Thursday, May 30, 2013

50 Shades of Grey Chapter 17 brought to you by Chris!

Hi all! Erika here! This weeks chapter is brought to you by the brave (and probably as he wrote it very drunk) Chris! He, like The Boy, went in knowing basically nothing about the book, simply the hype around it (and my occasional drunken rants). I knew it would be good when he e-mailed me the file and titled it "Chris50sharts". Be sure to show him (and his liver) lots of love in the comments since I am a bad friend and let him do this!

Hey everybody! My name is Chris, and I’m a bit late with the delivery of this blog post to Erika. See, over a week ago, I offered up my services in writing a blog post for Erika’s blog. I wanted to see if I could get some creative type writing done. This type of “creative” writing is great because it doesn’t involve any type of particular creativity, it’s mostly just opinions and the arrangements of said opinions, and I got opinions o’ plenty!

And so, I read this here chapter of 50 Shades in order to garner some opinions. I was already partially buzzed by the time I started, but this did not aid in the long and tedious journey to the end of the passage. Eventually, by using every fiber of strength in my body, by god, I finished the chapter. I contemplated various forms of suicide and mental castration in hopes that I could preserve my sanity, but luckily, I kept it together for you, dear reader.

I began to write. By golly, I got over 600 words down into my computer when I thought “Gee, how long is a usual post on the world famous somethingshortandsnappy blog?” What I found was not pleasing to my sloth-like ways. 3,000 words! What have I gotten myself into? Again, ideas of suicide and mental castration - more preposterous than the ideas before - mingled their way between thoughts of shock and awe.

NO! I won’t give up! I told my friend I would help and I will do exactly that! I’ll hand it in super late, but, by George, I’ll hand it in! It might get incoherent by the end, but it will be a long-form blog post! Quantity and quality in equal measures are the order the day!

(There, that inflated the word count.)

Let’s do this thang Erika-style, shall we?

BUTTSBUTTSBU-Hold on. I got to switch gears here.

So this here is 50 Shades, eh? I’ve heard this is a sexy sex book about people doing “it” or whatever. I’m pumped to read it! Sex is funny but also sexy. I like to laugh with my boners because laughing at my boners just makes them self-conscious. Let’s dive right in to some raunchy stuff, shall we?

Christian is nuzzling my neck as I slowly wake.

Aw yeah, starting off with the slow stuff. I hope they take their time reaching the “climax”.

I stretch out beside him, relishing his touch, and feel his erection against my behind. Oh my. A Christian Grey wake-up call.

Looks like George Takei showed up. If Sex Ed. taught me anything, it’s that erections lead to sex, so this should be getting good any sex-ond now!

Sleep well?” he asks as his fingers continue their sensual torture. He’s smiling down at me—his dazzling, all-American-drop-dead-male-model-perfect-teeth smile. He takes my breath away.


My hips begin to sway to the rhythm of the dance his fingers have begun. He kisses me chastely on the lips and then moves down my neck, nipping slowly, kissing, and sucking as he goes. I moan. He’s gentle and his touch is light and heavenly. His intrepid fingers move down, and slowly he eases one inside me, hissing quietly in awe.

His fingers were hissing quietly? Lady, it doesn’t matter at what volume his fingers hiss, the man has a case of “snake fingers” and needs to see a doctor immediately. This condition is not as sexy as it sounds. You know what, I want to see you guys do the horizontal mambo. Go to the doctor’s after your morning tryst.

Hmm,” he growls softly and raises his head to give me a blazing gray-eyed look. “I want you now.” He reaches over to the bedside table. He shifts on top of me, taking his weight on his elbows, and rubs his nose along mine while easing my legs apart with his. He kneels up and rips open the foil packet.

Oh, foil packet! It’s either a condom or a pack of Magic cards. Either way, we’re so close to the sexing!

Not now. There’s a time and a place for giggling. This is neither. I need to stop you, and I think I know how,” he says ominously, and his body covers mine.

I hope she was laughing with his boner. Anywho, mister handsome seems to be making his move…

What would you like for breakfast, Ana?”

WHAT?! I thought this was embarrassingly lude best seller 50 Shades of Porking, not some kids movie from the 1930’s. I was hoping for play-by-play detail of every thrust, every moan, every accidental fart – instead I get a star-wipe to the kitchen! Oh well, who can resist early morning kitchen sex – not these two, I bet.

I’ll just have some granola. Thank you, Mrs. Jones.”


I flush as I take my place at the breakfast bar beside Christian. The last time I set eyes on the very prim and proper Mrs. Jones, I was being unceremoniously dragged into the bedroom over Christian’s shoulder.

A toilet in their kitchen?! Now I’ve seen everything! Also, maybe we will get flashback sex – flashback sex is almost preferable because it takes all the best parts of the sexing and edits out all the accidental farts (unless they were sexy accidental farts, if you’re into that sort of thing). Hmm, I just read a bit ahead, and she just describes what she’s wearing and they talk about work. It’s like a really boring Facebook post.

There’s a jump after breakfast and it goes into either a driving lesson or the least sexy metaphor for sex since “bumpin’ uglies”.

So, the key goes here.” Christian points out the ignition beneath the gearshift.

The next bit is spent with all-American-frown-dude letting the narrator drive her new car. It’s pretty boring. She talks to him, he frowns, she turns on the radio, he frowns, she crashes head-on into oncoming traffic, he dies then frowns. Okay, I made that last one up, but a guy can dream. I’m still waiting for some porking.

After she gets to work without them having any sort of sexing at all (what the hell?) they talk about some dude they’re seeing after work.

Don’t forget we’re seeing Flynn at seven this evening,” he says as he holds his hand out to me. I press the remote door lock and take his hand.
I won’t forget. I’ll compile a list of questions for him.”
I was confused by this, but I later found out that this Flynn character was, unfortunately, not the owner of an arcade, but some kind of therapist. This story could really use a light-cycle scene.
I think they start making reference to a marriage proposal – I don’t really know. What I do know is that our author had the balls to write this sentence:

Christian, this has all been so quick. And by your own admission, you’re fifty shades of fucked-up. I can’t give you what you need,” I mutter.

Hahaha. I might be missing something here, but making reference to your book title is like wearing your own band’s t-shirt. Maybe you writer folks can tell me if this is actually faux-pas. Anyway, he escorts her into her office.

Come,” he orders, holding out his hand.

It’s stuff like this that makes me wonder why anyone would want to be anywhere near this guy. It’s frustrating to read to this book on a lot of levels: the main characters are horrible people, it’s not particularly well-written, the story (when not sexy, I assume) is extremely boring, and to top it all off, there’s no Batman! Why on earth would anyone want to read a story that doesn’t feature Batman? It’s this list that makes me realize how brave Erika is for taking on such a soul-sucking project like this. Kudos, Erika, I will lend you some Batman comics when this is all over and it will improve your quality of life greatly.

So, our narrator heads to work. Let me tell you folks, the next 1000 pages of the story are of our narrator getting promoted and then not doing any work at all. Yes, she’s a model worker.
Actually, this sounds like something out of a document the CIA published in the 1950’s called “Simple Sabotage.” The idea is that you can oppose your government and throw a metaphorical wrench in the works by attacking things from the inside using by inconspicuous methods. Here’s my favorite example of one of the methods:

Managers and Supervisors: To lower morale and production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers; complain unjustly about their work.

I think someone is trying to bring this place down from the inside!
There is one relatively interesting section where it goes into full on email mode. Her and All-frown are emailing (they could be texting or IMing, but no, they’re emailing like a couple of Amish people) back and forth, and it shows the conversation in an email type format.

From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Megalomaniac . . .
Date: June 16, 2011 15:43
To: Christian Grey
. . . is my favorite type of maniac. Thank you for the beautiful flowers. They’ve arrived in a huge wicker basket that makes me think of picnics and blankets.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Fresh Air
Date: June 16, 2011 15:55
To: Anastasia Steele
Maniac, eh? Dr. Flynn may have something to say about that.You want to go on a picnic?We could have fun in the great outdoors, Anastasia . . .How is your day going, baby?
Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.

I like how there’s some minor formatting errors ‘cause normal people don’t have time to write things out correctly on the computer, don’t you know. Anyway, this whole section sort of reminds me of some the stylistic experimentation Melville uses in Moby Dick.

JUST KIDDING. I’ve seen this stuff in my sister’s book’s for teenagers. To its credit, however, it is quicker to read than the other regular passages, and it does break up the overwhelming monotony of not having any sex.

Seriously guys, I am disappointed.

So the book continues on at its snail’s pace. Christian comes to pick our narrator up at work, she describes how he looks – this is, by the way, the 10th or so description of someone’s manner of dress. I guess this sort of thing is important? Maybe I just read books where people wear the same clothes every day.

Anyway, they head to the non-arcade-owning therapist (worst kind of therapist) for someone character exposition, or something? I don’t know. This is so boring.

The technical term is SFBT—sorry.” He smiles. “That stands for Solution-Focused Brief Therapy. Essentially, it’s goal oriented. We concentrate on where Christian wants to be and how to get him there. It’s a dialectical approach. There’s no point in breast-beating about the past—all that’s been picked over by every physician, psychologist, and psychia trist Christian’s ever seen. We know why he’s the way he is, but it’s the future that’s impor tant. Where Christian envisages himself, where he wants to be. It took you walking out on him to make him take this form of therapy seriously. He realizes that his goal is a loving relationship with you. It’s that simple, and that’s what we’re working on now. Of course there are obstacles—his haphephobia for one.”

