How Do You Handle Change?

I’m pretty tech savvy.  A big part of my job is understanding the changes in technology and how they affect our business, and then ensuring that all of our staff and associates are trained on the changes.  In a job like that, I hear a lot of moaning and groaning.  Most people hate learning new technology.  You know how it is every time Facebook changes its layout and everyone threatens to quit?  Same kind of thing.

As a result, I had basically come to the conclusion that most people just hate change.  I counted myself among those who enjoy change; I’m thrilled when a new technology comes along!  Something new to learn about and play with.  For the most part, change ends up being for the better, so I’m always happy about it!  I can’t imagine that some people wouldn’t like change.

But today, I’m starting to feel their pain.  A lot of things are changing in my life.  I’m getting older… I just turned 30!  My main business partner and his wife just announced they’re pregnant, my cousin’s pregnant, my best friend is getting married.  My little brother is graduating high school this year.  We’re moving our business into a new office next month.  My parents are aging rapidly and it scares me.  Our long-time neighbors and best local friends are selling their house and moving away.  2014 is a year of big changes for me, and for the first time in my life, I’m being quite resistant to it.  Isn’t that weird?  I’ve spent so much time not being able to understand those who dislike change, and yet… here I am.  Hating these changes.

I guess everybody is afraid of change to an extent.  I think you are more resistant to the changes in subjects that you’re least familiar with.  Technology is my jam; so when it changes, I can move and shake right along with it.  But as for the big stuff?  The things that most people seem to accept as normal?  Things like age and babies and spouses and moving?  I can’t handle it, man.  I wake up in the middle of the night, thinking about what it will be like when everything has changed.  And it makes my face and neck sweat in the weirdest way.  If I don’t want the same things that they do out of life, then I need to learn to be okay with the changes that their choices bring.  Right?

I’m sorry that this has nothing to do with pop culture.  Don’t mind me and my quarter-life crisis.


Craigslist Gripes – Why Can’t I Just Have Normal People Buy My Stuff on Craigslist??

So, I buy and sell a lot of random things.  Vehicle accessories, prosumer camera equipment, computers, computer parts, Nintendo games/consoles, Xbox games, and anything else I happen to come across that I can make a quick buck on.  Needless to say, I spend a lot of time on Craigslist.  Why does it sometimes seem like I’m the only normal person on that website?

Today, I’m selling some lights.  I just got a text:
“Do u have a receipts for the lights.”

I know it’s completely ridiculous, but this text has infuriated me.  For starters, FUCKING GRAMMAR.  It’s a question, not a statement, and yet you end with a period.  You use the singular “a”, yet plural receipts.  But even if this question were worded perfectly, ARE YOU SERIOUS?  Am I supposed to keep receipts for everything I’ve ever bought, based on the premise that I might one day sell it?  I don’t keep receipts for anything.  What would you do with the receipt if I did have it?  Are you going to try to return the lights in hope to get a full refund?  Are you just trying to verify that I didn’t steal the lights?  Are you hoping to glean some data from the receipt that will help you negotiate with me?  WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!?!?

So, I text back:
“No, I’m sorry.  I don’t ever keep receipts.  Is that a deal breaker?”

No answer.  Now I’m even angrier.  My eye is twitching.  I just want to crawl around inside this person’s head for a second and find out what abnormalities lie within.

You’d think I’d make the switch to Ebay, but Ebay is a hassle.  Not only are their cuts of seller profits huge, but also shipping is almost always a necessity.  So which is the bigger hassle, Craigslist Crackheads or Ebay Fees & Shipping?  Obviously I keep using Craigslist so I guess I’ve made my choice…

OH the receipt-texter just responded:
“just thinking”

????  Are you thinking about whether or not you want to purchase an item from Craigslist that doesn’t come with a receipt?  Because if that’s the case then maybe you should seriously reconsider even shopping on Craigslist.  Maybe you’re thinking about world peace.  Or what you are going to have for breakfast next Tuesday morning.  IDGAF can you please just tell me if you plan to buy this item or…?

I texted back:
“Okie dokie.”

I figure, as far as Craigslist crackheads go, if you can’t beat them, join them… maybe I’ll text back in a few minutes and ask this person what their blood type is.  You know, just to make them wonder…

for the record, this rant is more for comedic relief than actual anger.  i happen to find my craigslist situations quite hilarious.

