Friday, December 30, 2011

No Church In The Wild: The Lightning Round

Dear Zac, What do you do when a hardcore vegetarian starts guilt tripping you for eating meat?

Just start salivating and then try to bite them. That's what they think of us anyway!

Hey Zac I'm a 17 year old guy from England, I'm not very popular at school; I'm kind of a clinger on. Not many people like me much and I barely go out at all. I will be going to university next year and I've never had a girlfriend or even kissed a girl. I worried that I'm gonna be socially awkward and have little friends for the rest of my life. Any Advice?

You're from England? COME TO AMERICA. Girls will literally line up and bend over when they hear your accent. And since our nation was founded by people who were unpopular in your country, it will be a nice thematic fit, too.

How do you inform a friend that they're a bitch?

This is one of those times when "a friend" means "you" right?

Hey Zac, I am 18 and I've only had 1 girlfriend and I think she didn't know what to say so she just said yes any advice on how to get a girlfriend?

MOST girls only say yes because they don't know what else to say. No shame in that game! It's what you do AFTER you've guilted them in to dating you that counts. So keep that pathetic act going! It has worked very well for me.

My boyfriend and I have nothing in common. When I told him that the world has come between us he reminded me that one time we watched "Breakfast at Tiffany's" I recall that we both kinda liked it, but Zac do you think that's enough of a reason to stay in relationship with him?

You know, the philosopher MC Skat Kat once said that opposites attract. And while that is true in some cases, usually you need some kind of foothold to sustain a relationship. My wife and I go mountain climbing. GET IT? FOOTHOLD?

But seriously, you just got that song stuck in my head. So fuck you.

SEASON 2 of NO CHURCH IN THE WILD: the video series starts next week. Happy New Year, everybody!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

I Enjoyed Breaking Dawn More Than Harry Potter And Other Movie Revelations From 2011


This was sort of a rebuilding year for movies, right? Most of the stuff we got excited about hasn't come out yet (The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit, The Avengers, etc) and some of the stuff that it seemed like we were excited about turned out to be stuff we weren't very excited about after all (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo*). Movies that were hits came seemingly out of nowhere (Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. Mission Impossible). And a lot of movies that looked rad were in limited release, meaning most of us haven't had a chance to see them yet (Take Shelter, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Drive, Beginners, Win Win, Sleeping Beauty, Cedar Rapids**).

(*Or maybe not yet? Give Dragon Tattoo another weekend. America didn't want to see a collection of loosely-strung together rape scenes--basically the 9 Songs of rape, I take it--over Christmas weekend, but maybe New Year's?)
(**I'm starting to realize I might have to rent movies from iTunes from now on? Is that how it's going to be? Christ.) 

The other sign, for me, was that I didn't go to the movies very much this year. And I'm a big "going to the movies" guy, for lack of a better term (cinephile is not the right word for someone who saw Transformers 3). But I saw some movies that I liked, and here is basically my top ten:

10. The Other Guys

This movie came out in 2010, but I only got to it this year because nobody told me how fucking funny it is. Two words: Michael Keaton. That should be all you need to know. But if that doesn't work: Michael Keaton working at Bed, Bath and Beyond. But also: you know when you laugh half because it's funny and half because you were not expecting there to be a joke there? Imagine doing that for two hours. Gosh, when I write it like that it sounds so unpleasant! But it's not. Michael Keaton working at Bed, Bath and Beyond, okay?

9. Transformers: Dark Of The Moon

Give Michael Bay a little credit. His learning curve is a long one, but it exists. After complaints about the incomprehensibility of the action in Transformers 2, he clearly made an effort to clean up the camera work and give us a few more wide angles. I could follow what was going on about 75% of the time. And I thoroughly enjoyed about 25% of that 75%. Which doesn't sound like much, but then you remember that it's about nine hours long. But seriously folks, the last 45 minutes of this movie is an action sequence that was totally bonkers-fantastic in the theater. I mean, there's a visual reference to Oldboy in there for fuck's sake! Of course we have to wait for Transformers 4 for Michael Bay to fix his other mistake: Shia LeBeouf. Oy, the Shia. I heard Jason Statham is the choice to topline the franchise from here on out, and I hope he will bring a new (British, charming) sense of humor to the proceedings. Because as we left the theater my friend Josh noted, "That was the douchiest movie ever." And in a way, that is sort of a compliment, but not really. 

