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This Needs to Stop – Bananas in Pyjamas

31 Oct

So a conversation on Twitter sparked a YouTube search of the Bananas in Pyjamas theme song. Instead I found a full episode so I thought hey, why not. After singing the theme song (ps if you know the final lyrics to that song I’ve been trying to figure them out since 1996…) I noticed the episode was called “Garden Gnomes” so naturally I continued to watch.

I’m not going to lie I laughed more than I probably should of given the demo of this TV show but it’s cute and they are Bananas in outfits with cute little Australian accents.. so what’s not to like.

Anyway about 3/4 of the way through I stopped the video to continue watching X Factor but I was compelled to finish. Please watch the video and tell me what you think is missing?

OK if you didn’t figure it out. THERE IS NO MORAL TO THIS STORY!!! You can’t very well go around breaking people’s stuff, posing as faux Garden Gnomes, then go have snacks with your friends and never explain why on Earth you were dressed up AS A GARDEN GNOME! What’s next B1 and B2? Do you play hide and go seek AND THEN NEVER FIND YOUR FRIENDS?!

To think that the youth of today were raised on such craziness. Next I’m going to learn they weren’t even real bananas.

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A Comprehensive Review of Fifty Shades of Grey

22 Aug

The following review of Fifty Shades of Grey **contains graphic language and descriptions of sex.** It is a review of an erotic novel, after all. **Do not read this if you will be offended.**

Additionally, this review is only meant for those who may be under the misapprehension that there is any literary merit to this book. If you understand and enjoy that it is pornography, and therefore not worth critiquing, then you need read no further. We already agree.

However, if you have been told it is actually a “good book” or is interesting in any way, let this serve as a warning.

This review contains many spoilers.

This review has been prepared by myself, Joel, and my friends Ellie and Emily. For context and perspective, we are Canadian, in our twenties, and our day jobs are in communications.

Characters

It seems appropriate to start with what we feel is the worst aspect of the book: the people. Since the reader must spend more than 300 pages with them, reading as they talk, have sex, and most of all think, digging into exactly how poorly the characters are handled is important.

Anastasia Steele (oh god, the names) is our main character. We follow her thoughts throughout the book, which is written, we must mention, in the insufferable “present historical” style. Anastasia does not tell us what she thought at the time, but what she is thinking currently. The book reads like the notes in a film script or play, describing what the characters are doing at the time. This is annoying from the first page.

Imagine reading,
“I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. Damn my hair–it just won’t behave, and damn Katherine Kavanagh for being ill and subjecting me to this ordeal. I should be studying for my final exams, which are next week, yet here I am trying to brush my hair into submission.”

Imagine how painful that style would be to read for hours and hours. That passage, we must note, happens to be the first few lines of the novel. It does not improve from there.

Ana’s main characteristics at the beginning of the story are the following:

  • she is twenty-one
  • she is finishing college
  • she does not own a computer
  • she is attractive, but insecure
  • she is a virgin
  • she has kissed before, but did not particularly enjoy it
  • she has never been drunk
  • she does not enjoy exercise and does not do it often

We are given, as far as we could determine, no reason why Ana has led such a sheltered life. Merely that she hasn’t been interested in anything sexual or alcohol-related. No background, no insight. Nothing that might make us sympathetic or intrigued.

By the end of the novel, which, it must be noted, spans only a few weeks she:

  • has graduated college
  • gets drunk and drinks wine daily
  • regularly has wild sex with a man she only recently met, who is twenty-seven, including: sex while on her period, sex after dinner in the boathouse at his parents’ house (while his family is in the main house), sex with toys and bindings, sex involving pain and submission, sex wherein she learns she can touch her toes without ever having tried before

Again, this book takes place over only a few short weeks, as far as we could tell. And almost all of the story is a series of her own imaginings, conversations/hallucinations with both her subconscious and her “inner goddess”, and incredibly banal conversations with the other characters.

The most prominent aspects of Ana’s personality, then, appear to be her willingness to do whatever she is asked, even as she claims constantly that she is hesitant, and her ability to do things she’s never tried before with deftness and pleasure. This is coupled with her constant “reveries” in which she imagines all the things a sane person would simply say out loud, leaving the reader to plead with her to just open her mouth and make the story actually happen instead of having it all play out in the mind of a simpleton.