Yup, he’s damaged goods. To sum it up, the good doktor tries to pass our narrator off as someone special, someone who’s making a difference in All-frown’s life, and that All-frown isn’t so bad and he’s changing, and blah-blah-blah. I need a drink. 

This is a book about horrible people doing horrible things and indulging in horrible fantasies. “He’s broken but you’re fixing him.” This is the type of abusive relationship fantasy that makes this book somewhat dangerous. When it indulges in concepts such as this, this book is no longer just harmless fun. I’m no expert, but I would think that if you were in an abusive relationship, a goal would be to get out of that relationship. If this book were trying to help people, it might help people identify the type of relationship they’re in, and maybe give them some impetuous to perhaps escape their relationship. This book doesn’t do any of that; it shamelessly sells this delusional fantasy. I hope I was able to express myself clearly. It’s an extremely frustrating to watch two people (even fictional ones) engage in this type of behavior.


To refute myself a bit, this is the only chapter I’ve read to completion, so the claims I’ve made of central themes to these novels may be completely false. Heck, I may be reading into this stuff myself.
Oh, and “haphephobia” unfortunately isn’t a special disease that will cause All-frown to violently spontaneously combust, killing all of the main characters, and thus, abruptly ending this story (and, in turn, my suffering) but it is actually a fear of being touched. Not sexing, though, he sexes without touch. It must be like that future-sex in Demolition Man. Great, now the main characters look, in my mind’s eye, like Sandra Bullock and Sylvester Stallone.

After the extremely boring session at the doctor’s office, they have an extremely irritating car argument (cargument). Some dude named Jose calls our narrator, and this makes All-frown frown, and then All-frown won’t let the narrator drive and I want to kick them both in the shins. They fight and make up. Their relationship sucks.

UUUIUUGH, everything sucks.

I went from being expectantly frisky, to disappointment, to disgust. 

I wish I had something to conclude this, some sort of way to make this funny, but I can’t. This book sucks and it’s no fun.

You can follow Chris on twitter @Buzzopolis

Thursday, May 23, 2013

How not to be an asshole to someone who is sick

So, I'm sick. In that vague "we don't know what's wrong with you and there's no visible symptoms! You can see a neurologist... eventually" sort of way. It sucks, but it could be worse. It's very much an on/off sort of situation. I'm either fine, or I'm not, and I can usually tell when I'm about to cease being fine (or might be, anyways) and can escape to safety (what ever that means) and decide if I want to take the (only slightly scary) prescription pain killers that live in my purse or just curl up in a ball of pain and fuckthisshit. This has been something I've been evasively describing as "migraines" to those who need to know something is up, but the situation has gotten to the point that I'm on disability at work now (well, will be. I think? Paper work is being processed. They may have fired me via paper work? I'm having a hard time getting any sort of answers about what the hell is going on). All in all, a bit of a shit sundae.

I held off on telling my family what was going on (I still haven't told most of them) and dread getting into it with friends (sometimes I mention I'm on disability now when people ask me about work, other times I just lie and say I'm still working) because I keep having to go through the exact same shit. So, if you're like me when faced with a loved one who is sick and desperately want to help even if you have no idea how to do that here are some tips on what NOT to do from someone who has now been on both sides of that fence!

If you find out someone in your life is sick/dealing with some huge scary thing/insert shit storm here, do NOT get upset at them for not telling you sooner.* I don't care if it's your grandparents/kids; they're adults who get to decide when and what to share, and making them have this conversation will make them want to tell you less in the future. Instead just reassure them that you have their backs, which brings me to...

"Hey, is there anything I can do to help?" Listen, I feel you on this. I've been on the other side of the fence, and I get that you just don't know what to do, so you ask, but there is a very huge chance that the person doesn't know themselves. So if you're going to ask, maybe in the future offer specific things like "Want me to pick up some groceries? Need a lift? How about I come over and make you dinner? Need help researching X? Want me to take the kids for an afternoon, need a distraction and want to go blow off steam?" and don't pressure them to say yes. If they DO accept an offer, do it cheerfully and without a single complaint, and never mention what a huge favor you're doing. People are proud and it can be really hard to say yes to these offers, if they feel they may be taking advantage of you, it can be damned near impossible to say yes to them.

"Are you allergic to gluten?" If one more person asks me this I might punch them. I'm not even joking a little bit here. Unless you are a doctor, you should not be trying to diagnose people. You are not a doctor, and I have been dealing with this in some capacity for years (and its current one for months) and have been seeing a doctor! Anything you come up with off the top of your head is something that I have already thought of, as has my doctor, and as you pepper me with questions about my health/diet you are being as patronizing as you are invasive. It's also an unwanted and frankly cruel reminder that I don't know what is wrong with me, or what can set it off. **

"Well maybe it will all just magically get better! Just stay positive! It's all part of God's plan! Etc" I want anyone who says this to know it takes great effort for me to not just say "Fuck you" and walk away when you say this to me. What I am dealing with is very real, and you are implying there is a reason I am in so much pain that I am liable to puke at any moment? What, was there not enough tension so the great writer in the sky decided it was time to throw some shit at me to keep things from getting stale? Again, I get that you mean well and just don't know what to say, but "Try and stay positive, want to talk about it/a distraction?" is less frustrating and just as well intentioned. It also doesn't feel like you're just trying to shut me up because you're uncomfortable hearing about it. Guess what, I'M UNCOMFORTABLE FEELING IT!

"I am so upset about you being sick!"*** Rather than go on about how this is making someone already dealing with an issue (I keep using sick as the example but applies to most shit storms. Lost loved one, financial difficulties...) have to stop and waste mental energy and spoons on you, I'll just link to the wonderful kvetching circle. "I'm worried about you" expresses a similar thought but is less about you and more about them/their illness.

"How are you?" Okay, I admit this is probably about the extent of what I want people asking me (as I said, it's mostly an on/off switch for me, so this is a reasonable thing to check on) but try not to act like I'm about to shatter on the spot. I'm still a person, not an illness.

Don't tell me I can't be angry. Okay, this one might just be my Mother but when I started ranting about how frustrating/patronizing/invasive it was for people to constantly ask me about my medical history because apparently everyone around me has a secret medical degree? Her response was to tell me that they meant well and I couldn't go around talking like that to people and admonished me for sounding "pissed off". I am dealing with a lot already, and these people are making me deal with more. I get to be pissed off, and I get to vent.

Listen to them. Sometimes I want to talk about it, and sometimes I don't, and while it's fair game to check in at any point at which I am, some people check in because they want to talk about it and don't really listen to what I'm saying. If it's the type of medical issue that offers some very real restraints (can't walk far/stand/deal with loud noises) and they tell you that, remember it and don't make them repeat themselves. Again, people have limited time and energy and being sick cuts into that in ways you probably don't think of, you asking them to repeat their limitations repeatedly cuts into that. It's hard to remember everything, but there's a difference between making them say "Hey can we park closer? It makes a difference to me" instead of checking in on how far they can comfortably walk.

But I want to help and I need to ask them about gluten/whatever so I can make sure they are taken care of! It isn't about you. If you are doing this you are more concerned with feeling like you're helping than making the distressed person less distressed. Being sick is so much worse than I had ever thought. There is so much fear and frustration with not knowing, so much more than I had thought there was. I get it, you mean well! You only want to help! But intent is not fucking magic. And if there is only one thing you take from the list, let it be this: stop suggesting I'm allergic to gluten.

This list probably sounds bitchy, or ungrateful, but I've been on the other side, and been desperate to help and baffled on how to do so. I'm writing this now from the side of the person you so desperately want to help. I don't speak for all sick people, there are a lot of different kinds of "sick", but I will say this. Being on this side of the fence is different than I thought. It's scarier, more confusing, overwhelming and so frustrating. I'm writing this both as someone who's earnestly wanted to help, and who would earnestly like those around me to be able to.

So, readers, is there anything you'd add to the list?

For those of you wondering, 50 Shades will return next Thursday, and Cat's Cradle will run this Sunday. Hope to see you all then.
*Spouses exempt from this one.
** Will, being Will, has started saying things like "Good thing they figured out it was the stress-gluten in your birth control!" when I rant about people thinking they are entitled to my entire diet and medical history. I'm pretty sure he was nicer when I first met him and that I've gradually been breaking him.
***Spouses also exempt from this one.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ender's Game, chapter five, in which Ender SHOWS THEM ALL and Will says 'whatever' a lot

(Content: emotional abuse, cyber-bullying, homophobia.  Fun content: non-Euclidean architecture, one of limyaael's rants, and an important Spaceballs lesson.)

Ender's Game: p. 37--53
Chapter Five: Games

There are a lot of people on the web doing this analytical thing like we do here, and there is one thing that basically all of them eventually run into, which is that when books are bad, they eventually cease to be entertainingly bad and instead become gruelling.  Those of y'all who read Erika's Fifty Shades posts have long been familiar with these times (I once joked that people looked forward to the sex scenes because it meant the characters would stop talking--I no longer view this as a joke).

I do actually believe Ender's Game is mostly well-written.  I think the ideologies it promotes are abhorrent and it has a tendency to tell us things about the characters that are contradicted or not backed up, but if you ignore the authorial fiats, characters are actually painted well and in interesting ways.  I know, for example, that Card's whole thesis is that Ender and Peter are exact opposites, but I'm finding them much more interesting when I read them as presented, nearly identical (and Ender being the vastly more dangerous one).  Ender's Game is a novel of ideas, and when it focuses on those, if nothing else, it can be fascinating.

