The Bench

The Bench from Sara Bynoe on Vimeo.

This video is the result of a workshop I did this January with Ant Hampton during the PuSh Festival.

His workshop is called Fantasy Interventions.

It’s a workshop on imagination and writing for site-specific theatre / live urban interventions. For artists and practitioners from a wide variety of backgrounds – theatre-makers, actors / directors, as well as choreographers, stage-designers, architects, poets and writers of many kinds.

Basically what we did was find a location on Granville Island, choose a view point for the audience and write a short imagined fantasy, or play or story or whatever you want to call it, that would be listened to with headphones at the location. I really enjoyed this work as it gave me an opportunity to flex my writing muscle in a way I haven’t in a long time.

I’d love to know what you think; please comment below.

What The F*ck Is Up With That Novel ‘Bear’? Let me tell you

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My story with Marian Engel’s book Bear started in late 2012.

As many of you know I’ve been hosting and producing a comedy show called Say Wha?! where funny people read from terrible books since 2010. Sometime in 2012 a fan of the show told me to check out the novellla Bear that had been assigned to her to read at some point in her educational career (I’m hoping first year college and not high school).

My first public reading of Bear at Say Wha?! was in January 2013. I shared the book several times at Say Wha?! shows and other events over the year and eventually podcast of of those readings in early June of 2014 – listen and enjoy it here. This summer the cover image came out of hibernation (see what I did there?) when someone posted it on imgur with the click-bait title “What The Actual F*ck, Canada?!” Then I wrote this article for Hazlitt (see below). About a week later the Globe and Mail covered the novel and even gave a nod to my piece. Then CBC Radio’s Q covered the hubbub the book was getting. Coincidence? Who knows?

The most important thing is that I’ve heard rumblings about the book being rereleased with the original cover art, which means we’re all going to win in the end.

You can read my article below or online at Hazlitt.

There’s More To ‘Bear’ Than Bear Sex

The first thing you need to know about Marian Engel’s 1976 novel Bear is that it is about a woman who has sex with a giant bear. Not a metaphorical, figurative, concept-within-a-creature bear: a real, furry, wild brown bear. There’s more to it than that, but why bury the lead?

The second thing you need to know, however, is that this is not some fringe underground chapbook: it won the Governor General’s award—the highest Canadian honour for the literary arts—in a year in which the jury included Mordecai Richler, Margaret Laurence, and Alice Munro.

We’re talking about Bear right now, though, because someone recently posted its cover and some particularly raunchy sections of the book to Imgur under the title, “WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK,CANADA?” There was even a little boost in e-book sales after the book’s cover—an illustration of a lithe, topless woman with flowing brunette locks being embraced from behind by a bear standing on its hind legs—went viral. It looks like a Harlequin romance novel: ursine Fabio and his eager human companion, lost together, alone in a world that will never understand the depths of their potentially life-threatening interspecies love.

The story, ultimately, is not as sexy as all that, though it’s not without its moments of high erotica. It begins with a librarian named Lou heading to an island in remote northern Ontario to catalogue the library of an estate bequeathed to the institute for which she works, and, as luck would have it, finding a bear living on the property. Their affair truly blossoms two-thirds into the book, though, when, one night, she’s lying by the fire with the bear, feeling incredibly lonely. Overheating, Lou takes off all her clothes and proceeds to “make love to herself,” as women are wont to do. The bear, apparently knowing how to take a hint, starts to lick her—as bears are wont to do.

As the bear begins to survey the landscape, Lou remarks upon his “moley tongue,” which is, “as the cyclopedia says, vertically ridged.” (Ever the librarian, our Lou—her head in the books even as the head of Stephen Colbert’s number one threat to America is between her legs.) After a few laps, Lou begins to emit little horse-like “nickerings,” and goes on to call the episode, on the whole, “warm and good and strange.” This is probably as accurate a description as possible of the experience of reading Bear. It’s remarkably poetic: “Bear,” Engel writes, “take me to the bottom of the ocean with you, bear, swim with me, bear, put your arms around me, enclose me swim, down, down, down, with me.” And, “Bear, I cannot command you to love me, but I think you love me. What I want is for you to continue to be, and to be something to me. No more. Bear.”

As time goes on, Lou realizes she’s in love with the bear. Bear, being a bear, does not reciprocate her feelings. Is there a more total rejection than being turned down by a wild animal? He can’t even get an erection for her, “his prick [not coming] out of his long cartilaginous sheath.” In one desperate moment, Lou pours honey on herself to entice the bear to stay. “Once the honey was gone,” though, “he wandered off, farting and too soon satisfied.” It’s possible to see Lou, who has had bad luck with men in her past, as a stand-in for Engel herself, who was going through a divorce of her own while writing the book, imbuing it with equal parts empowerment and loneliness. Bear is dedicated to “John Rich—who knows how animals think.” John Rich was Engel’s psychotherapist at the time.