Christian Grey, the other main character, is equally frustrating. First, he is an impossibly attractive twenty-seven-year-old millionaire, entrepreneur, charmer, and polymath.

Sexually, he is both skilled (even if his tastes are less than conventional) and very well-endowed (as we are told many, many times). He is also an excellent dresser, and his pants “hang off his hips, in that way” (we are never told precisely which way that is, however).

Christian Grey speaks like a nostalgic retiree, constantly yearning for a youth he’s never had and a past that never happened. For instance, he actually uses the phrase, “making the beast with two backs.” Now, do you know anyone under forty who has ever said that unironically?

We are told his unusual proclivities have been brought on by his experience with an older woman when he was a teenager. She used him sexually, and he has developed certain needs and desires as a result. He is, as he says, “fifty shades of fucked up.” He staunchly refuses to explain his history to Ana, because, well, it’s none of her business and they just met. But, in a further effort to frustrate the reader beyond the point of sympathy, Ana asks him over and over and over again about this, and then dares to express shock and hurt when he becomes angry at her constant questions.

These are the most boring and cliched archetypes you can have for characters: A mysterious, dangerous, sexually-experienced, and somewhat violent man, and a needy, nagging, virginal, and insecure woman. It’s insulting to everyone.

E. L. James wrote this story originally as Twilight fan-fiction (seriously). So, this is essentially the story: Ana is a repressed girl with no experience with anything interesting. Christian is a very old man in a young man’s body, who long ago was turned into something mysterious and dangerous by an older woman (who is still in his life). He then attempts to turn Ana into someone like him, asking her to sign a contract which would make this transformation essentially irrevocable. Are you getting this? She has removed the vampirism from a vampire story, leaving everything else intact.

The only time these characters seem like real, actual people are during their endless email conversations. We’re not sure why. Is it the change in perspective, or is it because in an email exchange you actually need to exchange information and thoughts? Sometimes their emails actually manage to be mildly funny. But while these are a much-appreciated break from the rest of the story, they do little to make the book worth reading overall.

It’s not worth talking about any of the other characters. They are all just placeholders, dummies through which Ana can express her thoughts and desires, without ever saying anything meaningful.

Repetition

Yes, repetition gets its own section. It is the book’s constant reminder that it was written by someone with an, at best, fundamental grasp of creative writing, and edited by someone either incredibly lazy or possibly deceased.

Let me briefly excerpt from a previous post on this book:

In a normal story, the word “impassive”, to describe someone’s body language or statements, would be used sparingly. In this book, it is used 28 times. Every 13 pages or so. That’s common enough to unsettle the stomach.

But that is not even the worst offender. No, it would seem that “flush” wins the prize. Any time the main character experiences the slightest surprise (and she is surprised by everything that happens in her world), she “flushes” and her breath usually “hitches”. “Flush” or “flushes” appears a staggering 113 times. That’s, get this, every 3.3 pages.

The word has lost all meaning. It’s like the author has a tick. It just appears, “unbidden” (as she would say, 11 times in the story), and unwelcome.

She also says that someone’s mouth presses “into a hard line” 14 times. That may not seem like a lot, but think about how specific a phrase that is. Have you ever heard someone use it before? Have it repeated 14 times over the course of a story that contains almost no exposition and less action, and you can get a picture of how grating it becomes.

Likewise, she refers to her “inner goddess” 58 times throughout the story. Do you know what that is? We are never told. But her subconscious, usually referred to in the same sentence, appears to be the angel on her shoulder warning her of danger, and her inner goddess is the devil on her other shoulder. We guess. In any case, it’s incredibly distracting. One is left to wonder about these constant internal conversations, and the way she personifies parts of her personality. She seems like someone quite mentally unwell.

Subtlety

This book leaves absolutely nothing for the reader to imagine or learn on his or her own. Instead, everything is brutally and thoroughly hammered into the reader’s mind.

These sentences, we are not kidding, actually appear in the novel:

“He shrugs noncommittally.”
“‘Hmm,’ he replies noncommittally.”

Someone actually shrugs without commitment. Can you even believe it?

