Thursday, August 26, 2010

I Stand Alone

True confession time: I did not absolutely love The Hunger Games.

Not to say I didn't like it. But I didn't love it. I don't think it's the best Young Adult book ever written.

And...*taking a deep breath*...I might not read Mockingjay.

Perhaps the problem was that I read HG right after I read Graceling, which I absolutely adored. In comparison between the two, I prefer Graceling across the board. I like Katsa better than Katniss. I got tingles over the Katsa/Po romance whereas I honestly don't care who Katniss ends up with, Peeta or Gale (although I'm leaning towards Gale). I prefer the imaginary world of the Seven Kingdoms over the dystopia of Panem. The villain in Graceling was a thousand times scarier than the anonymous population of The Capitol.

And I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat during most of Graceling whereas I had a hard time accepting the premise as a whole of HG. Somehow the idea of an oppressive, cruel government that actually gets away with making its citizens sacrifice their children to death doesn't inspire enough suspension of disbelief for me. The entire time I was reading HG, I kept thinking of the short story by Shirley Jackson, The Lottery, which more effectively portrayed the concept of random selection of a human sacrifice, IMO.

Perhaps HG was doomed to fail for me because of all of the hype surrounding it. My daughter has read both HG and Catching Fire and loved both. Not to mention all of the internet chatter. My expectations were incredibly high and practically impossible to meet. Like I said, I did like HG. It's well written and compelling. It just didn't send me into a frenzy.

I'm about a third of the way through Catching Fire, and at this point, I just don't see myself finishing it. I'll pick up Mockingjay for my daughter, but I might not read it myself. I feel kind of guilty about this, as if by reading HG I committed to the series as a whole and if I don't see it all the way through, I'm some kind of quitter. Or perhaps I'm holding out hope that once I've finished the entire trilogy, the story as a whole will benefit from some amount of synergy.

On a different topic: I found something quite disturbing in my library the other day - this book: Twilight and History by Nancy Reagin.

Are you kidding me?

Okay, I get that the Twilight saga is a pop culture phenomenon. I get that many people love the books passionately, and I'll even admit to enjoying the first book. The movies are entertaining, and no one should feel guilt in admitting that she (or he) has gotten caught up in the Team Edward/Team Jacob debate. Whatever floats your boat.

But the idea that this series is being treated as some kind of literary classic worthy of serious research and discussion kind of turns my stomach.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Bad Thing I Think

My new obsession is the video for Eminem's song, "Love the Way You Lie." I'm not going to post it here directly for fear the video will be pulled, but you can find an article with the vid in it at

I first heard this song in the car, and I was captured by Rihanna's haunting chorus. I figured out pretty easily that it was Eminem doing the rap because he always sounds so angry. But as I listened to the actual lyrics, I was horrified. The song is about domestic violence and is very intense.

Then I came across the EW article and actually watched the video. Oh my god. I'm am utterly transfixed by it. I can't tell you how many times I've watched it.

The question posed - does this video glorify domestic violence - is so very valid. Despite the horror of the situation being depicted in both the song itself and the video, the images of Megan Fox and Dominic Monaghan are very compelling, very sexy and do in a way glorify DV by almost excusing it as a by-product of intense passion and all-consuming love. When I imagine the stereotype of a DV situation, it certainly doesn't feature a Hollywood-beautiful couple or the desperate love-making in between the bouts of beating the crap out of each other. Heck, my imaginings don't usually include any "each other" in it always seems to be the husband/boyfriend doing most of the beating. When I hear the words "domestic violence" in the news or other real-world situations, my first and only reactions are sadness, disgust and outrage. So why, then, doesn't this video evoke those same feelings?

Funny, though, how too often it's easy to excuse violence as a symptom of great passion. This video and song makes me think of another violence-turns-to-sex scene. In the sixth season episode "Smashed" of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike and Buffy are battling it out with no holds barred when things take a sudden turn. The subsequent heat between them is absolutely electric. I know it's very wrong to find anything about that scenario acceptable - and I certainly do not excuse, condone or accept DV in any real-world situation - but I can't help myself for liking that scene so very much.

