Friday, November 30, 2012

Roadhouse episode 9, "Rome, if you want to."


This week, we talk about HBO's Rome and what types of Americans sound like Canadians. D-Rock does a rad Fire Marshall Bill impression, and my husband is emotionally healthy.

50 Shades of more fucking hypocrisy

Since so many of you sent me this story, I feel like I can't go into the weekend without commenting on it. I guess Universal is all upset because the plagiarized book they bought the film rights for is getting ripped off by a porn studio that I guess makes boring sex movies for stupid people, and I feel like none of this really matters, because this is truly the end of days.

Read the story at the hive of misogyny that always has their finger on the pulse of what's important to women who like to bitch about other women's parenting choices and how they're not as good as their own.

I feel like anything I say in the matter will just be one solitary cry lost under a landside of hypocrisy, so have a gander at my post about the first time something like this went down. I feel basically the same.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

50 Shades Darker Chapter 21 recap, or "The shorty skirt catches the worm."

I apologize for the lateness of this recap, but yesterday I had a truly fucking amazing day that interrupted my planned schedule. Bear with me here, this is important. Two years ago, I went to the ER for a really, really bad headache. They did a CT of my head and neck, and then the doctor came in and said, "There's a 10mm mass on your pituitary, you're going to need some follow up care." The only problem is, I live in America. I had no idea how I was going to pay the ER bill (and I only went in the first place because I crossed the threshold of "fiscal responsibility" into "Oh god I think this was what Brett Michaels was talking about when his head exploded") and I knew for sure that I couldn't afford to see a doctor. For those of you following this blog from other countries, yes, in the United States we will happily let people wander around with untreated, potentially fatal diseases and conditions because I don't know. Something to do with bootstraps.  Anyway, I couldn't afford follow up care for TWO YEARS, and I walked around that entire time thinking, "Oh my God, I have a brain tumor. What is it doing in there? Is it getting bigger? Will it get to the size that it makes my head go all misshapen? Will it kill me?"

Turns out, no. Because there never was any brain tumor. It was a big misunderstanding and, in the most likely scenario, just came down to a tired doctor saying "Pituitary" instead of "Thyroid," which is where the mass actually is.

That's some pretty great news, right? That I don't have a brain tumor? Well, hold onto your socks, because I'm about to blow them off. I went out to dinner with some family at a local pizza place, and suddenly there is this woman there, and she's waving to me to come closer. And I'm thinking, "Whaaaat?" So I went over to her and she said, "I had to come back in to tell you that I'm sorry for being so mean to you in school." Yup, on the same day I found out that I do NOT have a brain tumor, I ran into a girl who picked on me quite a lot in middle school, and she apologized for being mean.

So, of course I bought a lottery ticket. Because holy damn, guys, what an incredible day.

And that's why the recap didn't get finished, because I was celebrating the fact that I'm not going to die or get brain surgery or get really tall.

Well, here we are, at the second to last chapter of 50 Shades Darker. Which means the author will be wrapping up all the plot points and subplots and putting a button on the whole kit and caboodle, so that the arc of the individual book fits like a puzzle piece in the greater whole of the series.

Pfff, I'm not serious. What, are you new here?

When last we saw Christian and Ana, they were going to the playroom, because they're at that phase of their relationship where sex as a birthday present is still a thing. There is definitely an expiration date on that whole shebang, by the way. And when you breeze past it and don't notice. Awwwwwkward. You do not want to be standing in line at Best Buy naked under you trenchcoat, hoping you're buying the right Call of Duty, is all I'm going to say.

Christian asks Ana if there's anything she doesn't want to do, which is weird, because in the last chapter she told him what she didn't want to do. But he has to ask her now, so she can say that she doesn't want him to take photos of her, and that can be brought up later. He doesn't take it as a hint that she's seen his photos, though, so we can go right into the sex scene.
Placing the gift box on the chest of drawers, he takes out the iPod, switches it on, then waves at the music center on the wall so that the smoked glass doors glide silently open.
Because he's a Jedi. And raise your hand if your iPod has a switch to turn it on. No, not the lock at the top. I mean, a switch that makes the music go. It's a button. It's always been a button.
He presses some buttons, and the sound of a subway train echoes around the room. he turns it down so that the slow, hypnotic electronic beat that follows becomes ambient. A woman starts to sing, I don't know who she is but her voice is soft yet rasping and the beat is measured, deliberate... erotic. Oh my. It's music to make love to.
Let me tell you, nothing gets me hotter than the sound of a subway commute. Someone figure out what this song is. I couldn't figure it out from the 50 Shades of Grey playlists on Spotify and also I lost interest and wandered away and started listening to Iggy Pop instead.
Christian turns to face me as I stand in the middle of the room, my heart pounding, my blood singing in my veins, pulsing - or so it feels - in time to the music's seductive beat.
No... it's really pulsing. Or should be. Otherwise you'd be dead, Ana, and if that were the case I imagined a lot more confetti and party hats would be littering my office. I like that her blood is actually singing, that part is fine, but her blood only feels like it could be pulsing. The metaphor would be fine if she'd just swapped them around. But hey, I'm talking like someone actually cared about the product here.

Christian asks if the reason they're in the playroom is because she thinks he wants to be there. Isn't that how birthdays work? You give someone something they want, or do something nice that would benefit them? What would the point be if he didn't want to be in there? She specifies that she wants to be in the playroom, too, and once they have that good and settled, he tells her to strip.
My inner goddess is stripped and standing in line, ready and waiting and begging me to play catch-up.
Standing in a line? With who? The other characters Ana has rattling around in her head?

She's only wearing her robe and a nightgown, so getting undressed is pretty easy, and then Christian takes his silver tie from the cover of the first book and ties it around her neck:
He places the tie around my neck, and slowly but dexterously ties it in what I assume is a fine Windsor knot. As he tightens the knot, his fingers brush the base of my throat and electricity shoots through me, making me gasp. He leaves the wide end of the tie long, long enough so the tip skims my pubic hair.
What she's not telling you is that she's wearing the tie like a goddamned Snuggie because she's so thin.
 "You look mighty fine now, Miss Steele," he says and bends to kiss my gently on my lips.
 Mighty fine, indeed.

Christian is all "'What shall we do with you now?'" and there's some kissing which is obviously super hot, and then we get the following description, which continues to perplex me:
When he pulls away, he's panting too and gazing down at me, his eyes molten gray;
That's all we need from that sentence. Here's what bothers me about the descriptions of Christian's eyes "blazing" and being "molten." They're gray. Gray is a cool color, not a warm one. I guess "molten gray like melted pencil lead" might work, but still, blazing, etc. just doesn't seem like it belongs with gray. But maybe that's the kind of thing a person who can't even correctly describe fire does with words these days.

Christian braids Ana's hair and reminds us how beautiful it is, and then tells her she just has to ask him to stop and he will. At this point, Ana still believes that, after every time he has failed to stop doing something she's asked him to.
"Anastasia, these objects." He holds up the butt plug. "This is a size too big. As an anal virgin, you don't want to start with this. We want to start with this." He holds up his pinkie finger, and I gasp, shocked. Fingers... there? He smirks at me, and the unpleasant thought of anal fisting mentioned in the contract comes to mind.
What a weird leap in reasoning. Did vaginal fisting come to mind when he fingered your v all those times? And why is it that a butt plug is no big whoop, but sticking a finger in your pooper is shocking?

The nipple clamps she selected are also too hardcore, so he gets some pretty ones with dangly jewels for her to wear.
I blink up at him, wide-eyed. Christian, my sexual mentor. He knows so much more about all of this than I do. I'll never catch up. I frown. He knows more than me about most things... except cooking.
Just in case you're wondering why that ham-fisted reference to Ana's skill in the kitchen has been clumsily stuffed into the middle of a sex scene, I assure you, it comes up in a few pages.

Ana asks Christian if he's going to tell her what he's going to do to her, and he reminds her that this isn't like before:
"I'm your lover, Anastasia, not your Dom. I love to hear your laugh and your girlish giggle. I like you relaxed and happy, like you are in Jose's photos. That's the girl that fell into my office. That's the girl I fell in love with."
There's a lot going on here, but I think I have it sorted out:

  1. Doms don't love their subs.
  2. Lovers like it when their partners enjoy themselves, Doms don't.
  3. Christian wants Ana to be happy, like she is with Jose, so Ana should go fuck Jose
  4. This entire book is bullshit.
I'm so furious at that comment. He's her lover, so he doesn't have to tell her what he's going to do to her? Look, my husband is my lover, but I would still get super turned on if he was like, "This is what I'm going to do to you." It doesn't make it kinkybadweirdpervert sex. It doesn't mean he doesn't love me.