By the way, I'm not entirely sure this is worth seeing unless you're watching it on a huge, 3-D screen (in a theater that smells like Axe Body Spray), so don't rush out to the Red Box or whatever you kids do these days. I see a DVD of this movie every day in the checkout line at the grocery store for like twenty-seven fucking dollars. Has anyone ever purchased a movie at a grocery store? The fuck? Anyway.

8. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows pt. 2

This movie was GREAT, So great. I was moved by it, I was thrilled by it. But I've been thinking about watching it again, and I kind of don't want to? Because HP 7 and 8 are fucking ordeals, you know? It's like climbing a mountain. When you get to the top, it's beautiful and you're so happy, but you're also kind of like, OK let's not do this again for a while. This was a feeling I once reserved only for the LOTR movies, which I have seen once and will probably never watch again (I saw them in the theaters, and own the DVDs, but I have never opened them). Apparently the Harry Potter movies have joined their ranks. One doesn't simply walk into the Battle of Hogwarts, Luke.

7. Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol

GHOST PROTOCOLLLLLL! This movie was ridiculous and I loved it so much. The action sequences are gorgeous, and there's a real wit to the proceedings that you don't really think about until later. And yes, Tom Cruise is a crazy person, but it turns out that can be an asset in the movie business (see the Burj Hotel sequence, for which Tom Cruise apparently did some of his own stunts. Being suspended a mile and a half in the air is apparently less scary when you're OT level 8 and could just levitate if you wanted to, I guess). WHO WOULDA THUNK!?!?!?

6. Breaking Dawn pt. 1

How on earth is this movie ahead of Harry Potter, you say? I can feel you angrily warming up your Tumblr dashboards. But hold up! I'm not saying BD is objectively BETTER than HP, I'm just saying the experience of watching it was way more fun. Yes, I hate everything these movies (especially this movie) stand(s) for. Does that mean they're not a fucking blast? No! I can compartmentalize the moral outrage. I'm very good at that. I would make a great sociopath.

The wedding scene was great (especially because it provided detail where the book lazily copped out), the honeymoon was actually sexy (I still want to see the original take that had to be cut because K. Stew was humping too hard, though), the body horror was sufficiently gross, and the birth scene was about as good as it could have been (except for the part where SPOILER ALERT Edward has pulled Renesmee out of Bella and Bella is fucking dying and Edward and Jacob are just kind of calmly strolling around the room for a few beats, what was that). And, again, the closing credits were killer.

I know I kind of broke up with Twilight earlier this year, but I still have some fond feelings for it along with the bitterness. This is our breakup sex. And I'm sure we'll have another drunken hookup in a year's time. It's called closure, okay?

5. Our Idiot Brother

I saw Mission: Impossible at a Regal Theater where they have that RPX sound-system shit. Are you familiar? It's super expensive and you basically pay two dollars extra to have your ears blown out, and I entertained myself while the deafening previews were happening with the thought of seeing like, a quiet indie comedy at a fucking RPX theater.

Anyway, Our Idiot Brother was great! It was assured and unassuming (and moderately funny), and it made no big deal out of the fact that like, EVERYBODY was in the damn thing. (Janet Montgomery was in it, so technically Ashley Greene sort of was too.) It was this year's Please Give (Have you seen Please Give? Please do), which is faint praise but in the very best way. Because not every movie has to be like, a big thing. Some movies can just be about a guy with a dog who has a family, you know? This will turn up on Netflix Instant sooner or later, at which point it will entertain you very thoroughly on a rainy day. And that's an underrated trait in movies! Okay, now back to the movies with explosions.

4. X-Men: First Class

Forget Weekend. The best subtle depiction of a realistic gay relationship was THIS MOVIE. I mean, just kidding, but not really? I wrote at further length about this a while ago, but the X-Men movies have struggled to integrate (ha!) the gay rights symbology with the civil rights symbology in the past, and this movie did, for the most part, a better job than the others (except for one ridiculously clunky, racist moment) symbology-wise. And also, Magneto was so badass! He's the top and Xavier is the bottom for sure, right? I'd let Magneto fuck me. 