As time goes on, Lou realizes she’s in love with the bear. Bear, being a bear, does not reciprocate her feelings. Is there a more total rejection than being turned down by a wild animal?

Canadian Literature is sometimes prematurely marginalized in the minds of readers for its supposed over-reliance on rural narratives and abundance of stories about humans at some sort of critical or bittersweet impasse with nature; imagine a CanLit drinking game in which you have to empty your glass every time you read the words, “the sound of the loon cry.” But Bear subverts the cliché: here, after all, is a woman actually getting down on all fours and presenting herself to an animal, almost as if to say, “You think we love nature? Oh, I’ll show you how much we love nature.”

Bear garnered largely favorable reviews upon its release, finding support among respected writers and editors. As Canadian novelist, playwright, journalist, and fellow GG winner Robertson Davies wrote in a letter to Engel: “I’m fearful that the book might not be taken as seriously as it is intended and that you might be exposed to comment and criticism of a kind which, in the long run might not be helpful to you.” Considering the context of the book’s current moment of Internet fame, it’s tough to argue with Davies’ assessment. One notable pan at the time came courtesy of the critic Scott Symons, though, who, in his West Coast Review essay “The Canadian Bestiary: Ongoing Literary Depravity,” called the book “spiritual gangrene… a Faustian compact with the Devil.”

But if the book were all bear-on-broad action, it wouldn’t have the resonance it does today. It’s not simply a bizarre bestial farce; it’s a modern Canadian fable, an ironic play on romantic pastorals, and, above all, totally readable. Margaret Laurence wrote in praise of the book, calling it “fascinating and profound… [a] moving journey toward inner freedom, strength, and ultimately toward a sense of communion with all living creatures.” It won the Governor General’s award because of the strength of its writing, and because it challenges the reader as much as it strikes an emotional chord. It was published towards the tail end of second-wave feminism in North America, as women’s sexual empowerment was being pushed to the foreground; it wasn’t just gonzo—it was the zeitgeist. Recently, author Andrew Pyper wrote a defence of Bearrecommending it to readers “not because it’s a feather ruffler of a book … [but] because it brings something to the conversation that wouldn’t be spoken if we didn’t read it, if we kept things strictly appropriate. Bear is brave. We should be too.”

The book was far from Engel’s only significant contribution to CanLit. None of her other novels were quite as noticed or acclaimed, but the small group of Toronto writers that organized the Writer’s Union of Canada did so on her front porch in 1972; she was elected chair at its formation, and spearheaded the Public Lending Rights, which gave authors and editors payment for their titles in library circulation.

Engel died in 1985; we’ll never know how she might have felt about her sudden burst of Internet fame, four decades after the fact. But her place in history is secure: a friend to publishing, an award-winner alongside the authors of The Diviners, The English Patient,and The Stone Diaries, and a woman who, one day in the tumultuous 1970s, sat down, and, with full command of her craft, wrote of a lonely librarian in love with a bear: “She cradled his big, furry, asymmetrical balls in her hands.”

PuSh Festival Sunday Roast

Sunday Roast 2

Early this year I was asked by Minna Schendlinger, the Managing Director of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, to MC a roast she was organizing for the 10 year anniversary. I was thrilled to be asked and so very nervous to do it. Those of you who know me, know I’ve worked for the festival for the last 5 years in some facet or another. It’s a festival very dear to me.

The event took place last Sunday, January 19. I had a lot of fun, despite the hours of fretting I put in wondering if I was too mean or not mean enough.

For those of you who are interested here are my script notes for the evening. I’m sure I said things a little differently, but this is the gist.

TAKING THE PISS OUT OF PUSH

Hi, I’m Sara Bynoe and I will be your host for this evening’s Sunday Roast. Before I begin I’d like to make one thing clear– No! we will not be serving Yorkshire puddings or roast beef.

A roast is an event, in which an individual (or organization) is subjected to a public presentation of comedic insults, praise, outlandish true and untrue stories, and heartwarming tributes as a mock counter to a toast.

It’s a Sunday Roast because it happens to fall on a Sunday. If you don’t get that cheeky wordplay/joke , we are in big trouble.

This evening we are here celebrate the tenth anniversary of the PuSh festival by taking the piss out of PuSh.

Now many of you might be asking yourself who the fuck am I? Well, I’m here because Charlie Demers was unavailable. Also, because we all know CTV anchors make worst hosts for live events – but they look so darn pretty while they read … from… their … scripts (awkward fake smile).

