Thursday, February 26, 2015

Delays, life and other nonsense

Sorry for the blogging delay. Normally when I post something like this, I have a blog entry all written and just forgot to bring it with me to 'the place with the internet.' Today is much more interesting an excuse. Ready for this?

I lost my keyboard.

Yuppers. That's what happened last week. And now that I have a new keyboard, I've got two *new* excuses this week: 1. Finals (my final finals, as I am DONE after this!) and 2. Birthday.

So Dawn and the Ridiculous Specter of a Guy Who Faked his Own Death will have to wait until next week. But I will try to blog both that and #73 in one week and see if it happens. No promises!

Friday, February 20, 2015

“Life is a cheeseburger.” BSC #70: Stacey and the Cheerleaders (1993)

So I’m interrupting my weekend to read this book. I remember being super-annoyed by it the first time around, though I cannot recall why. All I can tell you is it’s going to take a lot of cocoa—peppermint cocoa covered in peppermint whipped topping—to get through it again.
Stacey gets the attention of a basketball player named RJ. The team has been winning and the players—and cheerleaders—are getting a lot of undeserved perks like getting to cut class and getting passed despite not doing the work. Things don’t work out between Stacey and RJ, but she makes friends with some of the cheerleaders and winds up dating basketball player Robert. After Stacey doesn’t make the cheerleading squad because of some shenanigans, Robert quits the basketball team and brings all the perks to the attention of the administration.
Meanwhile, Shannon’s sister Tiffany has been being a holy terror. The BSC realizes that little sister Maria has suddenly turned into a super swimmer, while Shannon, of course, is a super student. They both have all these awards, while Tiffany’s a terrible student with no hobbies and no awards. They help her decide she needs a hobby that’s something she enjoys, rather than something she can use to ‘beat’ her sisters. She winds up happy again, planning a garden for the backyard.
Interesting Tidbits
The cover: Stacey’s hair is not attractive here. And those shoes are very white. (Also, this doesn’t happen in the book. Stacey doesn’t babysit once in the book.)