3. Bridesmaids

Cut the scene where everybody shits themselves and this would be my favorite movie of the year. Because unlike, say, The Hangover, it was a comedy about recognizable humans. A lot of them. Everybody did a great job, especially Melissa McCarthy (duh) and Rose Byrne and that dude from the IT Crowd. And Kristen Wiig! She contains multitudes, and it turns out it’s not just “multitudes of annoying one-note SNL characters.” The dress-shitting scene kinda throw a wrench into all that (though there are bright spots within it, that sounds gross but it’s not). It was grafted on by Judd Apatow, and he and everyone else involved made sure to mention that fact a lot during interviews because it FELT grafted on, and I think they were sort of heading us off at the pass. But even with all that shit, this was such a good movie. For a bunch of girls. 


2. The Tree Of Life

When the credits rolled after I saw this thing, a few people scoffed and chuckled bitterly on the way out of the theater. Others were openly weeping. So, uh, that’s the range of possible experiences one could take away from this film (which won the Palme D’Or at Cannes this year). Yeah, Tree of Life gets a lot deserved credit for being basically the most beautiful series of images you will ever see on a screen, but I don’t understand the other half of the consensus, which is that there is no story. Guys, this story is so big that you technically have to say “spoiler alert” before you say “The earth forms.” Check it out if you haven’t yet.

1. Friday Night Lights season 1/Parks and Recreation seasons 3/4

One reason I didn't go to the movies much this year is because there was so much good TV at home. I know that Friday Night Lights is oldish but if you have been putting it off because UGH FOOTBALL you need to cut that shit out right now and watch. Season 1 is PERFECT. And Parks and Rec has been killing it at such a velocity that it almost makes me angry? Like, how is every episode somehow better than the last? What the fuck? It's great, please watch both of these shows, I have gained so much enjoyment from them this year, they were literally better than every movie. 

So there. Eight 2011 movies and some other stuff. What were your favorite movies this year? Get at me.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Very Cullen Christmas

Edward Cullen carefully pulled his red Christmas sweater over his head and breathed a long breath through his nose. It was 8:25am.
“Merry Christmas, baby,” Bella said, leaning against her knees on their bed.
He turned sharply and stared through the cottage wall in the direction of his family's home.
“Relax,” she said. “It's a holiday.”
“Put some clothes on, Bella. This is the Lord's day.” Edward turned the corner to wake Renesmee.
Bella groaned, leaned back, and rolled onto her stomach.
“Are you coming?” Edward asked her impatiently upon returning.
“I'll follow.”
“Why do you always insist on having twenty minutes alone? What are you doing in here?”
“Just collecting my thoughts,” Bella said. “I'm still getting used to this vampire-brain. I need a little alone time."
“Speaking of your thoughts,” Edward said, softly now. “I think you should let me in there again.”
Bella giggled. “That's what your mom said to me in the shower this morning.”
Edward huffed, then stared into her eyes. “Let me hear you,” he implored.
Bella's face tightened in apparent concentration. “I can't do it, honey,” she said after a moment.
“I don't understand. You were so good at it for a few weeks there.”
“Well, you know, I really needed my powers when we were threatened by the Volturi,” she said quickly. “Maybe now the lack of danger...my powers are receding.”
“Hmmm,” Edward said. “Interesting. Perhaps I'll discuss that theory with Carlisle.”
“Yes, do,” Bella said, kissing him on the cheek. “I'll see you in a bit.”
Edward headed for the door and scooped up Renesmee, who was waiting patiently in the doorway.
“Come quickly, mommy,” Renesmee squeaked.
Bella chuckled. “I plan on it,” she said under her breath.
“What was that?” Edward turned.
“I said Merry Christmas,” Bella said.
“Merry Christmas,” he said, and left.

