Amanda Gates
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A Musings - November 2009

I saw New Moon last night with my two bffs in a theater packed with females. (Case in point: When Jacob first took off his shirt, the gasps and sighs were louder than the movie.) Reviews about the movie have been mixed. I was surprised to see Entertainment Weekly give it a B+, but other reviewers have said the movie was slow. It was a touch slow, but so was the book. However, the second book plays a very important role in the series. The werewolves have to be entered into the story somehow and there has to be set up for the love triangle between Jacob, Edward and Bella.

I thought the movie was very well done actually. You could instantly tell there was more money to work with this time around. When I first saw the previews, I wasn't sure about the werewolves - I couldn't tell how big they were. But watching the movie, I thought they were actually perfect. They were huge and they were scary, but you could also see the cuddliness of the humans on the inside. I'm glad they weren't depicted like the werewolves in Harry Potter, which are more based in fantasy and very creepy. All the main actors have wonderful chemistry with each other, and once again (as reviewed from last year), Bella's dad just makes the movie. Billy Burke was fabulous. One disappointment however is Victoria. I think Rachelle Lefevre does a fabulous and beautiful job as bad vampiress Victoria in both Twilight and New Moon (if I could only have hair like that!), and while I do enjoy Bryce Dallas Howard, I think it's a mistake to change the actress in the third movie.

The theme that really stuck out to me throughout the movie was male aggression. It makes me wonder about the men in Stephanie Meyer's life. Does she know many aggressive men? Maybe not. Maybe Edward and Jacob's anger and angst is based on pent up teenage emotions, but I don't think so. After all, Edward is far from a teenager. I found it interesting that several times during the movie, when the men become angry they turn into their worst part (and they warn people, too: "don't make me angry," "I might not be able to control myself"). Is this a message that all men have a monster (vampire) or an animal (werewolf) inside of them? A part of them that they always have to work to control so as not to maim or attack loved ones or potential competitors? And are females always supposed to put up with it, always supposed to be the caretakers who reassure the males that they're worthy and that everything is going to be OK?

This isn't a criticism of the book, but an observation of how the gender roles are portrayed. (I can only imagine the awesome Women Studies classes out there using these books as resources!) While I do believe the series of books is about Bella's journey...and self denial, and good and evil...I think it's just as much about the journey of Edward and Jacob becoming the men they're supposed to be. And as in real life, it usually takes a woman to help a man figure it out. :)

Posted: Tue, 11/24/2009 - 02:07 |

I know, I know. I'm not a bride. I haven't been a bride is nearly four years. However, I am currently reading Marg Stark's What No One Tells the Mom (a gift from bff Maega) and since I'm not ready to share thoughts on that book, I decided to start with Stark's prequel (also a sweet gift from Maega when I got engaged in June 2005).

Going into any book of this nature (self-helpish, advice-giving, etc.), you obviously need to take what you read with a grain of salt. Not every situation in this book applies to every bride. However, while I think that there is such a thing a too much information (especially during marriage and pregnancy - oy), I think that if you're interested in reading about your current life situation from others who have lived through it, then by all means go for it. Plus, when someone is as humorous and easy to read as Stark, the pages basically turn themselves.

Stark gets into the nitty-gritty of engagement and newlyweddedness. Obviously, there's going to be a transition period between single life and married life. For different people this transition could be tiny. For others, it's huge. Family traditions come into play. Family names become of uber importance. Money. Sex. All these issues come up - and if they don't come up in the engagement period, they come up in early marriage. Stark wants brides to be ready.

Many brides think engagement will be blissful. Everyone will be happy for you. (Actually, some won't and it'll be surprising.) You'll be utterly thrilled and happy planning a party for a hundred people or more. Thing is, Stark says, in reality you may not be so happy. And guess what? That's OK.