And it only gets worse from there:
"But having said all that, I also like to do rude things to you, Miss Steele, and my alter ego knows a trick or two. So, do as you're told and turn around." His eyes glint wickedly, and the joy moves sharply south, seizing me tightly and gripping every sinew below my waist." 
Then homegirl needs to stretch, because she doesn't want to blow her Achilles while they're fucking. Seriously, sinews? The connective tissue that keeps your muscles attached to your bones? How is that erotic in any way? And remember before, when we talked about Britishisms? "Rude" doesn't mean to Americans what it means to Brits, at least in this sense. When he says, "'I also like to do rude things to you,'" he could mean he's just not going to hold the elevator door when he can clearly see she's trying to catch it. Americans don't use "rude" to mean raunchy or racy, the way it's used there.

Ana notices that Christian has taken all the canes out of the room. So, phew, I guess that means he's been cured by the power of love, or something. Christian asks her kneel on a table.
Oh, okay. What does he have in mind? My inner goddess can't wait to find out - she's already scissor-kicked onto the table and is watching him in adoration.
Your inner goddess scissor-kicked a table? What? I'm trying to get a mental picture of how one scissor-kicks onto something. Is anyone out there a martial arts expert? Seriously, we need help over here.

Christian gets out some leather cuffs:
His proximity is intoxicating. This man is going to be my husband. Can one lust after one's husband like this? I don't remember reading about that anywhere.
Then it must not be possible, Ana, because you're so fucking well-read. But thanks for reinforcing the myth that sex after marriage is a chore to be endured, not a healthy, vital part of the relationship to be enjoyed. Everything about this book is just sadness and spaghetti left in a strainer in the sink to harden.
I can't resist him, and I run my parted lips along his jaw, feeling the stubble, a heady combination of prickly and soft, under my tongue. He stills and closes his eyes. His breathing falters and he pulls back.
"Stop. Or this will be over far quicker than either of us wants," he warns.
He seems to say this a lot. I think he might have a problem.

This one is dedicated to Christian "over before it started" Grey.

Christian cuffs Ana's upper arms and covers her eyes.
"I don't want to ruin my favorite tie," he murmurs. It slowly unravels as he undoes it.
So... it's ruined?
His hand flexes over my neck, and it's slick with sweet-smelling oil so his hand glides smoothly down my throat, across my clavicle, and up to my shoulder, his fingers kneading gently as they go. Oh, I'm getting a massage. Not what I expected.
He places his other hand on my other shoulder and begins another slow teasing journey across my clavicle.
Clavicle is one of those "stand out" words that you can't repeat too often in a single scene. In two consecutive paragraphs? Definitely not.
"And soon you'll be my wife to have and to hold," he whispers.
Oh my.
"To love and to cherish."
Jeez.
"With my body, I will worship you."
Those are going to be really touching wedding vows. I just wish she could work "Holy crap!" in there somewhere. "I, Anastasia Rose Steele, HOLY CRAP!, pledge my troth and my inner goddess, etc. nipple clamps and stuff. Jeez, I'm flushing!" I now pronounce you dumb and dumber.
"Mrs. Grey," he whispers as his palm works against me.
So... probably no chance of keeping her own name, then?
My mouth is already open from panting. I open wider, and he slips a large cool metal object between my lips. Shaped like an oversized baby's pacifier, it has small grooves or carvings, what feels like a chain at the end. It's big.

You summoned me, master?

 He takes the "pacifier" out of her mouth. Why does she know what a butt plug is by sight, but not by feel? Also, thank GOD we know he buys knew toys for every sub. Because otherwise, ew.
He's reoiled his hands. They glide around to my backside.
I gasp. What's he going to do?
He's going to dive into your ass, Ana.


"I'm going to put this inside you," he murmurs. "Not here." His fingers trail between my buttocks, spreading oil. "But here." He moves his fingers around and around, in and out, hitting the front wall of my vagina. I moan and my restrained nipples swell.
Not here, but here. We have to be very specific.

Honestly, I couldn't tell whose fingers were where when I first read this scene, because of the author's stubborn refusal to use words to distinguish one anatomical part from another. And it just gets more confusing:
Christian removes his fingers and slides the object into me. He cups my face and kisses me, his mouth invading mine, and I hear a very faint click. Instantly the plug inside me starts to vibrate - down there! I gasp. The feeling is extraordinary - beyond anything I've felt before.
Nothing says "totally sexually naive" like a heroine who is surprised to learn that vibrators exist. By the way, the plug is in her vagina. I had to go back and reread several times to get that even though he put his hand between her buttcheeks before, he's not diving into her ass. He put the vibrating plug in her cooch. You know, not there, but there.
"So beautiful," he murmurs and suddenly he gently pushes an anointed finger inside me... there! Into my backside.
At least she lets us know which there there is this time. Why is it every time I read any other hero say something like, "So beautiful" in a sex scene, I think, "Oh man, that's hot, he's telling her she's beautiful," but if Chedward does it I'm like, "Now assign her a monetary value!" It always seems like he's congratulating himself when he compliments Ana.

So, he fingers her booty and she comes like crazy and all the adjectives you've come to expect are in there. Then he uncuffs her and takes the mask off and she says:
"I think you're trying to kill me," I mutter.
She has this mind-blowing orgasm, which is, by the way, the most selfish birthday present I've ever heard of anyone giving - "For your birthday, you may drive me to heights of pleasure I have never before experienced, you're welcome," - and then she complains about it!
"Death by orgasm." He smirks. "There are worse ways to go," he says but then frowns ever so slightly as an unpleasant thought crosses his mind. It distresses me. I reach up and caress his face. 
"You can kill me like this anytime," I whisper.
I will just assume the handcuffs on the cover of book three allude to the fact that he will murder Ana in a snuff video and get caught by the FBI.
"I want to make love to you," he says, gazing down at me, his gray eyes burning with bright, loving sincerity. Softly in the background, a familiar voice starts to sing "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." And his lips find mine.
Anybody else seen this one?

This is so blatantly fucking ripped off. First of all, I highly doubt that a twenty-something kinky sex pervert is going to pick Roberta Flack to fuck to. Second, that song was already used in a famous sex scene, in Clint Eastwood's Play Misty For Me. Well, she's already ripped off the piano scene from Pretty Woman almost shot for shot, why not this, too? It's a grand tradition, really. Before this book came out I had a theory that the meadow scenes in Twilight were "inspired" by the sex scene in Play Misty For Me, so I don't know why I'm surprised. Go watch it, if you don't believe me.
As I tighten around him, finding my release once more, Christian unravels in my arms, his head thrown back as he calls out my name. He clasps me tightly to his chest as we sit nose to nose in the middle of his vast bed, me astride him. And in this moment - this moment of joy with this man to this music - the intensity of my experience this morning in here with him and all that has occurred during the past week overwhelms me anew, not just physically but emotionally. I am completely overcome with all these feelings. I am so deeply in love with him. For the first time I'm offered a glimmer of understanding as to how he feels about my safety.
Aaaand there it is. There had to be a reason for her to go into the playroom again, right? Now we have it. Ana's character arc - which is really more like a wavy line with a lot of disconnected bits at this point - had to take her back to the playroom so she could realize that Christian only wants what's best for her, when he's not wanting to beat the shit out of her. So, it's okay for him to keep her in a virtual prison and isolate her from friends and family, because he really does care. Good thing he faked a helicopter accident to teach her that lesson.
So many sides of Christian - his sweet, gentle persona and his rugged, I-can-do-what-I-fucking-well-like-to-you-and-you'll-come-like-a-train Dominant side - his fifty shades - all of him. All spectacular. All mine.
Stand back ladies, he's taken.

Do trains orgasm? Or do trains just really get Ana off? Before, she thought the sound of a subway train was good to fuck to, and now she's comparing her orgasms to the kinds of orgasms trains have. Maybe Christian was working the wrong angle, trying to impress her with his helicopter.
And I'm aware we don't know each other well, and we have a mountain of issues to overcome, but I know for each other, we will - and we'll have a lifetime to do it.
Yeah, so just start marrying guys you don't know real well, ladies. Especially if they're controlling and maybe one time beat the shit out of you with a belt until you broke up with them. All that stuff can get worked out later.
He kisses me gently as Roberta Flack finishes her song.
That song is only like four minutes long, guys. This is not really recommending Christian Grey as the sex god he's supposed to be.

There is a section break, and then:
We have talked and talked and talked, sitting upright together on the bed in the playroom, me in his lap, our legs curled around each other. The red satin sheet is draped around us like a royal cocoon, and I have no idea how much time has passed. Christian is laughing at my impersonation of Kate during the photo shoot at the Heathman.
"To think it could have been her who came to interview me. Thank the Lord for the common cold," he murmurs and kisses my nose.
"I believe she had the flu, Christian," I scold him,
I'm glad E.L. skipped all the boring part where the two of them actually talked and maybe worked out some of the relationship problems that might have given a reader reason to pause over the whole engagement thing, and just skipped right ahead to bashing Kate again. Because who wants to listen to character development and other pointless shit like that, when we can just prove how much the hero loves the heroine by having a scene where they make fun of one of the heroine's friends?