Great Female Characters? Here’s My List!

My last blog post (please read it) was kind of half rant, half personal exposition.  A fellow pop-culture blogger, Angry Mongo, commented asking me a fantastic question that I thought I’d love to answer in blog form.  For the record, Angry Mongo’s blog is about 100x better than this one, so if you’re reading me, you should be reading him!  He writes more frequently and his content is witty, relevant and an overall really good read.

He writes:

So, I have to ask, in a pop culture world with too many Black Widows and not enough Ripley’s, who are your favorite heroines in media? Did you cheer or roll your eyes at the thought of President Glitch rather than Princess Vanellope? Does the fact that they try to make Felicity Smoak (Arrow) and Velma from Mystery Inc. out to be the “sexy nerds” anger women? Can COD ever have a female character play a prominent combat role in future titles?

This guy speaks my language!  To be clear, I don’t think that any “feminine” female character is inherently bad.  My opinion is that any female character need to be “herself”, meaning that she’s not a certain way because that is what society expects of her.  If she’s feminine, weak and stupid, that’s okay.  As long as that is her character, and not just her standard position as a female.

I guess I feel like, although Black Window gets shafted as a character, so does Hawkeye so I try to tell myself that it’s because of runtime constrictions and not bad writing… even though Black Widow has been in more movies than Hawkeye… let’s just try to give the writers benefit of the doubt.  Then again, if every female character was written like Ripley from the Alien movies, it would be not only unbelievable but also tiresome and static.  In general, I don’t mind “sexy nerds”; I think there are sexy nerd male characters as well so I guess at least it’s equal.  And no, COD will never have a female character in a prominent combat role, because that’s simply not their target audience.  More males play video games than females; I believe that’s a firm statistic, and the writers of video game plots simply know who pads their pockets.  I don’t know if that’s misogynistic or just marketing.  Is it ageism that the makers of Legos advertise to children and not to the 35+ group?  No; it’s just marketing.

In general, to meet my qualifications of a great female character, they must have the majority of their conversations about things other than men, and they must not be defined by their gender (i.e. could this character be male and still be in the same or a similar situation?).  That being said, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite female characters of all time, and I don’t mind telling you exactly why they’re well-written, modern females who any girl should be proud to look up to.  These are in no particular order…

Juno MacGuff, “Juno”:  Ok, so the character of Juno, the unwed teen mom, obviously wouldn’t be in her situation without a guy around, but I still say she’s a hero.  Why?  She thinks for herself.  She tries to do what’s right, no matter what those around her are saying.  She respects the opinions of others, ultimately sees things clearly and with a level head, and makes decisions that are mature, clever, and not self-serving.  Juno is a hero in her own right; what can easily be seen as a mistake (her pregnancy) has been turned around into many eventually positive things simply because of Juno’s perspective and way of dealing with things.

Marion Ravenwood, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”:  We all remember the scene in the bar in Nepal, right?  Marion Ravenwood literally drinks the bar patrons under the table to win bets.  But besides that, let’s think about Marion’s life for a minute.  Her father was the mentor to Indiana Jones.  That tells me that she’s basically just as educated, just as experienced and just as cultured as Indy himself.  They grew up together; Indy, Abner and Marion going on digs and studying artifacts… they were family for a period of time, and although Marion was in love with Indiana, after he left she guarded herself accordingly.  She ran her father’s bar in Nepal, so she’s got business skills.  She was witty enough to gain wagers against her alcohol tolerance to make some extra cash.  She knew how to use the power of being female to her advantage, as we see in the scene with Belloq in the tent.  The way I see it, there could have been movies made about Marion Ravenwood, her life as a child learning archeology along side her father and a devilishly handsome older teen, her life in Nepal, running the tavern and dreaming of coming back to the states, then her eventual return and her running her bar in 1940’s New York, and raising Mutt as a single mom with help only from the eccentric but well-meaning Oxley.  Marion Ravenwood is actually THE SHIT and deserves her rank as #1 on my list.  For the record, I’m not as crazy about her character development in the more recent Indy flick (feel free to ask me for details on how I feel the real Marion Ravenwood would have raised Mutt)… but my summary of her character overall remains.

