The Quick 10: The Baby-sitters Club

Today is Ann M. Martin's birthday. That might not mean much to you if you're a male, especially if you don't have sisters, but she is the author (at least, at first) of The Baby-sitters Club series. You'd be pretty hard-pressed to find a girl in my general age bracket who didn't own a couple of these growing up. To celebrate such a monumental occasion, here are a few facts about the good old BSC.

bookcover1. There are 131 Baby-sitters Club books and 122 Little Sister books in print, plus all of the super specials and mysteries. I loved the Super Special when they went to Disney World and Karen freaked out at the Magic Kingdom because she really believed it when the disembodied voice in the Haunted Mansion told her that a ghost would follow her home. Oh, that Karen. She was always such a drama queen.
2. The character of Mary Anne is based on Ann M. Martin herself. Do you think Ann M. Martin also underwent an extreme makeover and went from dressing mousy to dressing cool (meaning: leggings and hats)? Despite this fact, Martin says Kristy is her favorite character and was based on her childhood best friend.
3. The idea to write about a group of girls who just looooove to babysit wasn't Martin's idea. It was her editor's idea, and Martin ran with it.

4. The characters didn't age in real time, obviously, since they were perpetually stuck in middle school. If Martin had allowed them to age in real time, they would have been 28 when the series finally ended.

5. The books created quite a few spin-offs. There were the Little Sister books, centered on Kristy's bratty step-sister Karen Brewer; The Kids in Ms. Coleman's Class, a spin-off of Little Sister about Karen's classmates at Stoneybrook Academy; and California Diaries, a series about Dawn when she returned to California. This series dealt with some pretty deep issues, including anorexia and and racism. There is also apparently a graphic novel of the first BSC book, which I am rather delighted by. Has anyone seen it?

claudia6. Remember the BSC notebook entries each girl wrote, which is how we know that Stacey dotted her i's with hearts and that Claudia couldn't spell to save her life? One single person at Scholastic hand wrote those entries for all of the girls. And I thought I had schizophrenic handwriting!
7. The series officially ended in 2000, but the last book came out in 1999. It was The Fire at Mary Anne's House. Between the series debut in 1986 and the finale in 2000, the books sold more than 175 million copies.
8. The books came out on a monthly basis for a while, leaving a very short turnaround time for Ms. Martin. She says a lot of the books had very little editing at all... which you can kind of tell if you go back and read some of them today. Not that I have. Not that I still own some, or anything.

9. Ann M. Martin stopped writing the books entirely herself at Stacey's Choice, #58. After that, she wrote a basic plotline and others filled in the details. You can tell which ones were ghostwritten because there is always a notation in the book that says "The author gratefully acknowledges So-and-So for their help on preparing this manuscript."

10. Sadly, there are no plans for a BSC reunion. Dang. I can't be alone in wondering what the girls would look like at 28, can I?

Tiff of "Stoneybook, Connecticut," blogged her way through a bunch of the old books over at Claudia's Room. She no longer does it, but there is quite a back log of recaps to read through, and she's pretty hilarious. I highly recommend it as a way to kill a little time and relive your childhood.

OK. Multiple questions today. What was your favorite book, who was your favorite babysitter, and what do you think the gals would be doing at the age of 28? Mine: I think Stacey was my favorite, for obvious reasons. I liked The Ghost at Dawn's House, Mary Ann's Makeover and Stacey's Emergency. Claudia has gone to art school, obviously, and is now working for Betsey Johnson. Stacey is on her third marriage and still perms her hair. That's about all I can say without getting unnecessarily mean. But you can be as mean to the teenage sitters as you want, as long as you share with the rest of us in the comments!

Have a Q10 request? I'm on Twitter and I'm all ears! Err... all keys. Something.

10 Sweet Facts About Candy Canes

The sweet and striped shepherd’s hooks can be found just about everywhere during the holiday season. It's time you learned a thing or two (or 10) about them.


While the origins of the candy cane are a bit murky, legend has it that they first appeared in hooked form around 1670. Candy sticks themselves were pretty common, but they really took shape when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany got the bright idea of twisting them to look like shepherd’s hooks. He then handed them out to kids during church services to keep them quiet.


It’s no surprise, then, that it was a German immigrant who introduced the custom to America. The first reference we can find to the tradition stateside is 1847, when August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decked his home out with the sugary fare.


Candy canes without the red don’t seem nearly as cheery, do they? But that’s how they were once made: all white. We’re not really sure who or exactly when the scarlet stripe was added, but we do know that images on cards before the 1900s show snow white canes.


Most candy canes are around five inches long, containing only about 50 calories and no fat or cholesterol.