“What are you all doing?” Edward put Renesmee down and glared at his siblings. “I thought we were going to church!”
They were sprawled in various states of undress all over couches and on the floor in the living room.
“Happy holidays, Edward!” Alice said cheerily from the couch, where a Santa hat was the most significant article of clothing on her person.
“Seasons greetings!” Emmett coughed, wearing even less.
“MERRY CHRISTMAS,” Edward corrected. “Would you have the decency to hide your bodies in front of my daughter? Especially on this, the day of our Lord's blessed birth?”
“Would you have the decency to respect others' religious beliefs?” Rosalie, asked. “Especially on this, the December 25th Day Of General Holiday Celebration?”
“Our religion dictates that we lounge around naked,” Emmett said. “In fact, going to church is specifically prohibited.”
“Literally,” Jasper added, half-buried in beer cans on a reclining chair.
“You're trying to upset me,” Edward said. “This is a Christian family.”
“Not me,” Alice said, rising and wrapping a blanket around herself. “I'm Shinto.”
“You are not,” he said, crossing his arms.
“Sure I am,” she said. “See? Shin, toe!” And then she kicked him sharply in the leg.
Renesmee giggled.
“That's very insensitive. Are you coming or not?” Edward said haughtily. “I hope you understand what a sin it would be to do otherwise.”
“Bella's coming right now,” Alice grinned.
“I don't hear her footsteps,” Edward said.
“Well give her a minute to clean up!”
“Clean up what!?”
Emmett, Rosalie and Alice laughed hysterically. The beer cans on top of Jasper shook.
“I'm leaving,” Edward said, turning to the door. “Enjoy hell, losers.”
“Enjoy church, faggot.” Emmett responded.
“Whoa,” Alice said. “Not cool, bro.”

That evening, the Cullens exchanged gifts. Edward sat moodily in the corner, trying not to have any fun.
“Ron Paul's newsletters!” Jasper exclaimed, opening his gift. “This is literally the best present I've ever gotten!”
Rosalie opened her box and stared in curiously. “What is this?” she asked. She produced a blank notebook with the words 'You're Doing It Wrong' written in black.
“It's the title of your book about parenting,” Bella said. “I pulled some strings at Little Brown. You have to turn in a draft by February.”
“Bella, this is so thoughtful!”
Bella opened hers next. It was a remote control. “I don't understand,” she said.
“It controls my vibrating panties,” Alice whispered. “You're welcome.”
Emmett opened a new set of Lincoln Logs and Carlisle a new office chair and Esme opened nothing because everyone forgot she existed, even herself. And then it was Edward's turn.
Alice and Rosalie approached him, heads bowed. Rosalie thrust the package into his arms.
“Edward,” Alice said. “We realize that Christmas is important to you, and though we may be on different sides of the culture war I'd really hate to think I'd ruined this day for you. You are my brother and I love you.”
Edward smiled slightly. “So what's the book?” he asked bemusedly. “The Kama Sutra? Some other filthy piece of entertainment?”
“Just open it,” Rosalie urged.
So he did. It was a fragile thing, a very old Bible from Spain.
“It's gorgeous,” Edward said, turning it over in his hands. “Thank you.”
“Feliz navidad,” Alice said, making a 'jerking off' hand gesture for some reason.
“Whoa,” Jasper said. “I just realized that Christmas is LITERALLY Spanish for 'More Christ.'”
“Holy shit bro,” Emmett said. “You just blew my mind.”
“So, will you read us the story of Jesus's birth?” Alice asked, dancing in place. “Wouldn't that be a fun new tradition to start?”
“That's a wonderful idea, Alice,” Edward said, smiling.
“Is that story even in the Bible, though?” Rosalie asked.
“Um, I'm not sure actually,” Edward said.

Monday, November 28, 2011

BLOGGING THE HUNGER GAMES, pt. 27: Watch The Throne

So the last chapter ended with "And right now, the most important part of the Hunger Games is about to begin." And of course, it's right before the very end of the book. Guhhh. I gave up hope of a pat resolution a long time ago, but are we even going to get ANY resolution?

Spoiler alert: NOPE! Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 27 (Last chapter)

We're in an era of franchises. I get that. New ideas don't sell like prepackaged old ideas; people like to know what to expect! That's why Michael Bay will be making Transformers movies forever (and now that Shia LeBeuouaf is out, I support that decision completely). The economic push for multipart book-and-or-film series is a powerful one, but like all economic pushes it's (probably*) cyclical. Stephenie Meyer wasn't sure if there'd be a demand for more than one Twilight book. She had an idea for what later became Breaking Dawn but came up with New Moon and Eclipse when the opportunity presented itself. But The Hunger Games came later in that cycle. Collins obviously sold this book as part of a series, and that sort of thing was conceivably made easier due to Twilight. So while that's great for Collins like, in terms of stuff she wants to buy, it's not ideal for the reader. Because here, we're expecting something major to happen between Katniss and Peeta and it just... doesn't. To be continued!

