Archives for the month of: December, 2012

A brief segue away from the travel blog to discuss the erotic breakout literary super smash hit of the year that I entertained myself with for a few days lying on the beaches of Hawaii.

I’m not afraid to admit that I’m not a regular reader of books, but I can’t help but be taken in when one breaks the mainstream and becomes a part of pop culture. I’ve read all the Harry Potter books and the whole of the Millennium Trilogy. I’m not enough of a teenage girl to have bothered with Twilight, but apparently I am enough of a middle aged woman to have now read Fifty Shades of Grey.

I don’t mean to be lazily hyperboulus (I made up this word. I have an imagination which is more than can be said for the woman that wrote this book) in my assessment, but this is surely the worst book ever sent to print, at least the worst ever to have made a multi-millionaire of its author and become the subject of a bidding war between Hollywood studios for the film rights.

There is no good place to start with criticising this book because absolutely everything about it is so utterly dire.

The author has a list of adjectives and verbs that I would estimate is around ten words long, which she chooses from over and over to try and describe her characters who subsequently have no discernible personalities and only repeatedly bite their lips, flush their cheeks, hitch their breath and violently push their tongues in to each others mouths. For over 500 pages. Really, that’s all they do. Read it. You’ll see. But don’t read it, it’s shit.

The story is supposed to take place in and around Vancouver, Portland and Seattle. However I read in a newspaper interview that E.L. James (the twit responsible for writing this abomination) has never been to any of these cities and used Google Maps to get a sense for the places. That explains why there is no sense of the places, the book is devoid of any atmosphere at all, and having read it, rather than wish to visit the Pacific Northwest, I want to visit Mrs James and call her a dickhead.

The heroine of the piece is just finishing an undergraduate degree at an American college in 2012 and yet doesn’t have an email address and has rarely used the Internet. Either her course is a bizarre anomaly in a world where computers are at the centre of just about everything that is taught or the author is out of touch with the reality and didn’t do any research before sitting down to write this rubbish. I’m fairly certain it’s the latter but will be happy to be proved wrong. Actually I wouldn’t be happy because she would have done research and still managed to produce a book of such astoundingly uninformed nonsense. Cock.

Of course the big reason Fifty Shades of Grey caused such a stir was its sexy content and titillating whips ‘n’ chains adventures. I believe that readers are supposed to be turned on and excited by the forbidden acts that take place, and live out their wildest fantasies vicariously through the lead characters’ lives. Well without wishing to ruin the end for everyone, they break up because she realises that getting beaten up by him isn’t so fun as she had thought it might have been and actually she doesn’t like it when he hits her. Sexy.

There’s more to say about how bad this book is but I now realise how much I hate myself for having read it and hate myself even more for having spent some time writing about it and I have to stop before I end it all. Sorry for the sad and angry mind diarrhoea.

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Hawaii is a place that you read about, hear about, occasionally see on television and if you’re anything like me, could never actually conceive of going to because its just so bloody far away.

And yet for ten days in December, this was exactly where I found myself, sitting on the beach, splashing in the sea and feeling none of the usual cold and shit-I-haven’t-done-any-shopping anxiety normally associated with the weeks before Christmas.

We stayed in Waikiki which was very nice but absolutely rammed full of Japanese tourists filling their suitcases with cheap designer clothes and shit trinkets.

To get away from it all we were able to jump on a bus to the North Shore of Oahu, a place known for its beautiful beaches and world famous surf. When we arrived to an almost entirely deserted stretch of golden sand, I was slightly disheartened to see the red flags and No Swimming signs out. Lovisa just took all her clothes off and ran straight in to the 20 ft waves.

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Not wanting to look like a baby, I followed her in shortly after. And then like a baby, couldn’t control myself in the water, got smashed in the face by a shit ton of ocean, and nearly died. When I eventually washed up ashore, it took me three days to wash the sand out of my hair.

After all that exertion it was decided that we had earned a cheeseburger. Luckily there is a restaurant in Waikiki called Cheeseburger Waikiki. Fitting. It was so good we went back the next day. And the next two days after that. You would think there was only so much pineapple, beef, cheese and teriyaki in a bun that a man could be expected to enjoy eating in a week, but I haven’t yet found out how much that is. Next time I’m in Waikiki I’ll update you.

Unnecessary and gratuitously sexy picture.

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Greetings bastards. I hope you’ve all been enjoying the sun or snow or whatever weather conditions you’ve been subjected to over the last week and a bit. I’ve been dosing up on an enormous amount of vitamin D, straight chillin on the beach in Hawaii, like a right spoilt little sod.

