Thursday, June 27, 2013

You realize this is assault, right?

I'm sure many of you by now have heard about the Kickstarter, Above the Game (If not, here). It's basically funding a "how to assault and rape women" guide, and Kickstarter didn't pull it, or stop it. THANKS KICKSTARTER! They later offered an apology that, as far as corporate apologies go, was pretty good and threw a huge chunk at RAINN. I'm going to be watching them like a hawk in the future, but they get a pass, for now. However, that isn't what this post is about. This post is telling you guys a story about what actually happens when guys do this sort of thing. This is what it can feel like when men start taking the type of advice seduction manuals offer.

It was five years ago, I had written my last exam days ago, was days out of a long term relationship, and it was my friends birthday. I tend to have mostly dude friends, so going out to the bar with only women was new to me. That part of the night was fine, and many of the girls left early, so it was myself, the birthday girl, and one of our other classmates, still looking for adventure. We wandered around downtown, none of us having been in the city for too long by that point, and came across a pool hall. It was busy enough, but quiet. You could easily have a conversation. The type of place that under different circumstances, I probably would have gone back to at a later date.

There were a few groups of people shooting pool, mostly mixed, and one group of men right by the door. They perked up when they saw girls come in. I have still never done the "pick up a random dude at a bar" thing, and flirting with strange men in anything but a social situation always sort of freaks me out. Just never been how I operate, I guess? Being JUST OUT OF A LONG TERM RELATIONSHIP and with two single and definitely on the prowl ladies, that was about to change.

"Mmmmmmmmmmm, him," said my one friend, pointing at a guy with a hat. I thought he was the cutest, too.

"I like him," said the birthday girl with a giggle, pointing at a large, muscular bald man. Having always preferred the nebbish, lanky, goofy type he was very much not up my alley. Apparently, I was very much up his. I would find out later he was an off-the-boat Russian accountant named Eugene who was 4-5 years older than we were. The guy in the hat wandered over to chat up my one friend, leaving the birthday girl and I alone with Eugene. She was half in the bag, I was not, and I was trying to wingman when I had no real idea how to do that. She kept trailing off and it fell on me to keep the conversation going. At one point, she decided to get up to go to the bathroom so he could watch her ass as she walked away (or so she told me later).

Which meant she was leaving me, a tiny little thing, alone with a strange, much bigger than me man. It took him about three seconds to out of fucking nowhere scoop me into his lap and plant a kiss on me. A very g-rated kiss, but still, fucker actually kissed me. I was stunned. What the ever living crap was happening? Was this normal? Was this just... what talking to dudes in bars was like? Had I missed this in our cultural narrative? He was grinning, looking pleased with himself even though I'm sure I looked absolutely horrified. It didn't take me long to get out of his lap. He grabbed my elbow, not hard, but held it.

"Come on," he said, that shit eating grin still in place, "relax. Have a seat."

"I already did, that was the problem," and with that I bolted, seeing my two friends frozen to the spot in shock and awe at leaving me alone for thirty seconds to come back to find me in a random dude's lap.

"Ihateyoubothsomuchletsgonowplease." Eugene left our table, going back to his friends, and like a startled cat that had just fallen in the pool my friends coaxed me back to our table and pitcher. Eventually, I calmed down and we went back to our game, and that was when he came back. I froze, terrified. There was no way he couldn't tell I was scared, and no way he could think I was interested, but he came back anyways. Not only did he not seek my consent to touch me in the first place, he was now ignoring a blatant "NO". My friend, the birthday girl, stood in his way and announced we were leaving. He tried to convince us to stay but we peddled a few feeble lies about having to be up in the morning. Things dissolved into idle chit chat as they often do, and out of no where he asked my (very drunk) friend if she liked puzzles as he pulled a metal ring puzzle out of his pocket.

When she took the half step forward, he was past her and on the other side of me. Did I mention I was terrified? Because I was terrified. There was no attempt to hide the fact he freaked me out. He was touching me the second he was past my friend, and I froze. In hindsight, this was probably why he was targeting me. I was naive and awkward and not nearly self-assured enough to do something like tell him to take a hike. He figured it would be easy enough to get past my "no". My friend set the puzzle down.

"We're leaving," she said, unlike past me more than willing to make a scene. She slammed the puzzle down on the table and grabbed my arm. He had the other. For a horrifying moment, I thought this was going to become tug-of-war with me as the rope, but when I stepped towards my friend, he let go.

I was down the stairs in seconds, and confused, glanced to see where my friend was. She had paused to look at him and his friends and say "Yeah, NOT going to happen" before sauntering down after me. She lived across the street from me, and spent the cab ride home giving me tips and advice on how to deal with guys like him. "Girls in bathrooms are always really nice. Just ask someone to tell him you're sick and they're taking you home. Girls in the bathroom will always help," she said soothingly.

When we got home we pulled out a bottle of wine and sat in her yard. "Are you okay?"

The answer was "Not even a little". I was scared, traumatized, and shaken. I felt violated. I had never had anything like that happen to me before. He kept pushing, even after I said no, and not pushing as in he kept talking to me, but he kept touching me. To this day, I am leery of strange men in bars, and it took years before I would feel safe in one without at least one guy in our group (I have never had a guy at the bar approach me when I was in a mixed group).

When I was assaulted on the bus back in the fall, I knew what rape and assault actually looked like. I had people around me who were willing to call it what it was--assault--before I was. Back then? I was young, I was naive, so were those around me. No one called it assault when I told the story (which I did, often for laughs because it sounds so over the top) it was met with "Creeps, amIrite?" instead of "A-are you okay?" No one bat an eye at it, so why should I? But it nagged at me, for years.

Reading "Above the Game" made my skin crawl, because it put me back into that pool hall, into that creep's lap, and made me relive those moments. It made me relive the discomfort, it made me realize that I've been assaulted twice, not just once, and has left me feeling sick and depressed. Consent matters, and declaring yourself "above the game" is like declaring yourself "above the law". You just aren't, and thinking you are is dangerous.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ender's Game, chapter seven, part one, in which we just don't understand Ender's FEELINGS

(Content: racism, abuse, disordered eating.  Fun content: Camelot, Ben Folds, OSC being hilariously snobby about his writing.)

Welcome back!  Before we get down to the next chapter, it turns out there is even more fascinating and intricate Wrong to discuss in regards to last chapter's festival of gratuitous racism.  Y'all will recall that Chapter Six had Ender and his new black best friend bonding in a scene that inexplicably featured them laughing over racial slurs directed first by Alai at Shen (Ender's Chinese friend) and then by Ender at Alai.  I was not sure what the deal was there, but thanks to Steve Morrison, we have Card's very own explanation at his website.  I also checked the local bookstore's copies of Ender's Game, and can confirm that the new editions now have the exchange in question as thus:
They grinned.  Then Ender said "Better invite Bernard." 
Alai cocked an eyebrow.  "Oh?" 
"And Shen.""That little butt-wiggler?" 
Ender decided that Alai was joking.  "If you didn't hold yours so tight it would wiggle, too." 
Alai grinned.  "Let's go get Bernard and Shen and freeze these bugger-lovers."
Card made this change himself, voluntarily, but if you click through to his website you'll find he was swift to assure readers that he was not caving to special interests or aiming to be politically correct (he has only scorn for "the prudes") or any of those soppy damnable liberal things.  He just accepted that he had failed to write the passage well, because it was giving readers the impression that Ender and Alai might actually be racist, which OF COURSE THEY ARE NOT THAT IS SILLY.  What Card intended to show was that Alai was trying to be funny through racism (as so many people do) and Ender was telling him not to do that.  Which is something I am in favour of!  So what problem do I have with this now, aside from the flaw Card has already admitted (that it was distractingly clunky)?

Well, Alai is black.  I don't know if we ever find out where he's from, but in the Ender's Shadow series, we'll meet him again living in the Middle East, where he is beloved by many but even still occasionally targeted with racial hatred.  And that's when he's considered an incredibly holy and wise and compassionate leader.  So I have this wild speculation that maybe, as a child with no such recognition, he was also targeted with even more racism than that.  It's just a guess.  And I have a further guess that Ender, as the white middle-class boy from the United States, did not suffer from racism.  And yet, in order to emphasise how much wiser and more compassionate Our Hero is, we're going to have Ender teach Alai a Lesson About Race Relations, and he's going to do so by aggressively wielding the white privilege that puts him over Alai in the racism hierarchy.