Seriously, it’s my honour to be your MC this evening. I’ve been involved with the PuSh festival for the last few years. I assisted Theatre Replacement in casting 100% Vancouver or as I liked to call it the search for a 60-year-old unmarried Indian man who and speaks Cantonese and lives in Shaughnessy. I also produced the opening galas in 2012 and 2013 – also known as the fun ones.

Honestly though, as far as PuSh is concerned it’s my job to be the last person on the dance floor of every party. It’s strange, as much as PuSh supports dance, they rarely participate in it. Guys, I’m not getting any younger. It’s time for me to pass the torch! I know, I know, the SFU kids are working on it, but they’re still in “process.”

I think the real reason I’m here is that I’m also a host and comedic performer about town. I am always taking the piss out of things. Screw it, I’m also a shameless promoter so I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you about two shows I’ve been running in this city for many years. The first is a confessional comedic storytelling event called Teen Angst Night where adults read from their teenage diaries and the second is my monthly comedy show Say Wha?! Readings of Deliciously Rotten Writing a show where funny people read from the worst books ever published. They’re so edgy Norman Armour has never been to either one.

I’ve been a fan of the PuSh Festival since my formative years, growing up in Calgary when it was the High Performance Rodeo. Congrats to One Yellow Rabbit for celebrating its 28th annual HPR. PuSh is the largest January interdisciplinary international arts festival in Western Canada? You mean, west of the Rockies, right? Because I know at least 1/3 of the programming is shared with the HPR.

Yeah, that’s right. I said it. It’s called the PuSh Festival Roast – We’re going to cross the line tonight.

What is PuSh? Besides a typographic nightmare? –  P for Pretentious, capital S for bullShit.

What if I told you could see grown men get naked and throw their shoes at each other, then fight and get so sweaty that they wipe themselves off with the Dance Centre’s curtains. What if I told you that’s art?

What if I told you would pay $45 to be blindfolded and have a stranger lead you around the city, and get you to molest buildings and bushes?

What if I told you that people actually like to watch modern dance?

What if I told you the most amazing performance piece you’ve ever seen was it town and you MUST GO AND SEE IT – only … it’s sold out.

Would you believe there would be a five minute speech before every show thanking sponsors and donors and then a huge ask for money from an audience full of underpaid unemployed artists.

That’s PuSh.

In the dark, dark, dark, cloudy, grey, depressing, mildewed, leaky condo, bedbug infested pioneer village that pretends to be a world-class city that we live in there is a festival that intrigues the arts community and confuses the hockey-rioting people of Surrey.

PuSh is an opportunity to see Vancouver theatre legends get drunk in this very room.

Ok, enough of me. It’s time for me to hand over the roast.

Look up here – see the few brave souls who are ready to roast our beloved PuSh.

You might be thinking, “Hey! There are only two women on that stage and everyone is white.” Relax, it’s just a representation of this year’s programming.

I love PuSh. Lots of great shows in the next few weeks. Make sure you see something. Seriously, I’m seeing a lot. Just check my Twitter feed or ask me for recommendations.

Sunday Roast

All The Ways I’m Turning Into My Father

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* Sometimes I eat chips and salsa for dinner.

* I get annoyed when people don’t obey traffic laws. “That’s why the good lord invented signals  – you twit!”

* I use my bicycle bell like my dad uses his car horn.

* I phone my family (and friends that I consider family) every week.

* My excuse for buying high-priced good-quality items is that is’s a good investment. It’ll last longer than the cheaper alternatives.

Happy Father’s Day!

I have one of the best, most supportive, generous, caring father’s a girl in the arts could ever hope for. Also, he used to have a sweet moustache that I bugged him to shave for years. Dad, I’m sorry about that.

SOME THINGS THAT ARE WORSE THAN BEING ALONE ON VALENTINE’S DAY

This blog post is inspired by this McSweeny’s list 

SOME THINGS THAT ARE WORSE THAN BEING ALONE ON VALENTINE’S DAY

Getting food poisoning from your favorite restaurant

Being on death row

Eating slimy carrots

Showing up to an award ceremony and your nemesis is wearing the exact same dress as you, and you end up on the pages of People’s “Who Wore It Better,” also you’re Paris Hilton

Watching a loved one disappear into dementia

Visiting a foreign country and finding out the airline lost your luggage and you have no travel insurance

Getting punched in the face on New Years Eve in Edinburgh

Being stuck on a desert island and the only book you have to read is Fifty Shades of Grey

Being stuck on a desert island and the only song you have to listen to is Blue by Eiffle 65

Finding out you’re pregnant when you have a baby and ending up on the show ‘I didn’t know I was pregnant

Ebola

Being a teenager

Feeling so sorry for yourself that you drink a bottle of vodka, order Dominos pizza, and vomit all night long while crying

Getting dumped on Valentine’s Day

 

See, things are not so bad.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Globe and Mail Book Reviews

In April I pitched a review of Fifty Shades of Grey to the Globe and Mail, instead they got me to review two comic novels. Here they are. It was wonderful to read two intentionally funny novels for a change.  

