Tuesday, December 31, 2013

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 1, part 1


Even though they're totally not dating anymore, Christian flies Ana in his helicopter to Portland so that she can attend José's photography exhibit. Ana and Christian are both sad. Ana has forgotten to eat food.  

Let us end 2013 the way we started it: absorbing the worst of pop culture, complaining about it, and then finding even worse stuff to complain about. 

I don't really know why I am drawn to such terrible things. Maybe I have some weird self-esteem thing? Do I think that I'm not good enough for good books? Maybe!

I do think that there's something intriguing about the simultaneously terrible and popular, though. When I read an excellent book, I feel a little bit like I know the author. Even a well-written piece of fiction can feel deeply revealing about its creator. But a book like Shadier? Doesn't tell me much about EL James. Tells me that she's bad at writing, doesn't think very highly of women, and is probably a foot fetishist. (Editor's note: see every sex scene in Fifty Shades of Grey for the foot thing. Or, better yet, don't, and just believe us.) Mostly, reading these books lets me know about the gaps in EL's knowledge. But I don't feel like I really know anything about her. 

But mustn't it say something about us that these books are so popular? I'm using the word "us" broadly. But c'mon! Lotta people bought these things! And read them! What this says about us I'm not sure. But maybe if I get to the end I'll figure it out? (Editor's note: that's what he said when he started the last book, but no such luck.) 

But let's catch up with Anastasia Steele, shall we?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas, Mutterblushers! Fifty Shades Darker: Prologue

That's right! As promised: The Complainist returns, just in time for Christmas, with the continuing adventures of Ana, Christian, and the worst romance in the history of literature. Hurray!

Our first entry will be an abbreviated one for two reasons. 1) 50 Shades Darker starts with a brief prologue rather than Chapter 1 so this week, we'll just be covering the prologue. 2) Darker is longer than the first book, but has fewer chapters, meaning that getting through a full chapter and the prologue in one go is a real chore. 3) I haven't done Christmas very well, dear readers. And as a result, not only did I fail to accomplish half the things I had planned pre-Xmas, I didn't finish covering all of Chapter 1 in time. So Chapter 1 will be your New Year's Eve present next Tuesday. For Christmas, we'll start with a reminder about where we left things with Ana and Christian, muse about Darker for a bit, and discuss the prologue. And then you can go back to watching bowl games and putting your new train sets together and that sort of thing. You know. Christmas stuff.

But what's that, you say? You've forgotten all about the plot of 50 Shades of Grey and so you need me to run through a quick summary before we get started?

Great. Here's everything that happens in Fifty Shades of Grey:
Ana is a naive college student who dated a billionaire for a couple weeks but broke things off with him because he spanked her too hard. 

It's kind of nuts how easy it is to summarize the first book, right? I didn't leave out anything important. You could even start following now, with the second book, even if you didn't read Fifty Shades of Grey or my hilarious insult-version of Fifty Shades of Grey. (Editor's note: Fifty Shades of Cliché. What do you think? Is that anything? Hm? Help me out here.) This is not to say that you shouldn't read my hilarious insult-version. Please do! But if you haven't, don't worry. Nothing really happens in the first book, so you'll have no trouble catching up.  

Speaking of summaries: Lemony Snicket is a wonderful writer and everyone should read everything he ever writes. In the first A Series of Unfortunate Events prequels, Who Could That Be At This Hour, a character gives this quite spectacular summary of a famous novel: "A bunch of elves and things get into a huge war over a piece of jewelry that everybody wants but nobody can wear."

Spectacular! I personally think that there is a lot to enjoy in that famous novel about elves and jewelry, so in that case, I'd rather read the whole thing. When it comes to EL James, though, the summary is better, because it's shorter. And that is why I'm here to summarize it for you. I already did the first entire book so you wouldn't have to! I quite literally wrote an entire book about a book! That's the sort of treatment that's usually reserved for actual scholars writing about actual books that are good. As in, there are plenty of books in which scholars carefully dissect the works of Virginia Woolf or William Faulkner or whoever. Not a lot of careful dissections of pop-erotica, so don't say I never did anything for you! I wrote you a whole book!

And now, the sequel! Just in time for Christmas! (Editor's note: Merry Christmas.)

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Complainist Fiction: Bag-Bag

No, I don’t need a bag. This really isn’t that much stuff. I mean, I have two hands! I can probably carry my stuff with just my hands! That’s what hands are for, right? 

Wait, is it a small bag? 

A small, paper bag? 

Oh, with handles? Oh. 