God, I think I liked it better when I thought they were just supposed to be stupid kids using words with power they didn't comprehend.

Time to get into the new stuff.  What fresh horrors await in the plane of disembodied voices?

Ender's Game, p. 66--74
Chapter Seven: Salamander
"The player's deaths have always been sickening, I've always thought the Giant's Drink was the most perverted part of the whole mind game, but going for the eye like that--this is the one we want to put in command of our fleet?"

Graff observes that Ender handled the situation with Bernard perfectly (as if he hadn't argued against giving Ender that chance) and intends to move him on to a new situation immediately.  Graff's boss hangs a lampshade on these unrealistic children by observing that none of them act like little kids: "They aren't normal.  They act like--history.  Napoleon and Wellington.  Caesar and Brutus."  Is this weird to anyone else?  I feel like this is Card trying to weasel out of his unchildlike children by telling-not-showing us that this is because they act like great generals of a bygone age.  If Napoleon made as many fart jokes as these kids do, history has failed to record him as comprehensively as it should have.
"General Levy has no pity for anyone.  All the videos say so.  But don't hurt this boy." 
"Are you joking?" 
"I mean, don't hurt him more than you have to."
I feel like the only possible way of capping these intro bits is with Graff and his boss doing an Everybody Laughs Ending into a freeze-frame.  Just to let the sociopathy sink in.  (Unrelated, I'm pretty sure we'll never meet 'General Levy', but we will learn later on that in this futuristic society, 'brilliant military strategist' is now a Jewish stereotype.  Uh, yay for positive discrimination?)

One night at dinner, Alai tells Ender that he's finally figured out how Ender impersonated Bernard on the student messaging system, and explains that he's hacked the system enough to know that Ender has now built his own security system to protect himself.  Alai wants Ender's security because he's just hacked another student for fun and fears that retaliation is imminent, and after a little needling, Ender agrees to help.  Ender continues to be completely okay with electronic bullying, I guess.  It's possible to read this scenario as Alai having a friendly hacking competition with a classmate, but it's hard to be sure.
Ender laughed.  "I'll set up a system for you." 
"Can I finish eating?" 
"You never finish eating." 
It was true.  Ender's tray always had food on it after a meal.  Ender looked at the plate and decided he was through.
This isn't much of a recurring theme for Ender specifically, but it's a recurring theme in Battle School--Bean will also have ongoing issues with the approved nutritional allotments and feeling like the school is trying to overfeed him.  I don't know what this is supposed to signify, other than that authorities are trying to stuff them with more than they can take in every way, and/or that Our Heroes are all skinny kids with possible indicators of disordered eating.  (Well, Bean pretty clearly has disordered eating, but that's not surprising.)  I had forgotten what these books are like about food and fat--just wait until we start seeing the toll of the stress on Graff, who apparently 'self-medicates' with extra food.  Sigh.  It's like Twilight up in here.

Anyway, Ender can't help because his desk has been shut down and lockers permalocked, and Alai finds a transfer order on Ender's bed--he's been assigned to an army, despite only having been at Battle School for three months instead of the usual two or more years that kids spend in their 'launch' class.

Ender is upset, of course, on the verge of tears (more 'mustn't cry' stuff) but Alai pretends not to notice and jokes with him until he calms down, which is a reasonable good friend move.  He hugs Alai, "almost as if he were Valentine", and talks about not wanting to go, but Alai states that they can all see Ender is the best and they want to teach him everything.  Ender says he just "wanted to learn what it was like to have a friend", and Alai assures him they will always be friends.
Alai suddenly kissed Ender on the cheek and whispered in his ear, "Salaam".  Then,red-faced, he turned away and walked to his own bed at the back of the barracks.  Ender guessed that the kiss and the word were somehow forbidden.  A suppressed religion, perhaps.  Or maybe the word had some private and powerful meaning for Alai alone.  Whatever it meant to Alai, Ender knew that it was sacred; that he had uncovered himself for Ender, as once Ender's mother had done, when he was very young, before they put the monitor in his neck, and she had put her hands on his head when she thought he was asleep, and prayed over him.  Ender had never spoken of that to anyone, not even to Mother, but had kept it as a memory of holiness, of how his mother loved him when she thought that no one, not ever he, could see or hear.  That was what Alai had given him; a gift so sacred that even Ender could not be allowed to understand what it meant.
I kind of hate to nitpick, because that is, to my mind, a fine turn of wordcraft right there.  That's the way I hope my writing sounds, the flow of language and the careful tone.  Unfortunately, none of this content makes sense.  Ender has apparently been sheltered from religion his whole life (he didn't know that his parents were Mormon and Catholic, he didn't catch that they named their kids for saints), but other peoples' religions have tremendous impact on him, apparently?  Not that this is an unusual thing for people like Card to presume about atheists, but it's really tiresome.  I can appreciate the good intention if a religious person offers me a blessing, but that's all it means to me.  I don't keep 'memories of holiness' and there's no clear reason Ender would either.*  In particular, given that Ender is constantly being told things and made to do things that he can "not be allowed understand", which will include rather a lot of unnecessary killing, I wonder if this mystery is supposed to parallel those--Ender is thoroughly appreciative of not having to understand what other people think of him and do for him.

Ender also knows nothing at all about Islam, enough so that he thinks it might be a secret religion.  Maybe at this point in Card's mind it was--it's not until the Shadow books that we see they are one of the strongest and most numerous religions on Earth.  Ender apparently never heard 'Salaam alaykum' growing up, since he was far too busy learning the rules of manly warfare (#12: Only one messianic/innocent killer child at a time).

Alai leaves.  There's a bit of angst that Ender can't take anything that he owns, but he didn't bring any possessions up from Earth and we don't know of any that he's acquired on the school, so I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean, other than to emphasise again that the teachers are cold heartless beings.  WE KNOW, CARD.  I am less sure that Card knows.

Ender apparently has some time before he's got to report to his new group, Salamander Army.  He goes to the game room and logs into the mind game again, and so it is time for metaphors.  Lots of them.  Ender starts out at the corpse of the Giant, which has now been pretty much picked clean and merged with the landscape, which frustrates him because he thinks it would help let off tension if he could kill it again now.  Instead he wanders off, skips the path to the castle of the Queen of Hearts (apparently he's already spent a lot of time there) and finds himself in a playground instead, swings and slides and laughing children.  The playground gear doesn't work for him (he falls through the slide, the merry-go-round throws him off) and the other kids laugh, so he wanders off into the woods and finds a well, but before he can climb in (like you do when you find a well in the woods) the children reappear, human faces on wolf bodies, and devour him.  Ender realises that he can incapacitate them while they're all human by using the treacherous playground gear as traps, but they rise up again if he leaves them lying around too much, so he drags their broken bodies into the nearby stream, where they froth and dissolve.

None of this appears to bother him much, despite seeming quite as hideous to me as the attack on the Giant, nor did his earlier remark about killing a rat with a giant pin because it creeped him out to see it chewing on the Giant's corpse.  Maybe the Giant was supposed to be unsettling because it represented Ender's loss of innocence and transition to being a perpetrator of violence, except: Stilson.  Gah, everything in this book would make so much more sense without Stilson.  I could buy Ender as basically peaceful, and the Battle School teachers as breaking a sweet kid to make him effectively violent, and Peter as Ender's best reference point for what brutality looks like.  But Stilson screws all of that up.  How did editors not see this?

I'd have critical things to say about the way Ender so easily figures out how to deal with the wolfchildren, dragging them into the river to destroy their bodies and all, but this is 'the mind game' and the important thing, from the designers' point of view, is that they see Ender's brain work, so it makes some sense if the game is making up the rules on the fly based on what makes sense to Ender, like a semi-independent dream.  So I see it less as Ender guessing right on the first try how to destroy the bodies, and more the game saying "Eh, cool enough, let's go with that".

