Sweet Valley, Fresh Hell

3/26/08: Plot 307

I did not mean this to be a hiatus. I just got through the first weekend of Kurosawa Fest, which is the latest installment of this thing my boyfriend does wherein he collects a director’s complete works and then watches them all according to a rigid schedule in a multi-weekend endurance event. So far it’s been exhausting and life-altering at the same time. I really do not recommend watching Kurosawa’s earliest works on bootleg Chinese DVDs that have subtitles translated from Japanese to Chinese to English by way of Babelfish, because all the philosophical dialogue about Judo mastery is at best hilarious (“Doing this stupid could make the karate down“) and at worst incomprehensible. But even those movies were great to watch in their own way, and we made it to the seriously awesome stuff like Ikiru and Seven Samurai. Six-word-summaries of all the films so far can be found here. We also have a Twitter for even more vicarious real-time action in case you care (and, I know, you probably don’t).

* * *

Speaking of translations (sort of!) I heard yesterday that Random House is reissuing the Sweet Valley High books with a few strategic updates from their 80s incarnation. The Wakefield Twins are a “perfect size 4″ now, instead of the “perfect size 6″ that they were in 1983. It’s not clear whether they’re actually skinnier or whether vanity sizing is in effect, because of course medical science has yet to invent a reliable scale for fictional characters, but still, it’s kind of a big deal.

I definitely see Mo’s point about how the change attempts to remain faithful to the books. The fact that the girls are “perfect” remains the same; the only real difference is in the number that denotes perfection. Of course, it’s a stunningly barfy notion that perfection should be a size at all, and that’s a whole other can of worms that I’ll let someone else open, but at any rate, one can argue that really, the girls’ sizes were changed so that the girls could remain the same—perfectly perfect according to whatever standard currently applies.

And actually, that’s what I find even more insulting than the standards themselves—this blind stubborn quest to make the books feel precisely the same to a 12-year-old girl in 2008 as they did to a 12 year-old-girl in the 80s. What, exactly, is wrong with having some 2008 preteen figure out, by way of reading Sweet Valley High, that the idea of perfection was two sizes bigger twenty-five years ago than it is now? Is Random House afraid that if she’s allowed to think—just for a moment—about what that means, that she won’t be able to enjoy the book on its own terms? Or do they assume she can’t think at all? Does the current blatant non-perfection of “Size 6″ totally preclude this kid from understanding how Jessica and Elizabeth are envied, just because Size 6 may not be particularly enviable to her? Did she also read Little House on the Prairie and just have no freaking idea why someone would be jealous of Mary Ingalls, who only had “golden curls” and not a sweet rack or awesome clavicles? Just how many middle-grade and YA books published before 2005 are presumably now utterly confusing and unreadable to her because they’re about these so-called pretty pudgy girls who lumber around wearing culottes and listening to “Walkmans” and using pay phones?

I know how codgery this makes me sound, but, ahem, back in my day I found my way around all manner of inexplicable details in Judy Blume books (who “sets” their hair? why does everyone wear hats and live in New Jersey?) while still managing to relate to the characters and the stories. As an editor, I try to have a pretty good sense of what kids can figure out for themselves, and I suspect the people behind SVH ’08 do, too. I bet they know better, in other words.

Of course, they also know how to get people to give a shit about Sweet Valley High 25 years later, which is to update the books just enough to push a few buttons about body image issues, send out some press releases to fan the flames, and then watch the fun and indignation that ensues. But what do you expect? It’s so Jessica of them! Ugh.

For extra credit, feel free to speculate about the standards by which the Wakefield Twins will be “perfect” in the 2033 reissue of Sweet Valley High. “As Elizabeth twirled her size 2 figure, the sun gleamed off her flawless Brazilian.” Because isn’t that where they’re headed at this rate? Sweet Valley indeed!

Birthday horoscope round-up, 2008: Random events could occur!

BEHOLD the awesomeness that a Google image search on “Pisces” bringeth forth. (3/29: After two weeks I had to put that picture behind a link, because as awesome as it was, it was starting to really bug me and hurt my brain.)