Here is another sentence you would never imagine reading in a real book published in the real world:

“‘What is it?’ she says inquisitively.”

Someone asks a question, inquisitively. It’s almost as if they were inquiring about something through the use of a question. Who would ever think?

Metaphors are not the author’s strong point, either. That is, she can’t let them simply be metaphors. She has to explain them to the reader.

Read this:
“Honestly, his surname should be Cryptic, not Grey.”

Was that not the entire point of naming the book Fifty Shades of Grey? His name is Grey, and he’s mysterious. There is your title, there is your pun. But no, it is as if either the author does not understand the meaning of her own title, or worries the reader does not, and so she breaks it by spelling it out.

Here is another one:
“His look is so intense, half in shadow and half in the bright white light from the landing lights. Dark knight and white knight, it’s a fitting metaphor for Christian.”

Again, we are given a metaphor, and then it is explained to us, even stating that it is, in fact, a metaphor. The great thing about metaphors is that you don’t have to explain them. Because when you do, their power is removed, and they take more away than they give.

In a book full of bad sentences, it’s hard to pick the worst, but these certainly rank highly: “He presses a button and the Kings of Leon start singing. Hmmm … this I know. ‘Sex on Fire.’ How appropriate.”

Great, thanks Ana. We get it.

The Ick Factor

Most of the conversations about this book focus on the sex. And for good reason, it is really the only thing that approaches being interesting in the story. But the “ick factor” is hard to overcome.

You may have heard that the book is full of bondage and other intense behaviour. That’s sort of true. But, honestly, the only thing that really borders on unusual is the aggressive nature of it. Ana is spanked, whipped, and otherwise handled forcefully in their sex scenes. But beyond that, it’s all pretty standard. Except for the following:

When Ana is on her period, we are told: Christian “pulls on the blue string–what?!–and gently takes my tampon out and tosses it into the nearby toilet.”

This book does not do detail, normally. We are given almost no important information about the characters’ actions or motivations. But when they have sex, the details gets so… granular, it’s both shocking and, yet again, distracting. Also there is a point in which Christian takes his used condom and puts it in his pocket. For no reason other than to dispose of it. It’s an incredibly strange moment.

We are young, open-minded people. The sex is not the weird thing to us. It’s the way it’s described. It’s so over-the-top and detailed, about the oddest things, that it becomes a parody of sex scene, and not an exercise in eroticism.

I’ve quoted Jane Espenson before about over-describing things:

Remember Spinal Tap? Remember what “St. Hubbins” was the patron saint of? “Quality footwear,” that’s right. Not shoes. Superordinate. And, at the other end of the very same spectrum, remember this Buffy line? “I’m not exactly quaking in my stylish yet affordable boots”? Subordinate. The too-general is funny. The too-specific is funny. But, sorry, Goldilocks, just right is not funny.

What could have been

Here’s an outline for a novel:

A physically and sexually abused teenager grows up to become a wealthy, successful young man. Riddled with painful memories and robbed of his childhood, he begins to explore his own sexuality and desires in extreme and dangerous ways. On a path toward complete self-destruction, he meets a girl.

This girl comes from a deeply puritan background. Her parents, devout Christians in an extremist sect, have kept her completely isolated from the world outside her family and church. Everything outside this life is considered evil, and she pictures the world around her to be very dangerous and always frightening. She eventually ends up going to a Christian college in the deep south, and along the way meets this man. Her lack of experience, and her fear of anything that might challenge her faith or anger her parents, keeps her from engaging physically or emotionally with him, at first.

Overtime, however, they become better and better friends, realizing that they have both missed out on their youth, and have both missed out on the opportunity for a healthy sexual relationship, and the understanding of what it means to be emotionally intimate.

Their sexual relationship is painful, for both of them, both physically and emotionally, and soon it is over. But as they go their separate ways, they realize that, at least for a moment, they knew what it was like to experience innocence.

Would you read that book? I’d read that book.

That’s what Fifty Shades of Grey could have been, but wasn’t.

Conclusion

Fifty Shades of Grey is a bad book. A very, very bad book. We understand that this is exactly like saying that the latest pornography film is a bad movie. Of course it is, and no one should be surprised.