Under the well he finds caverns full of more games that he passes--figures hidden in the shadows of a treasury; a menagerie of playful animals--but he wants to see what's at the end, and after a long time finds a door: The End Of The World.  It leads to another fantastical landscape, green forests and farmers' fields and a distant castle and a sky that is just one vast jewel-encrusted cavern roof, so Ender decides to leap off a cliff because... hell if I know; the point is that a cloud catches him and sweeps him away to a tower with no doors, where the rug in front of the fireplace turns into a snake:
"I am your only escape," it said.  "Death is your only escape."
And then before Ender can do anything to repel it, the game stops itself and tells him that he's late to report to his new army.

To recap: having reached the promised land by killing the thing no one ever thought to kill before, Ender grows bored with the normal games and instead explores, but is beset by things that pretend to be harmless children but are actually monsters, and so is forced to slaughter them by using his vast intellect, and the laws of the universe bend to ensure that he is brought to the final inescapable conflict at the end of the world.

Remember all the way back at the beginning when Card said that "I deliberately avoided all the little literary games and gimmicks that make 'fine' writing so impenetrable to the general audience [....] Since a great many writers and critics have based their entire careers on the premise that anything that the general public can understand without mediation is worthless drivel, it is not surprised that they found my little novel to be despicable"?  We can confirm that he wasn't kidding.  But I'm not sure what the narrative value is supposed to rise from barely-veiled analogies that remove all nuance and ambiguity from the story, either.

Ender angrily switches off his computer and goes off to meet his commander, musing on how he might escape the tower and get down into the fields:
Perhaps it's called the end of the world because it's the end of the games, because I can go to one of the villages and become one of the little boys working and playing there, with nothing to kill and nothing to kill me, just living there. 
As he thought of it, though, he could not imagine what 'just living' might actually be. He had never done it in his life.  But he wanted to do it anyway.
Oh how Ender wishes he could just be one of the simple folk.**  Y'all don't understand what it's like, being male, middle-class, white, and a spectacular genius brought into space to a school where every need is provided for and days are filled with infinite games.

What does he mean, he's never been 'just living' in his life?  He's not quite seven years old.  He has spent all but the last three months of his life living at home with his parents and siblings, playing and going to school and dealing with normal people problems like bullies.  There's a bit of extra stress in that he's always known he might be taken to this school to become a soldier, but the threat of alien invasion looms over every human right now.

Ender's getting badly treated, yes, and I sympathise with him, but this 'woe is me for I am special' nonsense infuriates me, because it's the exact opposite of empathy--it's founded in the ideas that other people's lives are as simple on the inside as they look at first glance as a random bystander, that other people don't have pain and problems like you do, that they can't understand your anguish, that they are scenery and you're the main character.  This wish is founded in the exact opposite of the compassion that is supposed to be Ender's greatest strength.

The chapters start getting long at this point, so we will cut off here for now--come back Thursday for the next Fifty Shades post (it's so close to being over!) and look forward to the second half of this chapter, in which we finally meet Petra The Exceptional Girl!  (Petra will be fun.  Everything else will be terrible.)


*My views on holiness are perhaps best expressed by the golem Dorfl in Terry Pratchett's Feet of Clay, when he is asked about holidays and says: "Either All Days Are Holy Or None Are.  I Have Not Decided Yet."  Dorfl also makes the argument that atheists think about the gods constantly, in the form of denial, and therefore should count as religious, but give him a break, it's his first day.  Also, on his world, the gods absolutely do exist.  So he's in a bit of a bind.

**That version of the song ends in a weird way.  In the original, the dancing fails to impact them at all and she asks again, and he says "They sit around and wonder what royal folk would do", and that is when he delivers the line "I have it on the best authority", since he used to be a commoner.  Which gets at the point better, I think--there is no actual difference on either side, because they all have the same problems.  Hmph.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

50 Shades Chapter 20 in which meh

I talk a lot about the fact that Grey is a fantasy I struggle to get. I struggle to get it because to me, it is so abusive and clingy* that I'm too hung up on those facts to see anything else. Ana Mardoll, who does an awesome (and very, very in depth) analysis of Twilight recently did a great break down on the fantasy of Edward Cullen, and Edward and Grey were initially the same character. What struck me as I nodded along was the point she makes about how "We are never invited to see Edward as real", because glittering vampire. Grey is described in many of the same terms, "perfect Greek god", but Grey is meant to be larger than life, while Edward is... not alive. Grey's actions also tend to go further than Edward's. He doesn't just watch Ana when she sleeps, he actively tracks her. He has people watching her at work. He bought the company she works for and Ana herself finds it all too much often enough. So unlike with Bella and Edward where we aren't invited to think of them as real, and Bella always sees it as sweet, we are invited to see Grey as real, and Ana isn't always comfortable with his actions. That makes it even harder for me to look past the icky parts of what he does.

Edward's bad behavior can be explained away with "He's a hella old vampire"**. The hand wave we're provided with for Grey stalking Ana after she bluntly and repeatedly asks him to stop is... he was traumatized as a child and is affected in very specific and unrealistic ways. You may ask, "Wait, you're okay with vampires, but childhood trauma is unrealistic?" Vampires are supposed to be fantasy, we're presented with Grey's back story as reasonable justification for him being a shithead which is so much bullshit I can't even.

So, with those thoughts that were bouncing around in my head out, let's get going on chapter 20! Chapter 19 ended with Ana agreeing to marry Grey after he failed to call and say "By the way, totes not dead!" after someone sabotaged his helicopter (not that they've told us yet, but come on). Sounds like solid husband material to me***. I mean, who wants their husband to check in when he may be in danger? Next he'll think to do things like let you know he'll be home late from work, or he won't be home for dinner, or is going out for drinks and ask if you want to come out! Who wants to deal with that?

After some spinning and giggling because they're just SO HAPPY YAY Grey realizes that Ana gave him the key chain when he was begging for an answer!

“I can’t believe you left me hanging.” His whisper is laced with disbelief. His expression alters subtly, his eyes gleaming wickedly, his mouth twitching into a carnal smile.
Holy hell. A thrill runs through me. What’s he thinking?
“I believe some retribution is in order, Miss Steele,” he says softly.

Just once I would like Grey's response to Ana exercising agency or free will NOT to be to "punish" her. Just once. He is so threatened by Ana doing anything other than bending to his whims that he must now immediately reassert his dominance by throwing her over his shoulder like a fucking cave man and dragging her to the shower to douse her, clothes and all, in cold water as punishment. No, really.

“Christian!” I scold loudly—his intent is now clear.
He switches the water on at max. Jeez! Arctic water spurts over my backside, and I squeal—then stop, mindful once more that José is above us. It’s cold and I’m fully clothed. The chilling water soaks into my dress, my panties, and my bra. I’m drenched and I cannot stop giggling.

I sometimes wonder how much shit I could make up before people would start questioning me, but then you guys sometimes are all "Y-you made that bit up, right? Right?" for things that actually happen, and realize the answer is "very little". So they start fooling around in the shower because that is what you do after you get engaged and your new fiancee drenches you for the sake of showing you who's boss.

My hands move involuntarily to his shirt as it clings to every line and sinew of his chest, revealing the hair scrunched beneath the white wetness.

I did a double take at "white wetness" thinking he had made a mess of his own shirt. Apparently not. Not sure if that makes it better or worse.

His lips become more insistent, more provocative, his tongue invading my mouth—and my body explodes with desire.

He planted a sexy bomb in her mouth with his tongue?

I tug his shirt hard, ripping it open. The buttons fly everywhere, ricocheting off the tiles and disappearing onto the shower floor

I am shocked it has taken this long for buttons to go flying, to be honest. Also, I'm not the only person who pictures someone letting a pair of breasts free in the wild when they read the phrase "freeing my breasts" right? Because that line is all over the damned place.

and push my breasts into his magical hands.

See? Warlock. Also: Seriously sounds like she just popped the suckers off and is all "HERE YA GO HONEY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"

Oh yes! It’s so arousing. My inner goddess has resurfaced after her evening of rocking and weeping in the corner, and she’s wearing harlot-red lipstick.