Hermione Granger, The “Harry Potter” books and movies:  Hermione is in the top half of a lot of the “Female Character” lists floating around the internet, but I feel like many people think that she’s a role model only for the nerd crowd and that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  To be honest, I think her situation reflects and represents the struggle that many people go through when they feel that they don’t belong somewhere because of race, ethnicity, religion, heritage or culture.  Due to the fact that Hermione is “muggle-born” which means her parents have no magic abilities at all, she’s looked down on by a lot of the wizarding community.  As anyone who’s been a victim of prejudice knows, the key to getting past it is resilience, persistence, staying true to yourself, and proving yourself valuable when given the opportunity.  These things, in addition to NOT having a chip on her shoulder, make Hermione a great female character.  Also… if you’ll notice… she rarely needs help from Ron and Harry and in fact ends up saving their asses more often than not.

Sarah Connor, “Terminator” & “T2: Judgement Day”:  She was just a totally normal 80’s chick when she got thrown into a war that she herself would never get to fight.  Time travel plot holes aside, Sarah Connor went from girl-next-door to total war machine in a matter of years, because once she became a mother she wanted her son to be as prepared as possible for his militaristic future.  Locked in the mental hospital for years, she refused to go soft.  Working out relentlessly every day, shaping her bod into unbelievable kick-assery, and shaping her mullet into one hell of a ponytail while she was at it.  Go, mom!

Cher Horowitz, “Clueless”:  This blonde, ditzy beauty doesn’t top many lists of best female characters… she may be a rich beverly hills teen hottie, but when you remove the fluff and look at her character, it’s hard not to give the girl some credit.  Sure, many of her deeds are self-serving at first, but as we get to know Cher better we realize that her value system and desire for harmony in general is really on point, and although she’s sheltered and seemingly shallow at times, she’s an accurate representation of a popular high school girl who comes from money.  And you know, being a popular girl who comes from money isn’t always sunshine and butterflies; those girls need role models too!  We can see in this movie that Cher is not all selfish; she REALLY wants her driver’s license, and we can see that she completely screws up her driving test simply because she feels “icky” about a social situation.  My takeaway from the movie is that anyone, no matter how young and dumb, can make a difference in people’s lives and if you can put aside your selfishness, even temporarily, you’ll see that there’s a lot more to others than just what brand their shoes are.

Clarice Starling, “Silence of the Lambs”:  One of my favorite things about Clarice (other than the way Hannibal says her name… admit it, you hear his voice every time you see the word… Clarice… Clarice… Hello, Clarice…) is that she’s SO real.  She’s not a badass incarnate (see Sarah Connor in T2), she’s just a young girl who has something to prove.  She’s afraid, but perseveres anyway because she’s brave and wants to prove to everyone, most of all herself, that she’s got what it takes for the FBI.  She works her ass off to be sure that she won’t be outdone by anyone else, regardless of their sex.  She pushes herself mentally, physically, and psychologically to stay ahead of her peers, her supervisor, Buffalo Bill, and Dr. Hannibal Lecter.  The odd thing is that none of these people really see her as equals… except Lecter.  In a way, he pushes her in the same ways that she pushes herself.  Think harder, be better, run faster…  and she wins the day due to facing and eventually conquering her fears.

Ellen Ripley, “Alien” & “Aliens”:  OMG she tops every single list ever.  She’s amazing, no doubt.  I don’t feel the need to explain this one since every other blog on the planet which has published a list similar to this one has already done it for me.  She’s just awesome, okay?  You can go and read a full character analysis of her on thousands of other blogs, so I don’t feel the need to re-write history.

Irene Adler, many “Sherlock Holmes” books, movies and television shows:  The most recent incarnation of Ms. Adler (BBC’s ‘Sherlock’) slated her as a dashing and bold dominatrix, and many thought that was quite a stretch for the character.  Directly previous to that, she was little more than a love interest to RDJ’s Holmes in Guy Ritchie’s version.  However, the truth is, these newer interpretations of Adler are more “old fashioned” than how the author, Arthur Conan Doyle, ever wrote her.  The way that Doyle wrote her character is far more progressive.  In Doyle’s story, Adler is able to outwit Holmes twice, and she doesn’t do it by using her body, sex, or anything of the sort.  She simply matches Holmes step for step in brain power.  To top it all off, she is seen in the end as an honorable character who will honor her word; a rare way to view a woman even in some of today’s stories, much less back in those days when the world was ruled only by men and a “man’s handshake” was his promise.  Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy the new takes on Adler’s character, and it’s all in good fun to see Holmes be the sort of character who is viewed as asexual, then see him get his brainpower met by, well, pussy power for lack of a better term.  But for me, I quite prefer Doyle’s version of “The Woman”.