Again, not every situation applies to every woman. My hubby and I have never, ever had a fight about money, so chapter five didn't stick with me. But, other chapters did. And if anything, it's the overall message that I hold on to. Women have been led to believe that they must act happy about things that should make them happy: engagement, marriage, children, etc., even if they're not. Many of us continue to perpetuate this phenomenon by refusing to admit when things aren't going our way and not asking for help.

In reality, we should share our struggles and fears with each other. It feels so good to know other people have your same fears, share your same hopes, and that you're not alone. And even if what these books or the things other women share don't apply to us currently, it doesn't mean it won't later on. And we'll be glad we learned now.

Posted: Mon, 11/16/2009 - 10:36 | Comments: 6

This book was borrowed to me by my good friend CMS. I was a little reluctant to read it, because I thought it would pretty depressing. And it was, but not in an awful way. Just sad. I don't know much about Sylvia Plath, but I did know she suffered from mental illness and killed herself and I was pretty sure The Bell Jar told her story, or at least mirrored her real life.

The Bell Jar tells the story of Esther, a college student and talented writer who receives a great opportunity to intern at a big magazine in 1950s NYC. During that summer Esther's mental illness begins, and the story then follows Esther back home and eventually to a mental hospital. (From the mini biography in the back of the book and from other sources I've read, this is pretty much what happened to Plath.)

The writing is fairly good, but parts of the New York story line dragged for me. For me, the story picks up more when she really starts to falter mentally. Which is weird; why, when I knew it would be depressing and when I was actually sad reading the book, would it "pick up" for me when the character's at her worst? I feel awful for this woman (Esther, Sylvia, whomever). How lonely must it have been?

The most important thing about the book, though, is it shines light on mental illness and health care, back then and in general. And to me, this is interesting to think about. There has always been mental illness. Since the dawn of time. And yet still, there's a stigma. Back then, the electroshock treatments, the lobotomies - it's all incredibly disturbing. How could doctors really think they were doing the right thing? But then, perhaps people will look back at our current medical methods and question just what the heck we were doing with some of our therapies? But anyway, people have always, always suffered with depression in all forms. And you always have the people who just want them "to get over it." There will always be those of us who don't quite understand, but hopefully more and more of us learn empathy and sympathy instead of denial and frustration.

For another wonderful take on this book, see Bending Bookshelf.

Posted: Thu, 11/05/2009 - 09:00 | Comments: 4

Last year at this time, I was on day two of National Novel Writing Month. I was nervous about it and I really didn't know if it was something I could complete. As the month went on, I went through a series of emotions from happiness to frustration, but in the end I finished a 50,000-word young adult novel. (You can review my progress in the few posts I wrote last year.)

Well, with it being NaNoWriMo time again, I'm feeling some nostalgia. I went into this month knowing it wasn't a task I could repeat this year. We have some other things going on, plus the hubby is in school and many of his nights and hours on the weekend are spent in his office studying and using our computer. Last year we didn't have to share the space. This year, I just didn't foresee that working out, even though he said over and over we could make it work.

I'm fine with my decision. I'm tired often and have lots of odds and ends (cleaning, organizing, shopping, painting) that I'm looking to complete before the new year. Adding a 50,000-word novel to that mix, well, I probably don't need the extra "thing" to do. But, I do miss it a bit. I'm very proud of my book I wrote, even if it's just a silly little story about a high school girl and the mystery she solves. But, I wrote a book. With a beginning, middle and end. I bound it so it can sit on my shelf, with my name on the cover and the spine. I'll always be proud of it, and I'm so glad I participated last year.

I also know I would never have written a "first" novel any other way. NaNoWriMo pushes you to get that story out, no matter how awful (or fabulous). So many people say they'll write a book someday, but when they look at it as the daunting task that it is, most never try. With NaNo, you can do it. And it's daunting, sure, but only for a month. Then you can quit. And hopefully you quit with something resembling a full-out novel.

Then it's just editing that you can choose to put off for as long as you want.

Posted: Mon, 11/02/2009 - 09:13 | Comments: 1