1) "It's so arousing."? Even you don't sound sold on it Ana.
2) What the fuck is "harlot-red"?

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.

So, "Jesus fuck he nearly died and I love him so much" prompts orgasms and crying. Just:

After they finish boning they talk about how much they love each other and how scared they both were that maybe he would die because he was actually in lots of danger earlier and lied so his parents wouldn't freak out!

They go to bed, and Ana (rightly) tells him off for being a huge wank by NOT calling because he was super eager to get back since Jose was around and apparently he didn't trust Ana to not hop on his meat-pogo? She doesn't comment on the trust issue, though she should. It dissolved into "You asshat you're loved! Stop being a dickhead!" and Grey actually responds well by apologizing and realizing that he honestly panicked people and that is Not Cool even if your girlfriend who has a magical cooter is hanging out with other men and you are afraid that if they touch her cooter the black magic you've been dumping in there will cause a giant explosion.

And on to the next morning!

He looks much younger when he’s asleep, and I grin because today he’s a whole year older.

No, he's a whole day older.

Ana goes off to make Grey breakfast, and remembers Jose is still there when she finds him eating cereal at the breakfast bar. She taunts him by offering a "real" breakfast and Jose asks a bit about their relationship, and cracks a joke that she loves him because of his money. Ana, reasonably, isn't so thrilled by this.

“Hey, Ana, just kidding.”
Hmm . . . will I always have this leveled at me? That I’m marrying Christian for his money?
“Seriously, I’m kidding. You’ve never been that kind of girl.”
“Omelet good for you?” I ask, changing the subject. I don’t want to argue.

HEY LOOK I FOUND ONE OF THE THEMES FOR THE NEXT BOOK! [WW: I hoped it would be omelets but she's probably right that it's marrying Grey for his houses full of money.]Also, I find it very odd that Ana says "I don't want to argue" when he's basically taken back his tactless statement and is putting up no reason FOR them to argue. We haven't seen Ana really interact with anyone besides Grey and Jack in this book, so it's kind of interesting to see the reminder of "Right, she thinks people are constantly attacking/prying into her life". Which makes her responses to Grey all the more bizarre since he actually does do those things

So Grey turns up wearing his PJ bottoms that he knows makes Ana all hot and bothered because apparently she has about as much control over herself as a teenage boy (further proof Grey is using black magic) and there is even more bullshit posturing where Grey has to assert his dominance and ownership of Ana. God, when he buys her a ring she won't be able to lift her hand, the diamond will be so big. Not because Grey will want to flaunt his wealth, but because he will want to make it impossible for anyone to miss the thing. It's going to be a goddamned collar. He might as well just pee on her while making steely, unrelenting eye contact with Jose.

In a move of passive aggressiveness through civility, Grey chats Jose up. Jose talks about his and Ana's dads being BFFs and comments that he's going fishing with them. From here the two find something to gush about (fishing) and exclude Ana from the conversation entirely. When he leaves Grey maintains he still wants in Ana's panties (because women love being told that their friends are only their friends because they want to have sex with them) but is less hostile and territorial.

“You didn’t tell him we were getting married.”
“No. I figured I ought to tell Mom and Ray first.” Shit. It’s the first time I’ve thought about this since I said yes. Jeez—what are my parents going to say?
Christian nods. “Yes, you’re right. And I . . . um, I should ask your father.”
I laugh. “Oh, Christian—this isn’t the eighteenth century.”
Holy shit. What will Ray say? The thought of that conversation fills me with horror.
“It’s traditional.” Christian shrugs.

So Grey is the type to do things simply because that's how they're done, but aims to create new, safer, and more green tech constantly? And ignored his fiancee's open horror at the idea of him asking to own her? Siiiigh.

So Ana then gives him his birthday presents. Because apparently ownership of her wasn't even hers to give! One is a solar powered toy helicopter (which is kinda cute) and the other is the equivalent of sex coupons as she asks him to take her to the playroom.

After some hesitation, and pressing that she's okay with it, they head there and that is the end of chapter 20. Soon! SOON THIS BOOK WILL BE OVER!

Come back Sunday for the next Ender's Game post, next Thursday for the next 50 Shades, and as always, share your thoughts on this fluster cuck in the comments!

*I have FEELINGS on independence within relationships. To the point that Will makes fun of me for splitting apart compound words, claiming it is my deep seated desire that everyone needs their own space that causes me to do it. "NO! BE YOUR OWN WORDS!" [WW note: In proofing this very post I had to reunite several forcibly separated compounds.  She's seriously hardline on this.]
**I do not think this is a valid explanation, mind you, but we're talking about fantasies.
*** The Boy has promised to always keep me up to date on the level of exploding his plane experiences when flying.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

50 Shades chapter 19 in which Erika is grateful for it being short

This chapter is short. You may have noticed the pattern of short chapters=ones where things actually happen. I feel EL James determines her chapter length by content/when she can have a cliffhanger. I always fucking hated cliffhangers as a kid. They either worked and I read the next chapter (causing me to stay up far later than I should have) or, more commonly, I found them trite. Yet another reason for me to dislike James' writing, I suppose.

Last chapter left off with: CHRISTIAN GREY GOD AMONG MEN HAS GONE MISSING! It's cool, being a super-warlock, was there ever any doubt he'd be back by the end of the chapter? This chapter opens with Ana, nearly catatonic, staring numbly into the fire (isn't it still summer?) while pretty much the entire cast of the book loiters around Grey's apartment being WORRIED and waiting to hear from the cops. Except for Jose, who is just feeling super awkward and worried about Ana AND NO ONE ELSE and Kate who is scouring the news because Grey going missing for less than a day is news worthy. Except that it takes 24-48 hours for the police to declare an adult missing, and how did the media get wind of it?

What ever, these detail are not related to Ana and Grey and their TWU LUV so I shouldn't expect the author to pay them any mind. I should be used to this by now.

So, while Ana stares into the fire SO WORRIED AND SAD she has flashbacks to random one off things Grey has said through out the series so far. I get that James was going for "here is someone devastated" and that's hard to write from a first-person point of view, but... it just isn't well written. Like the rest of this book. WHY DO I STILL EXPECT BETTER INTERNET?

Somewhere, Taylor and Carrick are talking to the authorities who are drip-feeding us information, but it’s all meaningless. The fact is—he’s missing. He’s been missing for eight hours.

Again, 24-48 hours to legally declare someone missing, so I'm shocked the cops are doing ANYTHING. I also find the set up interesting, I skipped the women, but Mia/Grace are crying on the couch, Ana is brain-dead, the boys are around the breakfast bar talking in "hushed tones" and Taylor and Carrick, the head of the family and security guard, are the ones dealing with the news. Kate is the only one who's chosen to be alone (although she has less emotional stake in Grey individually, she is in love with his brother, and THAT should be enough to merit a LOT of concern) and is trying to be proactive in finding news. I didn't catch the gender differences in the behaviors before, but this bit makes me kinda like Kate again. Now I will save you the pages of angst because everyone loved Grey soooo much and skip ahead to when he walks in the front door.

Wait, he just walks the fuck in? Of course he does. And the jack-wagon is surprised everyone is there, and worked up.

His expression is one of utter bewilderment. He deposits his jacket and shoes on the floor in time to catch Grace, who throws her arms around his neck and kisses him hard on the cheek.
Christian gazes down at her, completely at a loss.
“I thought I’d never see you again,” Grace whispers, voicing our collective fear.
“Mom, I’m here.” I hear the consternation in his voice.

Consternation. He's anxious and dismayed. At his Mom being worried that he was missing.

“I’m here. I’m good. It’s just taken me a hell of a long time to get back from Portland. What’s with the welcoming committee?” He looks up and scans the room until his eyes lock with mine.
He blinks and glances briefly at José, who lets go of my hand. Christian’s mouth tightens.

And yet he still finds time to be threatened and annoyed at another man for being near his woman. At least he's consistently a possessive jackass, right?

