything else?

Book Report for The Magicians It really is kind of Harry Potter for adults. Just add sex, booze, and some spicy language.

Go forth and read!

<a

How to Fly The Friendlier Skies

I’m not a serious business traveler, but I do fly an average of once a month due to my far-flung family and friends.  Thus, I consider myself a reasonably savvy flier.  Often as I wait in the security line or listen to an irate customer chewing out a desk agent, it occurs to me that people should have to pass some kind of test to be allowed to board an airplane.  

Since the government is unlikely to start issuing licenses to passengers, the next best thing is educating the masses. In honor of the upcoming busiest travel day of the year, I present my guide to flying: How to Fly the Friendlier Skies.

(This guide specifically addresses concerns for flying domestically on the day before Thanksgiving and should not be considered totally helpful when flying abroad.)

Not being Kate Middleton is no excuse for rude airline etiquette.

Read the rest of this entry

Dear Girl Scouts of America…

Dear Girl Scouts,

In the immortal words of Phyllis Nefler and her rag tag band of spoiled rich girls, “It’s cookie time.”

cookieboxes

(from flickr user kayak49)

I know you’re out there. And I know you have cookies. Please find me. Read the rest of this entry