This chapter is not fascinating.

This chapter is basically Ender As Chosen One/Outcast Nerd Revenge Fantasy, the most boring and uncomfortable side of his character.  We open with a dose of Graff's characterisation being contradicted, which maybe is supposed to make him look less perfect, because obviously that is a thing we would be in danger of thinking.  It turns out Graff didn't mean for Ender to get into a physical fight on the shuttle last chapter, but to call for help.  I have no idea why Graff thought this would happen, or why he wanted it to happen, since he and the "mastermind" (Graff's own sarcasm) he's talking to agree that Ender must never believe he can count on anyone else to bail him out.
"His isolation can't be broken.  He can never come to believe that anybody will ever help him out, ever.  If he once thinks there's an easy way out, he's wrecked." 
"You're right.  That would be terrible, if he believed he had a friend." 
"He can have friends.  It's parents he can't have."
 So, Ender can't be allowed to escape any situation by asking for help, but Graff was expecting/hoping that the fight on the shuttle would be resolved by Ender asking for help.  What.

Whatever.  Ender arrives at his Space Dorm at Space School.  The room is child-scale; six-year-old Ender can reach up and touch the ceiling.  That would seem dangerous--adults will have trouble getting into the room if they need to intervene in something--but a couple of pages later we'll be told about adults hanging out in there like it's whatever, so... I don't know.  Non-Euclidean architecture.  Careful use of baked goods from Wonderland.  Battle School was built by Time Lords and the rooms are taller from the top down than from the bottom up.  Take your pick.

Ender is the last one to arrive, and the only bunk left is the one at floor level by the door, which he immediately determines is the Worst Bunk (I guess you get the most traffic?), but he plays it up like this is exactly what he had been hoping for, because, as previously noted, everyone except Ender is incredibly stupid and of course they will assume his "Gollygosh thanks guys!" is sincere.  (Or maybe it's just supposed to Ender telling them he refuses to suffer?)  Their supervisor shows up, a young man named Dap who tells them that he is their 'mom', because apparently that's the only possible name for a nurturing parental figure.  Whatever.  Battle School has now canonically endorsed genderqueer expressions in their supervising authorities!  Well done, Battle School.  Maybe there's hope for you yet.

Dap informs them that the bunk Ender is now in is usually reserved for their elected Group Leader, which seems like a weirdly unnecessary detail unless it's a metaphor.  Ender has, as a result of bullying, been forced to take the position of power and authority without even knowing that was what he was doing.  ...Huh, yeah, that's this entire story in one sentence.  Pointlessly twee, but I guess points to Card for condensing it so neatly.

Ender checks out the equipment in his palmprint-encoded locker: jumpsuits, a school desk, and a practice laser, which Dap tells him is for "one of the games".  Credit where due, Card has been doing a good job of building up to the introduction of the Battle Room (which we still won't see this chapter).  We've been told that it's a big deal, the core of the school, we're seeing some equipment, and when the kids go to dinner, they see the team standings on the leaderboards and all the older boys are wearing flashier team uniforms, Scorpion and Manticore.  It's a solid example of sprinkling information to entice our interest.

Ender of course has to sit by himself in the lunchroom, until a 12-year-old named Mick shows up to tell Ender that if he's the 'bugger' in his class, he needs to start sucking up to people if he wants to get anywhere.    (I thought Card was opposed to buggers making friends by sucking.)  Mick apparently puts the lie to Graff's claim that anyone who sticks with it ultimately gets a great job, as he is certain he won't be going on to Tactical School when he's finally forced out sometime soon.

Mick is also the only goddamn person in the entire series who observes that 'Ender' is an absurdly badass name for a soldier.  At least someone said it, but seriously, how does everyone not just laugh in his face when he tries to introduce himself?  Nicknames are normal at Battle School, but no one calls themselves Commander Manlybeard or McBearchest or Shark Week.

Mick leaves (taking Ender's dessert, because losers fucking love junk food, I hate Card so much sometimes) and Ender decides that no, he will succeed through awesomeness, although he then gets struck with debilitating homesickness for the rest of the day.  At night, Dap patrols the room, trying to offer a comforting hand here and there, but it backfires:
The touch of kindness in this frightening place was enough to push some over the edge into tears.  Not Ender, though.  When Dap came, his crying was over, and his face was dry.  It was the lying face he presented to Mother and Father, when Peter had been cruel to him and he dared not let it show.  Thank you for this, Peter.  For dry eyes and silent weeping.  You taught me how to hide anything I felt.  More than ever, I need that now.
So, the old cruelty was beneficial because now it helps him pretend that the new cruelty doesn't bother him, which is important because if he showed that cruelty bothered him, it would cause people to be more cruel to him.


They start classes the next day, interspersed with weirdly propagandic videos of marines getting torn up fighting aliens aboard ships, and ships in space firing on each other.
Ender worked as hard as anyone; all of them struggled for the first time in their lives, as for the first time in their lives they competed with classmates who were at least as bright as they.
Except when they are not, which is all of the time, because Ender is so, so much smarter than them.  As he proves on his second day, when Dap takes them to the arcade, a vast shining vault of lights on the upper levels of the school, where gravity is weaker: when Ender gets pushed around, he literally gets knocked off his feet and drifts across the room.  This happens a lot, because he immediately heads into the 3D game tables, where older boys are playing commanders of holographic fleets.  He watches them play against the computer for an hour, at which point he is certain that he could easily beat the computer on any humanly-feasible difficulty setting, because that is not at all hilarious.  "Eh, I don't think I need to play this game, I'd pretty obviously be able to beat it already if it was a fair match."

Ender wants to play against another boy instead, and asks for a turn.  The older students mock him in some realistically vapid dialogue that only partially feels like a forty-year-old trying to use teenager slang.  It helps that they don't really use slang much, but a kind of cadence.  It does not help that this cadence sounds vaguely like a stereotypical urban hoodlum (and by 'urban' I mean 'black', and by 'hoodlum' I mean 'one-scene TV knockoff').
"I'm Ender Wiggin." 
"Listen up, scrunchface.  You nobody.  Got that.  You nobody, got that?  You not anybody till you gots you first kill.  Got that?" 
The slang of the older boys had its own rhythm.  Ender picked it up quick enough.  "If I'm nobody, how come you cared to play me two out of three?"
Ender loses the first match, then:
They played again, and this time Ender was deft enough to pull off a few maneuvers that the boy had obviously never seen before.  His patterns couldn't cope with them.  Ender didn't win easily, but he won. 
The bigger boys stopped laughing and joking then.  The third game went in total silence.  Ender won it quickly and efficiently.
 There is a woman who went by the name limyaael, and she wrote this extremely valuable essay on "Moments when the protagonist awes other characters, curing the addiction to".  This scene gives us a little characterisation of the social order at Battle School, and a little sense of how Ender thinks, but more than either of those things it shows us the quiet smart kid who just sits back and watches and then when he gets his turn he is totally awesome and all the bigger boys have to shut up because they can't handle the truth.  Harmless 'nerd revenge' fantasy on its own, but this is only the first instance thereof, and it's only going to get worse, and for anyone who doesn't harbour their own nerd revenge fantasies, kind of incredibly boring.

So the boy whose arm Ender broke last chapter is Bernard, who is French and therefore an arrogant Separatist--no idea what this means, since he's probably not talking about Québec separatism.  (To my knowledge, Canada is never mentioned in these books.)  Maybe they want to separate from the EU, which apparently still exists in the same format centuries from now and which was largely born out of French diplomacy with Germany?  Whatever.  Bernard is King Bully of the class, and Ender watches and figures out who's who in his hierarchy, the lieutenants and the hangers-on and the people who actively resent him.

Ender's first potential ally is Shen, whom Bernard calls 'Worm' because he supposedly wriggles his butt when he walks.  (I'm going to do my best to ignore the homoerotic/homophobic subtext throughout this section.  I'm just going to note that 'he shakes his ass and it offends me' is a very specific thing to single someone out for.)  Ender plays with the student instant messaging system and cracks enough of the code to invent a new student identity, named God, for anonymity.  With this, he sends everyone the same message every 30 seconds: "Cover your butt.  Bernard is watching. --God".  Bernard freaks, sends a message to Ender accusing him, Ender plays it cool, Shen is just delighted.  Bernard's bullies torment Ender more over the following days; Ender ups the ante by figuring out a way of faking another's ID and sending a new message, this time when Dap is around:
I love your butt.  Let me kiss it. --Bernard
Bernard freaks harder; Dap is slightly amused and just says he knows who did it; Ender concludes that the teachers mean for the students to break into the system a little bit, which is why their security is literally weak enough for a six-year-old to crack.  His first clue was the root directory password.

Dap shuts Bernard down mid-rage, everyone laughs at him, and the next day Shen gleefully informs Ender that Bernard has been nicknamed 'Buttwatcher' and his power is broken and I guess the Rohirrim have driven the orcs out of the Pelennor Fields or something.  Only the most vicious kids are staying loyal to him.

(We can take this moment to note that Alai will pop into existence next chapter as one of Bernard's close friends who is also intelligent and highly compassionate.  Where is he in this chapter?  Where did he fit in Ender's observations of Bernard's hierarchy?  Was he built by monks to hold a cosmic key?  Whatever.)

The novel of Ender's Game is as old as I am, so I can understand Card not predicting the advent of cyber-bullying or that it would be a meaningful contributor to teenage suicide.  What I am less kindly disposed towards is the idea that bullying + MORE bullying = justice.