But this book has become something of a phenomenon. It is talked about in newspapers, on TV, and around the water cooler, so to speak. We had heard about it constantly, and so we finally had to find out what it was really about.

Because we were told, like many of you perhaps, that while it is a graphically sexual book, it contains an interesting story, and it is worth reading for that reason alone. It is our hope that we have shown you that this is not the case.

Fifty Shades of Grey is a pornography book, and that’s great. We see nothing wrong with people thinking and talking about sexuality and things outside of their comfort zone.

But this book is no more art, and no more interesting, than something you find in a teenager’s web browser history.

Originally posted on Start As Close to the End As Possible.

This Needs to Stop – The lack of workplace etiquette

14 Oct

I think that our readers can relate to the many office policies and rules that come along with most workplaces. They can range from the very simple “no smoking in the bathroom rule”, to the complex office politics that surround the lunch room. But I think that there are a few things that we can safely suggest need to stop in offices everywhere.

1. The Reply All – You get a company wide email, maybe it is an announcement about someone’s new position in the company, and I am sure you are thrilled for co-worker X on their promotion. And maybe you want to express this to your co-worker, who could fault you for that? Not me, that is for sure. But I’ll tell you what  I will take issue with: when you reply all to this email, instead of directly sending the congrats to your co-worker. Because to be honest, more times than not, most people do not care to have their inbox filled with emails that are not meant for them.

2. The Overshare – It’s Monday morning, and you are sharing some details from your weekend with co-workers, nothing wrong with that. Until you take it too far, and suddenly I am listening to you regale me with stories of your hot flashes, your grandmother’s bladder infection or your kid’s vomit. I am not sure when or why it has happened. I do hold the internet partially responsible for creating a culture of oversharing, but it needs to stop. Here’s a tip: if you want to write a blog that expresses your personal (and I mean very personal thoughts and reflections) that is your business, but maybe you do not share that through your corporate Twitter account.

3. Check ins – I know, I know, I have talked about this before but people do not seem to be getting the hint. I do not want my Twitter feed filled with you checking in at the doctor’s, the pharmacy, the bathroom (yep, this has happened), or your mother-in-law’s. And maybe, just maybe, you don’t check in at a bar at 3:30pm on a Friday. That way all your co-workers won’t know that you skipped out early to get bombed.

4. The company-wide email – I consider the company-wide email a privilege. Not everyone should have the power to send these, and if you do, you must treat this power like you have the keys to launch nuclear weapons. Fast and loose is the not the motto you should be employing in these situations. OK, so let’s say you have the power to send these emails. Call me old fashioned, or maybe it the PR professional in me, but I think that a certain amount of professionalism should be expected in these emails. I am all for a little color commentary but I am not OK with you using these as a place to share long winded personal happenings. Because it’s fairly safe to assume that people do not give a shit about the minor details of your life, maybe you save those details for your mom, and to be honest, she may not care to hear them either.

The Bachelor – Recipe for love or insanity?

19 Sep

For years now I have been hooked on what I consider to be one of the smuttiest series on TV. The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Season after season I have resisted and then caved and watched people’s relationships go into flames.

Who would have thought that dating 25 people at once, going on the most insane and unrealistic dates of all time and not having to worry about work, buying groceries, looking after your pets, kids, and family members would give you the wrong impression of someone! So far after 21 seasons, Trista and Ryan from the first season of The Bachelorette are the only couple to get engaged on the show, get married and stay together.

As if The Bachelor / Bachelorette wasn’t enough, last year The Bachelor Pad was introduced. Memorable personalities from various seasons of the existing shows were brought together in a house Big Brother style. You can only image what went down in house full of super hot people crazy enough to go on TV to find love in the first place. It was insanity.

The finale of the Bachelor Pad aired one week ago Monday, and I got to thinking – how do these people seem to fall in love so quickly? And also how does Michelle Money have SUCH GREAT HAIR?

The second question will likely remain a mystery, but seriously. I’m not hating on falling in love at all. In fact I’m quite a big supporter of finding a great partner to share your life with, but I can’t wrap my head around what I saw go down on The Bachelor Pad this season.