Wait, so Grey has been missing with no contact--his helicopter never made it where it was supposed to, right? Why is he SURPRISED that everyone lost their shit? That seems pretty reasonable. In fact, if he was fine this whole time, him not calling seems like a huge fucking dick move.

It would be, except for the fact that the entire book world will bend over backwards to excuse Grey's shitty behavior in the name of plot justification. You see, Grey's phone died, as did the phone of the person with him! So everyone stands around (Jose still being SUPER AWKWARD and Kate is trying to calm down Ana) until Grey tears himself away from his folks to go smell Ana a little bit.

“Hush,” he says and holds me, burying his face in my hair and inhaling deeply. I raise my tear-stained face to his, and he kisses me far too briefly.
“Hi,” he murmurs.
“Hi,” I whisper back, the lump in the back of my throat burning.
“Miss me?”
“A bit.”
He grins. “I can tell.”

She then starts looking for any injuries on him, frantic and relieved, and this bit I actually kind of like. This actually feel real to me. I can picture Ana, in-between sobs choking out "a bit" in an attempt to keep some humor about the situation, and Grey, grateful for it, playing along and loving her even more for it.

I step back to fetch him something, but he doesn’t let me go. He tucks me under his arm and extends a hand to José.
“Mr. Grey,” says José evenly.
Christian snorts. “Christian, please,” he says.
“Christian, welcome back. Glad you’re okay . . . and um—thanks for letting me stay.”
“No problem.” Christian narrows his eyes

I kind of love this bit. I love that Jose is SO AWKWARD even though he's saying and doing the right things. He had no reason to be there before save for a turn of circumstances, but tried to be there for his friend. Grey makes a show of being dominant, and owning Ana, and Jose still just is polite. I still don't like Jose, but I am enjoying how awkward he is in this chapter, and how Grey is STILL BEING A JACK-WAGON.

He spies Taylor hovering at the entrance and nods. Taylor nods back.
“Your daughter?”
“She’s fine now. False alarm, sir.”
“Good.” Christian smiles.
Daughter? What happened to Taylor’s daughter?

No idea Ana, and we don't get to find out, either! There's also a bit that's kinda nice between Grey and Taylor where they talk to each other like human beings who give a flying fuck about each other. This is to really explain how Grey was able to end up in a spot of trouble. WHAT HAPPENED? you ask? His helicopter exploded into an inferno and went plummeting to the ground! Grey was saved only by the liberal use of his dark magic powers! Or they happened to be flying low when BOTH engines burst into flames (Carrick makes a big deal out of this being suspicious and weird). Grey and Ros (business associate, I assume she's blond) put the fire out but they couldn't flick the electronics back on because fire.

"GPS was still working on the Blackberry, so I was able to navigate to the nearest road. Took us four hours to walk there. Ros was in heels.” Christian’s mouth presses into a disapproving flat line.
“We had no cell reception. There’s no coverage at Gifford. Ros’s battery died first. Mine dried up on the way.”

Wait--wouldn't the GPS not work if there was no signal? I don't own a smartphone, but I'm pretty sure it's the same signal your phone uses for GPS as it does for, well, calls.

“We hitched and pooled our resources. Between us, Ros and I had six hundred dollars, and we thought we’d have to bribe someone to drive us back, but a truck driver stopped and agreed to bring us home. He refused the 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.
“That we’d worry?” Grace scoffs.

So, I'm just saying, they could have ordered their own damned lunch, gotten a ride to the nearest bus or train station, bought tickets home, as well as a new pay-as-you-go garbage phone and some minutes to let everyone know they weren't dead for that amount. Or, you know, called one of their assistants to have someone come get them? THIS WHOLE SCENARIO IS HIGHLY UNLIKELY! And seriously? Grey actually assumed no one would notice or care he was gone? I get that he thinks he's totally unloved, but he has to be aware of his status within the business world. Going missing would make the news, and he's surprised by that, too. No, the reason he was too busy to stop and make a call to let people know he wasn't dead (or get a bus ticket) was because he was anxious to get back since Jose was there that night.

It has taken me far too long to find a .gif like this.

So, everyone starts to clear out because it is late as hell, and we get this.

“I was so worried, darling,” she whispers.
“I’m okay, Mom.”
She leans back and studies him intently while he holds her. “Yes. I think you are,” she says slowly, glances at me, and smiles. I flush.

GET IT GET IT BECAUSE ANA HAS RESCUED HIM FROM HIS DARK AND TRAGIC PAST YOU GUYS! Because naturally that is what any Mother would be thinking in this moment.

So Kate tells Ana that she's glad Grey is safe (for her sake) and that Ana seems happy and they'll talk tomorrow when she's not so exhausted and is off. I'm curious how this book would be going down if Kate had been around for it before this point.

“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.
“I’m going to eat whatever Mrs. Jones has put out for me. Goodnight, José.” Christian wanders back into the great room, leaving José and me at the entrance.
Wow! Left alone with José.
“Well, goodnight.” José looks uncomfortable all of a sudden.

Because it's only now that he starts to be awkward. Also, REALLY GREY? You can't go seven seconds without being possessive?  In their moment being left alone, Jose says he's glad she's happy and if she needs him, he's there for her and goes to bed. It's meant to have some notes of HE LOVES HER SO MUCH ISN'T IT SAD? But Jose has had so little page time in this book, and been so inappropriate when he has, that I just can't muster any fucks to give.

“I need to put my jacket down,” he murmurs.
“Drop it,” I murmur against his lips.
“I can’t.”
I lean back to gaze up at him, puzzled.
He smirks at me. “This is why.” From the inside breast pocket he pulls out the small box I gave him, containing my present.

"Good thing I gave you that Fabergé egg to carry around for the last few days!" Figuring it's his birthday, she tells him to open the MYSTERY PRESENT. Which is....

His brow creases as he fishes out a small, rectangular, plastic keychain bearing a picture made up of tiny pixels that flash on and off like an LED screen. It depicts the Seattle skyline, focusing on the Space Needle, with the word SEATTLE written boldly across the landscape, flashing on and off.
He stares at it for a moment and then gazes at me bemused, a frown marring his lovely brow.

HAH PSYCHE SHE JUST GOT HIM A FLASHING KEYCHAIN! Except it says "yes" in flashing letters on the other side (is this a thing that can be done? I've seen key-chains that you can have your name put on back, but never flashing ones. Internet, help me out.) because SHE IS AGREEING TO MARRY HIM! Yeah, even with the caps I can't muster an iota of surprise. I could put the actual scene here, but it's boring, so I'll write you a better one.

"Happy birthday Grey! Your present is my ongoing servitude me!" I said, eyes beaming.

His super sexy eyes twinkled, "Good," he murmured sexily, "because the dark lord needs his sacrifice, baby. Laters."

And that is the end of this chapter! Sound off in the comments, and we'll see you next week!

("The dark lord" is what he calls his penis.)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Ender's Game, chapter six, in which ZERO GRAVITY RACISM saves the day

(Content note: racial slurs, bullying, tokenism, virtual violence.  Fun content note: origins of the Ferengi.)

I had blanked out parts of this chapter.  It's relatively easy if you have privilege shields, because Card at last reveals the game that spurred him to build the rest of the story to justify playing it, but wow, the abrupt throwaway racism.  Y'all be warned.

Ender's Game, p.54--65
Chapter Six: The Giant's Drink

You know where we start.
"Don't you see what's going on here?  He's stuck at the Giant's Drink in the mind game.  Is the boy suicidal?  You never mentioned it." 
"Everybody gets the Giant sometime." 
"But Ender won't leave it alone.  Like Pinual."
It took me the longest time to realise that Pinual is the aforementioned student who died in Battle School.  I'm pretty sure this is the only time he's mentioned by name--I always assumed it was a historical/military reference.  They're also arguing over whether he's causing too much tension in his class, which is apparently just as concerning as his indicators of potential self-harm?
"Give him time with the group.  To see what he does with it." 
"We don't have time." 
"We don't have time to rush too fast with a kid who has as much chance  of being a monster as a military genius."
This is Graff insisting that Ender should be moved out and his superior telling him to keep Ender there.  I read this chapter out of order this week, and that has caused me to notice something interesting--I'll get back to it later when we see the results of Graff being overruled here.  Also, a fun final bit:
"Graff, you give me ulcers." 
"You wouldn't have ulcers if you'd leave the school to me and take care of the fleet yourself." 
"The fleet is looking for a battle commander.  There's nothing to take care of until you get me that."
Dozens or hundreds of ships, thousands of crew and pilots, but the supreme commander of Earth's entire fleet has nothing to do with any of them until he gets his tactician.  I know this is hyperbole, but seriously, the amount of time this book spends telling us that Ender is the only thing who matters, ye gods.