There are (at least) two ways to read this part of the chapter.  One version is that Ender was targeted for vicious treatment by a sadist who tried to turn everyone against him, but through the clever use of his brain instead of physical violence, Ender disassembled the sadist's social power and helped his victims.

The other version is that Ender broke another kid's arm for attacking him, FOR SOME REASON got ostracised by the rest of the class, and so retaliated with the help of computerised anonymity to make accusations of homosexuality (ha ha I lied) and promiscuity against that same kid to humiliate him and ostracise him instead.

Neither one of those stories is complete, but I think they're about equally true.  Ender and Shen become friends, and a couple of other kids join their table at lunch, all brought together by how much they hate Bernard and how much he totally deserved to get bullied.  This apparently comes as a shock to Card, but it turns out that you can't actually fight fire with fire without getting fire on your hands.  Ender is no less a bully than Bernard; he just picked a victim people resented even more than they resented Ender.

On the plus side, maybe now that Bernard has been dethroned, we can be done with the nerd revenge fantasies for a while and move on to--
Ender's isolation was over.  The war was just beginning.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I don't care who's born what way

"When did you choose to be queer?"
"Sometime in the spring of 2012.  I don't remember the month.  It was definitely a weekday, though."

I don't actually think 'choice' is particularly relevant to morality.  By which I mean that while it's vitally important to protect the right to choice (autonomy, self-identification, consent--these are not optional) I don't generally think something becomes more moral or less moral because it's a matter of choice.  And one of the most common places we see this is in talking about whether it's okay for lesbians to get with other ladies, or whether it's okay for trans men to transition, or et cetera et cetera heterocisnormativity.

"These people are choosing to act in unnatural ways!"
"But it's perfectly natural; they're born that way.  You don't choose to be straight, do you?"

No, stop, back up.  This is a derail, and it's one that we've spent too long allowing, and it's one that plays against the kinds of choice that are important, and it doesn't win us much anyway.

It doesn't matter if being queer is a choice.

It doesn't matter.

It's not a choice; anyone can tell you this, but that's not the point to fight.  What matters is that ending discrimination is a good thing, and allowing people to consensually love and marry and boff is a good thing, and allowing people to be themselves is a good thing.  The law already tells us who can consent to what and who can't.  Job done, game over, high scores all around.  It doesn't need to be any more complicated than that.

If we keep hyping up how important it is that there is no Queer Choice, we lose ground in two important ways.  First, we leave open the notion that if there were a choice involved, it might somehow become okay to discriminate against gay men because, after all, they decided not to conform.  (This just in: racism would still be stupid even if every human in the world had the power to snap their fingers and turn white.)  And secondly, it helps people who keep bringing up even stupider arguments, like arguing that marriage equality some kind of 'gateway right' and soon we'll be legalising incestuous marriages and sex with ducks.  As if the only reasons we have problems with those things are because they're 'unnatural', rather than obviously harmful and consent-unfriendly.

We know that people can have inborn tendencies toward terrible things that are totally unrelated to sex, so we have reason to think there are inborn tendencies towards terrible sexual things.  'Born that way' is not relevant to the morality.  Kleptomania is real; that doesn't make stealing morally appropriate (although it does have significant impacts on how people need to teach themselves and choose to respond and et cetera my point is not that mental illnesses are morally suspect either just so's we're clear on that).  Rape culture narratives tell us that men can't help being aggressive and hostile when they want to make with the boning, because they're 'born that way'.  To hell with 'born that way' as having relevance to sexual morality.  What matters is: does this hurt anyone and does it help anyone?  And all else equal, sex and gender queerness gets a pass on that.

There are plenty of bigots who have already fully embraced the 'born that way' aspect and still don't care.  From this we get the Side B Christians who believe that gay people exist but that it would still be wrong for them to act on their nature (the only kind of romantic/sexual attraction they experience) because apparently sometimes their Creator just likes to screw with them.  So even buying into 'born that way' doesn't actually guarantee any kind of acceptance; sometimes it just means they treat the desire of girls to kiss girls the same way they treat a heroin addiction.  Awesome.

In case I don't already bring this up enough: I'm bi.  (I am not pansexual, but I'm pretty sure this applies to anyone who is, too.)  I like girls enough that I was able to get through about 27 years without even acknowledging that I like guys too.  If anyone does have a choice, I do: I could probably limit myself to relationships with women and end up just about as happy as I would be if I considered both women and men.  If I date a guy, it's not going to be because I have no other choice, it's going to be because I've said okay, this is a thing I could try: let's run with it.  That's not immoral either.

And I'm no expert on trans issues, but it seems to me that a huge emphasis on being 'born that way' is of less-than-zero help to people who already have to fight to define their identity in any way other than according to the assumptions made by other people at the time of their birth.

'Born that way' is deterministic, and that's a problem for anyone who doesn't fit into the popular categories.  The people who have any kind of fluidity in their identity (attraction to more than one gender, or transition through more than one gender identity) already get sidelined constantly when it comes to the supposed rainbow of diversity.  There's no such thing as a 'bisexual relationship'--it's a superposition (to get quantum mechanical again), it's being in a state of appearing either straight or gay until suddenly you aren't.  I have genderqueer friends who've done their best to help me understand the idea of feeling male one day and female another and genderless a third, and suddenly 'born that way' isn't a checkbox but a probability distribution or a Venn diagram and it's still all harmless and it's still okay.

'Born that way' play into the idea that people don't change, can't change, shouldn't change, and I don't believe that, and I'm very done with ceding that point to bigots in the hopes that it will somehow encourage them to change.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Cat's Cradle Chapters 5-8

So a quick apology--I realized glancing over the last book club that I said chapters 6-8 for this week, apparently deciding 5 didn't exist. It however seems to be a really important chapter so I'm changing my mind and deciding it does, in fact, exist.

So, want to know my favorite part of writing about this book assuming you're reading along at home? I don't need to break down every single passage like I do with 50 Shades!

Alright--*rolls up imaginary sleeves*--let's get this show started!

Chapter 5 and 6 is a response from one of the members of Johna's karass Newt Hoenikker, the youngest son of Dr Felix Hoenikker. I imagine we will get to meet all three of the "good" doctors children, but we meet Newt first. He is in university, a member of the same frat as Johna was in his university days, and has just flunked out, and he tells us about the day the bomb dropped.

I want to take a moment here to say how much I love Vonnegut's writing, he gives us a letter talking about what happened and still managed to show, not tell. So we're given characterization of the Hoenikker family.

Newt describes the family dynamic: his Mother died in childbirth with him, so his sister Angela (22 at the time) is the head of the family and has devoted her entire life to caring for her father and brothers. She has one hobby, Newt tells us, the clarinet, other than that, her whole life is her family. Given the setting of this book that doesn't surprise me that we're meeting a sister-mommy*. His brother Frank, we're told, has been missing for about two years, and is described in slightly sociopathic terms. We hear about him putting bugs into jars, and shaking the jars to make the bugs fight, and punches his sister and laughs as she rolls around in pain crying.

His father was... well, Felix is an interesting case of innocence not equating morality. The man is the father of the atomic bomb and when testing, a co-worker turns to him and says "Science has now met sin." to which Felix's response is "What's sin?" Felix is described as a totally absent parent, needing to be coddled and cared for like a child both by his family and his employers. He seems uninterested in those around him, and works on things as they strike his fancy. We are given the impression that in his childish simplicity, he is quite happy: even though he is responsible for the atomic bomb, there is seemingly no guilt of it.

Newt tells us that his father never played with him as a kid, and the day of the bomb was the first time he had tried to. Newt was playing with trucks on the carpet (or so he assumes, since his sister has commented he often did that) while his father played with a bit of string from a manuscript sent to him by a man in prison. The man was looking for ideas of what kind of bomb he should use, but we're told that Felix never read anything that wasn't a scientific journal (which I think is the most vilifying thing I've ever seen Vonnegut write about a character) and so he probably never read it, he just liked the string. He was making a cat's cradle (title drop!) and decided that he would sit and play with little Newt. So he sits next to his youngest son and starts shoving this bit of string in his face singing an adapted version of "rock a bye baby". Newt tells us that he remembers his father reeking of cigars and looking absolutely terrifying and ran away crying, frightened by his father.

Newt, being 6, finds his brother fighting bugs and is fascinated by that because, well, 6 year old boy. Angela later comes out looking for him and scolds Newt for running away from their father, saying that he hurt him terribly. I want to dwell on this a moment, since, well, Felix has never really taken time to play with his six year old son, ever. He does so on a whim and is hurt when he scares the child so much that he runs away crying. Felix, on top of being oblivious, is deeply self-centered. Angela and Newt start fighting, because Newt keeps just calling his father ugly and scary and saying he hates him, and Angela slaps him. This at first was shocking to me, and adult-Newt seems totally blase writing it, but then I remembered time-context, so I won't read too much into it. Angela is supposed to be emotional about it as she screams that their father just won the war, but we're not supposed to see her as bad for slapping a child, largely because of how she's been forced into the sister-mommy role. This is the point Frank gut-punches her and she rolls around in pain, calling to their father for help. He pokes his head out, but as Frank predicted, no interference comes. Newt tells us that he never even asked about the event after the fact.

