Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Inevitable 50 Shades of Grey Post

Since the movie of 50 Shades of Grey is about to be released, I felt that it would be an opportune time to give my opinion on the books, and on the criticisms that have been made against them.  Because some of the criticisms are valid and some are less valid.

And yes, I have read the books.  I actually read them while I was in labor, which might be borderline child abuse, but whatevs.  I needed something to distract me from the horror of the situation - something that would not be intellectually taxing.  And it worked, sort of.  Judge me.

1) The writing is bad.  

The most common criticism of the books is that they are badly written, and this is, in my opinion, absolutely correct.  They are badly written.  There is a lot of weird repetition of facts that are meaningless, and the main character, Ana, has a bizzare vocabulary that is by turns profane and outdatedly innocent.  

Here is my impression of Ana, and the books as a whole.  "Golly gee whiz I love being fucked inside out by my Sweet Fucked Up Fifty in the Audi.  Then he makes me some English breakfast tea.  Crap, he's hot!  Just like how my tea is hot!  Also, Audi!  Hot!"

2) It started as Twilight fan fiction.

I personally don't think this is a good reason to criticize the books.  Who cares if that's how they started?  Lots of writers base their writings on familiar character prototypes and use cliche story arcs, and I don't really see that as much different.  She didn't plagiarize.  She just drew inspiration from the "awkward clumsy girl who doesn't know she's beautiful" and the crazy controlling boyfriend who needs to protect her.  

3) It's mommy porn.

Again, so what?  

I've heard lots of women say that they refuse to read the books because "I'm a married woman, and there's no place for pornography in a healthy marriage" , "It's a temptation fo sin" and blah blah.   

Obviously this is subjective.  We all have different definitions of what is sexually healthy, and we all have different limits on the amount of sexuality we are comfortable with in our literature, and we all have different levels of tolerance for the use of pornography within and without of our relationships.  

For me personally, the books were completely and totally unsexy.  The sex was graphic and kinky and plentiful, but I found myself skipping over almost all of it because it was A) not erotic and B) not interesting.  So the pornographic element really didn't factor in for me, at all.  

4) It is a negative and inaccurate representation of the BDSM community.  

I'm conflicted on this one.  On the one hand, I can see why members of the BDSM community might find this representation to be offensive.  Grey is super creepy.  And the notion that sadism/masochism are the products of childhood abuse, rather than a different iteration of normal human sexuality is a rather insulting one.

On the other hand, I never heard the author claim that Ana and Grey were supposed to be mascots for S&M.  I don't see why they have to be representatives for an entire community.  Can't they just be two fucked up people in a deeply unhealthy relationship?

Which leads me to - 

5) The story is awful.  This is a deeply unhealthy relationship.  

This is indeed a deeply disturbing relationship.  They are both drama addicts, and there is nothing healthy about them.  Grey is controlling.  Ana has no boundaries.  They are both totally obsessive.  Worst of all, it uses the commonly used but extremely unrealistic "magical vagina" trope, wherein a severely damaged and troubled man is "saved" by "that one special lady".  

But again, I don't think this relationship was supposed to be aspirational.   Sure, it's passionate, but that does not mean it's something to be emulated.  And since this is a book written for adults, the readers should be mature enough to deduce that for themselves.  It's an entertaining relationship, but its entertainment value lies in its dysfunction.  No one wants to read a story where a man and woman meet, go on some dates, commit to be in an exclusive relationship, get married, have children, then die.  Healthy?  Yes.  Entertaining?  No.  

The issues I have with the plot are more mundane.  For instance, how does Grey have all this time to stalk Ana?  Doesn't he have multibillion dollar companies to run?  How is he able to take all this time off from work?

Also, why doesn't anyone tell Ana to dump Grey?  Why is everyone ok with his creepiness?  

And why the lurid fixation on child abuse?  Icky.

In sum, I would have to say these books are pretty bad.  The writing is awful, the characters are awful, and the characters are unrealistic.  

That being said, they are entertaining, and they do keep you reading, if for no other reason than morbid curiosity.  They will take your mind off anything awful that's going on in  your life - like being in labor - and give your brain a chance to relax.  

I would recommend them for intelligent adults who need a little mental vacation, who have good senses of humor.  I would NOT recommend them for children, or adults who are inclined to take them seriously, or prudes.  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Gift Giving

I suck at getting gifts for you.  It's not because I don't care about you, and it's not because I've forgotten that it's your birthday/Christmas, etc.  I WANT to be a caring person who gives generously.  I just don't know how.  

First of all, I don't understand your taste.  I have no idea what you would like to have as a gift.  I know what I would like, but that is probably not what you would like.  At all.  When confronted with the task of choosing a gift for another person, I always feel panicked. like I'm being given an exam on you and your character and what will make you happy.  If I choose wrong, I will have offended you, and your house will have a piece of useless garbage in it that you hate.  

Second of all, I just don't think about getting gifts for others.  This is something that happens to me frequently - 

I meet Friend X for lunch.  We sit down and start chatting.  Then suddenly Friend X will present me with a brightly colored bag filled with awesome things.  "Merry Christmas!" she'll say happily.  

I feel sick to my stomach.  But it's December 3rd!  I'll say to myself.  Out loud, I'll say "Oh, I'm so sorry.  I didn't get you anything.  I didn't know we were...doing the present thing".  