Let’s take  a look at Holly Durst for example. Holly was first a contestant on The Bachelor, then she met former Bachelorette contestant Michael Stagliano, they fell in love, got engaged, broke up, got back together, broke up again and then 3 months later, both ended up on this past season of Bachelor Pad.

It looked like there was a chance that Holly and Mike would get back together, but alas, Holly fell for Blake instead. On the finale of Bachelor Pad it was revealed that Holly and Blake got engaged.

Some quick math – Holly and Michael break up 3 months before the show, the show films for TWO WEEKS ( yes TWO WEEKS), and then there is like a month or so before we see the finale. So in the matter of five months Holly went from being engaged from one guy to another. How the hell does this happen?

Then there is Ames, a fan favourite from Ashley’s season who on the finale tells the audience that he has broken up with Bachelor Pad cast-mate Jackie that he had sacrificed the $250,000 prize for. Ames talks about how dating in the real world made him realize that Jackie was not really the one for him. Jackie tells Ames she didn’t leave her room for a week when he dumped her. Everyone boo’s poor Ames for being honest – but why?

In real life, if you dated someone for a week and they never phoned you again you wouldn’t even think twice. If I walked around talking about how after my week long relationship ended I was so upset because I thought I would marry the guy, my friends would check me into the looney bin without a doubt.

And it’s not just Jackie and Holly, there are countless others every season who fall in love at light speed and then can’t understand why it just won’t work out.

Is The Bachelor, Bachelorette, Bachelor Pad truly a place to find love, or is it merely a clever ploy to get those who love love more than the rest of us all in one place so those of us at home can watch them self-destruct?

A New Lily? A look at TV babies of the past.

23 Aug

Television has been pulling this since the beginning of time. Babies are cast, and then it’s realized that babies don’t do much so they’re swapped with older doppelgangers.

Recently it was announced that Modern Family was going to replace the baby that plays Lily – Cameron and Mitchell’s adorable adopted baby from Taiwan – with four-year-old Aubrey Anderson-Emmons. I was quite sad to hear this as I felt that part of Lily’s charm was the fact that she was a silent accomplice to Cameron and Mitchell’s hilarious agenda to be the coolest gay Dads around.

Baby Lily - We will miss you!

But baby Lily’s departure from the show made me think about other kids who have come onto the scene only to be replaced by more interesting older versions of themselves.

Let’s start with Boy Meets World. When the show started, Corey and Eric had a charming little sister named Morgan. Morgan was Eric’s ticket to the ladies. She was adorable and hilarious but yet her time came to an end so soon.

Morgan Matthews - wingman extraordinaire.

Anyway, in the middle of the second season of Boy Meets world Morgan disappears without any explanation. Then miraculously in the fourth season she returns as a much older version of herself. Cory greets her saying “Long time no see!” to which pre-teen Morgan responds “That was the longest time out I’ve ever had!” Well played, Morgan. Well played.

Next we must take a look at the tortured world of soap operas. It is well understood that nothing that happens in soaps makes any sense. People get possessed, lost in fields where they meet their blind soulmates, and people frequently don’t die – but other people think they did. But the most puzzling mystery of all is the insanely speedy growth of children into adults.

Let’s take Nicholas Newman of Young and the Restless fame. Wikipedia has December 31st, 1988 listed as his birthday, but in 1994 Nicholas was replaced by the then teenage super-stud Joshua Morrow (Editors note: Joshua Morrow is still a super-stud). Regardless, Nick Newman SHOULD have been seven years old in 1994 but instead he was 16. Today Nick should be 33 but instead he is 38. Who the hell is in charge of math at Y&R anyway?!

38 year old super-stud Nick Newman

Interestingly enough while Nick Newman has been aging at an insanely rapid and (albeit confusing) pace and impregnating the likes of Sharon Collins – the rest of the show was moving like molasses running uphill on a cold day. I guarantee if you turn on the Young and the Restless today you will be caught up on the plot line with 4 minutes.

The only child that seems to have been able to hold down a long-term spot in the limelight was Full Houses’ Michelle Tanner.

Doesn't matter if you don't think this baby is cute. This baby is a money maker.

The Olsen Twins were not the cutest babies in the world – but somehow Miller-Boyette Productions knew they were ugly ducklings and let them flourish. I’m not sure how you go about starting a production company at the age of 7 – but if I could turn back time I would likely follow in their footsteps and do the same.