Chapter 7 and 8 are about Newt as an adult. His post-scripts, telling us that his family is not "illustrious" with him being a midget (I am aware it's not a great term, but it's what the book uses) and his brother Frank being wanted by the FBI, Florida police, and Treasury Department for running stolen cars to Cuba. He suggests that perhaps "glamorous" is a more fitting word. Newt also tells us though he has flunked out of school and is no longer a frat-member, he is still happy, and mentions he is getting married soon. Johna then tells us that Newt married a Ukrainian dancer named Zinka. This was fine until shortly after the wedding Newt discovered she was not 23 as she had said but 42. Old enough to be his Mother. Newt says that he has no regrets and the matter is between him and Zinka, but the media is, well, the media. I'm not quite sure what to make of this, to be honest. It feels a touch random, but I think this is meant to give us a frame of reference for Newt so we can decide if he is a reliable narrator (since he does narrate two chapters in his letter) or perhaps is just to give us closure on what happened to the character. If I look at it as determining the reliability of the narrator, than I would say that Newt seems reliable. He doesn't lie- he simply refuses to talk about the things he doesn't wish to talk about, and so I would say that his willingness to speak means he is willing to tell the whole truth.

What do you make of these characters? Do you think I'm over or underestimating Felix, or getting chapters 7 and 8 wrong with my interpretation of Newt? I admit I'm a little miffed on how to interpret that one. 

On the 26th we'll cover chapters 9-12. Tune in Thursday for 50 Shades!

*I use the term sister-mommy because of an old English teacher of mine, and I now think she may have coined the term for the trope because I can't find a TV-tropes page to quite fit what I want. I linked to promoted to parent because it was the closest, but sister-mommy means something a little different. It's the case of an older sister having to step into a mother role for her younger siblings and basically give up their own lives/freedom/wants to take care of them. The sister-mommy is usually shown to be a sympathetic if not admirable and pitiable character. From the little of Angela I've seen so far this seems spot on.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

50 Shades Darker Chapter 16 in which Erika gives up halfway through and tries a new approach.

This chapter picks up where the last left off, with Jack sexually harassing Ana. The scene is entirely over the top to the point where I think Jack might actually be some monster from beyond the veil that Grey summoned and forgot about and is now bent on VENGEANCE! It's the only way to explain why Jack thinks trying to coerce the girlfriend of Christian Grey, CEO and all around big-shot, is a good idea. I mentioned in the comments of last weeks chapter the bit in How To Succeed in Business Without Even Trying, the guidebook says that "the smaller the secretarial skills, the bigger her protector at the company", which comes into play when figuring out who is and is not safe to try and have sex with. Jack knows he has a reputation, and he knows that Ana is dating a man of great power and wealth. Any power he thinks he has over her (she is his underling, after all) should be tempered by the fact that many women would run home and tell their boyfriends about this, and her boyfriend is Grey. A man wealthy and connected enough that Jack should worry, but, he doesn't. So, monster.

He takes a step toward me, glaring at me, his eyes never leaving mine. His pupils are dilating as I watch—the black eclipsing the blue. Oh no. My fear escalates.

See? His eyes are turning black. Classic creepy monster transformation.

So Jack accuses Ana of starting to suck at her job because of her boyfriend "leading her astray" and then says he went through her e-mails and noticed the only personal ones were from her "hot-shot-boyfriend" but there were no responses from him! Why were none of his emails on the database? SHE IS CLEARLY A SPY! Which makes no fucking sense because about a paragraph before he comments that he had to fight to get Ana as opposed to someone more qualified for the job. Although: remember how bitchy Grey was last chapter about Ana not using her blackberry to email him? ZOMG FORESHADOWING! But why is he responding to her emails to her work email rather than her personal one so it only goes to her blackberry if it's that important to him? Hm.

Jack continues, enjoying my discomfort. “And he thinks I’d make a pass at you?” He smirks and his eyes heat. “Well, I want you to think about something while I’m in New York. I gave you this job, and I expect you to show me some gratitude. In fact, I’m entitled to it. I had to fight to get you. Elizabeth wanted someone better qualified, but I—I saw something in you. So, we need to work out a deal. A deal where you keep me happy. D’you understand what I’m saying, Ana?”

Yes, that is what he means, Ana. So, this is the gist of it. Jack is trying to blackmail Ana for sex. BECAUSE THAT COULDN'T POSSIBLY BACKFIRE AT ALL! According to Jack, Grey is well connected enough to be able to get the New York trip candled. Jack believes this to be true. So, Jack is aware that Grey is so well connected he can influence things within PIP. He can threaten to find out what Grey did all he likes--Grey can act so fast that Jack would be out of a job before he could do anything with that information, assuming he could even dredge it up fast enough. All Ana has to do is say "He touched me" and BAM. Jack is at the bottom of a lake or some shit. I have no idea how Jack thinks this will work out for him.

Jack moves closer until he’s standing right in front of me, staring down into my eyes. His cloying sweet cologne invades my nostrils—it’s nauseating—and if I’m not mistaken, the bitter stench of alcohol is on his breath. Fuck, he’s been drinking . . . when?
“You are such a tight-assed, cock-blocking, prick tease, you know, Ana,” he whispers through clenched teeth.
What? Prick tease . . . Me?

OHMYGOD. Why is she thinking "What, the drunk surly crazy man thinks I'm a prick tease? I am shocked and confounded! My virtue as a virginal vixen is hurt!" as opposed to... anything else? Also Ana's reactions have been spliced with "I think I'm going to faint", "Okay, Ray taught me well, if he lays a finger on me/breathes too close fucker is going down" and "Is security in the building yet?" I can't say that I've been in Ana's situation, my own experiences with sexual harassment left a lot more room for potential gaslighting after the fact, but I do understand that "Oh God I'm going to throw up, kick this dude in the balls and then run away crying and hope someone rushes to my rescue", "maybe if I just remind him his cab should be here and his shit is ready to go he'll leave me alone?" thought when someone is being threatening. The way she goes through these thoughts are weird, unnatural, vain and self-absorbed because Ana is all of those things. That base "I AM FEELING SO MANY THINGS AT ONCE" however... That rings true. On the upside, at least there hasn't been a peep from her inner goddess or subconscious!

So, Jack goes for the creepy face stroke and lingering hand on her collarbone, needling Ana to admit that she "wants him" and Ana... reacts admirably.

I grab his little finger, and twist it back, pulling it sharply down backward to his hip....
I bring my knee, swift and hard, up into his groin, and make perfect contact with my goal. I dodge deftly to my left as his knees buckle, and he collapses with a groan onto the kitchen floor, grasping himself between his legs.
“Don’t you ever touch me again,” I snarl at him. “Your itinerary and the brochures are packaged on my desk. I am going home now. Have a nice trip. And in the future, get your own damn coffee.”

I'd cheer for her more if she actually did her job. My boss would sometimes ask me to grab him coffee, which I didn't think anything of because, well, 9 times out of 10 I was going to grab myself tea anyways. The 10th time? He always asked nicely, so meh. However when HIS boss, who I have absolutely nothing to do with spent a day snarling at me and then sent me to fetch him lunch without so much as a please... that pissed me off. But I couldn't say shit because, well, boss's boss and all that. However, I write this as a cook. Ana is a personal assistant. I would imagine things like "get coffee and lunch" are in her job description. So she bitches about getting him coffee, having to read all those big scary manuscripts, is constantly taking breaks/emailing her boyfriend/texting... Yeah, Ana, Jack may be a huge skeeze but you're not even trying to be good at your job.

So, Ana (reasonably) then SPRINTS out of the building (although surprisingly does grab her purse and coat first) and then all the adrenaline drains away and she remembers that she hasn't eaten and just sort of sags to the ground. Since Grey was going to pick her up from work anyway he is naturally there.

Christian sinks to his knees at my side, and on some unconscious level, all I can think is: He’s here. My love is here.


So Grey is freaking out because he just saw Ana collapse (reasonable) and is looking her over for injuries because it takes her a minute to actually start talking. Once she does Grey goes from "ZOMG ARE YOU OKAY" to "MURDERNATE MODE ON!" which rubs me the wrong way. I wasn't sure at first, I've commented on getting the appeal of "here is my super wealthy, powerful, and sexy boyfriend who can actually help me when dealing with sexual harassment at work!" but when he flips to blind rage to the point that Ana gets scared FOR Jack (the man she just left writhing on the ground in agony) and begs him not to go... It reminds me of a conversation I had with an old co-worker of mine. We had somehow gotten onto rape culture (I didn't even start the conversation this time, honest) and he commented that his girlfriend and best friend had waited until a guy moved before telling him that this dude had raped them both.

He seemed almost proud of it. I mean, I get the "I am man and will protect my loved ones NO MATTER WHAT RAAAAAHHH" but I was miffed that he was proud of himself for behaving in such a way that was stressing out people who wanted to turn to him in a time of need were afraid to because they were afraid he'd get himself in trouble. Wasn't that appropriating their trauma and making things harder on loved ones? Shouldn't protecting loved ones be as much about protecting their psychological state as their physical one? Much to his credit, when I put it that way he was absolutely horrified of the actions of past him. Grey would not be horrified if it was pointed out he was appropriating Ana's trauma and maybe making it worse by not listening to what she is asking for (also bear in mind Grey doesn't know what happened, just that Jack did something). So, Grey's anger, once again, is more important than Ana's feelings in the face of her own trauma.

“Don’t go in. Don’t, Christian.” Suddenly my fear is back, fear of what Christian will do to Jack.
“Get in the car,” he barks at me.
“Christian, no.” I grab his arm.
“Get in the goddamned car, Ana.” He shakes me off.
“No! Please!” I plead with him. “Stay. Don’t leave me on my own.” I deploy my ultimate weapon.