Moving along.

It is time for the grand debut of the Battle Room, the core of this story.  For anyone who hasn’t read the books already: it’s a huge cubic room with doors in the middle of the walls on opposite ends and no gravity.  The kids, all wearing their battle suits, file out of the door and start moving along the walls by grabbing the sunken handholds, and the ones who lose their grip are stuck drifting in the air, trying to swim (which doesn’t work) unless someone else can reach out to grab them or launch off the wall and push them to the far side.  There’s a lot of trial and error; Ender and Shen start trying to bounce around the room to learn how to navigate.  In a rare moment of Ender not being Way Smarter Than Everyone Else, he is trying to figure out what to do if you get stuck drifting in the air, but he sees other kids are already experimenting (with no results) and he actually can’t think of anything they aren’t already trying.

(Ender’s Classmates Are Legitimately As Smart As Him tally: 1)

The suits are kind of awkward; they take extra effort to get moving and to slow down, and Ender accepts that no matter what “I’ll be clumsy for a while.  Better get started”.  This is maybe the best advice we’ve yet seen in this entire book—the same wisdom for writers is usually phrased as “Everyone starts out with 10,000 bad pages in them, and the key to becoming a good writer is to get them out of you as fast as possible”.  There's our Not Horrible moment for the chapter.

In a return to the shuttle scenario, everyone has trouble coping with the lack of ‘down’ in zero-G and the constant reorientations as they move around the room.  Ender launches himself toward a wall and thinks he’s flying, but that’s unsettling to him, so:
Then he forced himself to change his view.  He was hurtling toward a wall.  That was down.  And at once he had control of himself.  He wasn't flying, he was falling.  This was a dive.
He still has no control while drifting, and so checks out the one tool he has, the blaster-looking thing holstered in the side of his suit.  We’re told it has a bunch of buttons, but Ender only tests the red one (focused beam) and the white one (lamp).  Spoiler alert: we’re never going to find out what the rest of those buttons do and no one’s every going to use the lamp function ever again.  The Swiss Army Laser has one purpose and that is shooting.  Having determined that he can’t manoeuvre with it, Ender loses interest and goes back to bouncing.  He launches haphazardly again on an impulse towards Alai.

Oh, Alai.  You’re sweet, but you obviously didn’t exist before this page and you’re a borderline Magical Negro.  Happy birthday.  Canonically, however, Alai is “Bernard’s best friend”, according to Ender.  You’ll recall that last chapter we were told that Ender’s cyberbullying had destroyed Bernard’s powerbase and only the most sadistic students were still loyal to him.  Presumably this should mean that Bernard’s “best friend” is the most sadistic of them all?  Nope.  Alai sees Ender is on a crash course and quickly acts to help him land safely on the wall, despite knowing that Ender and Bernard are ARCHNEMESES.
"That's good," Ender said.  "We ought to practice that kind of thing." 
"That's what I thought, only everybody's turning to butter out there," Alai said.  "What happens if we get out there together?  We should be able to shove each other in opposite directions."  [....]  "Let's push off before we run into that bunch." 
"And then let's meet over in that corner."  Ender did not want this bridge into the enemy camp to fail.
They succeed, though Ender has to rebound several times to catch up to Alai, and then shows what he's figured out about their lasers.
"What does it do when you aim at a person?" asked Alai. 
"I don't know." 
"Why don't we find out?" 
"Ender shook his head.  "We might hurt somebody." 
"I meant why don't we shoot each other in the foot or something.  I'm not Bernard, I never tortured cats for fun."
From the first time I read this book, this was a characterisation thing that bothered me.  Why is Alai friends with Bernard?  What possible connection do they have?  Bernard is a sadistic, bullying, presumably-white French Separatist, and Alai is a clever, compassionate, black Muslim.  (I'm pretty sure we never actually find out where he's from, beyond 'Africa or maybe the Middle East'.)  We have no evidence whatsoever that they share any interests or history.  The only way this can make sense to me at all is if Alai is used to being bullied and so has taken the preventative route of finding the dominant bully in the group and befriending him in order to ward off anyone else's attacks.  We have no evidence of this, either, but that just puts it on an even footing with any other explanation, and it would at least start to explain this.

Anyway.  The lasers are for laser tag, obviously, more specifically laser freeze tag:
"Shoot me in the foot." 
"No, you shoot me." 
"Let's shoot each other." 
They did.  Immediately Ender felt the leg of the suit grow stiff, immobile at the knee and ankle joints.
They decide to start their first 'war' by commencing fire on the other dozens of students, but Ender first says they should invite Bernard to join them .  Alai is surprised at first, and then Ender adds Shen as well.  And... my god.  I mean... look, I don't know what Card thought was going on here, but--is it supposed to be reclamatory usage indicating that this generation of children is truly 'postracial' but not so far advanced that they've forgotten racism used to be a thing?  Did it occur to Card that there's a problem when 'postracial' is largely defined by PoC not complaining about racism?  Does he--okay, fine, just--here's the dialogue:
"And Shen." 
"That slanty-eyed butt-wiggler?" 
Ender decided that Alai was joking.  "Hey, we can't all be niggers." 
Alai grinned.  "My grandpa would've killed you for that." 
"My great great grandpa would have sold him first." 
"Let's go get Bernard and Shen and freeze these bugger-lovers."

Honest to fuck I don't know what this is for.  Gritty realism?  The harmonious future in which racial slurs have been defused and become harmless as long as people know you're joking?  (Actually, plenty of people would argue that's the case now, so maybe it's not supposed to be futuristic.)  Are they bonding by testing boundaries?  Does it not seem like a problem to anyone in this postracial situation when the now-'harmless' racial slurs are still only directed at the black kid and the Chinese kid?  Battle School is supposed to be super-international and its slang borrows from languages all over the world and no one's got a choice epithet for whitey?  Gwailo?  Yaku?  Alai could easily know 'firanji'* at least?  If you're going to argue that equality comes about when everyone's not upset about racial slurs anymore, take your own goddamn medicine, Card.

Where were we.

When Dap arrives, Our Heroes are laughing themselves sick in the thick of the thirty-six other students, since apparently not even one other student in the class figured out how laser tag works in time to zap one of them, despite Ender telling us earlier that he and every other child on Earth have had toy guns "almost since infancy".  The element of surprise didn't just beat nine-to-one odds, but made it a perfect sweep.  Of course it did.  Dap unthaws everyone and tells them to stop whining that it was an unfair fight, since everyone had an equal amount of time to start figuring things out and it's their own fault for not firing first or something.  Sure, that seems reasonable.

In the aftermath, apparently, the rift is healed in their class, and there is no more Team Ender and Team Bernard, because Alai is friends with everyone, and Bernard now calms down when Alai tells him to.  I'm going to give this a pass on plausibility because it's a rare thing: Ender has resolved a conflict by reaching out to other people and befriending them instead of just being so awesome that they must repent, and there isn't a lot of that in this book.  They vote Alai their class leader by a landslide, "and everyone settled into the new pattern.  The launch was no longer divided into Bernard's in-group and Ender's outcasts.  Alai was the bridge."

And, finally getting back to what I mentioned earlier, all of this happened because Graff was ordered not to do what he wanted and pull Ender out early.  Ender found a solution that involved bonding with people and being, if not empathetic exactly, at least open to the possibility that they didn't have to fight for dominance.  As much as Ender has the potential to be a monster, he can be a healthy being too, if Graff doesn't get his way.  (And while Graff may think he's doing what he must for ruthless efficiency, Alai is in several ways key to Ender's Ascension and victory, so this was not merely healthy, but necessary to save the world.)