Globe and Mail – The Daily Review, Thursday, May 24

Two satirists named Christopher

Published Online Wednesday, May. 23, 2012 5:00PM EDT

They Eat Puppies, Don’t They? By Christopher Buckley. 12 Books, 352 pages, $28.99

Sacré Blue: A Comedy D’Art, by Christopher Moore. HarperCollins, 394 pages, $29.99

The theme of the book is fabricated fear. The Senate nixes defence project “Dumbo,” which kills a lucrative defence project for Groepping-Sprunt.

Firm CEO Chick Devlin instructs Bird to grow American fears about China so Groepping-Sprunt can get funding for another top-secret U.S. defence system. Enter Ann Coulter-inspired Angel Templeton, a sexy, military-minded woman with a PhD, an eight-year-old child and a closet full of miniskirts.

Bird and Angel must set out to find – or create – a motive for war with China. Then comes the answer to their prayers: The Dalai Lama gets sick while visiting the Pope. It’s just food poisoning, but Angel and Bird leak a story to an Indian website, The Delhi Beast, offering an alternative explanation: The Chinese government poisoned him. After all, “the Dalai Lama is the one thing with China that the Americans actually care about.”

Meanwhile, members of China’s Politburo Standing Committee, who “look like a delegation of identical, overpaid dentists,” surround Fa Mengyao, president of the People’s Republic of China (who has nightmares about seeing the face of his dead father on a dumpling). The president is a moderate, but some of his party feel that killing the Dalai Lama might not be such a bad idea.

The American-Chinese relationship is timely fodder for a political satirist. Buckley’s humorous take on serious issues such as China’s treatment of Tibet, America’s financial dependency on China, and gun-toting flag-wavers are what make this book worth the read.

Christopher Moore set out to write about the colour blue in his “Comedy d’Art,” Sacré Bleu.

Set mostly in Paris during the Belle Époque, the novel opens with the murder of Vincent van Gogh, a typical Moore-ian twist. Lucien Lessard is a baker and aspiring Montmartre artist. When Lucien first hears of the death of his friend van Gogh, presumed to be a suicide, he seeks out Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, famous for his paintings of the Moulin Rouge, diminutive stature and love of women and booze.

Lucien and Henri develop suspicions about the true nature of van Gogh’s death. As they start to seek the truth, they unravel a mystery that has lurked for centuries in the shadows of the art world: a gnarled character called only Colorman has been providing artists with unique paints that have mystical powers like the ability to stop time.

Complicating the story is Juliette, a muse of exceptional powers, who walks back into Lucien’s life. Lucien begins to paint like he never has before, causing him to abandon his familial duty of testing baguettes by getting hit in the head with them. Matters are complicated when it’s revealed that the muse is entangled with Colorman.

At times, Moore’s characters are themselves thinly painted. Juliette, the main female character, amounts to nothing more than a glorified sex object. Her attraction to Lucien is barely justified and underdeveloped. Moore’s de Toulouse-Lautrec is restricted to two modes of operation: fornicating and drinking. It’s amusing at first, but the joke gets old after the first 100 pages.

Despite this, Moore’s story is impressively crafted. He takes the reader back and forth through time, weaving through memories and impressions to unravel the mystery of the Colorman.

Art lovers will appreciate the appearances of the Belle Époque’s iconic creative community, including Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Degas and Cézanne. Full colour pictures of their great paintings appear in the text, and Moore populates the book with characters inspired by them. The attention to detail runs throughout the book, right down to the rich blue text the words are printed in.

Sacré Bleu is an art-history lesson, paranormal mystery and love story, combined. Like a Monet or Seurat painting, it works from far way, even if up close it can be a bit of a mess.


Fifty Shades of Say Wha?!

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If you missed last night’s Say Wha?! show, you missed my reading of 50 Shades of Grey. There is just too much bad/goodness in this book and too much hype around it not to share it with you, my lovely blog readers. I did live-tweet my reading of the book and got some positive feedback, but I feel the need to provide you with a further explanation of the latest literary sensation. It will blow your mind.

50 Shades of Grey by EL James is the New York Times best seller in fiction right now (combined print and e-books). The Trilogy of the Grey Stories (this title along with Fifty Shades Darker - and Fifty Shades Freed are the top three sellers in e-book fiction.