Before we get to that though we have some recapping to do, so get comfortable and ready yourself for Chapter 35: Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is a sprawling enormousness of a city, much more a collection of small towns than anything else. We stayed in Downtown. In pretty much every other city in the world ‘downtown’ means where the action is and where it’s fun to go. In Los Angeles it means where the crack is and where it’s fairly terrifying to go. Ok, maybe it wasn’t as bad as all that, but aside from our very lovely hotel, the surrounding neighbourhood was yet another example of the American antipathy towards its empoverished peoples. Wherever you go in this country, a large community of mostly black, homeless and/or drug addicted people is never far away. For this I would just like to say a few swear words. Fuck you America, you racist wankers. Pay taxes, look after each other, stop pretending to be leaders of the free world when you don’t have your own shit together.

Ahem.

Sixth form politics aside, downtown LA is great, if nothing else for the fact that you can walk to Little Tokyo in around ten minutes and eat unbelievable sushi for an extraordinarily good price, then be home before sundown, when the really scary men come out to play.

If you find abject poverty a little galling it might interest you to know that a short bus ride away live some of the richest people in the world, in a little town called Beverly Hills. And if you’re willing and silly enough, you can pay someone to drive you around and show you their houses. I know deep down that I ought to sneer at celebrity obsession culture, and I appreciate that it is weird and voyeuristic to creep up to people’s houses just to see what vulgar monstrosity they’ve spent their latest royalty check on. But I defy anyone I know not to shit themselves and lose all sense of perspective when they get told they’re sitting just footsteps away from Danny Devito’s front lawn.

Of course you don’t have to go to Beverly Hills in an open top bus to see a celebrity. If you hit the beach down in Venice, among the ‘doctors’ who will give you an on the spot ‘assessment’ and ‘prescription’ for ‘medical’ marijuana, the skateboarders who will give you a massive inferiority complex with all the rad tricks they can pull off while absolutely off their tits, the busking pianist with the cat, and the man with the implausibly relaxed dog whose belly you can rub for a small donation; in amongst all the weirds you can see Will.I.Am making a new music video. Or at least you could if you went last Monday like we did.

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In summary, LA is like everywhere else in America. It has a drinking problem, it has obscene wealth, its inhabitants are accordingly mental and despite all its obvious flaws, I liked it.

San Francisco shares much with our former home, Brighton. It has a gay scene of international repute. It has a ‘vibrant arts community.’ It is riddled with drunks and drugs and homelessness. San Francisco has a large number of enormous sea lions lolling around at the sea front, maniacally barking for the amusement of tourists. Brighton has a large number of enormously overweight hen parties lolling around in sea front bars, maniacally shrieking to the bemusement of tourists.

If that doesn’t necessarily sound like a ringing endorsement of the city then that’s fine. You probably take a bucket and spade every time you go to Brighton and get really disappointed when your pebblecastles don’t stand up properly. But I assure you, San Francisco really is the tits and you’ll love it.

It really doesn’t appear to make any sense that there is a city here at all. Everywhere you turn there is another massive hill which in any other town would have seemed a decent enough excuse to stop building and not have any ambition for making one of the biggest cities and most important business and financial centres in the world. The town planners here had very different ideas, presumably because they were San Franciscan and that meant they were permanently high.

Having built an utterly inaccessible city they at least had the decency to build a local transport system that looks really cool. The cable cars that remain are almost completely unchanged since, although presumably when they first came in to being they weren’t a tourist attraction costing $6 for a single ride, and therefore people with normal budgets could actually afford to use them. Still, nice to look at. (Just trust me on this because I can’t find the pictures we took of them. Promise they are nice to look at.)

A 15 minute boat ride away from San Francisco is Alcatraz, probably the world’s most infamous prison, or to me, the setting for the 1996 action thriller The Rock, a film so bad that I must have watched it at least 15 times when my mum got the film channels when I was 11.

Alcatraz is now actually operated by the same National Parks service that looks after the Grand Canyon and Sequoia National Forest so it was no surprise to find that it is brilliant. Even though one inevitably feels and looks a bit of a dick using an audio guide on a walking tour of an attraction, we put on our headphones and walked around like good little prisoners.

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Lovely views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge and the rest of the Bay Area from the recreation yard; not really sure what the inmates had to complain about but loads of them died trying to escape so I guess it wasn’t all fun and games and walking tours.

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There is plenty more to recommend to do in San Francisco, but none will be as delicious as this.

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That’s a grilled ham, cheese and onion sandwich, dipped in egg, deep fried and sprinkled with icing sugar with spicy strawberry jam for dipping. Completely and utterly astonishingly brilliant. If you ever find yourself in the Bay Area, I can heartily recommend a trip to Show Dogs for a sausage or a gnarly sarnie.

If you’re not hungry, just go for a walk. You’ll meet crazies, get incredibly toned calves from all the climbing and find that you love San Francisco because it’s the shit.

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