The world’s largest candy cane was built by Geneva, Illinois chef Alain Roby in 2012.  It was 51 feet long, required about 900 pounds of sugar, and was eventually smashed up with a hammer so people could take home a piece.


Fifty-four percent of kids suck on candy canes, compared to the 24 percent who just go right for the big crunch. As you may have been able to guess, of those surveyed, boys were nearly twice as likely to be crunchers.


According to the National Confectioners Association, about 1.2 billion candy canes are made annually, and 90 percent of those are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Which honestly begs the question: Who’s buying the 10 percent in the off season?


Bobs (that’s right; no apostrophe) Candies was the first company to really hang its hat on the sweet, striped hook. Lt. Bob McCormack began making candy canes for his kids in the 1920s, and they were such a hit he decided to start mass-producing them. With the help of his brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Gregory Harding Keller (and his invention, the Keller Machine), McCormack was eventually able to churn out millions of candy canes a day.


December 26 is National Candy Cane Day. Go figure.


Here’s how they make candy canes at Disneyland—it’s a painstaking (and beautiful) technique.

10 Actors Who Hated Their Own Films

1. Sylvester Stallone, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Sly doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his film career. Despite co-starring with the delightful Estelle Getty as the titular violence-prone mother, Stallone knows just how bad the film was:

"I made some truly awful movies. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was the worst. If you ever want someone to confess to murder, just make him or her sit through that film. They will confess to anything after 15 minutes."

2. Alec Guinness, Star Wars.

By the time he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, Guinness had already appeared in cinematic classics like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Great Expectations and Lawrence of Arabia. During production, Guinness is reported to have said the following:

"Apart from the money, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue - which is lamentable - keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young."

The insane amount of fame he won for the role as the wise old Jedi master took him somewhat by surprise and, ultimately, annoyed him. In his autobiography A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, Guinness recalls a time he encountered an autograph-seeking fan who boasted to him about having watched Star Wars more than 100 times. In response, Guinness agreed to provide the boy an autograph under the condition that he promise never to watch the film again.

3. Bob Hoskins, Super Mario Brothers. He was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. As far as I’m concerned, Bob Hoskins is forgiven for Super Mario Bros. Hoskins, though, doesn’t seem to be able to forgive himself. Last year the Guardian spoke with the veteran actor about his career and he summed up his feelings rather succinctly:

What is the worst job you've done?
Super Mario Brothers.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Super Mario Brothers.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I wouldn't do Super Mario Brothers.

4. George Clooney, Batman & Robin. Sure, Batman & Robin made money. But by every other imaginable measure, the film was a complete failure, and a nightmare to the vast majority of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent fanatics. Star George Clooney recognized what a stinker he helped create and once plainly stated, “I think we might have killed the franchise.”

5. David Cross, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. When actors have a movie out, it's customary that they publicize the film by saying nice things about it. Earlier this year David Cross took a different approach. When it came to describing his new film Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the veteran comedian — better known for Mr. Show and Arrested Development — went on Conan and called the film a “big commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines” and told people not to go see it.

6. Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up. Judd Apatow’s unplanned pregnancy comedy was a huge hit and helped cement her status as a bankable film actress. After the film’s release, however, Heigl didn’t have all good things to say. In fact, what she specifically said about it was that the film was:

"…A little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.”

7. Charlize Theron, Reindeer Games. The 2000 action film Reindeer Games starred Ben Affleck, Gary Sinese and Charlize Theron and was directed by John Frankenheimer. But it all somehow failed to come together. In the end the film lost a lot of money and compiled a wealth of negative reviews – including one from its star actress who simply said, “Reindeer Games was not a good movie.”

8. Mark Wahlberg, The Happening. Mark Wahlberg doesn’t exactly seem like a guy who lives his life afraid of trees. But that is the odd position M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening put him in. Wahlberg, as it turns out, doesn’t look back too fondly on the film. He went on record during a press conference for The Fighter when he described a conversation with a fellow actor:

"We had actually had the luxury of having lunch before to talk about another movie and it was a bad movie that I did. She dodged the bullet. And then I was still able to … I don’t want to tell you what movie … alright “The Happening.” F*** it. It is what it is. F***ing trees, man. The plants. F*** it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook."

9. John Cusack, Better Off Dead. John Cusack reportedly hated his cult 80s comedy so much that he walked out of the screening and later told the film’s director Steve Holland that Better Off Dead was "the worst thing I have ever seen" and he would "never trust you as a director again."

10 Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music is considered a classic and has delighted many generations of fans. But the film's own lead actor, Christopher Plummer, didn't always sing its praises. Mr. Von Trapp himself declined to participate in a 2005 film reunion and, according to one acquaintance, has referred to the film as The Sound of Mucus.



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