Right now I am thanking goodness for e-books because my litearary/comedy show Say Wha?! Readings of Deliciously Rotten Writing (where comics read from and comment about the worst books ever published) is about to reach further into the depths of cray-cray than I ever imagined. Granted, Fifty Shades is on par with Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Lover.

Written by EL James, a TV executive and mother of two, who developed the “Grey” books from fan fiction she wrote online in tribute to Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” novels. The book was published by an Australian publisher in early March of 2012 (that’s only three weeks ago!) and then was bought for six-figures by Vintage Books, a subdivision of Random House with a hardcover release date in April 2012 (so soon!).

Because of this crazy (not quite cray-cray, but still ridiculous) hype over the last few days, top executives from Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, Fox, Universal and Paramount are trying to get the rights to all three books.

But what is this “mommy porn?” book about?

Plot Summary … ish by Sara Bynoe

SPOILER ALERT - This contains major plot points and highlights some awful writing, but it doesn’t get sexually graphic. I’ve saved that for you and your e-reader – go and enjoy it.

Anastasia Steele, a 21-year-old student, living in Vancouver, WA in the year 2011, who trips over her own feet, blushes a lot, rolls her eyes a lot, has never been drunk at the start of the story (but is almost a lush by the end), drives an old VW Bug, Majors in English Lit, is obsessed with ‘the classics’ – especially British/ UK writing, she has a killer body, but doesn’t care about/have clothes (although, apparently she wears the ‘bo-ho’ look well), may or may not be a poor (but her Mom has a pool), is just about to graduate University, and move to Seattle.

Our ‘heroine,’ is sent by her roomie/ best friend, Katherine Kavanagh, (sometimes Kate) to interview Christian Grey for the University paper because Kate (the valedictorian, of course) is deathly ill (not really) and cannot do it herself.

When Anastasia Steele arrives to his Seattle office she meets a handsome, grey-eyed, 27 year old billionaire of a … manufacturing company? farming? investing?- it’s not really clear what he does, but he’s rich and he has a thing about not wasting food.

Instantly Anastasia and Christian have a ‘charge’ between them. He is ‘beguiled’ by her in ways that are never adequately explained – just like Edward’s attraction to Bella in Twilight is just something you have to accept. Naturally, the hottest man on the planet likes the girl no one has ever noticed before; this is how you write romance, people!

Christian also talks in the most formal way I have ever heard anyone speak in the Pacific North West; which is known for: being the worst dressed place on the planet, Starbucks, rain and pot. Where he got his prim and proper formality we’ll never know. It’s all “Miss” this and “Mr.” that. It’s also pointed out early on that he is a “control freak.”

Cut to the meat of the story. Christian Grey wants to enter a Sub/Dom relationship with the girl that’s never had a boyfriend in her life (despite having two other decent men in the story madly in love with her). To heighten the stakes Mr. Grey has written up a contract that outlines all the rules of being a Dominant and a Subordinate (for anyone who’s entered the new millennium unaware of the S&M community). Important note about the contract: no fire play and no fecal matter will be involved. Phewf.

The virginal (of course) Anastasia is torn because this is a frightening situation, but he’s a billionaire, and “for the first time in 21 years I want to be kissed.” Really? Oh yeah, and she’s also never masturbated. Never in her life!

Christian then buys Anastasia a Mac Book Pro to research Sub/Dom relationships on the Internet, because she’s a university student whose never heard of this, who also doesn’t own a computer. WHAT?! She’s graduating University this week and she doesn’t own a computer? Are you freaking kidding me?! She goes for a run with an iPod prior to him buying her a Mac. Where does she upload the songs from?! Gah!!!!

She then mentions several times that she will only uses this top of the line Mac to search the Internet and to email him. GAHHHH! Is this supposed to make me hate her?! Because this was the point where I really wanted to slap Anastasia … and Christian.

He also buys her a Blackberry, so he can keep in contact with her at all times. Like I said, he’s a control freak. Or just your typical Dom.

While emailing Christian questions about the Sub/Dom relationship he shows up at her house twice, minutes after she emails him. Apparently Anastasia and Katherine don’t have a lock on their front door.

Shortly after a date with Christian where he sees that she drives a VW Bug, he decides her car isn’t safe so he buys her an Audi. At this point the book is like Pretty Woman (the movie) on speed, and crack, except that there’s no piano sex scene. Wait, that happens later.

At one point he takes her on a date to his apartment in Seattle by flying a helicopter from Portland himself, at night.