Those are just a few of my favorite fictional women; I didn’t even get to Mary Richards in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, nor Daria Morgendorffer in “Daria”.  I guess I’ll save those for another time!

– T. Ham

Probably Not Profound: The Effect of Misogyny in Pop Culture on Child Development

Probably Not Profound: The Effect of Misogyny in Pop Culture on Child Development

“Growing up, I was always what people call a tomboy.  That’s such a stupid fucking name for what it really is though.  It’s a girl who defies the definitions and associations that are traditionally associated with being female.  Who decided on the term tomboy?  Such an ignorant term.  It was really just a series of preferences and choices that, somehow, were deemed to be masculine.  Whatever.  I’d rather be out in the woods than baking a cake.  I’d rather wear jeans and tennis shoes than a dress and heels.  I’d rather be the hero than the damsel in distress.  That last bit was what put everyone off; I guess being a tomboy is ok until you start emulating male pop culture characters rather than female ones.  Most girls would pretend to be Snow White or Princess Leia.  I’d pretend that I was Indiana Jones or Batman.  I think that a lot of adults who knew me assumed I was gay, or that I would be once I was old enough to have a sexual preference.

I’m not gay.  I was never even close to gay.  In fact, I like penis A LOT.  While I can appreciate the build of a beautiful woman, it’s never more than admiration and respect… and maybe a pinch of jealousy.  But, I think that my tomboy tendencies led to a deep understanding and compassion for the LGBT community.  I know what it’s like to be judged based on how you act or who you look up to.  I’m familiar with the fear of something “too masculine” coming out of my mouth that would be judged inappropriately.  To say that I mask my true identity is a vast understatement.  Most acquaintances don’t know that I’m an avid gamer, or that I repair computers in my garage; that I like loud rock music and appreciate looking at cars more than clothes.  So what gives?

Through the years, I’ve realized that genders are bullshit.  I associated with Indiana Jones and Batman because I wanted to be the hero, the center of the story, the strong one, the smart one, the leader… not the damsel in distress, the weak one, the hero’s love interest.  I emulated characters that had qualities I looked up to.  Batman stops at nothing to thwart his enemies with little more than his bare hands and Indiana Jones uses his razor sharp wit to get out of tight spots.  All the females in these movies were just secondary characters that rarely did anything to help, and more often than not, they were actually in the way or used as comic relief.  “Hahaha, look at that stupid girl trying to hold Indy’s gun!  She’s afraid she’ll break a nail, that’s HILARIOUS!  Girls are silly!”  Who would look up to that?  Not me.

Until now, I wasn’t sure why I never wanted to be a princess.  It sure as hell isn’t because I don’t like sparkly things; I fucking love sparkly things!  It’s because princesses are worthless figureheads and sex symbols.  They mean nothing, their opinion doesn’t matter and they’re never the one solving any problems.  In short, I’ve realized that my androgyny wasn’t about wanting to BE a man.  It was about wanting to be powerful and smart.  The sad part is that somehow my developing brain translated that to mean one thing:  only men are powerful and smart.

What I’m happy about is that the state of entertainment has shifted; only slightly, but any shift is a step in the right direction.  Female characters are slowly becoming just as valuable as male characters, and there are more and more female heroes in books and movies.  Even male-centered stories are having stronger female characters (Pepper Potts and Claire Underwood, anyone?) which is refreshing to say the least.  But I don’t want anyone to think that I’m being feminist or accusatory.  There are plenty of GREAT female characters who are weak simply because that’s their personality.  It’s just that I want weak characters to be just weak characters; female characters shouldn’t just be weak characters by default.  /rant”

…thoughts?  Let’s discuss!

A note to new followers…

I just realized that I’ve gained quite a few new followers in the last week.  That’s excellent news!  You’ll never realize how much it means to me for somebody to be actually reading my stuff!  Feel free to click on my “About” page and see what I’m all about, and what this blog is all about.

As an added bonus, I would LOVE to hear from you!  Tell me your secrets and ask me your questions (bonus points if you can tell me what song that’s from) but mostly, tell me what topics you’d like to hear me rant and rave over!  I’m into almost any topic so throw it at me!

And THANK YOU for the follows!