Heh: the story starts with Stacey getting hit by a snowball while wearing new pants. The pants leave streaks all over the snow.
Did your middle school/junior high have one basketball team, or were the teams divided by grades? We always had separate teams for the grades. Much like the SMS team (for all three grades, although it mostly seems to be eighth graders), our seventh grade boys’ basketball team went undefeated. Our coach—and math teacher—had promised the boys that if they went undefeated, he’d shave his head. I think he regretted that.
Stacey says she’s not boy-crazy. Um, there’s even a book talking about how boy crazy she is. I think that by this point she’s dated or been obsessed with more boys than all the other BSC members put together. She mentions Sam, Pete, Austin, Wes (the sub), and there’s the Scott the lifeguard. I’m sure we could come up with others in the comments, too.
When Stacey tells everyone RJ asked her out, Kristy can’t believe someone in The Group* would date someone who wasn’t a member of The Group. Claudia suggests that maybe RJ’s dated all the girls already.
*The Group seems to be a common name for selective cliques in the media. I remember it was the name of the kids who smoked marijuana on an episode of The Facts of Life. (It was quite possibly the second cheesiest anti-drug episode in the history of television—after that Saved by the Bell one. “I’m so excited! I’m so…scared!”)
There’s this one sentence in the description of Kristy that so poorly written that I had to read it four times before I figured out that it wasn’t a mistake.
Dawn’s been gone for a couple months, but MA is talking about her like she’s dead: “Dawn loved blue chips.” She’s also depressed because she hasn’t heard from her for two days.
Stacey suggests that Claudia dresses hiply and funkily. Reminds me of how my sister and I used to make adverbs out of everything, to the point where if you were being a jerk, you were behaving assily or assholily.
Shannon is mentioned as being an associate member, despite the fact that she’s been the alternate officer for the past two books and is listed as the alternate officer on the back cover. It would be fair to assume that she wouldn’t be able to come to every meeting, though. (She actually is at that meeting, when the job they can’t find a sitter for…is at her house.)
Tiffany, who was introduced as age eleven, has, like many other characters behind her, traveled back in time. Shannon says she missed the terrible twos and is now having the terrible tens.
Did you know Logan is cute with a capital Q? I didn’t. That must be the new alphabet, like the new math.
Why would anyone wear a unitard? Especially a plaid one and especially on a date. It’s like a camel toe waiting to happen. Stacey calls it a ‘beautiful new outfit.’
The date with RJ is a movie and pizza. After the movie, Stacey rates it as a 3 out of 10, but then she gets over it because they run into RJ’s friends at Pizza Express. She clearly likes his friends more than she likes him.
And we’re introduced to Robert, who becomes Stacey’s boyfriend for the next almost thirty books.
Ahh. Middle school cheers. I mostly remember our KMS cheerleaders doing the old “You say Kaneland, we say Knights” and “What’s your battle cry? V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!” I’m trying to decide which of these cheers is better; feel free to vote:
            A tisket! A tasket! Put it in the basket! Who’s the best? SMS! Yeaaaaa, team! (SMS Chargers)
            The Lions can’t be beat! They’re lightning on their feet! They’re the best team on our street…or lots of other streets. (LHS Lions)
Reading this book this time around (now that I’ve had the privilege of reading #83, which will definitely be a OH HELL YEAH! moment) is way more interesting. You get all the little hints that Stacey finds the BSC embarrassing and childish. Love it!
I like Kristy, but you all know I find her to be a little much. (She’s the kind of person I would never have been friends with growing up.) After SMS wins the big game, she totally embarrasses Stacey (and probably everyone else in the club) by whistling loudly and shouting across the entire gym.
I love this: when the BSC arrives at Kristy’s for their sleepover, they find a giant spread of food and Watson wearing a chef’s hat and apron. They all get ready to thank him for all the effort…until Elizabeth points out he just called the deli and ordered it all. He laughs and runs away before Kristy can peg him with a strawberry.
The title quote is part of Stacey’s confusion after Sheila tells her that Robert likes her. She can’t comprehend the idea. I’m still having trouble understanding why myself. Don’t get me wrong, Stacey’s not my least favorite babysitter. She ranks somewhere in the lower middle of the group. (As much as I love numbers, I will NOT actually rank the BSC…right now.) I just don’t understand why so many guys are so into her. It must be because she’s so sophisticated, right?
Stacey said she’s never seen cheerleaders before she moved to Stoneybrook, because they didn’t have them in her school in NYC. Let’s ignore the fact that she’s apparently never watched a professional sports game; I’ll buy that. (I’ve never actually seen a sports game with cheerleaders outside of school games.) She says that girls preferred having their own teams to cheering the boys in her old school. Well, Title IX says that, in publicly funded institutions, schools cannot discriminate between boys and girls. Therefore, there must be an equal number of girls’ teams to boys’ teams and the funding must be the same. In high school we counted up the sports teams and sure enough, they were equal. (Well, sorta. You had to compare girls’ bowling to boys’ wrestling, but there you go.) Yet we still had cheerleaders anyway. And my junior year, boys even started joining the squad. We had three guy cheerleaders my senior year.