So finally we find Ender back in his bunk, playing 'the mind game' on his desk, an automatically-adapting adventure game that presents him with different environments and puzzles as he roams.  Ender has beaten all of the normal puzzles, of course--he always knows how to dodge the cat if he turns into a mouse, and he's tired of the ducks, so he heads outside and starts climbing the big green hills.  In a nice bit of imagery, the hills swell and crack and reveal a vast loaf of bread, and when he hops down off of it he's on an enormous dinner table surrounded by huge food.  He keeps telling himself he won't come back here, but he has yet again--the Giant appears and sets down two shot glasses for him to pick from, a guessing game that inevitably kills him in some creative way.

Ender tries kicking the Giant in the chin this time, but it proceeds with the game as usual--doesn't matter whether he's afraid or belligerent, he gets the same problem thrown at him.
"One is poison and one is not," said the Giant.  "Guess right and I'll take you into Fairyland." 
Everyone knows that no one gets to Fairyland.  I'm amused by the names that Ender checks when thinking about how infantile it probably is: "Mother Goose or Pac-Man or Peter Pan".  Given the most effective narrative for Pac-Man, I'm not sure it'll end up in the canon of children's stories of the future, but it was worth a shot.
Ender knew that whatever he chose he would die.  The game was rigged.  On the first death, his figure would reappear on the Giant's table, to plan again.  On the second death, he'd come back to the landslides.  Then to the garden bridge.  The to the mousehole.  And then, if he still went back to the Giant and played again, and died again, his desk would go dark, "Free Play Over" would march around the desk, and Ender would lie back on his bed and tremble until he could finally go to sleep.
This is one of those sections that is again actually written really well, both is the implications for Ender's psyche at this moment and the gruesomeness as the Giant, as promised, kills him over and over with each attempt.  He falters for a moment, but ultimately always comes back.
He stared at the two liquids.  The one foaming, the other with waves in it like the sea  He tried to guess what kind of death each one held.  Probably a fish will come out of the ocean one and eat me.  The foamy one will probably asphyxiate me.  I hate this game.  It isn't fair.  It's stupid.  It's rotten.
Ender kicks the glasses over, dodges the Giant's hands, leaps up into its face, and digs into its eye with his hands until it dies.  When it topples, the landscape has changed again to an elegant forest, and a bat flutters down to ask what he's doing here, since "Nobody ever comes here."  Ender gifts it a handful of whatever substance he dug out of the Giant, and it flies off, welcoming him to Fairyland.  He shuts the game off and tries to sleep.
He hadn't meant to kill the Giant.  This was supposed to be a game.  Not a choice between his own grisly death and an even worse murder.  I'm a murderer, even when I play.  Peter would be proud of me.
And now we're back to the part of Ender's education that Graff is totally onboard with, wherein at all times he must be pushed to kill people to protect himself.  (Also, Peter as the embodiment of all evils.  Would Peter actually be proud of Ender killing in self-defence?  That's not really Peter's schtick.  Peter would, in keeping with his current character, have found some way to dominate the Giant and then keep it around to bully to bolster his own ego, I think.)

Graff argues against allowing Ender to be in situations that reward diplomatic and constructive problem-solving, and fights to keep him in the ones where the game is rigged and murder is the only solution.  And, as Erika helpfully pointed out, we're supposed to believe that Peter was too sadistic to meet Graff's needs, but everything that Graff is pushing Ender towards is supposedly exactly what Peter is good at.  Who are we supposed to believe?  Is Ender wrong that Peter would be much better at Graff's tests?  Is Graff wrong that this is the training Ender needs in order to become a good leader?  If Peter was too sadistic to make a good leader, why is Graff trying to push Ender that way again and again?  He doesn't seem to be particularly concerned that he'll damage Ender's empathy permanently, despite rather a lot of evidence that Ender has been failing at empathy again and again.

Graff is a goddamn supervillain.


*If the internet is to be believed, this is an old Arabic word for the French, which in Egyptian was pronounced 'firangi', which is in turn where Gene Roddenberry got 'Ferengi', the race of conniving ultracapitalist jackasses.  Star Trek progressivism always used to be so hilariously over the top.  Those were better days.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

50 Shades chapter 18 in which the book pretends to have a plot again

Sorry for the rough updating lately. Being Sick TM and its many, many complications has taken some of the wind out of my sails. I've been medicating with Sailor Moon (which anyone who follows me on twitter @SnappyErika knows well. There's probably a post about Sailor Moon being written in the near future....) and Will and I had parents visiting from out of province the last two weeks. Further proving the fact that our life is a sitcom. The last two episodes were the "parent" ones! Still, things seem to have gone back to "normal" and updates will hopefully continue on as such. I AM however (at least for now) dropping the Cat's Cradle posts, and the "every other Sunday" slots will be used sporadically, unless there is someone out there interested in running a bi-weekly thing (another deconstruction? Themes editorials? Corgi comics? I'm listening). If you are, e-mail (or comment/tweet/send messenger pigeons) your idea to

Right! Onto business! So the last chapter was brutal, but Chris, my drunken guardian angel, stepped in to save me from that mess. Trust me, no one would have made it out of the Dr. Flynn scene sober if it had been me writing it. Chris spared us ALL a great deal of suffering. You should all go back to last week's post to leave him some love. Now, ONWARDS! With Ana meeting Grey's shrink and getting the seal of approval from a professional that Grey is troubled but cute and probably not going to peel Ana's skin off and wear it as a snuggie (probably) they go for a drive. He, once again, has a "surprise" for her.


Seriously, can he never just... make plans with her? His constant "surprising" has reached the point that it's a pattern. He doesn't want Ana to have a say in what they do/what he buys her, so he constantly "surprises" her with extravagant gifts (which she has previously resisted) and outings? Now, they're always "romantic" and Ana is incredibly easy to please, so she's into it, but this is the point where Ana wants to return the favor. She has been buying little things as part of Grey's birthday gift, and teasing him by not telling him what she's planning. He... will react really horribly to it later. Like, full-blown fight over it, yet he gets to plan all these whimsical and romantic things for her, but when she does it, it panics him? People who hate surprises don't usually plan them. Is his need of total control over Ana and her actions so great that he can't stand NOT knowing what she's doing at all ever?

What is the surprise this time?

A house.

No, really.

Sorry, "an idea". He's actually making sure she likes the view before he buys it.

The drive is up to the Sound (the waterfront they sailed up before) which is filled with beautiful, expensive mansions. One is for sale. Old house, Ana falls in love, Grey just wanted to show her the view because he plans to tear it down and build something more environmentally friendly, but she loves it and wonders if they can't just convert the standing one into being more green.

Just another "he is the perfect fantasy man" scene, but one that is actually not bad. I only kind of want to set myself on fire here. There is also one bit in there I kind of like in there when the realtor suggests they could get horses because naturally that is a rich-person thing to do.

“The paddock would be where the meadow is at the moment?” I ask.
“Yes,” Miss Kelly says brightly.
To me the meadow looks like somewhere to lie in the long grass and have picnics, not for some four-legged fiend of Satan to roam.

And the reason I like this? Because this isn't a generic characterization. This isn't "likes to read and watch sail boats drift by" this is specific, and, if we're talking in "every woman" terms, an oddity. Bitch media has even been doing a series on "cowgirl" narratives and I remember a middle school teacher teasing that girls go through a "horse phase". "Four-legged fiend of Satan" is just so out of the expected norm, I can't help but like it.

So they begin to drive back to town, to "celebrate" Ana's new job at one of Grey's clubs (member, shockingly not owner) and there's this charming little show of privilege here.

“So you’re going to buy it?” I ask.
“You’ll put Escala on the market?”
He frowns. “Why would I do that?”
“To pay for . . .” My voice trails off—of course. I flush.
He smirks at me. “Trust me, I can afford it.”
“Do you like being rich?”
“Yes. Show me someone who doesn’t,” he says darkly.