Chedward doesn't, however, thank the Lord for influenza, because that's what ended up getting him turned into a tortured vampire in the first place.

The constant reminders that Christian likes Ana better than Kate are something I would expect out of a fanfic written by a sixteen-year-old. The fact that this is the work of a grown woman makes me die inside.

They talk about how Christian got rid of the canes, and what else he can get rid of. He doesn't need that stuff anymore because he's been cured with the power of love. Then Ana lists off the things she loves about him, and she says he's compassionate, and I spit my coffee directly into the book. Nothing says compassion like beating a woman with a belt and then wondering why she's so upset with you. Then there is implied sex, and then she decides she's going to cook for him, since it's his birthday, and for what seems like the first time ever, they mention being hungry without tacking on, "but not for food." I wept with joy, dear reader. Actual, salty tears of joy.

After a paragraph break, we FINALLY get a little Taylor action:
Christian is in his study on the phone. Taylor is with him, looking serious but casual in jeans and a tight black t-shirt.
I'm biting my lip, Taylor.

Ana is making poached salmon and baby potatoes, and she asks Taylor how his daughter is (because a couple chapters ago he mentioned something was wrong with her). Now, please brace yourselves, dear reader. Because your lovely image of Taylor is about to be shattered:
"Yes, thanks. My ex-wife thought she had appendicitis, but she was overreacting as usual." Taylor rolls his eyes, surprising me. "Sophie's fine, though she has a nasty stomach bug."
 How could this .gif actually come in handy TWICE for the same book?

Seriously, Taylor? You're going to complain that your ex-wife is TOO CAUTIOUS ABOUT YOUR CHILD'S HEALTH. I bet it really interrupted your super important schedule of licking Christian Grey's balls on command. Fuck you, Taylor. I trusted you. I thought you were different.

But, as with every female character, either on-stage or off, Taylor's ex-wife needs to be denigrated. Because women (who aren't Ana) are all universally terrible people. We're not supposed to be thinking, "Taylor is kind of a dick here for thinking his ex-wife is too careful when it comes to the life of their child," we're supposed to be thinking, "Ugh, stupid Taylor's ex-wife. Women are gross. It's too bad they can't all be Ana."
I flush... will I ever get used to Taylor calling me Ma'am? It makes me feel so old, at least thirty.
I wish I had more middle fingers.

Kate texts Ana to say she's looking forward to a long conversation when they see each other that night, and it's a good thing she doesn't want it right then, because Ana literally responds with two words and a couple asterisks: "*Same here*" Then she goes on to send a multi-subject email to Christian, who, as you may remember, is in the other freaking room. And not just one. Oh no, they have a an exchange via email. The word "loquacious" comes up. Kate has been gone for weeks, Ana has allegedly missed her terribly, she gets two words. Christian is in the other room, he gets a state of his union with Ana address. Then there is a section break.
I've made a watercress, cilantro, and sour cream dip to accompany the salmon, and I've set the breakfast bar.
I've stolen Mrs. Jone's job.

Ana goes into Christian's home office to tell him his lunch is ready. And Christian repays this gesture how?
"That dress is very short," he adds.
"You like it?" I give him a quick twirl. It's one of Caroline Acton's purchases. A soft turquoise sundress, probably more suitable for the beach, but it's such a lovely day on so many levels. He frowns and my face falls.
"You look fantastic in it, Ana. I just don't want anyone else to see you like that." 
Christian is going to make one more call before lunch. Turns out, it's to Ana's dad. Remember when she told him not to call and ask for her hand, because that whole thing is old fashioned? I think you know why Ray is on the phone. Cause and effect, folks. She wore a dress Christian didn't approve of, so he's going to call her father and tell him that she's gone and got engaged, whether she wants him to or not.

Ana talks to her dad, who thinks it's not so great that she's going to marry a dude that she just met. Thank god she has a strong role model in her life who can talk some sense into her:
"Annie... I know he's all kinds of rich and eligible, but marriage? It's such a big step. You're sure?"
"He's my happily ever after," I whisper.
"Whoa," Ray says after a moment, his tone softer.
"He's everything."
"Annie, Annie, Annie. You're such a headstrong young woman. I hope to God you know what you're doing. Hand me back to him, will you?"
"I think you're making a huge mistake, and as your father, I - what? Oh, you're going to use a cliche platitude to express why this is a good idea? Then by the rules set forth by the council of rarely-seen book dads, I hereby declare this bridge open!" Way to save the fucking day, Ray. You're as useless as Charlie. Probably more so, because at least Charlie was trying to correct that thinking while Bella was still technically a child.

Christian talks to Ray more, only after smirking at Ana because isn't it funny how he's dictating her life even when she doesn't want him to?
"I have your stepfather's begrudging blessing," he says proudly, so proudly, in fact, that it makes me giggle, and he grins at me. He's acting like he's just negotiated a major new merger or acquisition, which I suppose on one level, he has.
Gosh, Ana, when you put it like that, it sounds like you're some piece of property he just owns. I'm sure that's not what the author meant to convey, considering how forward-thinking and female-positive this entire thing is.

Then they eat lunch, and this happens:
"Ana?" He interrupts my thoughts. "Why did you ask me not to take your photo?" His question startles me all the more because his voice is deceptively soft.
Oh... shit.  The photos. I stare down at my empty plate, twisting my fingers in my lap. What can I say? I'd promised myself not to mention that I'd found his version of Penthouse Pets.
It's just Penthouse, Ana. The girls in the magazine are the pets. The title of the magazine isn't Penthouse Pets.
"Ana," he snaps. "What is it?" He makes me jump, and his voice commands me to look at him. When did I think he didn't intimidate me?
"I found your photos," I whisper.
His eyes widen in shock. "you've been in the safe?" he asks, incredulous.
Whoa, Bluebeard much, Chedward? What's in the safe, that you're so worried about her getting in there? Besides the severed and preserved heads of the other subs, I mean.

Christian tells Ana that the photos were supposed to be in the safe, and explains that he's not keeping them for the reason she thinks:
"This is going to sound cold, but - they're an insurance policy," he whispers, steeling himself for my response.
"Insurance policy?"
"Against exposure."
The penny drops and rattles uncomfortably around and around in my empty head.
Yes, it's probably quite uncomfortable to have something in there if you're not used to it.

Ana is as skeeved out by the idea of keeping pictures for blackmailing old sex partners as I am, but don't worry, she gets over it fast:
"Do they know? The girls... the subs?"
He frowns. "Of course they know."
Oh, well, that's something. He reaches out, grabbing me and pulling me to him.
No, it really isn't something, you twit. Because you were going to be a sub. There wasn't anything about those photos in the contract. No where in the NDA did it say, "I will take pictures of you in sexual situations so that you have to do whatever I tell you to." Ana, you stupid, stupid, stupid person, he would have done the same thing to you.

Christian believes Leila got the pictures out of his safe. How? I'm going to warn you now, do not read the following excerpt while drinking anything, eating anything, smoking, don't do anything you could choke or spit or burn yourself with reading Christian's following explanation:
He shrugs. "It wouldn't surprise me. It's a very long combination, and I use it so rarely. It's the one number I have written down and haven't changed."
Emphasis mine. Okay, so Christian has these pictures of his subs in compromising, "you will never be President of the United States," type situations. Where does he keep them? In his safe, the combination to which he has written down, clearly in a place where just anyone could find it. The guy with the security team who does "sweeps" of every location he visits like they're the goddamned secret service, and he has not only an unlocked filing cabinet full of everyone's personal data, but he has a safe with a combination that is too hard to remember, so he just keeps it written down where someone can easily access it.

We have been told over and over that this man is intelligent. That means this book is a fucking liar.

Christian says he'll shred the photos, and Ana decides she's going to back a chocolate cake for Christian for his birthday. So, if you're having trouble following along, the chapter thus far has gone:

  • "Your dress is too short! I will punish you by calling your father and asking for your hand."
  • "You kept sexually explicit photos of your ex-lovers as potential blackmail material! I will make you a cake!"
She also calls her mother to tell her she's getting married, and it doesn't go great:
"You're not pregnant, are you, Ana?" she whispers in horror.
"No no no, nothing like that." Disappointment slices through my heart, and I'm saddened that she would think that of me. But then I remember with an ever-sinking feeling that she was pregnant when she married my father.
You know what? Fuck you, Ana. "'saddened that she would think that of me?'" Like it's some horrible thing to think that a woman might get pregnant from regular sexual intercourse? Like you don't want to be thought of as the kind of slut who gets pregnant, because only bad girls get pregnant, and good girls' bodies have "ways to try to shut that whole thing down?"