We finally get to the B plot in chapter six.
There is apparently a ‘Haitian cotton’ couch in the Kilbourne’s TV room. I don’t even know what that is, so how is Kristy (of the turtlenecks and jeans) supposed to recognize that?
Kristy’s sitting job for Tiffany and Maria reminds me of me and my sister growing up…except that I didn’t hit her with a yo-yo. I usually just hit her upside the head (and she usually antagonized me into doing it.) Tiffany’s taking out some aggression and hostility on Maria, who’s actually an innocent victim…at first. Later she’s totally egging Tiffany on by pointing out all her honors and trophies and saying Tiffany’s just jealous. (Probably true, but completely unnecessary…also completely realistic.)
I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I like Shannon’s family because it’s sort of realistic. Her parents don’t really get along but also don’t fight constantly like Stacey’s before the divorce. In families with more than a couple kids, there’s always the one who feels like a screw-up in comparison to the sibs. There’s also the ongoing fighting and trying to outdo each other….you almost get the feeling Maria got so into swimming so that she could get some recognition instead of Shannon having all the awards.
Claudia math: 98.2% of girls under age 14 with a single hair kinks report that their dates fell madly in love with them. She read a study, you know. In the Connecticut Journal of Hair Disorders.
Ha! Mary Anne the Meek and Tiffany the Terrible. Awesome. What’s interesting is that Mary Anne figures out Tiffany’s problem…well, half of it. She suggests that Tiffany needs a hobby, but she doesn’t catch the significance of Tiffany’s last statement: “I know I’ll find a hobby I can beat Shannon and Maria with.” I really read into that when I was a kid. I guess I find this more significant than the average person because every activity I joined growing up, my sister followed me into. I did Girl Scouts and 4H; so did she. I played with the band and wrote for the school paper; so did she. The only thing we differed on was sports; she played tennis and I played soccer. And I always felt that she did that to try to one-up me. She wanted to beat me at being me.
Mallory’s too sick to babysit, but apparently she’s not too sick to watch Stacey try out for the cheerleading squad. (Don’t get me wrong; I realize this takes a lot less effort than sitting, but I feel like her parents wouldn’t approve of that.)
Hell, even Shannon came from her school to cheer Stacey on. I’m surprised Logan wasn’t there, too. (Too much estrogen for him, perhaps?)
Claudia spelling time: Tifany (twice), hobies, knoe, realise. She also uses hopping for hoping and says that mary ann opened a can of werms.
Claudia solves the second half of the Tiffany problem by pointing out that a hobby isn’t a weapon against others, but something you enjoy doing. She sets out to try to turn Tiffany into an artist but obviously that doesn’t work out. The two of them also commiserate over having older sisters they feel inferior to.
Because Tiffany is so happy when Mrs. Kilbourne comes home, she jokingly asks to adopt Claudia. But all Claudia really did was say, “What really interests you?” If her parents weren’t so busy and self-involved, they could have done the same thing.
Stacey is so charming in this book. She nearly barfs, she burps and she’s got hiccups. At least she’s realistic.
I never tried out for cheerleading because I knew I could never be a cheerleader. But my sister did once, and the girls who were already on the cheerleading squad had absolutely nothing to do with selecting the new crew. Only the coaches had a say in who got selected. It prevents the kind of pettiness that leads to Stacey—the best candidate—not getting the spot on the cheerleading squad. The other girls are afraid she’s too good and will show them up.
And of course Stacey’s the best. The BSC is only bad at things as a plot point. Claudia’s a terrible student, but that’s okay, because she’s the best artist ever. Stacey is a math genius. Jessi’s the world’s greatest dancer (and choreographer). Mallory gets straight As and wins awards for her writing.
I’m still not sure what annoyed me about this book as a kid.
Stacey: plum corduroy pants and white down coat; black and white plaid unitard, black sweater; jeans, white cardigan with floral embroidery (seems a little girly for someone who just wore a unitard), suede ankle boots
Claudia: baggy wool pants, black belt (or a black leather band, as the book calls it for some reason…), white tuxedo shirt, flats, one black sock and one white sock, glittery bow tie barrette; men’s white shirt, spandex bell bottoms, vest (put a hat on her and she’s Blossom)
New characters:
Basketball players: RJ Blaser, Robert Brewster, Marty Bukowski, Malik Joffrey, Wayne McConnell (party on, Wayne!)
Cheerleaders: Darcy Redmond, Sheila McGregor, Margie Greene, Penny
Weller, Corinne Baker
Next week: Ready for some extra-extra-stupidness? Mystery #12 Dawn and the Surfer Ghost