I honestly don't understand why.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Because I Couldn't Care More

This video warmed my heart immensely. The whole mis-saying of the phrase "she/he/you/I couldn't care less" drives me bonkers.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Holy Cow

I just finished reading Kristin Cashore's Graceling. I'm kind of numb. This book was amazing. A can't-put-it-down, forget all things in real life so I can keep reading, want to pick it up and reread it immediately stunner. And the shame of it is, it's been sitting on my TBR shelves for over a year.

I won't even go into the details here since there are a gazillion reviews out there. Just to say, add me to the list of people who can't recommend this book highly enough. It's just hit my top 10 best books I've ever read list.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Illusive Nature of Some Good UST

I've discovered a new show this summer. It's a new show to everyone and so I've jumped on board at the beginning, but I hope a lot of people like it enough that it goes on for many many season. The show is Covert Affairs and it airs on Tuesday nights on the USA network. It's a lot like my other favorite USA show, Burn Notice, with great characters, a premise I like, and is overall, I find, very enjoyable.

The show follows new CIA operative Annie Walker. Played by the very pretty Piper Perabo, Annie has just graduated from CIA training on The Farm and is now working in the Domestic Protection Department, which I have to assume is a completely fictional division of the CIA. Ostensibly, the DPD handles cases in which people of CIA interest (read: bad guys, terrorists, arms dealers, spies from enemy countries, etc.) threaten the US directly. Whatever. I'm good with just keeping it at Annie is a new spy.

What keeps CA from being Alias 2.0 is Annie's rookie status. She's learning on the job, and it's fun to watch her fumble around a bit. Piper wears an almost perpetual look of amazement and questioning which gives Annie an additional air of confusion and niavete. But she's smart and quick and manages to get out of most jams by using her brains and her training.

Honestly, though, what keeps me waiting anxiously for Tuesday nights in Christopher Gorham's exquisite character, Auggie Anderson. I was not an Ugly Betty fan, nor did I watch Kyle 2.0, so Chris Gorham is a new find for me. He's beyond adorable, and he's my new TV crush.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

No Sequel Necessary

Today on the trip to take my son to camp, we listened to the audio book, Hatchet by Gary Paulson. I very much enjoyed the story, so much so in fact that even after dropping my son off, I found I couldn't wait an entire week when I picked him up again to listen to the rest of the tale. I'd checked the audio book out of the library thinking he might like it (I'm forever trying to find books he will like) and that I would probably have to suffer through it, but it turns out this is a great read for all ages.

The story revolves around a 13 year old boy named Brian who finds himself stranded in the Canadian wilderness after the pilot who is flying Brian to visit his newly divorced father suffers a heart attack and dies. All alone, lost, badly battered from the plane crash and with nothing more than a small hatchet his mother had given him, Brian has to figure out how to survive. Somehow he has to manage to find water and food, build a shelter, and protect himself from wild animals ranging from what at first seems like a harmless skunk all the way up to a black bear and even a mean moose. Through the experience, Brian comes to learn that the only one he has to rely on is himself but perhaps that's enough.

The story is fabulously told, although Paulson tends to repeat words and phrases for effect which I think would be fine when reading (your eyes would just skip over those repetitions, I imagine) but that tend to become tiresome when read out loud. Too, a sort of mini sub-plot involving Brian's parents' recent divorce and the fact that Brian had witnessed his mother kissing another man and was keeping this horrible secret kind of led nowhere and felt wholly intrusive to the main story. Still, the fabulous actor Peter Coyote narrated, and his gravely voice really fit the rough story, and by the time it was over I found a running parallel between Brian's journey and the journey all mankind seems to have taken from the discovery of fire all the way through modern times.

The rest of this entry after the break contains discussion that would SPOIL the ending of Hatchet, so if you don't want to be SPOILED (and I recommend not being spoiled), then stop reading now. Stand warned - SPOILERS AHEAD!

Friday, August 06, 2010

A New American Hero

I've been reading many news articles about California's U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker's recent overturning of Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriages. I'll state right now, up front, that I find Walker to be a true hero. His arguments are well thought out and articulated and nail the situation on the head. Good on him. Proposition 8 is not only mean-spirited and an unapologetic expression of homophobia which should cause all of those who voted in favor of it to hang their heads in shame for such malice toward their fellow human beings, it was truly pointless. As Judge Walker stated, this Proposition benefits no one in any proven way and serves only to validate the delusional superiority its proponents obviously feel.