Remember what I said about Ana not being able to just ask for what she wants and having to be very manipulative in how she asks? Yeah.

“Christian, he has my e-mails.”
“My e-mails to you. He wanted to know where your e-mails to me were. He was trying to blackmail me.”
Christian’s look is murderous. Oh shit. “Fuck!” he splutters and narrows his eyes at me. He punches a number into his Blackberry.
Oh no. I’m in trouble.

YUP THIS IS DEFINITELY THE WAY TO HANDLE SOMEONE WHO IS OBVIOUSLY TRAUMATIZED! Grey makes two phone calls, one to an IT guy* and one to the owner of the company to get the e-mails wiped and to get Jack fired RIGHT THIS SECOND or he's liquidating the company! Jack was literally on his way to a big important conference that now has no one going to represent the company because of this, by the way. How is Grey successful? Right, black magic.

“Blackberry,” he hisses at me through clenched teeth.
“Please don’t be mad at me.” I blink up at him.
“I am so mad at you right now,” he snarls and once more sweeps his hand through his hair. “Get in the car.”
“Christian, please—”
“Get in the fucking car, Anastasia, or so help me I’ll put you in there myself,” he threatens, his eyes blazing with fury.
Oh shit. “Don’t do anything stupid, please,” I beg.
STUPID!” he explodes. “I told you to use your fucking Blackberry. Don’t talk to me about stupid. Get in the motherfucking car, Anastasia—NOW!” he snarls and a frisson of fear runs through me. This is Very Angry Christian. I’ve not seen him this mad before. He’s barely holding on to his self-control.
“Okay,” I mutter, placating him. “But please, be careful.”
Pressing his lips together in a hard line, he points angrily to the car, glaring at me.
Jeez, okay, I get the message.

Holy fucking shit. Grey is actually kind of terrifying here, and I just want to take Ana aside, sit her down for some tea and talk about how this is Not Okay and abuse does not mean love. This is not how you should treat people you love. This is how you treat people you want to abuse. He's calling Ana stupid and implying Jack trying to blackmail her is her own fault. And yet, as stated earlier, he could have just replied to her personal e-mail address (which her blackberry is synced to) to bully her into using that instead of just constantly responding to her work e-mail and enabling that. I'm not saying he should HAVE to do this, but if he's going to go around screaming at her for being stupid in broad daylight on a street corner maybe he should consider more productive responses that are not blatantly abusive and terrifying?

So Grey goes in, and Jack comes out with a security guard and a box of his crap. Grey and Taylor then get in the car and we are on our way!

“Are you talking to me?” I ask quietly.
Christian glances at me, before fixing his eyes back on the road ahead, and I can tell he’s still mad.
“No,” he mutters sullenly.
Oh, there we go . . . how childish. I wrap my arms around myself and stare unseeing out the window. Perhaps I should just ask him to drop me off at my apartment, then he can
“not talk” to me from the safety of Escala and save us both the inevitable quarrel. But even as I think it, I know I don’t want to leave him to brood, not after yesterday.

I remember when The Boy and I were long distance, he called me and asked what he felt was an innocent enough question, and I did not. It led to a fight, and since we were long distance it was over the phone and I was just getting more and more angry, as was he. I stopped mid-sentence and said "You know what? We're just pissing each other off. I'll talk to you later." and then after we had both had time to cool off and sort out our thoughts we tried to have the conversation again and figured out where the upset had come from. I later told my Dad about this and he laughed, commenting that the art of fighting productively is not one people put nearly enough stock into. So I actually think telling Grey point blank "If you're not going to talk to me how about I go home and we can have this conversation when we both have a cooler head?" would actually be an AWESOME idea. I've commented on Ana being a slow-burn before, time-out during a fight is important to slow-burns. However Ana's reasoning isn't "this is a conversation we should have with less charged emotions" and is "I don't want to leave him alone because he was sad last night" and it shows just how effective Grey's emotional manipulation is and now I'm sad.

So they go into the elevator and Ana asks why he's so mad at her. His answer is basically "YOU KNOW WHY IF SOMETHING HAD HAPPENED TO YOU I'D HAVE MURDERED HIM! AS IT IS I WILL ONLY RUIN HIS CAREER. YOU KNOW, SO HE CAN'T TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ANYONE ELSE!" and... this freaks me out a little bit. There is a lot of data out there that says attempted rape can be as traumatic as rape, and what happened to Ana was definitely sexual harassment, if not assault (sexual assault is a word I'm never quite sure of the boundaries on, so someone correct or confirm me here). As someone who has been assaulted, I can say that that fucking counts as something happening to you. Also, again, it is about HIM, not her, when she's the one who was just cornered and threatened. Then there is this.

He shakes his head. “Jesus, Ana!” He grabs me suddenly, imprisoning me in the corner of the elevator.
His hands fist in my hair as he pulls my face up to his, and his mouth is on mine, a passionate desperation in his kiss. I don’t know why this takes me by surprise, but it does. I taste his relief, his longing, and his residual anger while his tongue possesses my mouth. He stops, gazing down at me, resting his weight against me so I can’t move.

OH MY GOD I HATE YOU SO MUCH GREY. SO FUCKING MUCH. Lets go over the list of what happened to Ana earlier: She was cornered, trapped, leered at, held accountable for someone else's feelings and expectations of her relationship to their dick, and manhandled a little bit. What did Grey just do? ALL OF THOSE THINGS. That- I just-


Moving on before I burst an artery. They get back to Grey's place and he's happy now that he has gotten to have his out burst and Ana has meekly agreed she will forever use her blackberry. Grey then goes off to call the IT guy back because... well, he found something on Jack's computer! We don't know what yet. Then there's this.

“What’s wrong?” Christian asks.
“I don’t know if I still have a job.”
He cocks his head to the side. “Do you still want one?”
“Of course.”
“Then you still have one.”
Simple. See? He is master of my universe. I roll my eyes at him and he smiles.

Grey has not asked "Are you okay?" by the way, just when he was trying to figure out why Ana had suddenly collapsed onto the sidewalk. This also just... ugh. PRIVILEGE! Moving on, Ana tries to figure out what Barney found, and Grey won't tell her (Cuddle porn is my bet. Jack seemed like a cuddler.) so she instead starts to tell him that Jose will be in town on Friday and he's crashing with Ana. So either he's staying there at Grey's place with her, or at her own place.

“What exactly are you asking?”
I bristle. “I’m not asking anything. I’m informing you of my plans for Friday. Look, I want to see José, and he wants to stay over. Either he stays here or he can stay at my place, but if he does I should be there, too.”
Christian’s eyes widen. He looks dumbfounded.
“He made a pass at you.”
“Christian, that was weeks ago. He was drunk, I was drunk, you saved the day—it won’t happen again. He’s no Jack, for heaven’s sake.”

I give up. Tamaki, you take it from here for a bit.

 “He’s my friend, Christian. I haven’t seen him since his show. And that was too brief. I know you don’t have any friends, apart from that god-awful woman, but I don’t moan about you seeing her,” I snap. Christian blinks, shocked. “I want to see him. I’ve been a poor friend to him.” My subconscious is alarmed. Are you stamping your little foot? Steady now!

“Think about what?”
“Elena. You’d rather I didn’t see her?”
Holy cow. “Exactly. I’d rather you didn’t see her.”
“Why didn’t you say?”
“Because it’s not my place to say. You think she’s your only friend.” I shrug in exasperation. He really doesn’t get it. How did this turn into a conversation about her?

“Are you okay?” he whispers into my hair.
“After what happened with that fucker? After what happened yesterday?” he adds, his voice quiet and earnest.

I gaze into dark, serious, gray eyes. Am I okay? “Yes,” I whisper.

 Christian is still working. I have showered and dressed in some sweats and a T-shirt of my own, and I’m bored. I don’t want to read. If I sit still, I’ll recall Jack and his fingers on me.

Back down the hallway I find myself outside the playroom, and without thinking, I try the door handle. Christian normally keeps it locked, but to my surprise, the door opens. How strange. Feeling like a child playing hooky and straying into the forbidden forest, I walk in.
Tentatively I run my fingers over the belts, the floggers, the paddles, and the whips. Sheesh. This is what I need to square with Dr. Flynn. Can someone in this lifestyle just stop? It seems so improbable.

Christian is standing in the doorway, staring at me, his face unreadable. How long has he been there? I feel like I’ve been caught with my hand in the cookie jar.

And we all know how well getting caught with her hand in the literal cookie jar went for her last time.

“You’re not mad?” I whisper, using my remaining breath.
He cocks his head to one side, and his lips twitch in amusement.
“Why would I be mad?”
“I feel like I’m trespassing . . . and you’re always mad at me.” My voice is quiet, though I’m relieved. Christian’s brow creases once more.
“Yes, you’re trespassing, but I’m not mad. I hope that one day you’ll live with me here, and all this”—he gestures vaguely round the room with one hand—“will be yours, too.”

"Even The Great American Challenge?"

“Am I angry with you all the time? I wasn’t this morning.”
Oh, that’s true. I smile at the memory of Christian when we woke, and it distracts me from the thought of what will become of the playroom. He was such fun Fifty this morning.
“You were playful. I like playful Christian.”

This reminds me of The Boy saying things like "I like affectionate Erika. She's less bitey." This happens often enough that it has prompted people to ask if there was an adjective-Erika that wasn't bitey at all. The answer is no. It just means I like you! Or I'm hungry. Or hello.