Now, normally I would say “no.” Definitely “no.” Because, you know, it’s about the environment. That’s where we live, right? I usually am like, a real bag-reusing wizard. I’ve got this bag that I stuff full of other bags. I call it my bag-bag. The kids are always reminding me--Mom! Get some bags from the bag-bag. And when we see someone in front of us at the grocery store, using a lot of plastic bags, we say, Oh, that’s a lot of bags to put in Bag-Bag. And then we went from that to this idea that Bag-Bag would get a belly ache because of all the bags. And from there, it was a pretty short jump before Bag-Bag became a sort of character. A person in our lives. We’d see litter or something, and be like, Oh, that would make Bag-Bag sad. Bag-Bag sort of became our environmental conscience. We’d say, What would Bag-Bag do? Should we drive, or take the car? Well, how would Bag-Bag get to the store? I’m thirsty. Can I get a bottle of water? Well, what would Bag-Bag say about a bottle of water? Don't you think Bag-Bag would rather you wait and drink water at our house so you don’t need a bottle? Bottles of water make Bag-Bag sad.

So usually I would never take a bag ever. Never dream of asking for a bag. You offered me one, so yeah, I’m thinking about it now. I’m thinking about maybe letting you give me a bag, since it has your logo and everything on it and it’s made out of paper and it’s recyclable but I would absolutely never ask for a bag. Besides it probably has your name on it, so I’d be doing you a favor, carrying it around, advertising right?

Oh, yes. It’s a nice-looking bag. Not one of those obnoxious, plastic “thank you” bags that are all crinkly and thin and make you look like you just bought dinner at 7-11 or something. Those bags are the worst. That kind of bag I would definitely refuse. That’s the kind of bag that we crunch down all small and hide in Bag-Bag and pretty much never use again because it’s embarrassing to bring something like that to Whole Foods where everyone has their own canvas bag or recycled bag or something.

I’ve never told anyone about this, about Bag-Bag. But the saddest thing was when there was that crazy oil spill in Florida and down there. The BP one. My youngest, Tree, she was worried about the pelicans and the alligators and everything. But more than anything else, she was worried about Bag-Bag. Isn’t that kind of sweet and weird? She took Bag-Bag to the couch with her, like this sack of bags was a person. Or, I guess, more like a teddy bear. And she talked to it and watched TV. And she’d be so sad at dinner time after watching the news all day. She’d be so glum about the oil spill, and she’d say, Can I eat my dinner with Bag-Bag? What could I say? She was my little environmentalist warrioress and I had to say yes. Had to let her eat dinner with Bag-Bag.

Then, though, she moved him into her room. There I go now! I just called Bag-Bag “him” like he was a person! But the sack of bags was for a specific purpose. To keep bags handy, so that when I need one for shopping or whatever, or for putting a new bag in the little trash bin in the bathroom or wherever. So that I can say, “No thanks! I brought a bag.” Which I usually do do. I usually bring a bag. A bag from Bag-Bag.

So Bag-Bag is not a toy. Bag-Bag is a receptacle. Bag-Bag is a tool for keeping me from having to spend so long talking to you about bags! You don’t need this conversation. You don’t need my whole life story! But here I am, talking to you about Bag-Bag, and all because Tree keeps moving Bag-Bag!
So everyone’s at school. The kids are at school. I need to go shopping. So I need my bags. I need some shopping bags. So I’m going into Tree’s room. Now, I respect my children’s privacy. They’re human beings. They’ve got their rights. But I go in and there’s Bag-Bag. Right in the bed. Under the blanket. The bed is made, more or less, and there’s this bag stuffed with bags and it’s peeking out of the covers. I mean, in the sense that a plastic bag without a face can “peek.” I don’t know why it bothered me so much, but it was kind of disturbing.

Kids get home. Tree runs to her room. Comes back. Says, “Where’d you take Bag-Bag? He was having his rest time.” And I say, well, I needed Bag-Bag because I needed bags for my shopping. That’s the whole point of Bag-Bag. Keepings bags ready for when I need to buy groceries. So we have food to eat. So Tree says, Bag-Bag is my friend. We don’t use our friends. We don’t pull the insides out of our friends.

What am I supposed to say to that? What am I supposed to say to Tree about bags and Bag-Bag when she gets like that? Hopeless. You try to teach your children these lessons. About the environment. About friendship. And then we hit this impasse. So, I skipped it. I said, fine. Take Bag-Bag. Take your friend Bag-Bag, and I’ll just get all new bags. And won’t that make Bag-Bag sad? Tough!

So you understand where I’m coming from, I’m sure. You get me. You understand that I’m not going around, being wasteful, accepting bags that I don’t need, bags that are just going to end up in a landfill choking pelicans. You know that even though I am going to say yes, yes I would like a bag, you understand that I am not a bag person. I’m a concerned citizen of the planet who, because of some complicated circumstances, is forced, today, in a unique, very unique situation, to accept your gracious offer of a bag to put my things in.