Marvel Studios… you’ve come a long way, baby!

I think Disney executives are MARVEL-ing at the box offices numbers of their newest SMASH hit, The Avengers.  Puns aside, what follows is my full review – well, no.  More like an analysis really.  There are spoilers here.  Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers.  I will discuss the film in detail, including the plot, the ending, etc.  I don’t know how else I can say that I’d really rather you NOT read this if you haven’t seen the film.

Let me start by saying I’m biased.  Although you know I’m a pop culture nerd, I’ve wasn’t a comic book nerd until 2010, when Iron Man 2 came out.  I have seen the X-Men movies, I’ve seen SpiderMan, I like all these movies.  They’re great!  A lot of fun and I love a good action movie.  The Batman movies are great, too!  I’ve loved every Batman iteration to date, even the crappy ones.  That being said, I was still not really particularly overwhelmed by any comic book movie.  Even though Christopher Nolan’s Batman series is great, they don’t feel like comic book movies… they just feel like good action movies.  They never feel like superhero flicks to me.  So anyway, in 2010, my younger brother wanted to go see Iron Man 2, and that’s when it occurred to me that I had never seen the first Iron Man.  This is an issue for me because I’m not the type to walk blindly into any sequel.  Therefore, I watched Iron Man on DVD at home, just so that I could go with my brother to see its sequel.  I wasn’t expecting much; great action, a good time, and I’m always up for Robert Downey Jr. flick.

BAM!  By the time I was done watching that movie, I was not only a full-fledged fan, but I had gained a new respect for Marvel as a whole.  To me, this movie had taken so many things to a whole new level and I was surprised and amazed by how captivated I was by it.  To me, that’s when it was clear that this new era of Marvel movies has done something right.

Movies based on comic books have come a long way since the early days.  It seems like moviemakers are never sure which way to take it: do they stick to the comics and offer up a completely sci-fi adventure of mad-scientist villains and protagonists with x-ray vision?  Or do they “modernize” it and bring it down to earth, creating more believable plots and story lines so that it appeals to a broader audience?  Christopher Nolan’s Batman films took a gritty, crime-drama style approach and made a believable plot with a flawed and human hero and villains who are eccentric, but don’t possess any supernatural talents.  And it did appeal to a broader audience – The Dark Knight raked in tons of cash and made new Batman fans in droves.  I was happy for the pop culture atmosphere as a whole that comic book fans had a series that was worth their money.

For me, Marvel’s previous movie attempts have been somewhat lackluster.  You look at all the movies they’ve made, and there are some that stand out: Spiderman was fun, the X Men movies are always a good time… but there are all these others that were just so dull!  It seems like many of their films suffered from horrible writing, bad pacing or editing, too small of a budget, or all of the above.  I’m talking about movies like The Punisher.  Come on, John Travolta was in it and it still sank like a stone.  I love The Punisher’s story line and character arc, but this movie flops like a fish on the dock.  How is this not a fantastic movie??

Those days are gone for Marvel now, though.  Ramping up to a fever pitch since 2008, Marvel has been putting together an intricate puzzle, leaving even moderate fans salivating in anticipation.  For over 4 years, they’ve been building up to The Avengers.  I was so excited to see it, I could barely sleep on Wednesday night.

Thursday night’s midnight showing was PACKED at my local theater of choice, and there were all kinds of people there.  College and high school aged kids, adults, and much to my surprise, many people from the 45+ crowd.  I was losing my cool standing in line to be seated in the theater.  I wasn’t the only one in anticipation.  Many of us chatted as we stood anxiously in line.  I spoke to an older gentleman who said that he’d been waiting for this movie since he was a kid.  A KID!  It was only then that I realized… some of us have been waiting since 2008, but other comic book fans have been waiting for this day since the 1960’s.  And that just blows my mind.

To top it off, I started thinking about what an enormously huge task Marvel was undertaking by producing a movie of this magnitude.  Think of all the people that they must please with this: hardcore fans from every single generation, moderate fans who just like a good action flick, fanboys of one specific hero, and people who were dragged along with the crowd of their friends or who will wander into the theater just to see what all the fuss is about.  There were people from every walk of life standing in line with me at a midnight showing, which is usually reserved for super nerds and bloggers who want to get their movie review out first.  This was a crowd of people who had expectations and hopes for this movie, and they…. WE have been waiting a long time.