“The patient was a little cranky at first, but she took her medicine. Luckily, we didn’t have to operate.” BSC #69: Get Well Soon, Mallory (1993)

Is it terribly juvenile of me to point out that book about ‘the kissing disease’ is appropriately numbered? (I’ll answer my own question: Yes. But not enough to stop me from doing it!)
Before I begin the blog, it’s vlog time! I intend to vlog each Babysitter at some throughout the series. The next one after this will definitely be Claudia; you have to wait and see WHY I picked that.
(I couldn’t get it to imbed, sorry.)
Interesting Tidbits
The cover: That’s Margo and Claire with Mallory and this is straight out of the book. I am amused by the ‘get well soon’ card and flowers in the background.

Did anyone ever actually wait until the day of Halloween to decide what they were going to dress up as? (I know, terrible sentence structure. Suck it. ;) My mom picked my costume out for me every year until I was seven and we moved to England. (In July or August, so that she had time to hand sew it.) When we moved back, we made our own costumes out of things lying around the house. I was a ‘fortune teller’ one year wearing a square dancing costume and a lot of scarves. (I told everyone I was a gypsy, but hell, I was 11. Forgive me. I would say I got the idea from this book, but it was 1992.) The only time I decided upon my costume the day of was my freshman year of high school, when I decided on a whim to be Alexander of Daventry. We went from door to door yelling “Zounds!” instead of trick or treat that year.
I’ve always remembered this! After Mrs. Pike tells everyone they’ll be going to NYC for Thanksgiving and will get to watch the Macy’s parade, Mallory catches Vanessa practicing her waves in the mirror. Who, when they read this book the first time, didn’t practice each of the three types of waves Vanessa mentioned?
I love when they can’t keep track of the ages of various characters, as I’m sure you, my loyal readers, know. In this one, Sam and Charlie are 14 and 16. Oh, and along the same lines, Tigger is mentioned as being black and white striped. He’s usually a gray tabby. He probably looks a lot like my Dobby.
This book was the first place I ever heard of mono. When Mallory’s diagnosed, there’s this whole science-y explanation about glands and the spleen. Mal’s mom says that 99% of the time it’s not serious, but it can damage your spleen. I went to this really weird little school district (oh, Kaney-land!), and seventh through twelfth grades used to be in one building. When I was in eighth grade, the sophomore class president died during surgery from a bizarre combination of spleen damage from mono and a bad reaction to the anesthesia. I remember thinking that mono was suddenly the scariest thing ever, between her death and Mal’s ridiculously long convalescence.
Before she has a diagnosis, Mal’s greatest fear is never catching up in her homework and failing sixth grade. After she finds out she has mono? Her fear shifts to everyone thinking she got mono by kissing Ben Hobart. Nice to know she has her priorities straight.
I love Mallory’s commentary on soap operas, which was obviously written by someone who’s never seen a soap (or hadn’t seen one in decades.) I actually started watching soaps in 1993, when a little girl on one show died in a school bus accident and her heart was given to her ailing cousin. I still (sometimes) watch that show on my day off, and when I don’t catch a week, I miss a lot. (I’m still mad that Sonny is Ava’s baby dad instead of Morgan…so freakin’ predictable.) I won’t say that there weren’t soaps out there that you could not watch for a month and come back and nothing would be different, but it’s definitely not really true these days when any one of the few soaps left could be cancelled at any moment.
I loved this bit: Mallory’s trying to convince “Nurse Tiffany” (aka Claire) to eat celery as part of her lunch by suggesting that all great nurses did: Florence Nightingale, Clara Barton and…Hot Lips Hoolihan. The title quote also comes from this “sitting job”, the one shown on the cover. It’s said by “Doctor Margolius.”
Logan’s suggestion after the Pikes say that Mal needs to temporarily quit the club: The BSC should picket their front door, shouting ‘Unfair!’ and ‘Free Mallory!’ Sometimes, I really like Logan. Sometimes.
Mallory suggests a car wash to raise money. In Connecticut. In November. They actually suggest that to the kids before they realize it’s a bad idea.
Jessi is spelled as Jessie at one point. Again.
“Acting like a jerk was hard work.” Just another reason why Mal’s plan was a stupid idea.
It’s established that Claire wears a watch even though she can’t tell time. Mal asks what time it is, and Claire answers by looking at her watch. (Her assessment? Thirty-o’clock.) Adam has to look over at her watch to figure out the correct time. I had always assumed that it was some Pike family thing that everyone wears watches and is on top of their own schedule.
There’s a quote on page 97 with only one quotation mark. There’s usually at least one typo in any book, but I hate when I actually find them.
Jessi takes Charlotte and Vanessa to pick out books for the oldsters. They decide to only get mysteries because Vanessa says her gramma likes mysteries, and then they decide to only get mysteries with ‘nice’ pictures on the front: cats, flowers, houses and horses. But they can’t find enough books that way, so they have to relax the rules to include candles and pretty women. Later, they develop a game for deciding which person gets which book…by rhyming the titles or cover photos with the person’s name.
Mrs. Pike actually lets the triplets polish the carving knives. That seems…not smart. I’m seeing an ER visit.
Claudia makes Mal earrings that are made of wooden bottles labeled ‘miracul cure.’ They’re supposed to magically cure her.
Kristy’s got magical talents, too: she points at the phone, and it rings. (And of course, because this is a BSC book and everyone’s parents agreed to let them visit the Pikes’, the phone call is Dawn from California.)
As I said a couple weeks ago, I only have two more Mallory books left to blog. I actually don’t have copies of either one of them, but I’ve got about another year before I have to worry about it.
Mallory: flowery pajamas; blue velvet skirt and matching bolero jacket, white silk blouse
Byron: maroon corduroy slacks, yellow shirt, blue and yellow sweater
Next week: #70, Stacey and the Cheerleaders