Seriously, I would love to know exactly what Prop 8 folks think to gain by this law. Are they worried that if gay people can marry, somehow they will get less of the pie? Will their homes be taken from them? Will their children starve? Will they lose their jobs, will they begin to bald, will their pets run away and never come home? Will the love that they feel for their own spouse and vice versa disappear in a puff of smoke or become meaningless? Do they think that love and marriage are a limited commodity and if gay people are allowed to take their fair share, there will be less to go around for the rest of us? Like, if ten same-sex couples get married, that means that ten hetero couples can't? How very self-interested and egomaniacal of them.

I have yet to read a single pro-Prop 8 viewpoint that in any way explains why or how approval of same-sex marriage affects traditionally married people. Or why it's any of their business in the first place. Rather than putting so much money, energy, ire and hair-rending over whether two guys or two girls get married, an event that can surely have no direct affect on their lives in any way, why don't all of those Prop 8 cheerleaders shake their pom poms over the disgraceful state of America's educational system or solving the growing energy crisis. Why not do something that will actually result in positive change for everyone involved?

Too, I would say to those hetero-married couples who spew their propaganda about Prop 8 being the way to maintain the sacredness of marriage, once you all get it 100% perfect, then I'll listen to what you have to say. When all hetero marriages never end in divorce, when there is never any spousal or child abuse or neglect, when hetero-couple children all get perfect grades, never get into trouble, and go off to college to become perfect citizens of the world, when there is no alcohol or drug abuse, no cheating, no murder/suicides found within any hetero marriage, then I think it's fair that we let them determine what is necessary to make a perfect, socially desirable union between two consenting people. Until that time, stop throwing rocks around your glass houses.

What really strikes me in everything I read is pro-Prop 8 people who make the argument that this ban was "desired" by the majority as proven by its passing after a democratic vote, therefore no judge should have the power to overturn what the majority so obviously wanted. To which I say, wha - TF? I'm sorry, what country is this that we live in? United States of the Taliban where the morals of some can be inflicted on the whole by virtue of enough bullying?

First of all, people seem to be forgetting that America is not a true Democracy but rather a Republic (and thank god for that). In order to protect individuals and minority groups from the Tyranny of the Majority, the Founding Fathers put a lot of thought and planning into how to structure our government so that a large group of people could not inflict whatever they wanted on everybody else. You can find a very good (and highly detailed) description of the differences between Democracy and a Republic here, but I for one send up an endless litany of thank yous to those old fogeys of The First Big Thirteen for getting it right.

If the whine argument of "that's what the majority wanted" held any validity, then by extension the Southern Baptist Convention could demand that the entire state of Mississippi - where it is the majority religion - convert to their belief system and, if they rallied every one of their eligible voting members, could win a "popular" vote in order to get its way. Except, dang, there's that whole pesky right guaranteed in the Constitution for religious freedom. Heck, maybe all of the hardcore fundamentalist might actually be a majority in the entire country and could put to a vote the overturning of that whole Freedom of Religion thing and, by winning that majority vote, make sure that we all become god fearing Christians.

My point is that you cannot vote on fundamental rights. That's why America is such a great place to live, a model to many countries and a place where we all brag about our liberties and freedoms. Just because a whole bunch of people want to inflict their morals and beliefs on everyone doesn't mean it will be so.

Even if none of the above were true, that "majority" is not, in truth, really a majority with any true accuracy. According to this snapshot from the US Census Bureau, the number of over-18 Californians (in other words, potential voters) is over 27 million. Only a tiny bit over half (13,743,177) of those people even voted on this issue, with the "winning majority" being a grand total of 7,001,084 people who wanted Prop 8 to pass. As far as my math skills tell me, 7 million people is not even close to half +1 of the voting population of California which would be the true majority. In truth, we all have absolutely no idea of what the "majority" wants or not since half of the people didn't bother to vote at all. All we can say with true certainty is that about 25% of Californians over the age of 18 supported Prop 8 enough to vote in favor of it. And since close to 24% of the people felt exactly the opposite, I think it's fair to to question the majority's real wishes.

Sidebar to say: Scary idea that 7 million people get to decide what rules all 27 million people must live by. A fabulous example of why it is critical to vote. Those who show up make the laws.

It will be interesting to watch this drama unfold. I'm hoping that by the time my kids have kids, homosexual people and couples will be regarded just as people. Because that's all they are. No more. Certainly no less.