(*Conceivably someday we'll circle back around again, and people will get so sick of franchises they'll want a few one-and-done stories. But feature films have been stuck in this part of the cycle for like, ten fucking years.)

Katniss comes up on the stage and Peeta is standing there looking all suave and she throws herself into his arms and they make out for literally ten minutes. Caesar Flickman finally gets them to settle down--the standard HG champion's throne has been replaced with a "plush red velvet" love seat (from the Rathbone collection)--and they watch a three hour (three hour!) highlight reel from the games. Katniss kind of numbs herself to the violence on the screen but notices that the editors have shaped the narrative of the reel around her and Peeta's romance. She re-lives their courtship, and you think that this will be the moment when she realizes her feelings for him were real.

And thematically, it would be perfect, right? The Hunger Games are a TV show after all, and even though the general theme has been that televised entertainment is brutal and crass, it would be interesting to double-cross that theme a little and show how the mass media can clarify things for us in a positive way, too. Wouldn't it be ironic if watching the Hunger Games helped Katniss bring it all back home? Oh well!

The broadcast ends and Katniss is escorted back to her room. She tries to go find Peeta but no one is on the roof, and when she goes back to her room someone locks her in. She says she feels like she's a prisoner awaiting sentencing. (I can't help but feel like this is another Volturi-like psyche out. It's funny, after seeing Breaking Dawn pt. 1 I have lots of positive feelings toward Twilight, but there's still a lot of negativity and jadedness too. It's confusing. I'd characterize my emotions as Everdeenian.)

The next day Cinna puts Katniss in another innocence-enhancing "gauzy" white dress and she and Peeta sit down for a televised interview with Flickman, the Ryan Seacrest of Panem. Katniss leans on Peeta's shoulder and mumbles through it, and at some point realizes that Peeta's leg has been replaced with a metal-and-plastic prosthetic. The sight of the thing freaks her out so much that Peeta answers most of the following questions. This is interesting, because while it's so far underdeveloped you could see why Katniss would be buggin'. Peeta was afraid the Capitol would change him, and they very literally did, altering his physical form.

But she scores a few strategic victories. Flickman asks when she fell for Peeta, and when Katniss is at a loss he suggests the moment she shouted his name in the tree. Katniss says that was the first time she thought there was a chance she could "keep him," and Haymitch breathes a sigh of relief off-camera. So, is that it then? Is the Volturi threat--I mean the Capitol threat--done with?

They board a train back to District 12, and Katniss starts to feel a disconnect between her televised, Peeta-loving self and the girl she used to be. Changing back into her regular clothes and removing her makeup while the train moves along is a montage-worthy transition, and when Peeta puts his arm around her, his touch feels "alien." This is fine, but it would sort of make more sense if Katniss had ever fully committed to the "I actually love Peeta" column. But she never did, she hung out in the middle of the Venn Diagram Collins put her in at more or less the start of this thing. We're getting the illusion of an arc right now, but there never really was one.

And they stop to gas up or something and Kat & Peet go for a walk along the train tracks. Haymitch catches up to them and tells Katniss they're probably in the clear, and then of course the jig is up. Peeta is like, "huh?" and then more or less figures out the whole thing without another word from Katniss.

"But you knew what he wanted you to do, didn't you?" says Peeta. I bite my lip. "Katniss?" He drops my hand and I take a step, as if to catch my balance.
"It was all for the Games," Peeta says. "How you acted."
"Not all of it, I say.

Peeta walks away, and then Katniss drops an exposition bomb on us.

I want to tell him that he's not being fair. That we were strangers. That I did what it took to stay alive, to keep us both alive in the arena. That I can't explain how things are with Gale because I don't know myself. That it's no good loving me because I'm never going to get married anyway and he'd just end up hating me later instead of sooner. That if I do I have feelings for him, it doesn't matter because I'll never be able to afford the kind of love that leads to a family, to children. And how can he? How can he after what we've just been through?

Holy shit! Tell us how you really feel! And maybe, you know, start telling us 300 pages ago? And who the fuck is Gale, I mean really. ARGH. And then you turn the page, expecting some of this to go somewhere, and the novel is fucking over. They pull in to D12 and Peeta holds her hand for the cameras and she says she can feel him slipping away, and then there's "End of book 1" like a middle finger in your face.