And this is exactly how I plan to spend the day, hanging out vacantly in my underwater disco with my koi and my jewels. Let me also contemplate the prophecies of the coming year, according to the greatest astrological wisdom the internet can offer (for free):

I found this one last night, since it runs in a New Zealand paper and is therefore from the future:

Expect the unexpected in 2008. Random events could occur and whether they are unusual or untested, you might be immediately aware of the benefits. Act on left-field ideas or crazy hunches without hesitation.

Random events could occur. I might be immediately aware of them. I could be somewhere in a situation where possibly I’d be compelled to act or react in a particular manner and WHOA! I have a crazy hunch this one will come true. The future does not lie!

Cafe Astrology says:

2008 will be a Number Eight year for you. Ruled by Saturn. This is a year of power and accomplishment. Actively seeking to expand, taking educated risks, and moving forward are highlighted. This is a year of opportunity, particularly in the material and business world, and opportunities need to be seized. It’s generally not a year to find a new love partner, simply because the focus is on the material world and your place in the world. This is a problem-solving year in which you can expect real, tangible results. Advice – take action, plan ahead, seize opportunities.

This is a pretty decent horoscope that appears to have been written by the Kellogg School of Management. I will put this into Powerpoint and review this at least once every quarter of this Number Eight Year, Mr. Saturn! Yes, sir!

Here is what Holiday Mathis says:

The experiences of this year help you connect your heart and head so you can live more fully in the moment. You’re popular and in demand over the next 10 weeks. Feel out situations before committing yourself. Give yourself permission to do what seems like fun! Profits soar in July. Relationships tighten in August. Libra and Aries adore you. Your lucky numbers are: 14, 3, 25, 31 and 17.

I’m popular! And I should have fun! I am giving myself permission to totally buy into this one. Though August sounds a little kinky, what with Libra and Aries and possibly the numbers 14 and 25 getting involved. I should really feel that out first. If you do not hear from me for 3 days in August please call 17 cops. Thanks!

Finally, the always mindblowing Lovepsychic.com weighs in:

Happy tremendous Thursday! Be conservation in all your actions today! A touchy Moon/Uranus contact creates chaotic situations. Maintain a flexible attitude and keep an open mind. Last minute changes come out of nowhere and people can have a indifferent or non cooperative attitude. Don’t expect too much when it comes to team work or group projects. It’s best to remain independent and solo today! If today is your birthday, happy birthday! You are a Pisces who is wonderfully creative. Sunday is your best day. The Moon is in the sign of Gemini. Best signs for the day are Gemini and Libra. Your dream symbol for the day is, “to dream of new shoes.”

Why, yes, Love Psychic, I will be conservation in all my actions! I will not be squander. Or liberalation. Or….whatever you mean. Also, should I just avoid touchy Moon/Uranus contact altogether, or just make sure I’ve had a few drinks first, or what? Please clarify! In the meantime I shall symbolically dream of dreaming of new shoes, which I sure as hell hope are more than metaphors, because I really fucking need new shoes.

Oh, I guess this is just a list of stuff I hate!

The sickness is a thing of the past, but the 15,000-word-long freelance project I took on for February is still in the present, at least for a couple more days. Maybe by then it will be spring and the world’s surface will return to normal again, and it’ll be just like those nice maps and globes where all the wet parts are clearly marked blue, and the beige parts are dry enough to walk on and are not some filthy medley of concrete and puddle and mud and total LUMPY ICEFUCK. Yes, that is the scientific term, “lumpy icefuck,” for the lumpy fucking exoskeleton of ice that covers the ground this time of year. Lately, whenever my car is parked on the left side of the street, and thus with the driver’s side next to the parkway/expanse-of-lumpy-icefuck, I have to stagger across like a drunken sea hag and then try to fall softly against the side of my car. Ugh.

I need to interrupt this rant to point out that I will be doing this Interview Show at the Hideout on Friday at 6:30. I will sit on a couch and Mark Bazer will interview me and it will be funny but maybe also thoughtful! I will get drink tickets. You will probably be able to tell I get drink tickets! Please come!

Okay, back to hating the ground. And late winter. And laundry, and overheated rooms, and drafty rooms, and sidewalk salt in places that are not sidewalks, and FOX Network, and the City of Chicago for having only a pretend recycling program, and people who call themselves “foodies,” and faux new wave, and being too tired to hate all the things that deserve to be hated, because DAMMIT.