E.L. James, you have gotten on my last fucking nerve. SEX, which your heroine has in abundance, causes PREGNANCY. It's not something to be saddened about. It's biology. I got pregnant with my son before I got married. What does that make me? I'm serious, E.L. James, if you are out there and you ever see this, I DEMAND you explain to me why Ana should be "saddened" that her mom thinks she got pregnant. Look me in the fucking eye and try to claim that what you wrote there doesn't put down women who get pregnant outside of marriage, which, by the by, isn't the prerequisite to bearing a goddamned baby. Sperm. meeting. Egg. is how babies happen and guess what? Your airhead hypocrite insecure misogyny spewing heroine has been having PLENTY of sex. Take your massive lack of writing skill, build an island with it, and take all your little slut-shaming groupies there with you. Leave the rest of the world out of it, because we don't want your landslide of outdated notions further burying us here.

Ana gets off the phone with her mom and thinks that she doesn't want a big wedding, so lets all look forward the huge wedding Chedward will ultimately force her to have, and which she will love and think, "I was so wrong," about because Chedward knows best.
Christian's kitchen is a dream to work in. For a man who knows nothing about cooking, he seems to have everything. I suspect Mrs. Jones loves to cook, too.
I suspect it's her job.

Ana needs to go pick up some ingredients for baking the cake, and Christian asks her to change out of the short dress before leaving the house. Ana asks him if he would object to her wearing the dress at the beach, and he says no, so she tells him to pretend they're at the beach and leaves. So, good for Ana, right? Until she gets in the elevator and decides that her skirt is too short, and he's completely right, but at least she doesn't go change.
I stare at my receipt from the ATM: $51,689.16. That's $50,000 too much! Anastasia, you're going to have to learn to be rich, too, if you say yes. And so it begins.
He did it again. Hey, E.L. here's something you might not know. If you wire $50,000.00 into someone's American bank account, and they usually only have about $1,000 in there, the FBI could investigate them for terrorism. Seriously. When you get a bank account in the US, you have to sign a little waiver thing saying you're not going to use the account to take funds from terrorist organizations and drug dealers. Our government can monitor our accounts to see if that's happening. I believe they have the authority to investigate any deposit over $10k, but I could be wrong. Suddenly, Christian Grey - who is doing a lot of stuff with technology in other countries - puts $50k in your bank account, and you're both going to be investigated. Not to mention the tax nightmare of someone just handing you that $50k in unearned income. Guess what, you're going to have to pay taxes on that, Anastasia Rose Steele. Hope you guys don't break up before April.

Ana's more worried about her dress and the fallout from disobeying Christian, though:
I head straight to the kitchen when I arrive back, and I can't help feeling a frisson of alarm. Christian is still in his study. Jeez, that's most of the afternoon. I decide my best option is to face him and see how much damage I've done.
Remember, this is the damage she's done by wearing a dress she chose that he did not like. So we're all on the same page as to how silly/creepy this "fight" is going to be.
"Hi," I whisper. He says nothing, and my heart free-falls into my stomach, Gingerly I walk into his study and around his desk to where he's sitting. He still says nothing, his eyes never leaving mine. I stand in front of him, feeling fifty shades of foolish.
I used to love it when movies/books/shows referenced the title in them. But not like this. This is like if John McClane had looked over the side of the building after Hans fell to his death and said, "Looks like he just died... hard," and then winked directly into the camera.
"I'm back. Are you mad at me?"
He sighs, reaches out for my hand, and pulls me into his lap, wrapping his arms around me. He buries his nose in my hair.
"yes," he says.
"I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me." I curl up in his lap, inhaling his heavenly Christian smell, feeling safe regardless of the fact that he's mad.
I'm sorry, I don't know what came over me for wearing whatever I damn well please on the body that belongs to me and not you, honey. I won't do it again.

It's okay, though, because Christian isn't super mad. He actually likes the dress, because it means he can fuck Ana in the desk chair. So, I guess she's allowed to wear whatever she likes provided it makes her vagina easy to access.

After the sex, Ana gives Christian his birthday cake:
And I laugh with relief... he likes it.
Well, thank god, because the suspense was killing me.

Then there is a section break, and Ana and Christian have just arrived at Christian's parents house for his birthday party.
Before we can set foot in the living room, Kate comes barreling down the hallway toward the two of us. She looks furious.
Kate forces Christian and Ana into the dining room.
"What the fuck is this?" she hisses and waves a piece of paper at me. Completely at a loss, I take it from her and scan it quickly. My mouth dries. Holy shit. It's my e-mail response to Christian, discussing the contract.
Thank god! Someone is going to finally see how fucked up this entire relationship is and get Ana into some counseling!

Or probably not. And that's the end of the chapter.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Super Big Announcement

Hey there, everybody! I hope your turkey day was fabulous, if you were celebrating it, and I hope your weekend was rad. As you read this, I am hard at work on the next recap, which will post tomorrow. Today, I want to talk to you about something I'm really excited for.

Back when I first started recapping the 50 Shades series, I received a lot of helpful suggestions about my career and life in general from people who took issue with my criticism of the novel they so enjoyed. Some of these suggestions were:
  • I should concentrate on my own writing, rather than picking apart someone else's.
  • I should promote what I love instead of bashing what I hate.
  • I should try writing a book sometime, if I think I'm so great.
  • I should kill myself.
This got me thinking, readers. As much as I hate the already trite internet platitude of promote what you love, etc., I might be able to do some good with my anger at the current state of affairs vis-a-vis the book buying public desperately shoving money at anything that will reinforce their internalized misogyny.

Years ago, I did an interview with The Hathor Legacy in which I said that I didn't think it was possible to write a feminist romance novel. At the time, I really didn't think it would be possible. Then 50 Shades of Grey and all of its weird little copycat stories came along, and lo, I realized that it would be entirely possible to write a feminist romance novel. And I could do it in the exciting new genre that Cyndy at Brazen Reads called " "unrealistic erotica involving little research and even less editing". All I have to do is the exact opposite of everything in those books.

So, I'm very pleased to announce that beginning January 15th, 2013, my very first self-published novel, The Boss, will begin appearing in serialized installments on this very blog. This book will be free, chapter by chapter, with a new installment releasing every fifteen days.

Why am I doing this? For a number of reasons. The first being that I'm really not a negative or cynical person. Shut up, I am not. You don't know me. Seriously, though, I really do feel like I could slide into Rush Limbaugh-scale sarcastidickery if I continue on this path, and frankly I don't have the money for a prescription pill addiction. Since so many people have admonished me to promote what I love, rather than bash something I hate (ugh with the Pollyanna bullshit already), I can't help but feel that's the right thing to do. And what better way to promote erotic romance as a genre than by providing totally free access to a sex-positive, female-positive alternative to the naive young virgins and sadistic billionaires dominating the market?

I'll also be satisfying some of those people who advised me to concentrate on my own writing, rather than worrying about what E.L. James has written. Of course I'll be continuing the recaps, because I made a commitment to all of you, but we're nearing the end of the second book and there is only one book left in the series to recap. Which, by the way, I checked and I think it's the longest one of the whole damn series. Still, by June of 2013, the recaps will be no more, and I'll have nothing left to do but write. I don't want to start recapping something else and snarking it, because I think it would take away from our special bond, dear reader, of hating the ever living fuck out of these books. It's going to feel cheap and tawdry with any other commercial property. A serialized novel to concentrate on will hopefully keep me distracted from 50 Shades movie news.

In addition, I'll be taking the advice of all the well-meaning, but slightly unobservant people who suggested I "try" to write a book myself before criticizing. I'll also be adding just a dash more stress to my life, so all those people who wished me dead at my own hand will be able to say, "Good, I'm glad she listened to me," when I stroke out at my desk at the ripe old age of thirty-two because I'm writing too goddamned much.

But most of all, I just want to prove that you can write a romance like 50 Shades of Grey without falling into the traps that it and books like it did. I want to write characters who don't view BDSM as a symptom of a large emotional defect. I want to write a book where the heroine can submit without relinquishing total autonomy and who actually likes and can cultivate noncompetitive relationships with other women.

And I'm going to give it away for free, because I just don't see a market for a book like that.

Here, have a gander at the cover and blurb:


Sophie Scaife almost ran away once, trading her ticket to college for a ticket to Tokyo. But a delayed flight and one incredibly hot night with a stranger changed her mind, putting her firmly on track to a degree and a career at a New York fashion magazine.

Six years later, she’s shocked to find that irresistible stranger is now her boss, billionaire Neil Elwood. And Sophie can’t stop thinking about their one amazing night.

But Neil has eccentric tastes, and he wants to be sure Sophie can handle them. Sophie will have to prove she’s his match both at work and at play, and surrender to her Master’s every erotic whim.

Torn between their professional duties and their sensual desires, Sophie and Neil embark on a journey into their darkest sexual fantasies. But when Sophie gets the chance of a lifetime, will she follow her dreams, or her heart?



There will be more news to come as we get closer to roll out, so stay tuned, and come on back tomorrow for the recap, hear?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

What has been seen can never be unseen.