I could say more, but I think it fits better if this blog post just abruptly cuts off, too. Boo!

Friday, November 25, 2011

ASK NICK SULLIVAN: Letters To Esquire's Fashion Director, Answered by Zac Little

I am getting ready to jump into the business world. What is your opinion on wearing a three-piece suit to a job interview? If not, can I wear a three-piece suit without the vest?

CJ Zeilenga, Columbia MO

As it happens, I am also joining the business world, and in most of my job interviews what I did was I wore a zoot suit with a fedora and spoke in the cadences of a 1930's gangster. IT WAS SO FUN! Nobody called me back though, except for that improv troupe. But I only interviewed with them for practice.

There's something to be said for dressing formally so as to convey how seriously you're taking the prospect of employment, but there's also something to be said for not looking like a fucking goober. And on the serious/goober continuum, I'm not really sure where you're at. To be honest, it really depends on what you look like. Would you say you're closer to Jon Hamm or Christopher Mintz-Plasse? James Caan or Ed Begley Jr.? Hamm/Caan-types can pull off almost anything. Three-piece? Sure! Eight-piece? Even better! Those on the Mintz-Plasse/Begley Jr. end of the matrix have to be a little more restrained so as not to look like either a boy playing dress up in his father's closet or a crazy guy who blew his scratch ticket earnings at the Salvation Army. Or both! Plain dress shirts and unadventurous blazers are the way to go. Hamm/Begley Jrs are wildcards, but usually look best in a sweatervest for some reason. Caan/Mintz-Plasses have never been spotted in the wild, but many experts contest that they do exist. But only in Iceland.

Will someone design a Hamm/Caan/Mintz-Plasse/Begley Jr. style matrix for me? I feel like there's money in that banana stand, so to speak.

I will be visiting Thailand soon, and I plan to get a few custom shirts while I'm there. I have never ordered a custom shirt before. Any advice you can give me?

Steven Ford, San Diego CA

I think I see what's happening here. So you want to order a "custom shirt," but you're worried about doing it for the first time in a foreign culture. Well, the good news, Steven Ford of San Diego California, is that "custom shirts" work the same way in Thailand that they do over here. Handjobs are the cheapest, blowjobs run the price gamut depending on quality/mouth condition, and some "custom shirts" won't even do anything else. But that's probably a good thing. When the customs agent asks if you have anything to declare, you don't want to have to tell him about the herpes. Don't think that counts? Re-read the latest Foreign Aid bill, asshole.

And sure, if you accidentally harm or murder your custom shirt, you'll probably hear from the tailor. But with those California good looks and those American Dollars you'll be on your way in no time. Have fun with those prostitutes, Steven Ford of San Diego!

How much wear should show on the heels of shoes before they might be accused of being "down-at-the-heels"?

George Crews, Mary Esther FL

Oh dearest heavens! A gentleman such as yourself surely shant ever be accused of being "down at the heel"! I doff my monocle at the very thought! Shant! A pox on the house of a knave who'd ever speak forth with such a vulgar utterance! As for the care of one's shoes, surely you have servant boys to do your walking for you?

Previously: "Disproportional Hand Disorder is no joke, and literally tens of people every year suffer from its weirdness."

Monday, November 21, 2011

BLOGGING THE HUNGER GAMES, pt. 26: I Wanna Be Sedated

Last time, Katniss and Peeta won the Hunger Games. And it was a fucking bummer. Previous entries can be found in the directory.

(We’re almost done, by the way, so I feel comfortable announcing that our next project, after our usual bullshit interlude, will be BLOGGING LOOKING FOR ALASKA, by John Green. At some point soon I will probably be reading Catching Fire and writing briefly about it, too. Maybe.)

Chapter 26

A hovercraft shows up overhead and brings Katniss and Peeta aboard. Peeta’s in pretty bad shape, and once they’re on he’s rushed by a group of paramedics.  Katniss is instinctively terrified of them and freaks out; they shove her into another room and she’s forced to watch through a glass door while they operate. There’s a running suggestion in this chapter that Katniss isn’t quite ready for civilization again—she’s too animalistic, too raw. That’s fine, but I sort of feel like the preceding text doesn’t do much to back that up. Sure, living in trees and killing people is not exactly normal behavior, but there was never a suggestion that Katniss was even BEGINNING to lose her grasp on her own humanity.

