The Imaginary Heroine

searching for the plot

Why Summit? Why?! April 27, 2010

Fug via TresSugar

Apparently they’ve released a replica of Bella’s engagement ring. It’s available in faux version for $35 and a version with real diamonds for $1,979.

I blushingly admit that I’ve amassed a not inconsiderable amount of Twilight related merch. I may or may not frequently sport purple ruffled sweats from Aerie or a cadet blue B.B. Dakota jacket.  So, clearly I have no problem with people who want to have fun with movie memorabilia. If you have lots of disposable income and truly want a Cullen engagement ring, more power to you.

My main issue is the design of this ring. It is HIDEOUS. As some commenters have noted, it looks like a bug’s eye.

Wasn’t this supposed to be Edward’s mother’s ring? If you consider Edward died at 17 in 1918 and the typical short time window between marriage and first child at the time, his parents were probably married in the late 1890s. Shouldn’t the ring be Victorian style jewelry? This doesn’t look anything like what should have been around in Victorian America.

I mean, for cripes sake! Look how flipping gorgeous these Victorian rings are!

Why, Summit?! Why did you make the movie ring the fugliest ring ever? Are you just trying to piss off Twilight fans?

UPDATE:

So, here’s the description of the ring from the book:

“The face was a long oval, set with slanting rows of glittering round stones. The band was gold — delicate and narrow. The gold made a fragile web around the diamonds.”

So, I suppose the movie ring somewhat matches the book description. But it is still hideous. So there.

UPDATE2:

Other suggestions for Bella’s ring

I like the first one better, but I think the second one matches the description more. Either one is preferable to the monster we’re promised in June.

Update3:

Oddly, the artist rendering is by the same company that is producing the replicas. The final products don’t seem to match the drawing very well. The inset “web” is more delicate and there’s scalloped edging in the drawing that are nowhere in evidence on the real rings.

Unfortunately, the fug replica rings are officially authorized by Stephenie Meyer herself. Maybe she authorized the drawing and not the rings? I don’t know.

Yikes. I mean, you can’t argue with the author. If that’s what she says the ring looks like, that’s what it looks like. I’m not keen on the canon description, the presumably approved prototype rendering, or the final authorized replicas.

I’m going to go cry in the corner now.

Somewhere in the world, someone is writing the shortest alternate universe Twilight fan fiction ever which says something to the effect that Elizabeth Masen’s ring was lovely and understated with a single stone and delicate Art Nouveau scroll work on the band.

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A New Dawn part 4: “My Boyfriend Sparkles” by Anne Ursu March 7, 2010

[Part of a series discussing the essays in A New Dawn edited by Ellen Hopkins. These posts may contain spoilers about all four Twilight novels and Midnight Sun.]

In this essay Ursu details how the Twilight Saga illustrates truths about first love. Bella’s feelings for Edward are typical of a teenager locked in the throws of their first romance. Each segment of the essay is titled with phrases pulled straight from the mouths and diaries of young lovers every where: “He’s Not Like Other Boys,” “When He Touches Me, It’s Electric,” and “I’ll Love Him Forever.”

A less conventional heading is “My Boyfriend Sparkles.”The books are fantasy, but the best fantasy tells us something about reality[,]” says Ursu. “The author Lloyd Alexander said “Fantasy is a good way to show the world as it is. Fantasy can show us the truth about human relationships and moral dilemmas because it works on our emotions on a deeper, symbolic level than realistic fiction.”” Hmm…sounds familiar.

Ursu takes this a step further and points out that the fantasy of Twilight also serves to obscure less acceptable elements of the story. “There are aspects to Bella and Edward’s relationship that, when translated into the real world become disturbing and dangerous.” Namely Edward’s supreme power over Bella (while she’s human, anyway) and Bella’s supplication before him. This lack of equality is certainly not a healthy ideal for teenagers to emulate. Stephenie Meyer seems to know this and allows Bella to become a super-powerful vampire in the final novel, creating balance not just in the Bella-Edward relationship, but in the Twilight universe as a whole, resulting in total resolution of all conflict by the final pages of Breaking Dawn.

Bella’s transformation and Happily (Raised to Infinity) Ever After ending can be interpreted several different ways, depending on what you believe Bella and Edward’s relationship is supposed to represent. If, as Ursu posits in this essay, it represents the deepest, most obsessive throws of first love, there are still differing conclusions that can be drawn as to what exactly their happy ending means.

One way to interpret Bella’s rise to power and ultimate triumph is that first love can bring two people together, but the relationship can only be whole and permanent if the partners are equals. As such, their love is a source of strength that enables them to reach personal actualization and face down any dangers they may encounter. Even if that danger happens to be an undead army lead by ancient Italian vampires with superpowers.