Paper bags are better anyway. We all know that. They aren’t as bad as plastic bags because they’re made out of paper and not plastic.  They don’t get added to Bag-Bag, either. Paper bags go into Brown Baggie. Brown Baggie is better too. She’s fun because since she’s made out of paper, Tree and I decorated her with magic marker and she has this big crooked smile and I always like seeing her when I go into the pantry to fill her up with more paper bags. 

Actually, now that I’m looking at it? Could you double bag please? Thanks!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

UPDATE- The Complainist vs. Christmas

It has been a full month since the complainist completed its great work: an exegesis of Fifty Shades of Grey, the most popular novel in the history of Kindle.

We are happy to report that, since completing the first draft of this great work here on the internets, we have edited it into a lean, precise 200 page manuscript and are pursuing literary agents who might care to represent this book. Just kidding! That hasn't happened at all. It has only happened in a sort of imaginary way, although I still hold out hope that I may get my act together enough to ride EL's coattails all the way to some sort of pity-project book deal. You never know!

Ana Steele's adventures will continue on Christmas Day, when Chapter 1 of whatever the next book is called will be posted here for your reading pleasure / displeasure. Why? Simple: I must face the fact that I have nothing to offer the world besides the quality of my own scorn. When a person has but a single talent, it is ungrateful not to put it to good use.

Until then, it is December, and I am at war against Christmas, as I am every December. The War on Christmas is not new. Please note this oft-overlooked section of The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels:

You are horrified at our intending to do away with Christmas. But in your existing society, Christmas is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a holiday, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any holiday for the immense majority of society. In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your Christmas. Precisely so; that is just what we intend.

Controversial words! Controversial, but important to keep in mind this holiday season.

But this year, the War on Christmas faces a particularly nasty adversary: former small-time politician / hockey enthusiast Sarah Palin. 

Official copy reprinted below: 

In her New York Times bestsellers Going Rogue and America by Heart,Sarah Palin revealed the strong Christian faith that has guided her life and family. In Good Tidings and Great Joy she calls for bringing back the freedom to express the Christian values of the season. She asserts the importance of preserving Jesus Christ in Christmas—in public displays, school concerts, pageants, and our expressions to one another other—and laments the over-commercialization and homogenization of Christmas in today's society.
Interwoven throughout are personal memories and family traditions, as well as more than a dozen family photos, which illustrate the reasons why the celebration of Jesus Christ's nativity is the centerpiece of her faith. Palin believes it is imperative that we stand up for our beliefs before the element of faith in a glorious and traditional holiday like Christmas is marginalized and ignored. She also encourages readers to see what is possible when we unite in defense of our religious convictions and ignore the politically correct Scrooges seeking to take Christ out of Christmas. Good Tidings and Great Joy is a call to action to openly celebrate the joys of Christianity, and say Merry Christmas to one another.

That's right, folks! In order to fight the over-commercialization and homogenization, Sarah Palin is selling a book for money and encouraging us all to all celebrate Christmas the same way she does. This makes basically as much sense as any American politician / right-wing semi-pundit ever makes, so good on ya, I guess. 

But here is what I'm saying to you: 
It is not enough to secularize Christmas. Rather, we must attack it from the roots! In the words of the great Alfred Jarry, "We shall not have succeeded in demolishing everything unless we demolish the ruins as well."


But the biggest joke in all of this is that Christmas is the absolute most popular thing in the world, and everyone basically loves it, and if we stopped spending billions of dollars every December on PlayStations or whatever the economy would probably collapse and and so our love of Christmas is probably all that's standing between us and some kind of post-apocalyptic hellscape. The best we can hope for, then, in this war on Christmas, are moral victories, and also if we can make some people mad by saying "holidays" instead of "Christmas," I say, good!

Here is the part in this post where I was going to invite you to steal a copy of Palin's book from your drugstore or whatever, and then send it to me so that I could make sure that those of us in the anti-Christmas movement could thwart her attack on her forces. But then I decided it would be poor of me to encourage you to steal books because what if you got in trouble? And what if I told you were to send the copy of the book you stole, and you were able to figure out the location of my Arctic bunker, from which I am conducting forays to learn the exact location of Santa's workshop? 

It's all too dangerous. Also, though EL James and Sarah Palin are both terrible writers and deserving targets, I need to branch out, lest I give anyone the impression that I have a particular problem with women who are terrible writers. I want it to be clear that I am hostile to the undeservingly popular in general! 

So please: if you care to play along, share with me some of your most-hated Christmas things so that you might fuel the efforts of this great war. Books, movies, so on. The only exception, in my mind, is Die Hard. Now that is a heartwarming Christmas movie. Oh, and A Peanuts Christmas. That's ok. 

Happy holidays, Sarah Palin!