This could have been the perfect "pets look just like their owners" joke, if Grumpy Cat was Wash's Grumpy Cat.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Roadhouse Episode 8


This week I show off my hunting beard, we talk about D-Rock's kill, plus on-location footage of our hunting grounds and answer your reader questions about hunting.

Next week, we're talking about HBO's Rome. Share your favorite episodes, characters, what you liked and didn't like, and we'll talk about it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

50 Shades Darker recap Chapter 20, or "I ain't sayin' she a gold digger, but she ain't messin' with someone who doesn't have a helicopter and a yacht."

All the chatter on the last recap about whether or not Ros is a lesbian and if keychains do/don't exist led to me having a dream about LED keychains that flashed the word "LESBIANS!!!" so good job, everyone. You've manipulated my subconscious. Achievement unlocked.

Look, I'm going to be straight with you. I really, really want to be in the woods with a gun right now. But that can't happen until I get this post done. So lets all work together to make this the easiest, most pain-free recap possible, okay?
"Yes, I'll marry you."
So much for taking it easy on me this morning. Thanks, recap.

He inhales sharply and moves suddenly, grabbing me and swinging me around in a most un-Fifty-like manner. He's laughing, young and carefree, radiating joyful elation. I grab his arms to hold on, feeling his muscles ripple beneath my fingers, and his infections laughter sweeps me up - dizzy, addled, a girl totally and utterly smitten with her man.
If you took this paragraph and drank every time the author uses a clumsy synonym for happiness, you'd be dead from alcohol poisoning right now.

Really examine what Ana is saying there. She's just agreed to marry a man who is characteristically unhappy. It is out of character for him to express joy. Why would anyone want to spend the rest of their life with someone like that?

There's another round of Ana expressing how sad she would be if he were dead, and Christian replies:
"Baby, it will take more than a malfunctioning 135 to keep me away from you."
"That's right. Go ahead, smile. It's funny."

Now, you might be thinking, "What a freaking dick, he can't stop bragging about owning a helicopter for like, one second," but this is actually going to be an important part of the story:
"Charlie Tango. She's a Eurocopter EC135, the safest in its class." Some unnamed but dark emotion crosses his face briefly, distracting me. What isn't he saying?
He's certainly not saying, "Look out, there's a load of poorly executed foreshadowing barreling your way!" Note how once again, the author perfects little shitty details no one cares about, while abandoning any concept of plot or suspense. I feel like an old-timey sideshow barker. "Gaze in wonder upon God's forgotten creature, the book with no plot! Marvel at the work put into insignificant detail for seemingly no reason because the target audience is just reading this to have a wank!"

But enough about the helicopter's specific make and model number and how safe it should have been but isn't it weird that it wasn't, after all, because Christian remembers now that Ana gave him the keychain present before they went into see Dr. Flynn.
I shrug apologetically. "I wanted you to know that whatever Flynn said, it wouldn't make a difference to me."
But what if it had, Ana? What if you went in there and Dr. Flynn was like, "You know he collects cadaver nipples he buys from shady sources off Craigslist, right? And he keeps them pinned in frames like butterflies? And those frames are stored under the bed you've been sleeping in every night?" Maybe that would have changed your mind, and you would have to come up with some reason to take your present back.

You'd think that whole, "I love you exactly as you are, and this proves it," sentiment would be seen as a romantic gesture right? Not to a control freak like Chedward:
Christian blinks at me in disbelief. "So all yesterday evening, when I was begging you for an answer, I had it already?" He's dismayed. I nod again, trying desperately to gauge his reaction. He gazes at me in stupefied wonder, but then narrows his eyes and his mouth twists with amused irony.
"All that worry," he whispers ominously. I grin at him and shrug once more. "Oh, don't try and get cute with me, Miss Steele. Right now, I want... " He runs his hand through his hair, then shakes his head and changes tack
That's right. Rather than realizing, "Holy shit, she really does love me, she was going to say yes this whole time, I'm such a lucky man," Chedward is all, "You should have told me yes when I was bullying you into it yesterday." Ah, romance.

And to prove just how "romantic" this monumental love of theirs is:
"I believe some retribution is in order, Miss Steele," he says softly.
Retribution? Oh shit! I know he's playing - but I take a cautious step back from him anyway.
I know he's playing, but I'm still deeply, deeply afraid of him.

I don't know why they're even making this crap into a movie. There's already a movie exactly like this.


Christian picks Ana up over his shoulder and marches her to the bathroom.
I can only imagine what I look like in the mirror from this angle.
That must be driving her crazy. She looks in the mirror and describes herself more than any other literary character I can think of, including the evil queen from Snow White.

 Julia Roberts Twofer!

Then there is a four page sex scene in the shower. They start with all their clothes on, and then strip the soaking wet clothes off, than wash each other, etc, and of course it's hotter than any shower you've ever taken, because you're not as perfect as Ana and Christian.
I peek up at him, and he regards me with hooded eyes and sensual longing. Hmm... I like this look.
Why is it that during all the sex scenes, Ana comes off like an alien studying human sex. "Hmm... yes, the human subject responds as expected. I like that."

Ana jerks Christian off with body wash suds (it's implied, not specifically stated, but she was washing him and then she starts jerking him off so, hooray for soap all up in his urethra), then he's all, "It's Saturday," which means he doesn't have to use a condom, and we never again have to read a description of foil tearing.

At this point, it's like a personal mission to make the rest of this recap Julia Roberts themed.

Near the end of the way, way, way too long sex scene, Ana has another magic orgasm:
I could have lost him... and I love him... I love him so much, and I'm suddenly overcome by the enormity of my love and the depth of my commitment to him. I will spend the rest of my life loving this man, and with that awe-inspiring thought, I detonate around him - a healing, cathartic orgasm, crying out his name as tears flow down my cheeks.
Yes, suddenly overcome by the enormity of his penis and the depth of his penis, Ana can't have just any old orgasm. No, she has to have a healing orgasm. What is she healing from? One would presume from the horrors she's already experienced in her relationship with Christian Grey.

After the sex, they just sit on the floor in the shower and talk about how he almost died and how scary that all was.
So much has happened this last week - enough for a lifetime of drama - and now I'm getting married.
It's always "so much has happened." Rather than invest in any character development or even a natural timeline for a relationship, it's "so much has happened, so, just trust me, we're in love."

Don't get me wrong. A lot of romance novels are like that. The plot of a romance novel is the relationship, and readers want the fantasy, not, "I've gone on a few dates with this guy and he seems okay, maybe I'll sleep with him if we go to that Michigan game on Saturday." So, when a romance reader picks up a contemporary romance, they're going to expect the relationship to be signed, sealed and delivered over a timeline that will take a few days, maybe a month, maximum, unless we're talking about an old school historical where the heroine will marry six different dudes and get abducted into a harem on her journey to endless love. It takes some skill to make people fall realistically into a forever love in that short of time. E.L. James doesn't have that skill, so she substitutes her heroine saying, "So much has happened," and constantly telling us that, don't worry, she really loves this guy.

Let's look at it this way, shall we? Everyone loves Pretty Woman. Except for some dumb bitch who gave a writing workshop I went to and insisted that the heroine of a romance novel could never be a prostitute, because then she would have had sex with other men and wouldn't deserve the hero's love. Seriously, that happened. And in reality, she went on to say that she loved Pretty Woman and I wanted to get up and storm out, but I wasn't published yet and I was really intimidated by "real" writers.

Where was I?

Oh yeah. Okay, everyone loves Pretty Woman. Think about how great that movie was the first time you watched it, how funny and charming Julia Roberts was, how enigmatic and adorable Richard Gere was. The dialogue was sharp, the heroine was smart and feisty, it was just a really, really enjoyable movie.

Now think about how much you would have enjoyed it if it had just been a story someone flat out told you: "This guy hires a hooker and they have sex a lot and in the end they fall in love." That doesn't make it sound romantic. It makes it sound like a business transaction. An illegal business transaction, at that, since the movie takes place in California.

So, why doesn't E.L. James just let us experience this whirlwind romance for ourselves, rather than having Ana tell the reader that "So much has happened?" We know what happened. We read it. We were right there with Ana the whole time, and yet some of us remain unconvinced that this is truly a romantic thing we're reading. Slapping, "So much has happened," or "I love him," etc. in there to tell us, "Hey, just in case you're still doubting, look at how in love they are," is lazy and pointless. I know a lot has happened. The narrative has taken us from waking up to going to bed for nearly every day of Ana's life since meeting Christian Grey. I saw it all, and none of it seems romantic to me. Stop telling me how to interpret your damned story, and write it to convey what you want it to convey in the first place.
After a moment, he shifts. "Come - let's get you dry and into bed. I'm exhausted and you look beat."
Rimshot.
I lean back and arch an eyebrow at his choice of words. He cocks his head to one side and smirks at me.
At least they can joke about that time he beat her so hard she broke up with him. Romance!