So all of things brings me back to the replacement of Lily. Where could Lily be in ten years from now? Coining catch-phrases? Making billions? Working the drive-through at White Castle? Now we will never know…

This needs to stop – Foursquare check ins

13 Jul

Ok, so before I get started on this rant, let me first say that I generally have no problem with foursquare or other check in and review services as a whole. I am in fact a huge fan of Yelp and love the idea that people can share helpful information through services like this. Key words in that sentence are “helpful” and  “information”.

Now with that said, let’s get into this. Do you know what I find annoying? When my Twitter stream is filled with foursquare check-ins at parking garages, toll booths and rest stops. Do you know what other people don’t give a shit about? When you are at a toll booth or where you park your car. The only people who care where you are parking are people that break into cars, and I would think that these are the kind of folks you don’t want knowing where and when you park your car.

I would also like to take this time to let people know that Twitter and foursquare are very public forms of social media. That’s right, in fact, it could be said that this is the entire point of these platforms. With that in mind, why would anyone think that it would be a good idea to tweet about ditching work, or foursquare check in at a bar in the middle of the day on a Tuesday? Maybe I am missing something but I doubt that this sort of behaviour is ideal for helping you advance your career. I would think that most employers would prefer their employees to be at work at 3pm on a Tuesday and not at the local pub.

My final concern is with the future of this sort of thing – what’s next? People checking in at the bathroom and the pharmacy (oh wait I have already seen that done). I am all for sharing but I think that we need to use a little more common sense and a little less of our foursquare app.

This Needs to Stop – Halifax Edition

14 Jun

When Pete and I lived in our last apartment there was a beautiful wooded park nearby with tons of running and biking trails, and I ran there a couple times a week throughout the spring, summer and fall. All summer I’d get up at 6:00, get into my running clothes and head out for about 40 minutes to start the day. Sometimes I would take a route through town and other times I’d head for the park. It was a nice place to run – lots of birds, squirrels, people walking dogs, people pushing baby strollers, joggers and bikers. Other days I’d run after work or in the evenings before dark and it was always the same – busy, yet quiet.

I never felt out of ease there except once in a while I’d see a shady looking character near where the park came close to the highway. Like, why would a man be out walking in the park in jeans at 6:30 in the morning? He didn’t look like a typical exerciser and always seemed a little disheveled and weird, like he might be on something. He was also very starey. I’d stare back at him. “Make eye contact and appear to be assertive and bold”, is what you always read about how to deal when you feel threatened by someone’s presense.

I’d turn around sometimes and he’d be looking back in my direction. I’d just pick up the pace. I never worried too much. After all, the park was busy and full of people and seconds later a biker would whizz by or a man would be walking a black lab within sight. And by the time I looped back on my way home, the weird guy would be gone, or I’d see him on his way out of the park.

We moved out of the apartment last July and I had my last run in the park and thought the whole time about how I’d miss it and how I’d never find as nice a running trail in our new neighbourhood (and I was right).

On Sunday, a 19-year-old female jogger was sexually assaulted in the park at 9:00 p.m. She ran past him, he grabbed her from behind and pulled her into the trees. When I heard that news I felt like puking. I have been in that park alone more times than I can count, with my iPod on, probably at 9:00 p.m. or even later. I never had any way of defending myself and never worried about it. I never considered that things like that would happen in a park so close to home on a sunny day when people are just going around walking their dogs and riding their bikes. It makes me feel stupid and naive and scared and sick.

I hate that shit like this happens. I hate that there are a handful of assholes out there ruining things for everyone. I hate that this girl’s life will never be the same again. I hate that whoever this creep is he’ll probably be 100% free and clear and may even do it again. I hate that people will now be scared to use the park. I hate that I am now scared to go to a park alone. I hate worrying that every somewhat “off” man I encounter is a potential rapist. I hate prejudging people like that and I hate that I have to.

It really sucks that you can’t go for a goddamn jog without having to fear for your life.

What is the point of this post other than to vent? To remind people to always tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back? To warn against jogging by yourself in parks? I don’t even know. I feel frustrated and helpless.