Well, lottery winners are usually depressed AFTER winning millions of dollars and it took me all of half a second to come up with that. This is just--EVERYONE wants to be wealthy or would enjoy wealth? I think many people would feel overwhelmed, or guilty, or pressured about it. People constantly asking for money, having to hire freaking bodyguards, not being sure if your friends/lovers are into YOU or your money... I can see some downsides. I always said I'd rather be rich than famous (although now that I understand how author fame tends to work, I'd be pretty happy getting there, just saying...) but truth be told I've never really wanted more than the means to not need to WORRY* about money.

Grey does not mesh well with the idea that people are not monolithic. He operates under very broad, general assumptions (all straight men want to have sex with Ana--and maybe even some gay ones, now that I think about some of his previous responses--all women like spas 'n shit, and that is woman-specific, and everyone wants to be rich). I'm not sure if this is a reflection of EL James, or lazy writing. Either way, the whole thing was a show of wealth for Grey because he's trying to convince Ana to marry him. I feel I could get away writing a documentary-style voice over for the mating habits of Grey.

They go to his club, which is called "The Mile High Club" and Grey orders THE EXACT SAME THING that they had at the Heathcliff in book 1 (oysters and asparagus!) to celebrate Ana's new job. Now, I need to take a moment here to go on a food wizard rant. The odds of these two places having 2 courses worth of identical menu items is... slim. Like, down to the sides with the fish (although EL James does nod to the impossibility of this scenario by making it a different fish). Just--is this the end-all be-all of romantic or fancy food? Because any foodies reading at home may have gone along with it once, but twice? Fuck off. There is nothing inventive in this menu! Hrmpf. Now, this time Grey is taunting Ana by not QUITE fingerblasting her at the table, and tauntingly not-actually-touching her and being super gross by feeding her. No, really. I would hate both of them if I were at that club--maybe more than I do already.

“You’re not turning the tables on me, Miss Steele.” Smirking he reaches over and takes the spear from me—amazingly and annoyingly managing not to touch me again. No, this isn’t right—this is not going according to plan. Gah!
“Open your mouth,” he commands.


So after a bunch of taunting over dinner, they get in the elevator, with other people.

Oh my. I gape at the people in front of us, staring at the backs of their heads. They have no idea what we’re up to. Wrapping his free arm around my waist, Christian pulls me to him, holding me in place as his fingers explore. Holy fucking shit . . . in here?

He is fingerblasting her, in an elevator with other people around. The more I learn about kink, and the kink community, though much of it baffles me, the more I am determined to try and keep an open mind. My general stance has become "So long as no one is being harmed without their consent". I then realized that there is one fairly acceptable kink that, under my own rule, I have a major problem with. People who want to have sex in public spaces because they enjoy the danger of being caught. What Grey and Ana are doing is borderline illegal. Those people are not consenting to being apart of their sexy-fun-times. They just had a nice dinner and are heading home. But they ARE a part of it, like it or not. Just--

Again I stifle a groan when his fingers find their goal.
“Always so ready, Miss Steele,” he whispers as he slips a long finger inside me. I squirm and gasp. How can he do this with all these people here?
“Keep still and quiet,” he warns, murmuring in my ear.

And now I understand why he kept giving her shit for making noise during. He was training her for exhibition foreplay. Going to go sob now, BRB.

The elevator is getting crowded. Christian moves us both farther back so that we’re now pressed into the corner, holding me in place and torturing me further. ... if anyone could be bothered to turn round and see what we’re doing . . . And he eases a second finger inside me.

Out of the elevator, and through the lobby....

“I’ve never had sex in a car,” I mumble. Christian halts and places those same fingers under my chin, tipping my head back and glaring down at me.
“I’m very pleased to hear that. I have to say I’d be very surprised, not to say mad, if you had.”
I flush, blinking up at him. Of course, I’ve only had sex with him. I frown at him.
“That’s not what I meant.”
“What did you mean?” His tone is unexpectedly harsh.
“Christian, it was just an expression.”
“The famous expression, ‘I’ve never had sex in a car.’ Yes, it just trips off the tongue.”
Jeez . . . what’s his problem?


“So you want sex in a car,” Christian murmurs as he switches on the ignition.
“Quite frankly, I would have been happy with the lobby floor.”
“Trust me, Ana, so would I. But I don’t fancy being arrested at this time of night, and I didn’t want to fuck you in a restroom. Well, not today.”
What! “You mean there was a possibility?”
“Oh yes.”
“Let’s go back.”

One thing I will give 50 Shades, it is not shy about showing female lust. Ana wants sex, Ana LIKES sex. She's slowly coming to terms with these not being bad things (and even seeing them as good) and to try to take the ebb off my rage, I'll try to concentrate on that. I mean, sure, Ana herself constantly shames and thinks herself better than any woman who dares appreciate the view of HER man and/or show their sexuality (Kate exempt, but barely) and has spent most of the last two books being pretty prudish but... now I'm sad again.

It's hard not to rage at this book when, ONCE AGAIN, we find out the reason Grey has taken a step away from instant gratification and back to sexy torture is because he's mad at Ana for not saying yes to his proposal yet. He knowingly, and repeatedly, uses sex as a way to punish her. Hngkdeojhetj42ijpdgf.

I just want all of these characters to burst into flames. Or be beaten up by Batman. Chris was right, there is not nearly enough Batman in this book (although Grey likes to pretend with his "Dark Knight" bullshit).

So, up to the apartment and fucking now.

Positioning himself, he pauses. “Keep your eyes open. I want to see you,” he whispers and clasping both my hands with his, he sinks slowly into me.

You know, if someone closes their eyes, YOU can still see them, Grey.

“Yes, Ana!” he cries. He collapses on me, releasing my hands and resting his head on my chest. My legs are still wrapped around him, and under the patient, maternal eyes of the Madonna paintings, I cradle his head against me and struggle to catch my breath.

Sooooo.... that's creepy. You're really going to not only draw images of Ana=Madonna, you're going to do it post sex, EL James? It's like she read the Madonna-whore complex and thought "this is a great idea!"

Ana thinks of something ELSE to surprise him with for his birthday, and has to "prepare" it the next morning. The reader isn't told what it is, but she grabs the jeans he wears in the red room of pain, and goes to grab a tie. When she does that, she finds a MYSTERIOUS BOX! Ana obviously being a lover of adventure RPGs cracks it open to get to the treasure and finds....

Ana then asks the sweet, prim and proper Mrs. Jones if she has the keys to the playroom (no, actually uses those words) so she can continue preparing her "surprise" (although she's less keen on it than before now that she's found he has pictures of naked women). Mrs Jones, by the way, has the keys, and knows what Ana is talking about. I kind of like that the woman just doesn't respond when asked, just "Er, yup. Here ya go!"

Off to work! The previously mentioned 'Grey getting angry at Ana for "hiding things"' exchange is had via e-mail. Kate gets back to town and Ana goes out with her, Ethan, and Jose. I like that we get a scene with Ana and her friends, and I hate how quickly it rushes to the bits about Grey because the rest doesn't matter. It'd be nice to feel like there are people in Ana's life who matter besides Grey.

Then Kate gets a call from Elliot, but he's calling to talk to Ana!

“Ana.” Elliot’s voice is clipped and quiet, and my scalp prickles ominously.
“What’s wrong?”
“It’s Christian. He’s not back from Portland.”
“What? What do you mean?”
“His helicopter has gone missing.”
“Charlie Tango?” I whisper as all the breath leaves my body. “No!”

That's right! Grey has gone missing! Two options: 1) Trying to manipulate Ana into marrying him by making her realize how much she loooves him. 2) His ex, Leila. Bets?

And that's all she wrote! This Sunday will be Ender's Game, and next Thursday should be more 50 Shades! Less than 60 pages of this shit show left! *weeps with joy*. Sound off in the comments, and until next week!

*There is a big difference between "supporting yourself" and "not having to worry". Not having to worry means I can splurge from time to time, and don't need to closely watch how much I spend at the grocery store, but still need to be responsible and budget/can't go out and buy a pony. Supporting myself is when I could pay the bills without panicking. At least, that is how I define the difference.