Note, there was a four page sex scene, and it's only right there that any variation of "cock" shows up. Racy!
I am sitting up in bed. Christian insisted on drying my hair - he's quite skilled at it. How that happened is an unpleasant thought, so I dismiss it immediately.
He owns a couple salons, you jealous nutjob. Jesus.

Christian tells Ana that her acceptance of his proposal is the best birthday present he's ever gotten.
"I would have told you earlier, but since it was going to be your birthday... What do you give the man who has everything? I thought I'd give you... me."
Who are you going to give him next year? I see this turning into multiple rape-conspiracy charges very quickly.

They talk some more about how much people love him, and then they go to sleep. After a section break, Ana wakes up suddenly from a nightmare. Christian is still asleep, so Ana has time to think some more about how much it would have sucked if he'd died and stuff. Also, that it's his birthday:
He looks much younger when he's asleep, and I grin because today he's a whole year older.
Ugh, enough with telling us how young all the twenty-somethings look. We all know twenty-somethings are young. The media beats us over the head with it every day.

Ana gets up and plans on making Christian some breakfast, but there's a complication:
I find Jose at the counter, eating a bowl of cereal. I can't help but flush when I see him. he knows I've spent the night with Christian. Why do I suddenly feel so shy? It's not as if I'm naked or anything. I'm wearing my floor-length silk wrap.
"Morning, Jose." I smile, brazening it out.
"Hey, Ana!" His face lights up, genuinely pleased to see me. There's no hint of teasing or salacious contempt in his expression.
Because he's an adult. With his own life. He is not as obsessed with your sex life as you are, Ana. Other adults - you know, that thing you're supposed to be? - don't give a shit about the sex other adults are having. Unless they're some kind of fringe religious group that the rest of the world couldn't give two shits about, anyway.

Ana tells Jose that she loves Christian, to which he replies:
"What's not to love?" he asks, gesturing around the great room.
And a few lines later, Ana thinks:
Hmm... will I always have this leveled at me? That I'm marrying Christian for his money.
Yes. Yes, you absolutely will, and here is why: you lived with Kate rent-free all through college, in an apartment her rich family paid for. You did this without seeming to like her very much as a person, but you still claimed she was your very best friend. After graduation, you moved with Kate to another apartment her rich family paid for, so you could work at your new job with a suspiciously fast promotion after your boyfriend bought the company. Your boyfriend, by the way, who whisked you around in his private helicopter and yacht, who bought you not one, but two cars, and who you agreed to marry after knowing him for less than a month. You don't come from a high-society background. You worked in a hardware store when the two of you met. You will always been seen as a gold digger, and if you don't like it, you need to get out now. I'm not about to listen to you cry and bitch for a whole 'nother book about how unfair it is that everyone thinks you're marrying a dude for his money when he has all the money in the damn world and you could easily buy yourself a great big case of IDNGAF.
"Seriously, I'm kidding. You've never been that kind of girl."
"Omlet good for you?" I ask, changing the subject. I don't want to argue.
Who was arguing? He was saying you're NOT a gold digger.

Kanye, however...

Damnit. Kanye was my Julia Roberts c-c-c-combo breaker.

Christian comes into the room wearing nothing but pajama bottoms that hang "in that totally hot way off his hips," so everyone drink.
Swaggering over, he wraps his arms around me, tilts my chin up, and plants a loud wet kiss on my lips. Very un-Fifty!
 I want to scowl at him and tell him to behave - but it's his birthday. I flush. Why is he so territorial?
Get used to it, because once you're married the patriarchal laws that govern our country will just reinforce his belief that you are, in fact, nothing more than a piece of his property. Also, I like that she won't say anything about it because it's his birthday. Was it his birthday allllllllllllll of the other days you've known him? It must have been, because you didn't object to him treating you like he owned your ass then.

Jose mentions going to visit his dad and Ana's dad, and Christian didn't know that the two knew each other because he's never read Twilight, either. Then he and Jose bond over fishing. But not, you know, really super hardcore bonding, because right after he leaves, Christian says:
"He still wants into your panties, Ana. But I can't say I blame him."
I think this might be the attitude that makes me hate Christian Grey the absolute most. He seems to believe that Ana really, truly is an object to possess, to the point that any other man coveting her doesn't add to her worth, but detracts from it. Think about that a second. If you have a really, really rare baseball card and everyone wants it, that's awesome, because it drives the value up. But in the case of women, if you have a wife or a girlfriend everyone wants, that somehow cheapens her. Rather than thinking, "I'm a lucky man, she could have chosen any of these other guys and she picked me," Christian Grey seems to think, "I better make sure this stupid whore doesn't unwittingly fuck someone else because she's not intelligent enough to make the right decisions."

This guy. This fucking guy.

What's worse, Ana uses this conversation as a way to justify Christian's bad past behavior:
I frown. "Christian, he's just a friend, a good friend." And I'm suddenly aware that I sound like Christian when he's talking about Mrs. Robinson. The thought is unsettling.
Yeah, it really fucking is. Ana has never had a sexual relationship with Jose, nor has she ever expressed an interest in one. She hasn't involved Jose in her current relationship, either. Christian has done all of that, up to and including having discussions with Mrs. Robinson about Ana while trying to legally assure that Ana couldn't talk to anyone at all about her relationship with him. It's not the fucking same, but of course it is, because Chedward is a portrait of stunning male perfection and everything he does is right.

Christian mentions that he should ask her father for permission, and Ana tells him it's not the 18th century. Wow. She is such a feminist, guys. An example for all sisters, everywhere.

Ana gives Christian another birthday present, another little model kit, this one of a helicopter. Ah, a memory of the time you had a helicopter, before you crashed it in the fucking woods. Wait, did I pick out this present? It seems like something I would want to give him.

Ana asks him if Charlie Tango is salvageable:
"I don't know. I hope so. I'll miss her, otherwise."
Her? I am shocked at myself for the small pang of jealousy I feel for an inanimate object. My subconscious snorts with derisive laughter.
Oh my god. Am I Ana's subconscious? Is this like The Never Ending Story, but with 100% less sad horse death?

 You want your helicopter back? Come and fucking get it, pretty boy.

You know, it struck me the other day that the point of that entire movie was that without imagination, life becomes stagnant and unlivable. It's like the people making it foresaw a time when  fan fiction without an engaging plot would become the bestselling book of all time, and they were warning us. We should have heeded that warning, even if I still can't understand what name that kid was mush-mouth shouting into the height of the storm.

Ana gives him another present, which is not the blow torch I would have given as a companion gift to the mini-Charlie Tango (I strive for realism in gift giving):
He tears through the pale blue tissue paper and fishes out an eye mask, some nipple clamps, a butt plug, his iPod, his silver gray tie - and last but by no means least - the key to his playroom.
She gives him the stipulation that he can't use "'whips and stuff'" and they go straight to the playroom.

Honestly, I thought she'd wait and give him her ass at Christmas.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

50 Shades Darker recap Chapter 19, or "50's Greatest Hits Vol. II"

It is I, your monster pal, lovable furry old Jen. Since I'm so excited about Christian Grey possibly being dead (spoiler alert: he isn't), and since the next chapter is unusually short, I thought I'd give you a bonus recap this week.

I forgot to post this link last time, but a British domestic violence charity is recycling 50 Shades as turlet paper for wiping your butt on. Doing this as an objection to a kinky lifestyle is plain stupid, because consensual BDSM is not abuse. But I support their endeavor, because there is actual abuse in the book, even if they completely missed the part that was abuse.

Okay, so, we last left Ana gasping in horror about how her boyfriend's helicopter is missing. Oh, and her boyfriend is also missing. But the helicopter! Oh, the humanity!
I stare at the flames, mesmerized. They dance and weave bright blazing orange with tips of cobalt blue in the fireplace in Christian's apartment.
I bet Christian is doing the same thing right now, Ana. But you know, in the smoking wreckage of his deathcopter.
And despite the heat pumping out of the fire and the blanket draped around my shoulders, I'm cold. Bone-chillingly cold.
Is it because you're too skinny? Because skinny people get really cold, or so I've heard. This might be a good opportunity to bring up how skinny you are.

Ana hears people talking, but she's not listening, because she's trapped in her beautiful, beautiful pain:
I'd like to make love with Christian in front of a real fire.
I'd like you to make love with Christian while you're both on fire. Call me, let's make this happen.
Anastasia, you've bewitched me.
He said that the first time he slept with me in my bed. Oh no...
I wrap my arms around myself, and the world falls away from me and reality bleeds into my consciousness. The creeping emptiness inside expands some more. Charlie Tango is missing.
I love how the reader can't quite figure out if it's the helicopter or the boyfriend she's more concerned about.

Mrs. Jones brings Ana some tea, and she manages a pitiable thank you, but when it comes to Christian's actual relatives...
Mia sits across from me on the larger-than-large U-shaped couch, holding hands with Grace. They gaze at me, pain and anxiety etched on their lovely faces. Grace looks older - a mother worried for her son. I blink dispassionately at them. I can't offer a reassuring smile, a tear even - there's nothing, just blankness and the growing emptiness.
BITCH THAT IS HER SON.