When he finds out she’s a virgin he’s super pissed off because he wouldn’t have asked her to be his Sub if he’d known this. Luckily he soon “rectifies that situation,” by having the first vanilla sex in his life. Why is that? Because he was seduced by his mother’s friend when he was 15 years old into a Sub/Dom relationship where he was the Sub. This went on for six years. Guess what her name is? Mrs. Robinson.

Oh yeah, and when Ana gets to Christian’s house she sees his sex dungeon. Or as he calls it the ‘Red Room of Pain.’

The first few times they have sex he leaves his shirt on. I don’t care how hot he is, this is never a good look on a man. Later when his shirt does come off, the author doesn’t even describe his chest at all. That’s terrible writing! Eventually there is mention of some spots (possibly cigarette burns) on his chest, but this never gets explained. I guess we’ll have to read further into the trilogy to find out more.

Thankfully, Mr. grey-eyed Grey wears a condom every time they have sex, which is a lot. But like any red-blooded American man he pays a doctor a lot of money to come to his house one Sunday to put Ana on the pill. He announces this by saying, “are you ready for some contraception?”

Christian takes a keen interest in her cycle, then after she’s taken two birth control pills it’s – ahem – open season. Because that’s how birth control works, right? Immediately? I thought so.

At graduation, Christian Grey hands out degrees, because he’s so important to the University, and then he meets Ana’s father (okay, not her real Dad but the one she grew up with). The two are starting to enter a ‘normal’ relationship and Christian is experiencing a lot of firsts. First time sleeping in the same bed as his lover, first time being photographed with a girl by his side, first time meeting a girl’s parents. This gives you an indication about his twisted sexual history. See, he’s just never known the love of a good girl before!

Anastasia moves to Seattle with Katherine, who by this time is dating Christian’s brother. Of course. They live in a modern loft by Pike Place Market that Katherine’s parents have bought for her. Naturally.

Throughout the book Ana hardly ever eats or has an appetite. This concerns Christian, and me; it’s a bad example for women to follow, then again, Anastasia Steele is hardly a role model. She’s incredibly naive and extremely jealous of every woman Christian has ever been with before.

On most of their dates they always eat first and then have sex. How many of you listen/ read Dan Savage, who coincidentally lives in Seattle? He always stresses fuck first, eat later. If Christian was in the Sub/Dom community of Seattle, don’t you think he’d be aware of Dan Savage’s advice? I rest my case. This book is terrible. But, wait, there’s more!

She meets his family: Mom, Dad, brother (whom she met earlier) and his sister that lives in Paris. She goes to his parent’s house and is the first girlfriend they have ever met. Another first! When she goes to Mr Grey’s parent’s house Ana doesn’t wear underwear underneath the halter-top dress borrowed from Kate; apparently Ana doesn’t own any clothing of her own. After dinner they have sex in the boathouse.

This is where the books really ventures into kink and they start to play with sex toys: floggers, those balls that you stick inside your vagina, and mild spanking.

Finally, Anastasia gets back to work and goes on two interviews with local publishing houses where she wears another one of Kate’s dresses, “a black pinafore over a white blouse,” like some sort of servant from the 1900s. At least it’s not a halter-top.

Then Anastasia goes to Georgia (the State, not a new character with a ridiculous name) for some time away from Christian, his contract and his Red Room of Pain, to visit her mother. Of course, Christian wants to fly her there in his private jet, but she refuses his charity. When she checks in at the Seattle airport she finds that she’s been upgraded to first class. Guess who did that? None other than the best boyfriend/Dom in the world! In the first class lounge Ana gets a manicure, massage and two glasses of Champagne. Really? The first class lounge Sea-Tac has all of that, and it’s on the house? I call bullshit. This is what I got when I Googled ‘First Class Lounge Sea-Tac.’

While in Sea-Tac’s amazing first class lounge this gets written: “I open up my MacBook, hoping to test the theory that it works anywhere on the planet.” Ugh. Anastasia clearly has no idea how computers, let alone travel, works.

The whole time Anastasia is away trying to clear her mind about this situation she’s constantly emailing and texting Christian. Her mother and her talk about a lot of things and Ana gets some motherly relationship advice. “She is on her fourth marriage. Maybe she does know something about men after all.” I don’t think this line was meant to be ironic.

Of course, Christian shows up in Georgia then meets and charms Ana’s mother. Ana and Christian also have sex in his incredible hotel room. Of course.

Blah Blah Blah. The story goes on, this time with more angst, and a little dark night of the soul.

The sex gets a little rougher and Ana still won’t sign the contract. She wants a normal relationship with this “fifty shades of fucked up” billionaire, but he won’t budge, despite experiencing so many ‘firsts’ with Ana already.