Not too far into the movie, there’s an exchange between Captain America and SHIELD Agent Phil Coulson that tells you, up front with no strings attached, what you can expect from this film.  Steve Rogers is worried about his place in this fight against Loki, and is hoping that he’s the right man for the job.  He laments briefly about his “stars and stripes” uniform being “a little old fashioned”.  Agent Coulson shakes his head calmly in reply: “With everything that’s happened… all that’s about to come to light… I think everybody could use a little old fashioned.”  This is nice, because it’s almost as if the movie is stepping outside of itself to tell you: this is going to be an old fashioned comic book movie with superheroes.  Just sit back and relax and just have an old fashioned good time, like people used to do at the movies before there was such overbearing critics, and a demand to stick to some word-for-word plotline with a believable story and award-winning cinematography… just have a good time.  This is just an old fashioned good time.  And for me, it was.  And… it FELT like a comic book movie.  It’s a superhero movie, finally, and I was thrilled about it!

I keep hearing people say that the movie starts a little slow, I think that’s a necessary evil.  If the beginning wasn’t so slow, people would be complaining that there was little to no story development.  The first act isn’t dull; it’s just that the people in the theater know in the back of their mind what is coming and they’re anxious to get to it.

Joss Whedon does a good job of weaving the character’s stories together in a way that feels as if they each have their own things going on, which is stupid to say because, to fans of the franchise, we know that they DO each have their own things going on, but there are the fringe people who may have only seen one or two of the previous movies, or maybe none, so it’s important for them to see the “assembling” of the team, and how each of them have their own characterizations, inner battles and story arcs going on (it’s also a suave marketing move; I know people who left the theater saying they wanted to see one of the other Marvel movies because they enjoyed the corresponding character in The Avengers).

The acting, as expected, was absolutely spot on.  For me, the big surprise here was Mark Ruffalo.  How many times can they recast the big green guy?  I guess I just wasn’t expecting much in terms of character development… but Mark Ruffalo has a way of telling Bruce Banner’s story without saying a word.  Everything about him in this movie was perfect and dead-on.  I always expect greatness from Downey, Jr. and Samuel L. Jackson, and I knew what an awesome performance Evans and Hemsworth would bring.  But it was Ruffalo that blew my mind.  How many times CAN they recast the big green guy?  I hope they don’t recast him again for a very very long time.

We all left the theater knowing two things:  1) this is the start of some amazing movies from Marvel and 2) we’d all just witnessed history.  I think this Marvel lineup of movies will hold up as a pop-culture classic, right next to Star Wars and Harry Potter.

Here’s to Marvel ushering in a new age of superhero movies that just FEEL right.

Team Peeta? Team Gale? TEAM FINNICK! Or: An Adult Reads The Hunger Games Trilogy

I just finished reading the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.  I blazed through all three books in a matter of weeks, so I highly recommend them as an easy read, even if you don’t typically have time to be the reading type.  Clearly, the books are published by Scholastic, and therefore pushed into the “Young Adult” and “Sci-Fi” genres very quickly…which I think may have been a mistake on both counts.  However, I’m going to review the books one at a time and you’ll see why I think that as you read on.

In the course of about 3 months from August-ish to October-ish, I had four different people tell me “you just HAVE to read this book!”.  When I say four different people, I don’t just mean that they are different people; that’s obvious.  I mean they are REALLY different from each other in their entertainment preferences, religious and political beliefs and moral boundaries.  I have to give the most credit to a good friend of mine who is a middle school teacher.  When she first told me about it, I’d never heard of it.  By the time that the fourth person told me that I HAD to read the book, I had to resist the urge to yell, “OKAY ALREADY!  I’ll read the damn book!”  Not that I dislike reading at all; I’ve just been VERY busy lately…but I digress.

EPIC SPOILER ALERT.  I’m going to talk about the book.  A lot.  Who dies, who lives, the ending, the imagery, the whole deal.  Click elsewhere now if you don’t want to know!