Well, I wasn't rooting for her, Tyra, but still. WHAT THE FUCK! This woman thinks her SON is FUCKING DEAD and you "blink dispassionately" at her? DO YOU FUCKING KNOW WHAT DISPASSIONATE MEANS?

: not influenced by strong feeling; especially : not affected by personal or emotional involvement dispassionate
critic> dispassionate approach to an issue>
— dis·pas·sion·ate·ly adverb
— dis·pas·sion·ate·ness noun
Anastasia Rose "sun shines right out my asshole" Steele is looking at a mother who thinks her child is dead and she's feeling NO PERSONAL OR EMOTIONAL INVOLVEMENT.

Becauser HER pain is so great.

THIS IS NOT A HEROINE WOMEN SHOULD IDENTIFY WITH IF THEY ARE NOT HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE PEOPLE WHO ARE ALREADY DEAD INSIDE.

Elliot, Jose, Ethan, Kate, and Mrs. Jones are all there - the latter, I assume, is looking through the wanted ads already - but they're not a threat to Ana being the most painfully affected in the room, so they get a pass, I guess. News of Christian's disappearance is all over television, and one can only assume the entire nation has ground to a halt to form candlelight vigils all over the country.
The fact is, he's missing. He's been missing for eight hours. No sign, no word from him. The search has been called off - this much I do know. It's just too dark.
That is not at all how things work when a rich white person goes missing in America. I don't doubt that they started searching for him immediately, as soon as his helicopter lost radio contact, but seriously, when a rich person goes missing, the authorities work around the clock to find them. Poor people might not get that kind of treatment, but believe me, if Bill Gates wandered off into the woods and wasn't seen again for eight hours, they'd still be looking for him seventeen days later, even if they knew they were just looking for a body. Too many millions of dollars are tied up in keeping these people alive or proving they're really dead. And also, we have flashlights.

During these long, interminable eight hours of separation, Bella hears Edward's voice in her mind. No, wait. Sorry, Ana hears Christian's voice in her mind. I just thought I was reading New Moon there for a second. That's the best of all the Twilight books, by the way. If you were thinking of actually reading 50 Shades Darker, I highly suggest you go and read New Moon instead. Anyway, Bella is hearing Edward's voice in this scene:
"You're my lifeline."
Christian's words come back to haunt me. Yes, there is always hope. I must not despair. His words echo through my mind.
"I am now a firm advocate of instant gratification. Carpe diem, Ana." 
Do you get why he's "missing" now? Just like that creepy, creepy Russian guy who faked his own death a few weeks ago, he's showing Ana just how very much she needs to accept his proposal, for crying out loud.

It absolutely enrages me, by the way, that the first time Ana thinks of something Christian had said to her, it's just plain italics, but now it's suddenly italics with quotation marks around it. Make up your damned mind, pick a style and stick to it.
I close my eyes in silent prayer, rocking gently. Please let the rest of his life not be this short. Please, please.
Whaaaat? I can't believe a copy editor didn't ding that for wonktacularosity. Shouldn't it read, "Please don't let the rest of his life be this short?" What the fuck is going on in that sentence?

Ana keeps thinking of stuff they've done together in their long, long, impossibly long and super romantic relationship, and then arrives at this entirely healthy conclusion:
Oh, I love him so. I will be nothing without him, nothing but a shadow - all the light eclipsed.
I'll just leave this here.

So, much like Bella Swan, Anastasia Rose Steele has decided that if she can't be with her very first boyfriend for the rest of her life, she'll just become Miss Havisham or something. Which really works out well for Ana, because Miss Havisham is super skinny.
I open my eyes and gaze unseeing into the fire once more, memories of our time together flitting through my mind: his boyish joy when we were sailing and gliding; his sauve, sophisticated, hot-as-hell look at the masked ball; dancing, oh yes, dancing here in the apartment to Sinatra, whirling around the room; his quiet, anxious hope yesterday at the house - that stunning view.
When recounting everything she has apparently lost, she does not forget to list the obvious material concerns, like the fact that she won't get the house and the view.
Oh, please, let him be okay. He cannot be gone. He is the center of my universe.
He is my paycheck.

Really, though, the center of her universe? How is it considered, not just romantic, but even remotely okay to consider someone you've known a month to be the center of your universe? I can think of just two instances where that applies: infants and rescued shelter dogs.

Jose asks Ana if she wants to call her mom or dad, but she's too emotionally fractured to do so. Grace leaves the living room - probably because she doesn't want more dispassionate blinks - and Mia comes over to reassure Ana. After all, it's just Mia's brother, whom she's known her entire life, grew up with, loves deeply, etc. She really should be making Ana feel better about losing the guy she's known a whole month:
"He will come back," she says, her voice initially determined, but cracking on the last word. Her eyes are wide and red-rimmed, her face pale and pinched from lack of sleep.
I can't help but feel that Ana is describing the other women and their appearances, not to show us the enormity of the situation, but to let us know she's still the prettiest.
I gaze up at Ethan, who is watching Mia and Elliot, who has his arms around Grace.
Is that a story problem? As in, "The Brown family made three cakes and three pies. The youngest members did not make cakes, but the oldest member did not make a pie," etc? Because I can't figure  out who has their arms around who.

Ana keeps thinking about Christian and how she'll never love again. No, really, she says that:
I will always love him. There will never be anyone else. Ever.
He's only been missing eight hours. Maybe wait until the funeral pyre is lit before you throw yourself on it, Khaleesi.
I remember sitting in Starbucks weighing up my Christian pros and cons. All those cons, even those photographs I found this morning, melt into insignificance now. There's just him and whether he'll come back. Oh please, Lord, bring him back, please, let him be okay. I'll go to church... I'll do anything. Oh, if I get him back, I shall seize the day. His voice echoes around in my head once more: "Carpe diem, Ana."
If I were faking my death by helicopter accident, this would be the effect I was going for. I'm just saying.
I gaze deeper into the fire, the flames still licking and curling around each other, blazing brightly. Then Grace shrieks, and everything goes into slow motion.
"Christian!"

Well, shit. I was really hoping that guy was dead.

But he's not, so let's sally forth.

Grace runs to Christian and hugs him, and she steals Ana's line:
"I died a thousand deaths today," she whispers, her voice barely audible, echoing my thoughts.
Except I'm sure Ana's thoughts were more like, "I have died everyday/waiting for you/darling don't be afraid/I have loved you/for a thousand years/I'll love you for a thousand more," or whichever new Christina Perri song they slap on the Breaking Dawn pt. II trailer.

Carrick gets there, and Mia hugs Christian, and everyone is hugging him except for Ana, who is probably just waiting to find out how badly damaged the helicopter is. Christian has no idea why everyone is standing around waiting for him to get back, but their obvious relief at his safety isn't going to get in the way of his totally inexplicable jealousy:
He blinks and glances briefly at Jose, who lets go of my hand. Christian's mouth tightens. I drink in the sight of him and relief courses through me, leaving me spent, exhausted, and completely elated. Yet my tears don't stop. Christian turns his attention back to his mother.
"I see you're visibly shaken by my disappearance, but how very dare you turn to a MALE friend for comfort? I will punish you by ignoring your pain."

Grace asks Christian why he didn't call, and he says his cell phone was dead. She asks why he didn't stop to call collect, because she doesn't realize pay phones are practically an endangered species these days. Elliot manfully welcomes his brother back to the land of the living, and Ana has a revelation:
As the tears stream down my face, I can see it all. The great room is bathed in it - unconditional love. He has it in spades; he's just never accepted it before, and even now he's at a total loss.
I have a different theory as to why he's thrown by all the attention. We'll get to that in a moment.

After the Christian Grey episode of It's Your Life! winds down a bit, he gets to Ana:
He moves toward me, gray eyes bright though weary and still bemused. From somewhere deep inside, I find the strength to stagger to my feet and bolt into his open arms.
He was just missing for eight hours, he's clearly tired and totally thrown, but she finds the strength, guys.

They cry and reunite, etc, the whole cheesy, "I thought you were dead" bullshit we've seen in a thousand movies/tv shows/Twilight novels, etc. Then Christian and Jose shake hands and stuff, because Christian being nearly dead is enough for them to bury the hatchet.

There's a neat description of Mrs. Jones, too:
Her hair is loose, and she's in soft gray leggings and a large gray sweatshirt with WSU Cougars emblazoned on the front that dwarfs her.
Leaving aside the fact that it's the WSU Cougars logo that is dwarfing her in this sentence and not the shirt,  cougars, guys. Yeah she is.

And apparently, something happened to Taylor's daughter:
He spies Taylor hovering at the entrance and nods. Taylor nods back.
"Your daughter?"
"She's fine now. False alarm, sir."
Daughter? What happened to Taylor's daughter?
She was dating a vampire, but now she's into werewolves. Or something. Probably.