And she'll tell me that it's ok, of course, but I know it's not ok.  I have failed the friendship/generosity/thoughtfulness test.  I'll resolve to get her a present and give it to her the next time I see her.  But then, time passes, and giving her a present would now seem awkward and out of place.  Also, I have no idea what to get her.  

Also, I don't ever expect to receive gifts.  It never even crosses my mind that someone will buy something or make something for me.  For some reason, it's just not part of the Dana zeitgeist.  I don't personally need to receive gifts to feel loved or appreciated.  You could never get me anything and I wouldn't care in the slightest.   I seriously wouldn't even notice the lack of gifts.  Maybe because of that, it's harder for me to remember that gifts ARE important to some people.  Does that make me a sociopath, lacking empathy?  Probably.  

And so I say to you - yes you - if I have ever neglected to get you a present, please forgive me.  I am very sorry.  I hope I'm a good friend/relative in other ways, and that it makes up for my lack of gift giving ability.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Stupid Experiment

If you read child rearing books/articles - and you do/will - you'll likely encounter a "study" that supposedly explaines how and why children succeed or fail.  It's about self control, they say.  A child needs to be able to delay gratification in order to succeed in the world.  They need to be able to postpone pleasure to gain greater rewards in the future. 

I'm not necessarily disagreeing with this conclusion, but I AM disagreeing with the experiement they used to come to this conclusion.  

You see, several decades ago, they experiemented on children.  They told the children that they could eat one marshmallow now, or they could wait and get two marshmallows later.  They followed the kids over the next several years and discovered that the kids who were able to deny themselves the initial marshmallow in favor of gaining an extra marshmallow were more successful and less inclined to commit crimes, etc.


But here's why the experiment is stoopid.  It makes two very big and incorrect assumptions.

1) That marshmallows are awesome - so awesome that no child would ever NOT want more marshmallows.

2) That all children come from awesome families where trusting adults is a good and reasonable thing to do.

Let's say a child comes from a family that is...less than perfect.  Perhaps her parents are alcoholics.   Perhaps they are emotionally abusive and manipulative.  Perhaps she lives in complete and utter chaos.  

Now tell that child that she can have the marshmallow in front of her now, or she can wait for two marshmallows later.  Everything in that child's experience tells her that adults cannot be trusted.  Sure, the guy in the lab coat SAYS there will be more marshmallows later, but that doesn't mean anything.  What if the lab coated man gets high and nods off and forgets all about the marshmallows?  What if his pimp comes in and smacks him around for a while and marshmallows become a low priority?  What kind of moron child would wait for a marshmallow that might never come, when she could eat the one in front of her, now?  CARPE DIEM!!!

And further, could we not assume that those children who took the initial marshmallow do more poorly in life because of their horrible home lives, rather than their "innate inability to delay gratification"?

Also, marshmallows are not that great.  I mean, yes, they are relatively tasty, but in all honesty, I'd rather have one marshmallow than two.  You only really need one, and that's plenty.  And you certainly don't want to eat a marshmallow all on its own.  You need to make smores or put the marshmallow in hot chocolate or similar.  Maybe some of these kids simply didn't give a care about how many marshmallows they got because whatever.  It's just a freaking marshmallow.  It's not like it's hollandaise sauce or mashed potatoes or something wonderful.  You know?

Anyway, I'm not saying self control and delaying gratification is bad.  It's good.  I'm just saying that this experiment is flawed, and it doesn't prove anything, except that the developers of psychological experiements all come from well-adjusted, wholesome homes and they have massive boners for marshmallows.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


I'm not a huge fan of work meetings.  They always strike me as tedious and pointless.  After all, it's not like management is asking for your input.  It's not like there's going to be a lot of discussion involved, and so you need to gather everyone together to generate ideas and opinions.  Most work meetings simply consist of a manager telling you things.  This could be much more efficiently done by sending an email.

So, if I were the CEO of a company there wouldn't be a lot of meetings in my workplace.  However, if I did have to have a meeting I would incorporate a novel element - 

bean bag chairs.

You see, it is impossible to look authoritative or competent while sitting in a bean bag chair.  No matter how intelligent, articulate, and put together you are, if you sit in a bean bag chair you automatically look like a dim slacker preparing to watch Super Troopers or similar.  

You cannot be taken seriously while sitting in a bean bag chair.

I would have an enormous chair of power.  I would give some excuse about my back, to explain why I need said chair.  I would enter the room, take my seat and say "I'm so glad to see all of you enjoying these bean bag chairs.  I thought, 'Hey!  Why don't we try to make these meetings more comfortable and fun?'  How are you liking them?"

And they would all say they liked them fine, because that's what employees do.

And then I would present the situation to them, present my thoughts on what we should do, and ask for input.  Then when people tried to share their thoughts, I would sit back and watch while the other employees censored everything, because what worth could possibly be coming out of the mouth of someone sitting in a bean bag chair?  I wouldn't have to criticize anybody - the workers would do it for me.  And then I would restate my idea and everyone would love it, because I looke so competant and in charge.

It's a good way to preserve worker morale and make them feel valued and important, while not actually giving them any real power or input.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

I Guess I'm a "Lunk"

If you live in this area, you've probably seen the Planet Fitness commercials, with their recurring "lunk alarm" theme.  They're stupid.

Here's one -

Now is it just me, or does this class look like SO much fun?  I want to dance and leap and look super hot and make growling motions!  Who is the target audience for this commercial?  People who don't want to be thin and active and have fun?