So Ana starts asking what different things are.

“This is for me?” I whisper.
“For you.” He nods slowly.
“This is the butt drawer?”
He smirks. “If you like.”

Now I'm sad that I don't have a butt drawer. Not for sexy reasons, just because I think having a drawer full of butt stuff would be adequately hilarious.

I swallow, and to divert his attention, pull out a device that looks like a spiky pastry cutter.
“This?” I frown. No baking in the playroom, surely.

This sounds like a docker to me. Meant to be used on bread more than pastry, mind you.

“You have power over me. You know you do,” I whisper.
“Do I? You make me feel . . . helpless.”
“No!” Oh Fifty . . . “Why?”
“Because you’re the only person I know who could really hurt me.” He reaches up and tucks my hair behind my ear.

Do we have to take a break from Ana trying to figure out what anal beads are for Grey to demand she re-affirm his feelings again?

“Ana, you were nearly attacked today.” His voice is soft but ice-cold and wary.
“So?” I ask, enjoying the feel of his hand at my back and his proximity. He pulls his head back and scowls down at me.
“What do you mean, ‘so?’ ” he rebukes.
I gaze up into his lovely, grumpy face, and I’m dazzled.
“Christian, I’m fine.”
He wraps me in his arms, holding me close. “When I think what might have happened,” he breathes, burying his face in my hair.
“When will you learn that I’m stronger than I look?”

Points for checking in, but don't ask "are you sure? Are you sure you're sure?" because that shit is exhausting dude.

“Ana, you may be ready to go back in there, but I’m not. Last time we were in there, you left me. I keep telling you—when will you understand?” He frowns, releasing me so that he can gesticulate with his free hand.
“My whole attitude has changed as a result. My whole outlook on life has radically shifted. I’ve told you this. What I haven’t told you is—” He stops and runs his hand through
his hair, searching for the correct words. “I’m like a recovering alcoholic, okay? That’s the only comparison I can draw. The compulsion has gone, but I don’t want to put temptation in my way. I don’t want to hurt you.”

He looks so remorseful, and in that moment, a sharp nagging pain lances through me. What have I done to this man? Have I improved his life? He was happy before he met me, wasn’t he? 

I'm pretty sure they have this exact conversation in Twilight.

 “Do you want me to fuck you on the stairs?” he mutters, his breathing ragged. “Because right now, I will.”
“Yes,” I murmur and I’m sure my dark gaze matches his.
He glares at me, his eyes hooded and heavy. “No. I want you in my bed.” He scoops me up suddenly over his shoulder, making me squeal, loudly, and smacks me hard on my behind, so that I squeal again. As he heads down the stairs, he stoops to pick up the fallen spreader bar.
Mrs. Jones is coming out of the utility room when we pass through the hall. She smiles at us, and I give her an apologetic upside-down wave. I don’t think Christian notices her.

I kind of love the idea of if they did start fucking on the stairs, Mrs. Jones walking in on them.

So let the fucking begin! They go back to Grey's room, and asks if she can touch him and undo his buttons/kiss his torso. Again, Ana is stopping to ask consent at each point and I kind of love it. She also comments that it's getting easier for him to be touched.

I know what I do to him, and it’s hedonistic, liberating, and sexy as hell. The feeling is heady, I’m not just powerful—I’m omniscient.

“When do I not behave?”
“I can think of a few infractions,” he says softly, running his fingers up the soles of my feet. It tickles, but the bar holds me in place, though I try to writhe away from his fingers.
“Your Blackberry, for one.”
I gasp. “What are you going to do?”

Okay, I've lost count of how many times we've had Grey pull the "I AM GOING TO BRING UP SOMETHING I'M MAD AT YOU FOR DURING SEX" thing. I feel it happens every time now.

And the award for least sexy sentence this chapter goes to!

Bending over, he kisses my belly, soft, sucky kisses

Belly and tummy are words that make me uncomfortable when they're in a sexy situation. Sucky is not a real word nor should it be.

“You are mine.” His voice is soft and deadly and with one last flick of his tongue, I fall—spectacularly—embracing my orgasm, and because my legs are so far apart, it goes on and on and I am lost.

Seriously, we get it. Grey owns Ana, and Ana has orgasms that are so powerful they open portals to other worlds so Grey can summon extra dimensional horrors through them.

So Grey is now fully utilizing the spreader bar, and has now fastened Ana's ankles and wrists together.

My knees are drawn up, my ass in the air, utterly vulnerable, completely his.
“Ana, you look so beautiful.” His voice is full of wonder, and I hear the rip of foil.

Wasn't there a whoooole lot of BS around Ana's birth control so they could stop using condoms?

“When you’re ready, I want this, too.” His finger is hovering over me. I gasp loudly as I feel myself tense under his gentle probing. “Not today, sweet Ana, but one day . . . I want you every way. I want to possess every inch of you. You’re mine.”

"I paid an extra 20 dollars for the Virginal Vixen Deluxe fuck toy and I plan to get my money's worth!" The not-deluxe version had a mop for hair. 

I can do this. He
takes me to these dark places, places I didn’t know existed, and together we fill them with blinding light. Oh yes . . . blazing, blinding light.

What the hell does that even mean?

So, they fuck, they both finish and it's noisy and they rip a hole in the Space Time Continuum and then they nap. Ana briefly surfaces from her nap with horrible beasts rampaging around and Grey telling her to never let go, but since Ana is apparently concussed it's hard for her. (Some of this may be me taking liberties).

“I need you,” he whispers, but his voice is a distant, ethereal part of my dreams. He needs me . . . needs me . . . and as I finally slip into the darkness, my last thoughts are of a small boy with gray eyes and dirty, messy, copper-colored hair smiling shyly at me.

Why does she keep picturing a man she has SUPER SEXY THOUGHTS about as a kid? Is this to further add to his Oedipus complex? Is it condoning it? It ties together in ways that make me feel icky. That brings us to the end of this week's chapter, tune in Sunday for this weeks book-club and as always, leave your thoughts on this cluster fuck in the comments! Also you can follow me on twitter @SnappyErika for updates on the blog, snark, silliness, and what ever social justice thing catches my eye! Until Sunday my dears!

*My Dad, being Mr. Business Dude, would often go on about how important it was to win over the techies in the company. He then added on that if you had nothing to do with hiring them (though he often did) the next best way to do this was to feed them. I know there are a handful that to this day, even though he's moved to a different province, he's stayed friends with. I now have the mental image of Grey trying to bribe the IT guys into liking him with food and it delights me.

**For nerd reasons I now have a collection of Tamaki .gifs and images. They will probably start turning up often because there are so many.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ender's Game, chapter four, in which Ender Wiggin becomes the blatant reader-fantasy-insert

Before we get down to this week's unrelenting horrors in Smarterthanyouville (Population: Ender Wiggin, Not You, Neener) I want to make sure everyone's seen last week's Sunday post, the very first Book Club post on Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle.  The whole point of the Book Club is to get more interactive discussion going (as opposed to these Ender's Game posts where it's more like I've done some kind of hideous dissection experiment for science and now I'm delivering my findings to my learned peers for their review), so if you have ever had thoughts about Cat's Cradle or Vonnegut or the fundamental purpose of religion, get over there and share them.  SHARE MORE THAN YOU ARE COMFORTABLE WITH SHARING.  That is how we do, 'round these parts.

(Content: bullying, physical violence, reference to suicide.  Fun content: Manly Rules of Warfare, a consideration of how Card is to Ender as Meyer is to Edward.)

Ender's Game, p. 27--36
Chapter Four: Launch

We begin with the Faceless Powers That Be discussing how important it is for Ender to be simultaneously isolated so that he doesn't just adopt the same kind of system everyone else lives by and lose his creativity, but also to keep him integrated with the other students (so he learns how to be A Leader).
"I'll have him completely separated from the rest of the boys by the time we get to the School." 
"I have no doubt of it.  I'll be waiting for you to get here.  I watched the vids of what he did to the Stilson boy.  This is not a sweet little kid you're bringing up here." 
"That's where you're mistaken.  He's even sweeter than he looks.  But don't worry. We'll purge that in a hurry."
Just in case we forgot that Ender is not merely a murderer, but also the pinnacle of benevolence and virtue.  Since Graff already knows Ender is perfectly willing to use lethal force (at least when he doesn't know it's lethal, which is all part of their plan), I'm not sure what sweetness they intend to break him of.  I suspect, based on various things, that they mean he's too nice to his friends, and he will need to be more of a stoic hardass in order to be a good commander.  Possibly true, commanders do need to make painful decisions with conviction, but it feels surreal to be discussing that in regards to someone proven willing to kill.

I'm also kind of vexed by the implication that the normal training system is broken (or at least not good enough) and so it's vitally important to make sure Ender gets special treatment.  Partly this bugs me because it's more all about how special and important Ender is, and how even when he goes to a school for impossible geniuses he has to go in Abusive For The Greater Good Advanced Placement.  The other reason it bugs me is that it means the administrators like Graff already believe that the current 'system' is not as good as it could be, but they're not apparently trying to make it any better.  They're not trying to improve the training of any of their other students because it's all about Ender.  And it's not like these are footsoldiers--Battle School kids, as we were told last time, are the best and brightest of everything, and we've just been reminded that Ender will rely on them as subordinates in the coming war, so why does Graff not care if the current Battle School culture is giving them inferior training?