Christian gets down to business to defeat the Huns explaining the extremely unlikely scenario that ended with him going missing for eight hours.
Christian launches into his story. He was flying in Charlie Tango with Ros, his number two, to deal with a funding issue at WSU in Vancouver. I can barely keep up, I'm so dazed.
Well, try, Ana. You're our narrator, you have kind of a responsibility to keep up, for our sakes.
"Ros had never seen Mount Saint Helens, so on the way back as a celebration, we took a quick detour. I heard the temporary flight restriction was lifted a while back, and I wanted to take a look. Well, it's fortunate that we did. We were flying low, about two hundred feet above ground level, when the instrument panel lit up. We had a fire in the tail - I had no choice but to cut all the electronics and land." He shakes his head. "I set her down by Silver Lake, got Ros out, and managed to put the fire out."
What was he celebrating? They were going to deal with a funding issue... are they celebrating getting more funds? Or are they celebrating the fact that they got it all cleared up? Either way, this guy celebrates more than any person I've ever heard of. "Let's go celebrate your promotion, Ana! Let's go celebrate that you signed my sex contract, Ana! Let's go celebrate you celebrating me celebrating the celebration we had yesterday! BALLOONS AND CAKE FOR ALL YOU MOTHERFUCKERS!"

I find it interesting (and this is that theory that I said we'd be getting back to) that the reason he's been missing all started out with him taking a woman who is not Ana to look at a beautiful vista in his helicopter. I had gotten the impression from the story so far that going to look at romantic things women have never seen before is kind of his modus operandi in trying to get into their pants. And he took his assistant. And he was missing for eight hours. And he came home to find everyone he knows waiting for him, and he doesn't know how to react to that.

Is it just me, or does this read like Christian Grey got caught cheating?
"How did you put the fire out?" asks Kate, her Carla Bernstein instincts kicking in. Jeez, she sounds terse sometimes.
First of all, I can only assume E.L. is trying to reference Carl "All The President's Men" Bernstein. Maybe she feminized the name to be "clever." But way to work in a reference that I can guarantee only about .5% of the people reading Twilight fanfic are going to get. Also, we're right back to hating Kate again, so I feel like we've reached level ground.
His words from long ago circle my mind. I thank Divine Providence every day that it was you who came to interview me and not Katherine Kavanagh.
Remember, just in case you forgot, we all hate Kate. We have to, because she's just unbearable, the way she cares about people and shows interest in stuff they have to say. Thank god Ana landed Christian, and not Kate. Really, the way they keep referring to this makes me think Christian already had his mind made up to fuck whoever came to interview him, and Ana won the prize just by showing up. They keep repeating this point over and over again, like he never would have met Ana any other way. But he does business with Kate's family, so they're still somewhat connected to each other, and Ana ended up getting a job at a company Chedward swears he would have bought whether she worked there or not. You and I both know that a load of horse shit, reader, but they can't have it both ways. It can't be destiny and fate and also they know a bunch of people in common.

Grace asks Christian why he couldn't radio. Because the helicopter was on fire, moron, is not the answer Christian gives his mom. He tells her he didn't want to chance starting the fire up again by turning on the electronics in the helicopter. They had no cell coverage, and he ran his battery out using GPS to get them out of the forrest, which took four hours.

So, how did they get back to Seattle?
"We hitched and pooled our resources. Between us, Ros and I had six hundred dollars, and we though we'd have to bribe someone to drive us back, but a truck driver stopped and agreed to bring us home. He refused money and shared his lunch with us." Christian shakes his head in dismay at the memory. "Took forever. He didn't have a cell - weird but true. I didn't realize." He stops, gazing at his family.
Bullshit. Long haul truck drivers in the US have cell phones. I consulted a former trucker for the very purpose of being able to call bullshit on this one, and he told m that it would be "extremely unlikely" for a truck driver to not have a phone. Another trucker I consulted said that his company sends him messages, etc. via cell instead of by radio, and that they have phones paid for by the company. This one doesn't wash. They have satellite tv in those trucks, for fuck's sake. Even if they didn't, he couldn't say, "Hey, we were just in a helicopter crash, could you radio the authorities?" Ros didn't think of that?

Ana, listen to me. I'm sorry to tell you this, but the details of your boyfriend's story are just way too specific. It took four hours to walk out of the forrest because Ros had heels on? He had six hundred dollars and he couldn't buy a phone call at a gas station? He thought you were hanging out with Jose, and revenge cheated on you. He showed Ros the mountain, and then he set Charlie Tango down, all right. He set it down in her VAGINA. He didn't realize anyone would notice he was gone. Maybe he forgot to file the change in his flight plan, and he had to come up with the story about backpacking across America and friendly truckers who don't have phones.

Elliot points out that Christian made the news, and Christian says:
Christian rolls his eyes. "Yeah. I figured that much when I arrived to this reception and the handful of photographers outside. I'm sorry, Mom - I should have asked the driver to stop so I could phone. But I was anxious to be back." He glances at Jose.
Oh, that's why, because Jose is staying here. I frown at the thought. Jeez - all that worry.
What a family-sized bag of dicks this guy is. "Sorry you thought I was dead, mom, I just couldn't stop my forward momentum for a single instant because I don't trust my girlfriend." Oh, shit, sorry, he trusts her, he just doesn't trust her to not fuck literally every man alive.

There's more, "Oh, we're so glad you're alive." I wonder if anyone in the room has actually met this guy. Then, everyone starts to leave:
"Cary, my son is safe. You can take me home now."
Cary? Grace looks adoringly at her husband.
Oh my god. Cary. Grace. The only reason I didn't get it was that Carrick's name isn't Archibald. Cary Grant, Grace Kelly. How many other names in this book come from the cast of To Catch A Thief? Just think, if Mogambo had aired on cable that day, Chedwards parents would be just plain old Clark and Ava.

Meanwhile, it looks like there's trouble in Wonderland (because she's Alice, get it?):
Behind me, I'm aware that Mia and Ethan are having a heated whispered conversation, but I can't hear it.
Mia is smiling shyly at Ethan, and he's gaping at her and shaking his head. Suddenly she crosses her arms and turns on her heel. He rubs his forehead with one hand, obviously frustrated.
"Mom, Dad - wait for me," Mia calls sullenly. Perhaps she's as mercurial as her brother.
Kate says goodbye to Ana, and it's probably my favorite line of the whole book:
"I can tell some serious shit's been going down while I've been blissfully ignorant in Barbados. [...]"
That's it, just that line. The rest of what she says is just the same "you guys were meant for each other/you're so perfect" bullshit tossed at the reader to try and force you to think, "Wow, these people are really in love," and it's so clumsy and obvious it doesn't bear repeating here. But the line about how stuff has been going down while she was "blissfully ignorant" makes me almost weep with laughter. I just imagine her saying this and meaning, "I wish I was still on vacation and not about to have to listen to all the shit you did while I was gone."

They talk about how it's so funny they fell in love at the same time, because OMG TWINSIES! and then everyone is gone. Everyone, that is, except Jose, who was awkwardly supposed to be staying the night. Try to ignore the sounds of cracking whips and pirate aaaaarrrrghs! while they have "I'm so glad you're not dead sex," Jose!

Ana askes Jose if knows where he's staying:
"Yeah, Mrs. Jones, she showed me earlier. Quite a place you have here, Christian."
"Thank you," Christian says politely as he comes to stand beside me, placing his arm around my shoulders. Leaning over, he kisses my hair.
And then he pees on my leg, because he is marking his territory.

Christian goes to get something to eat, and Ana and Jose say goodnight. Ana apologizes for the night being a disaster, because it's apparently her fault that her manipulative asshole boyfriend goes missing on the one night in a month that she's been allowed to go out with her friends. I'm just saying. There's no need to apologize, anyway. It probably was an awesome night for Jose. He got to fantasize about Christian being dead, just like we were all doing.

Christian and Ana rehash the whole, "I'm so glad you're not dead, I love you so much," thing, and Ana decides she's going to give Christian his birthday present. And in a scene the reminds me so much of Twilight, without ever actually representing anything from Twilight at all, the chapter hook we were all dreading happens:
With deft fingers, he unwraps and opens the box. His brow creases as he fishes out a small, rectangular, plastic key chain featuring a picture made up of tiny pixels that flash on and off like an LED screen. It depicts the Seattle skyline with the word SEATTLE written boldly across the landscape.
He stares at it for a minute and then gazes at me, bemused, a frown marring his lovely brow.
Turn it over," I whisper, holding my breath.
He does, and his eyes shoot to mine, wide and gray, alive with wonder and joy. His lips part in disbelief.
The word YES flashes on and off on the key ring.
"Happy birthday," I whisper.
In the immortal words of Brian Williams reading Donald Trump's election night tweets, "So... that happened."