Book One: The Hunger Games
I bought the book feeling a little childish.  Of course I’ve read all the Twilight books and all of the Harry Potter series, but this book didn’t have clout of a pop culture status symbol behind it.  I began reading it that night before bedtime.  Mistake.  I didn’t put it down until around 1am – I was halfway through the book.  I turned pages so quickly I got papercuts.  The end of every single chapter is a cliffhanger, or at least something that piques your interest to the point that you can’t put the book down without flipping a page ahead and reading the first few lines.  As expected, the book reads like a young adult novel.  Although it’s subject matter is a little grotesque at times, I don’t think it’s anything that our youth can’t handle.  Trust me; today’s kids play Modern Warfare 2 and watch Dexter.  They can handle it.  I really enjoyed reading this book.  It was fun, a little dark, and very exciting.  Very worthy of all the praise that surrounds it and I can see why the kids are into it; this makes The Outsiders feel like Willy Wonka (I’m talking about subject matter here; S.E. Hinton was amazing!).  As every chapter ends with a cliffhanger, imagine my surprise when the end of the book was another big cliffhanger.  I had picked up a book that was part of a trilogy and I didn’t even know it!  I had to buy the second one immediately, and when I saw the third one sitting right next to it at the bookstore, I bought them both.  In hardcover.  Ouch!

Book Two:  Catching Fire
Certainly my favorite book in the series.  We start to get a little more into the political aspects of the world that the book takes place in, and we find out more and more about how their government is structured.  We learn about the history of the hunger games and meet previous winners.  It is well balanced with grit and romance and although the characters seem to have grown up a bit, I like them as people and believe in them personally.  I begin to guess at the endings to this trilogy and realize that no outcome will be good; but Harry Potter ended in much the same way.  We meet my favorite character in this book – Finnick Odair.  Sort of a sex symbol, he comes off like a douchebag at first.  But he’s a fun douchebag and when we learn that he can be trusted, he is instantly my favorite (a complete cocky bastard is my favorite character.  What does that tell you about me?).  Some small part of me no longer cares who the female lead picks to spend the rest of her life with because the love story between Finnick and Annie is not only more dynamic and less adolescent, but it’s beautiful in every way and I would love for the author to write a story about their past.  The second book is not unlike the second Star Wars (well, okay, episode five technically) in the way that it’s giving you all the information that you need about the politics, the characters and the relationships to get through book three without having the hangups of in-action explanation.  I know this as I’m reading it, and I’m getting excited.

Book Three: Mockingjay
When I get to book three I’m reeling.  What happened?  Where’s Peeta?  I need details!  The author provides them all in due time, without inundating the reader.  I’m reading along soundly when suddenly, about halfway through the book, I realize that I care less about the characters.  I’m not even sure why.  I’m so torn about how I feel about this book that I am not sure that I can succeed to put it into words – but I’ll try.  For one thing, we’ve known all along that Peeta is a bit of a mama’s boy, even though his mom beats him.  He’s a baker…for God’s sake he decorates cakes for a living.  His idea of rebelling against the government is no fighting, no wars, no casulaties…a complete cease-fire.  Sound like any major group we know of?  Right…he’s a hippie.  I don’t mean that he wears tie-dye and smokes pot all day, I mean that he generally holds a more liberal line of thinking…he’s artistic and affectionate.  He’s not necessarily afraid of fighting, but he sucks at it and he doesn’t want to do it at all.  He thinks that abstaning from violence will quell the capital’s thirst for blood – but just like in the real world, he’s wrong.  Not fighting isn’t going to make them realize that he’s “not just a piece in their games”.  It’s just going to make them kill him and keep moving on.  I love Peeta because of his idealism and his simplistic love for Katniss, but let’s think about who really won the war and kept (almost) everyone alive?  Gale.  Gale did because of his death traps, deadly aim and tactical genius.  Katniss was the only pawn in the war – it was up to her to make a decision.  Peace or war?  Hippies or rednecks?  Democrats or Republicans?  Come on, Katniss!  Well, she didn’t really choose.  She kind of got pushed into war and then hated herself for it.  Her sister got killed in the mix, which was terribly sad for me (at this point in the book I liked her sister more than I liked Katniss).  Somewhere in the mix, we lost Finnick which REALLY made me furious.  About 3/4 through the book, I started feeling rushed – the author was coasting to the end without much detail or thought.  At the finishline, I felt empty.  Unsatisfied.  The ending was reasonable enough, very realistic even.  It was the lack of detail and the complete breakdown of our hero that I feel displaced about.  I cried when Buttercup appeared at Katniss’s house looking for Prim, but I’m not sure why… I think I cried because we lost Prim, who’s life being saved was the only reason for this entire trilogy.  But mostly, I cried for Finnick and Annie, and because I never got to hear more of their story.