Anyway.  The chapter opens with some competent sci-fi of the twenty boys (including Ender) getting into the shuttle to go to Battle School.  There are video crews filming them leaving, which seems kind of weird--Battle School has hundreds of students and has been operating for decades, so shouldn't this type of thing be incredibly routine?  We will still have slow news days in the future, I guess.  Ender doesn't talk to the other boys, who are joking with each other--he doesn't think less of them, but he can't think of how to join in, so he stays apart.  He does talk amiably with Graff, who reveals himself to be the Administrator (principal) of Battle School, and Ender thinks about how glad he is that he will have a friend there.  Ender is six and doesn't know what foreshadowing is because he was too busy learning the rules of manly warfare (Rule #5: If this is your first night at Xenocide Club, you have to xenocide).

There's a fairly involved physical description that I always find confusing, so I will summarise rather than quoting directly.  The shuttle stands upright on its launch pad, so the kids walk inside and then climb a ladder up the aisle to their seats, which are facing upward toward space.  Ender notices that the walls tend to be carpeted as well so they're easy to walk on regardless of which way the shuttle orients itself in a gravitational field.  He starts playing gravity games in his head, imagining that he has to keep a strong grip on his seat to avoid falling upward and out into the sky, or picturing the shuttle clinging to the bottom of the world and preparing not to launch but to plummet.  Inertial reference frames are fun!  On this, Ender and I do not disagree.

The shuttle launches, they rapidly escape Earth's gravitational field and become weightless, and Graff appears again, climbing 'upside-down' along the ladder and then flipping himself around because it's zero-G and you can do that.  Some kids start retching from the nausea of reorientation.  Ender just thinks it's funny, and giggles when he imagines opposite gravity so that Graff is standing on his head, so to speak.

"What do you think is so funny, Wiggin? [....]  I asked you a question, soldier!" 
Oh, yes.  This is the beginning of the training routine.  Ender had seen some military shows on TV, and they always shouted a lot at the beginning of training before the soldiers and the officer became good friends.
Ender explains how he amused himself by mentally rotating gravity as a god would do, and Graff seems like he's going to rip into Ender for not being serious, but this book is too smart for anything that obvious.

"Scumbrains, that's what we've got in this launch.  Pinheaded little morons.  Only one of you had the brains to realize that in null gravity directions are whatever you conceive them to be.  Do you understand that, Shafts?" 
The boy nodded. 
"No you didn't.  Of course you didn't.  Not only stupid, but a liar too.  There's only one boy on this launch with any brains at all, and that's Ender Wiggin.  Take a good look at him, little boys.  He's going to be a commander when you're still in diapers up there.  Because he knows how to think in null gravity, and you just want to throw up." 
This wasn't the way the show was supposed to go.  Graff was supposed to pick on him, not set him up as the best.  They were supposed to be against each other at first, so they could become friends later.
This part is an interesting parallel to the real world, and for a fair number of readers, probably familiar.  If you're the smart kid in class, or the good kid, someone who behaves, and your classmates are not, any teacher who tries to set you up as the example to follow is often just painting a target on your back.  Role models we don't choose for ourselves are an imposition, not a support.  If this is a book for people who think they're smarter than everyone else, a book for gifted kids who resent the unwashed masses, then this moment barely feels exaggerated: the teacher just told everyone that you're awesome and they suck, which is obviously objectively true, but now you're going to suffer for their shortcomings.  Card knows his audience.

Graff leaves, some other kids snark at Ender, who is flummoxed but tries to distance himself from it, and then the kid in the seat behind him starts smacking him on the head.  Ender tries to suffer in silence, Graff does nothing, and Ender realises that this hostility is exactly what Graff wanted to create, because Ender is a super-genius, but all of the other super-geniuses sitting around haven't given that any thought at all because they aren't viewpoint characters.  Ender decides that, since Graff wanted this, he is once again On His Own, and so he waits, figures out the timing of the kid smacking him in the head from behind, and the next time a blow is incoming, Ender grabs the arm and yanks.  Ender has forgotten about the null-gravity thing and so his assailant hurtles through the air and slams into a distant wall, badly.   (Manly Rule of Warfare #37: If someone taps out or demonstrates that the author's military philosophy is the absolute truth, the fight is over.)  Graff arrives instantly and a medic starts first-aiding the kid's busted arm.
Ender felt sick.  He had only meant to catch the boy's arm.  No.  No, he had meant to hurt him, and had pulled with all his strength.  He hadn't meant it to be so public, but the boy was feeling exactly the pain Ender had meant him to feel.  Null gravity had betrayed him, that was all.  I am Peter.  I'm just like him.  And Ender hated himself.
'Peter' continues for some reason to be shorthand for 'incredibly violent outbursts', despite all on-page evidence suggesting that Peter's violence is premeditated, easy to predict, and seemingly has never left a lasting injury.  (Again, I'm not saying Peter is a stand-up guy, but these aren't minor distinctions.)  Maybe Peter has done this type of thing, but if so, we've never seen it.  And if 'Peter' here actually just means means 'sadist', then Ender's recriminations are weird, because he seems to think that 'hitting someone harder than you meant to' is the same as 'cackling hell demon'.  Violence is bad, discipline is good, but context matters.  Does Ender hate himself for occasionally having a fleeting desire to cause pain?  Because I have a lot of those too, but I have not murdered anybody, so I think he's focusing on the wrong facet of his morality, y'know?  Worry about causing harm, not about wanting to cause harm.  Inner purity won't actually get you very far in practical situations.

Graff tells the other kids, again, that they suck.
"You were brought here to be soldiers.  [....]  And when I tell you Ender Wiggin is the best in this launch, take the hint, my little dorklings.  Don't mess with him.  Little boys have died in Battle School before.  Do I make myself clear?" 
There was silence the rest of the launch.  The boy sitting next to Ender was scrupulously careful not to touch him. 
I am not a killer, Ender said to himself over and over again.  I am not Peter.  No matter what Graff says, I'm not.  I was defending myself.  I bore it a long time.  I was patient.  I am not what he said.
Not Peter: confirmed.  Not a killer: *bzzt*.  We will eventually find out that the one previous death in Battle School was a suicide, which is not remotely surprising given that this is apparently how they treat six-year-old children.

This last bit really highlights the false dilemma that keeps ruining everything around Ender: the only responses he seems to be able to imagine are 'take all the suffering right in the face', or 'destroy them and burn their crops and hear the lamentations of their goats'.  Bear it and be patient, or default to murder.  I get that he's supposed to be malleable, but he instantly and completely assumes that there is never any help from anywhere and his enemies are completely implacable, on the basis that someone told him so.*

They arrive at Battle School; Ender is the last one to leave the shuttle and confronts Graff, who explains that Ender should not count on him to be a friend because his job is to make the perfect general and subordinates.  (There's a bit about 'Napoleon lost and Alexander died young and Caesar made himself dictator', which I can't read without hearing Meyer talking about how much better Edward is than Romeo and Tristan and Rhett.  This might be a comparison we come back to in future.)  Graff tells him outright: "There's only one thing that will make them stop hating you, and that's being so good at what you do that they can't ignore you."

And... well, no.  Anyone who's ever had any luck with that strategy is welcome to speak up, but that is not how things work in my experience: being awesome at what you do hopefully gives you the freedom to get the hell away from the jackwagons and only hang out with decent people, but I am skeptical that any bully has ever thought "Wow, that kid I torment regularly is way smarter than I thought; clearly we should be friends". Part of the problem here is that Graff's advice doesn't even logically flow--he's telling Ender that being awesome will make him impossible to ignore, but Ender's problem isn't being ignored, it's being hated.  These are not synonyms!  Maybe they are in whatever futurespeak language Graff uses.  They should fix that.  Invent more words.

Graff speechifies SFFily more about how the aliens are an unknowably huge threat and the rest of Earth's biosphere doesn't care whether humanity survives so their only hope is to produce the kind of genius that completely transforms the direction of human history, like the inventors of wheels and airplanes and empires. It's well-written but mostly just about telling us how important Ender is.  Et cetera.

Ender moves on, and Anderson, another teacher, stops to talk to Graff, asking if 'that's the one'.  Graff basically says that if it's not Ender, then the chosen one had better show up soon or they're all boned.
"The kid's wrong.  I am his friend." 
"I know." 
"He's clean.  Right to the heart, he's good." 
"I've read the reports."
I like to think that when Anderson says "I've read the reports", he's actually thinking
But probably not.  I don't know, maybe Meta-Anderson will turn out to be a good and reasonable person.
"For his sake, I hope it isn't him.  I do." 
"Cheer up.  The buggers may kill us all before he graduates." 
Graff smiled.  "You're right, I feel better already." 
Spoilers: they won't.  DOUBLE spoilers: if the aliens just killed off a handful of the top military leaders, somewhere between thousands and billions of lives would be saved.

I no longer know what this book is about.

Leave your own Manly Rules of Warfare in the comments!


*If I keep referencing Ender's Shadow there won't be any point in analysing it directly after Game, but this is another reason that Bean is a vastly more likeable protagonist: for all that he's supposedly aloof and smug and isolated, he believes other people can help and he forms teams, he goes for backup, he works collectively.  His biggest victories aren't about being twice as awesome as everyone else, but about bringing people together to find a third option that isn't self-destruction or outright murder.  (And once again, this is something that Card himself notices, and has Bean ponder as well.)  And yet we're told Ender is the great leader whose esteem everyone hungers for and who wields deadly empathy.  Does not compute.