Thursday, February 5, 2015

“I haven’t heard any reports of ancient coins being used to buy gummi worms at the candy store.” BSC Mystery #11: Claudia and the Mystery at the Museum (1993)

A new museum has opened in Stoneybrook, and Claudia decides to take Corrie and the Arnold twins to see it. While they’re there, a theft takes place. Later, the BSC goes to try to figure out where the stolen coins have gone, since everyone was searched upon leaving the museum. They discover a couple of things: a man who is always there every time Claudia goes to the museum, and a sculpture that Claudia has seen before that seems ‘different’ to her somehow. It turns out that a custodian had stolen the coins and hidden them in a secret compartment in the sculpture. Claudia happens to be there when he retrieves them, thus solving another mystery just by being in the right place at the right time.
In the really-super-annoying B plot, Claire decides she needs to be a star, Karen style, and pisses everyone off in the process. She goes as far as to ask Rosie Wilder how to get an agent, then decides she doesn’t want to be famous after all.
Interesting Tidbits
The cover: You all know how I hate leggings, but I actually kind of like Claudia’s outfit. If those were tights, I would crave a pair, the same way I want those shoes she’s wearing. I have a ‘thing’ for hot pink. Oh, and Corrie (on the left) is totally a mini-Claudia, since she’s wearing pink leggings, too.