I won’t spoil the ending too much for you, except to say it involves a spanking and Ana leaving him. Oh yeah, and she got a job at a publishing house.

What Really Bothered Me About The Book aka What Made It So Good For My Say Wha?! Show

There are a lot of sex scenes – so many I stopped counting. In each of them there’s about four pages of build up (taking off clothes, showers etc) and then about 200 words of sex. Always Christian is ready for round two INSTANTLY, like in the next paragraph. This book is not just fiction, it’s fantasy.

This book was clearly written by a Brit who didn’t do her research, then published by Australians who didn’t know what they were talking about. I hope the Vintage editors can comb through this atrocity.

British Examples

* “I’m not keen on coffee.” She prefers tea, English Breakfast.
* She’d rather go to England than Paris.
* She once refers to pants as “trousers.”
* She says she’ll go “fetch” things.
* On the plane she takes a “carry on rucksack.”
* She refers to flying from Seattle to Georgia as ‘crossing the continent.’ I’m sorry but 70% of Americans aren’t even aware that they are part of a continent.
* She says, “it’s nice to feel mollycoddled sometimes.”

Things They Think Are Sexy That Are Not

* “Holy Crap, he’s wearing a white shirt, open at the collar and grey flannel pants that hang from his hips.” (FLANNEL? Really? Well, it is set in Seattle. But in not 1993!)
* Converse shoes are mentioned frequently. I think these shoes have a cool brand feeling but are NOT sexy.
* Halter tops. Anastasia Steele wears at least three halter dresses and a halter-neck tankini (Hello 1993).
* Pig tails. In 2011 did you ever see a girl the age of 21 in pig tails? No, it’s not in the context of a Catholic school girl fantasy.
* 27 year old Christian Grey (born in 1984) likes Bruce Springstein. “Gotta love Bruce.” I don’t buy it. There is no irony in this book.

Repetition

Thanks to the search function on my Kindle I know that Anastasia Steele talks about her ‘inner goddess’ at least 60 times.

Here are my favorite examples:

“My subconscious screams at me. My inner goddess is doing back flips in a routine worthy of a Russian Olympic gymnast.”
“My inner goddess is doing the meringue with some salsa moves.” (Why not just the meringue?)
“I examine the list (referring to the Sub/Dom contract’s acceptable bondage positions), and my inner goddess bounces up and down like a small child waiting for ice cream.”
“My inner goddess looks like someone snatched her ice cream.”
“My inner goddess sits in the lotus position looking serene except for the sly, self-congratulatory smile on her face.”
“My inner goddess is doing the dance of the seven veils.”
“My subconscious has passed out, and my inner goddess is endeavoring to look brave.”
“My inner goddess has a ‘do not disturb sign’ on the outside of her room.

This book was tremendous fodder for my comedy show and I’m so thankful for it.

Even the Character Anastasia Steele Has a Say Wha?! Moment

“He reaches between my legs and pulls on the blue string – what? – he gently pulls my tampon out and tosses it into the nearby toilet.” (Note: this is not a good for your plumbing. Christian Grey should know better.)

But all of this pales in comparison to my biggest issue with this book:

Anastasia Steele, who lives in 2011, wants to get a job in publishing, and just graduated University without owning a computer or having email. WTF?!!! How is that possible? She owns an iPod!

Now, to its credit, there are moments when the book is kind of hot. It’s pretty hard to read a book with so much sex and not get turned on. I lost count but I think there’s at least 15 sex scenes, compared to 3 in other romance novels I’ve read. The downside is that it’s so completely unbelievable you’re thrown right out of the story. How they hope to make a movie out of this, I don’t know. Then again, people liked Twilight.

I will leave you with this brilliant line:

“I could gaze at him all day, but I have needs – bathroom needs.”

I’m On A Boat … S.O.S.

A few days ago I said to someone that my main regret about being an East Van person is that I rarely enjoy the ocean. I’m at the beach infrequently, I hardly head down to the seawall, and I’m never on a boat or in the water. I reiterated this story Saturday while I was on a boat in English Bay, minutes before the engine lost power.

If you’ve watched the Lonely Island video (above) you’ll have an idea about what I was hoping my boat experience to be like. Alas, there were no flippy floppies, or nautical themed pashmina afghans.

Here’s how I got there; Saturday morning I was supposed to be shooting a scene for a film I’m working on (low-budget/non-paying/ don’t get excited). We met at 9:30 a.m. and within minutes I was soaked from the miserable downpour that is a Vancouver winter. “You’re going out?!” an old man exclaimed, shaking his head at us as we headed towards a 30-foot sailboat.