However, Twilight’s ending can also be interpreted as an encouragement to throw everything to the wind for love, which, although a staple of innumerable volumes of literature, poetry, music, and art, has its pitfalls when practiced in real life. On a personal note, as someone who moved half way across the country to a city where she had neither friends, family, nor job prospects because of love, these pitfalls can be pretty heartbreaking in their own right. This isn’t to say that it isn’t worth it, but simply that the transaction is not as painless as the Twilight Saga would have us believe. Bella gets to keep her human family, her vampire family, her child, Jacob and Edward as a reward for having enough faith to sacrifice even her life for love. In reality, the rewards are more bittersweet.

I believe it is with good reason that the author’s conclusions are a bit pessimistic about the implications one might draw from the Twilight Saga. The fantasy doesn’t stop at the vampires and werewolves, but goes right to the heart of the story. For Ursu, first love that lasts forever is about as realistic as a sparkly boyfriend.

 

Guilty Pleasures and Guiltless Double Chocolate Scones January 29, 2010

Guilty pleasures first. After admitting my supreme dorkdom in the previous post, it’s amazing that I still have some qualms about admitting this….but… I am a Twilight fan. Actually, I prefer Twitard, in honor of one of the most hysterical blogs on the net Twitarded.

I didn’t want to read the Twilight Saga. I was tricked into  it by one of my professors. Once I started reading it, I didn’t want to like it. I started out with a pencil, circling questionable vocabulary decisions (‘verbose’? Seriously? I think she meant ‘loquacious’). But despite its doubtful literary merit and dubious moral undertones, it nearly ruined the last week of finals in my undergrad career. I started Twilight on stop day and went out and bought the other three books and devoured them one after the other. I simply had to know what happened.

I thank you Stephenie Meyer for all the joy you've brought me, but WTF, mate?

Even after the fiasco that was Breaking Dawn, I was still addicted to the books, audiobooks, soundtracks, movies, and various cosmetic and wardrobe products affiliated with the movie. I have the Aerie ruffled roll over sweats that Bella wore in that scene in New Moon where Jacob jumps into her window. I am that lame. 7abibi (“ha-bee-bee” which means my male beloved in Arabic and refers to my boyfriend, with whom I share an apartment and an annoying yet adorable cat) has born it all with puzzled equanimity, poor man.

I thought I had plumbed the depths with those sweat pants, but I was wrong.

After a few rotations of books 1 – 3 and even a stab and trying to like Breaking Dawn, it was obvious that I had to find more. I had to dip into the torrid, Mary Sue laden world of fan fiction. Don’t misunderstand – I have a few friends who read and also write fanfic. It only took a few peeks into Harry Potter fanfic during the long cold nights between books before I was totally turned off. Totally. Malfoy/Ron X-rated slash fic is just not for me. Sorry.

But after hearing the buzz on not one, but several sites about the fanfic Wide Awake by angstgoddess003, I had to go check it out. I was in pain. I needed more Twilight!

Dare I say it, but even devoid of vampires, magic, and other fantastical elements, Wide Awake is absolutely phenomenal. It’s full of delicious teen angst, drama, and romance woven together with a perfect stripe of tart humor by light and skillful hand. I stayed up two nights in a row and snuck peeks between calls at work. I was truly a woman possessed.

**Disclaimer: Wide Awake is rated M for mature. It has lots of filthy language, some graphic sexual content, and disturbing imagery that may trigger, offend, or disturb some readers. This is not your tween or prudish Twimom’s Twilight**

I want to examine some of the themes in a later blog post, because it’s a really beautiful text with many points of interest, but right now I just want to talk about cookies. You’ll notice that the chapter titles are named after cookies. These cookies provide a quick snapshot of Bella’s state of mind in a particular chapter. She relates to others through her baking.

This is something I can really relate to, as I both enjoy baking and eating baked goods. My greatest joy is always seeing other people eating and enjoying food I’ve made for them. It gives me a way to connect with people I may not know how to approach. Food helps me tell people that I care for them. For me, a gift of food is meant to encompass nutritional sustenance, sensual pleasure, and personal affection.

This recipe is based on one for a healthier cookie that was originally published in SELF magazine circa 2000. I was trying to counteract the guilty reading pleasures with a bit of virtuous eating (I seriously am trying to follow a Clean Eating diet, but my life simply can’t go on without baked goods). Unfortunately, my first batch turned out to be seriously lacking in tastiness. Who cares if food is healthy if no one wants to eat it? However, with a bit more leavening and some other tweaks, the recipe turned out to yield a pretty darn good (and quasi-healthy) scone.

Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Scones

Yield: Makes 2 -3 dozen depending on drop size

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (regular whole wheat works too, but white whole wheat tastes lighter)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup ground flax seeds or flax meal
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup drained great Northern, Cannellini, Garbanzo or any white beans, liquid reserved
2 tbsp coco butter at room temperature
1/2 – 3/4 cup agave nectar
2 large eggs (can be replaced with 3 egg whites and 1 yolk, but all whites can result in crumbly, hard scones)
1/4 cup skim milk or unsweetened soy milk
1 1/2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
8 oz chocolate chips with at least 60% cacao content
Optional mix-ins: these are great with walnut pieces, dried cherries and/or cranberries
Optional topping: 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt and 2 teaspoons raw sugar

Equipment:
1 medium mixing bowl
1 large mixing bowl

Stick blender/immersion blender
Coffee grinder
OR
Food processor

Flexible silicone spatula
2 metal teaspoons
Silicone baking mats
Cookie sheets
Nylon rigid spatula (or other cookie de-panning device)
Cooling racks

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Using coffee grinder OR food processor, process oats until finely ground but not powdery. If you’re using the coffee grinder, this will have to be done in batches. Combine with flour, cocoa powder, ground flax seeds, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium mixing bowl. This is your dry goods bowl.

Using stick blender, purée beans and 2 tbsp reserved bean liquid until smooth in a large bowl. Add coco butter, Agave nectar, eggs, vanilla and mix with immersion blender until combined. Alternatively, purée beans and liquid in clean bowl of food processor, and then add coco butter, agave nectar, eggs, vanilla and pulse until combined. Then transfer contents to large mixing bowl. This is your wet goods bowl and soon to be your final mixing bowl.

Add dry goods to wet goods bowl in batches, stirring slowly with silicone spatula to avoid puffs of dry goods. Stir in chocolate chips (and other mix-ins like nuts and dried fruit). Batter will be thick and wet with heterogeneous bits of mix-ins and bits of oatmeal and flax. If batter is dry, drizzle in milk 1 tbsp at a time and mix until it becomes wet. If batter is too runny, add in whole wheat flour 1/4 cup at a time and mix until it becomes thicker.

Using metal teaspoons (in my experience, the batter is too sticky for a disher or scoop) drop about 1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons of batter on cookie sheets with silicone baking mats. The concern while baking these scones is upward lift, instead of outward spread. They can be made about 1.5 inches apart from each other, but be sure to spread the batter out to about 1/4 inch thickness. It will puff up quite a bit as it bakes.

Once the scones are dished onto the baking surface, now would be the time to add the topping if you so chose. Mix together salt and raw sugar and sprinkle a small amount onto the tops of the scones.

Bake 15 to 17 minutes until centers are firm. Use nylon spatula to transfer to wire rack to cool.

***

This recipe is very forgiving and versatile. Wet batter can be remedied with a bit more flour, while dry batter can be fixed with a bit more milk. There are also lots of other flavor combinations you can introduce to the batter with great results. Here are a few off the top of my head:

  • For a mocha scone add enough instant coffee mix for 2 or 3 cups of coffee to the wet goods before mixing in the dry goods
  • Try black beans instead of white – the dark, smoky flavor goes well with chocolate
  • Omit cocoa powder and chocolate chips and use mixed dried fruit and substitute lemon extract for half of the vanilla extract for a light, fruity scone
  • Omit cocoa powder and chocolate chips and substitute almond extract for half of the vanilla extract. Mix in sliced almonds for a toasty almond scone
  • Omit cocoa powder and chocolate chips and add 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 3 teaspoons ginger, 2 teaspoons cinnamon and use molasses in place of agave nectar to make a spicy gingerbread scone (omit pepper for milder gingerbread flavor)
  • Substitute maple syrup for agave nectar, nix all or part of the vanilla extract, and add in bits of cooked turkey bacon for a sweet and savory scone
  • Omit agave nectar, vanilla, cocoa powder and chocolate chips and swap 2 tablespoons olive oil for the coco butter, then try savory mix-ins like 1/2 cup parmesan cheese shreds and 1 cup broccoli pieces and 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning. Or use black beans as suggested above and add in diced bell pepper, cumin, paprika, and cilantro and serve them with salsa for southwestern scones.
  • I’m not particularly well-versed in the use of alternative flours (yet), but I feel like you could experiment with omitting the wheat flour in this recipe for gluten-free alternatives like rice flour and chickpea flour. You could also try partial substitutions of soy flour to lower the carb count, but I think a full substitution could result in hockey pucks instead of scones.