The funniest part of the cover? It says ‘What kind of crook would steal art?’ Umm, no one stole any art. The theft involved ancient coins.
Claudia decides that she doesn’t need to apply herself at school because Van Gogh probably didn’t know how to solve for x. I’m amused by her attempt at logic.
Janine is in awe of Claudia’s art critic-y knowledge, when she discusses the influences of Don Newman’s sculptures.
We’re introduced to the BSC members by a discussion of what animals they would be. Kristy would be a dog, Claudia would be a parrot, Dawn, a dolphin, and both Mal and Jessi, horses. All of these seem appropriate for me. Meanwhile, Stacey wants to be a jungle cat, which I don’t really buy. I can’t picture MA saying she’d be a koala, even if it actually suits her. I’d believe she’d say a cat, which is what Shannon says. Shannon wanted to lie in front of a fire all day, but that doesn’t sound like her. She’s far too active.
The museum is interesting. There’s a science room, a music room, an art room, and my favorite part, the Discovery Room. It consists of activities designed to show what it’s like to have various disabilities. Most of the exhibits in the whole museum are interactive and designed to be touched. I’d love that museum.
Carolyn tries to explain one of those electricity machines to Claud, who cuts her off. She’s afraid Carolyn will pull a ‘Janine’ on her and give her too much information on the subject.
When the fire alarm goes off, Claudia sees the following: a group of scared Brownies, a janitor, and a guy with one blue and one green eye. (He’s a chimera! I forget how it happens, but chimeras have two different sets of DNA. It’s quite possible for a chimera to give DNA samples that don’t match their own children.) Claudia pays extra attention because Nancy Drew says to pay attention to potential suspects.
Claudia cleans her room the same way I did as a kid: by shoving everything in the closet or under the bed without actually cleaning.
When they learn there will be a black tie event honoring Don Newman at the museum on the last day of his exhibit, Mal suggests that only rich patrons will be invited. The girls all look at Kristy, because Watson is rich. Well, Shannon lives in Kristy’s wealthy neighborhood too, and she’s at the meeting. Shouldn’t they assume her parents are rich, too?
If you had as many kids as the Pikes do, would you really take all of them to the mall at the same time to shop for clothes? My friend Zee has four kids, and she doesn’t even take all of them shopping at once. She doesn’t even like to take them all to the grocery store.
When Nicky is grossing Claire out by playing ‘see food’, Mrs. Pike tells him to only play that with his brothers because the rest of the family members aren’t interested. I guess this is what happens when you get tired of fighting with that many boys; it’s easier to tell them to gross each other out than to not be gross at all.
There just are not enough things to mock in this book.
Claudia says Mallory collects words. Not only is this a good pastime, it’s good for making other people feel inferior, or being condescending (which is the word that makes Claud make that comment in the first place.)
Claudia totally steals the museum curator’s resume off his desk. Turns out just about every museum he’s ever worked at has been robbed while he was the curator. His name is Mr. Snipes and I’m totally picturing Wesley Snipes even though he’s described as being extremely pale.
Claire wants to be as famous as Michael Jackson, Roseanne, and the elementary school principal. I have no words.
Claudia helps Claire send off her video to an agent in her quest to become a star. The problems with this? A) It’s Claire’s only copy of the video. What if the agent doesn’t send it back? B) She doesn’t ask the Pikes for permission first.
Claudia decides to contact the artist whose work doesn’t ‘feel right’ to her at the museum. Conveniently, as happens so often in these books, he lives nearby. Also conveniently, he’s the only Don Newman living in the area. Normally you’d think they’d have given Claudia a bunch of numbers. So she calls him and he invites her to the gala event that’s being held for his exhibit.
The title quote is what Stacey says when the BSC is going over the suspects again. Mary Anne reminds the group that there was a Brownie troop at the scene of the crime as well as the other suspects.
When Claudia meets Don Newman, she tells him her suspicions about the Mr. Snipes and then drags him out of the party to tail the curator. She drags him all over the museum in her quest to find out what’s going on with his sculpture…and he’s not only okay with that, he enjoys it!
Even though Claudia babysits earlier in the story, we don’t get any of her spelling until all the Stoneybrook characters write Dawn a letter in chapter 15. Claudia goes last and delights us with the following; whish, mistery, ahsome (I actually love that one!) desserv, creddit, evryboddy, coolist, nigth, museem, partys, freinds. She also uses trusty for trustee, two for two and hole for whole and then signs the letter Claudia Nancy Drew Kishi.
So what’s the deal here? It turns out that Mr. Snipes was experienced in securing museums that were high-risk for theft…hence why so many of his former museums had actually been robbed. The chimera guy (one blue eye, one green eye, remember?) was actually a federal agent specializing in art theft. He tells Claudia she’d make a good federal agent herself. But trust me, she’d need to learn to spell first.
The BSC celebrates solving the case with a pizza toast, of course.
Finally, Claudia writes Don Newman a note, enclosing a sketch she did of his sculpture, complete with the following errors: thot, parntner, allways, famouse, robery, sinserly.
Claudia: side braid, red and white striped shirt, red leggings, black high tops; red leggings, white man’s shirt, vest; pale green silk kimono
Claire: spangled tutu, feather boa, high heels; same high heels with a pink dress
Next week: I get to make terrible mono jokes at Mallory’s expense.