After a few hours of unrelenting rain, the director called off the shoot. Some people went home, but lunch was being made, and I decided to hang out for a while. Ya know, to bond with the crew … okay, to get a free lunch.

The rain stopped around 1 p.m. and the suggestion of going out for a quick little cruise was brought up. Why not, I thought, I had nothing else going on that day, I might as well have an adventure.

Vancouver from a boat in English Bay.

Our team was down to four people: the captain of the boat, the director of the film, the make-up artist and me. A mini cast of Gilligan’s Island. The sun was starting to shine and the day was getting better. It was supposed to be a three hour tour, or less.

“We should have hung in. This is perfect weather for the shoot now,” I said to the director. Then we all shrugged.

I took a picture of the city and remarked on how beautiful it is.

I started thinking about what it is that people love about this city; the mountains, the ocean, the ability to rollerblade nearly every day of the year. These are things I often scoff about (especially the rollerblading) but in this moment, I got it. Vancouver is about enjoying the best of everything. It’s a city and a village. It’s being on the beach in the morning and hiking a mountain in the afternoon. It’s shooting a film and getting to hang-out on a boat when the sun comes out. It’s perfect. It’s not too hot, not too cold, not too big or too small; it’s just right.

Then the engine died.

It was then that our captain mentioned he’d taken it it in for service a week ago because this exact same thing happened before. Oy.

Close to a tanker in a little boat.

I knew we were going to be fine. I could see the Jerico yacht club. I could still see downtown. We were fine. But we were getting pretty close to a huge tanker … that was anchored.

Our captain made a few radio calls saying we needed a tow, but no one answered. A fancy power boat passed us speeding out of False Creek, ignoring our waves for attention.

Our options were to try and find someone our captain knew to tow us back into the dock, or pay for a tow. Being the low-budget project that we were, none of us wanted to shell out any money. Well, the director did offer to.

That’s when I jokingly said to my companions, “I’m going to tweet this.” And I did.

First Tweet to Save Our Souls

Apparently I don’t have any followers on Twitter that own boats. This is a shame. So, I put a message on Facebook. This got a better response. Mostly from friends who were taking this situation much more seriously than I was. “Call the Coast Guard” was the popular response from my stranded ‘check in’ at English Bay, after “are you serious?”

Picture from my phone of my Google Map location.

Forty-five minutes after our engine failure, various attempts to fix it, radioing for help, seeing the speed boat return to False Creek and ignore our waves again, one of my friends who’d seen my Tweets called the Coast Guard. They then put out a call on our behalf, which was then responded to by the Vancouver Police. Yay, we cheered, as this meant we were going to get a free tow from the experts, and not die at sea like I was starting to imagine.

Our Heroes!

The guys that helped us out where amazing. They were funny, easy-going uniformed men who could parallel park a boat. They towed us back to our dock, with no questions asked. As we disembarked their fancy ship we all shook hands, then thanked our lucky stars.

Two days later, I’m still a little land-sick, but very happy to be back on dry land. Maybe being an East Van girl does have it’s advantages. 

I’m going to end this post with a fantastic tweet from Scott Brown that summarizes this experience perfectly.

Scott Brown, sports editor at the Vancouver Sun.


How To Get A Boyfriend – Vancouver Edition

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There have been a lot of articles and blog posts lately about the terrible dating scene in Vancouver. Basically, what it comes down to is: women are bitchy snobs and  men are lame/shy/ all the Alpha males moved to Calgary or Toronto.

I just saw this video on Facebook posted by Robert Dayton (a hilarious performer formerly from Vancouver, currently based in Toronto) and I thought perhaps it has some insights on the Vancouver dating scene. Maybe Vancouver is the middle school of Canada. Toronto is the powerful adult, Montreal is the raging hormonal teenager, and Vancouver is still in the awkward stages of puberty. 

Here’s a tween girl’s dating advice.

In case you weren’t paying attention or didn’t bother to watch this adorable clip, I’ve summarized her notes. 

1- Find a guy you like.

2 -Bathe/ shower/ wash your face.

3 -Wear makeup.

4 -Be friends with the guy you like or at least try to talk to him.

5- Be a little flirty with the guy you like, but not too much. Say cutsey things like “Haaaay” and wink.

6- Tell the guy that you like them.

7- If they haven’t asked you out yet ask a friend to ask if the guy likes you.

8- Ask for their number or give them your number.

9- Encourage them to ask you out because you don’t want the reputation to be the kind of girl who asks guys out.

She doesn’t mention what happens after they ask you out, but as I remember middle school, once a guy asks you out you’re pretty much going steady. So, there you go Vancouver; remember to shower, wear make-up and get your friends to ask a guy if he likes you. Let me know how it works out.