Peeta’s heart stops twice while they work on him and Katniss thinks of the doomed mine victims her mother used to try and save. She sees her “rabid, feral, mad” reflection in the glass just as they start to move Peeta somewhere else and really lets loose, slamming herself against the glass (I’d say good luck, Jennifer Lawrence, but I bet she can handle that shit) until someone jabs her with a tranquilizer.

So you’re expecting Katniss to be brought to some kind of throne or something, right? She’s the victor, where the fuck are the spoils? Instead the Capitol begins a careful re-assimilation process—and the degree of sinister intent is sort of hard to gauge. Kantiss wakes up naked (hot) in a bed, tied down around her waist (HOT). She realizes that her skin has been cleaned and her nails have got did, and when she’s inspecting her hair she discovers that hearing has been restored in her left ear. Cool, right? That redheaded Avox chick brings her food, but it's only a small portion of some clear broth. And when she tries to wriggle out of her restraints (still hot) she is drugged and immediately passes out again.

Oy, the drugging. This is like, the most standard sci-fi thing ever, right? I mean, I used the random-drugging and resultant loss of passage of time in a sci-fi story I wrote in the eighth grade. Go figure. But it works well enough. Katniss wakes up, sees that her scars are fading, hears a man yelling, passes out. And so on.

A couple days or hours later, Katniss wakes unrestrained, finds her clothes, and is released into a hallway that leads her to Effie Trinket, Haymitch and Cinna. Hey guys! Katniss surprises herself by running into Haymitch’s arms first—one of the more interesting things Collins has accomplished in this book is making Haymitch a major character despite the limited amount of time he’s actually around. He’s sort of the most identifiable and understandable character in here. Or is that just my alcoholic, jaded self connecting that dot?

Apprently they don’t talk about anything very interesting though—I mean, Katniss hears that she’s to be reunited with Peeta on live TV but that’s about it—because next she’s whisked away to be dressed for the ceremony.  Cinna’s latest concoction is a subtle number, a yellow dress that is reminiscent of candlelight. Katniss starts to sense that something is up, because rather than make her look like a hot mamacita this dress emphasizes her girlishness.

Next, Katniss waits on a platform to the stage where she'll meet up with Peeta and have a kind of exit interview. Haymitch shows up and gives her a hug, and when he does he begins quietly and quickly warning her in a whisper. The Capitol is pissed that Katniss showed them up--they're "the joke of Panem" now. He tells her that her defense has to be that she was "madly in love" and not responsible for her actions.

On the one hand, this is kind of a fun idea. Collins is showing how love can be crassly exploited and used to hide all kinds of behavior. On the other hand: ENOUGH ALREADY. Katniss asks if Peeta knows and Haymitch says he's "already there." Katniss wonders if that means truly in love or strategic enough to know without being told. ENOUGH ALREADY!

(The Hunger Games trailer was in front of Breaking Dawn pt. 1, a movie from which large portions of mental intrigue were cut due to unfilmability. Will that be the case for the Is He Or Isn't He aspect of the Will They Or Won't They in THG? Or will they just show two characters watching the games on TV going "She doesn't know how much he really loves her!")

Friday, November 18, 2011

BREAKING DAWN part 1 OPEN THREAD

DID YOU SEE IT? DIDDDD YOUUUU SEEEEE ITTTTT? I haven't yet, I will maybe go on Monday? Or Sunday, who knows? But anyway if you have thoughts to share, share them! Don't worry about spoilers in the comments, because A. we already read the book and B. I will just read them later.

A few links from this week:
A few notable reviews (i.e. the ones I have read)
  • Alison Willmore at the AV Club: "Where Twilight started as a “true love waits” metaphor, it makes in this segment a grotesquely unconvincing argument for maternal martyrdom, in the form of taking a baby to term even if it kills the mother. But that’s overthinking things..."  
  • Andrew O'Hehir at Salon: "Rarely have the metaphorical transformations of horror fiction been carried to such rococo extremes. Is this a story about a young woman coming of age or a deviant, heretical Christ legend with a female hero?"
  • Dana Stevens at Slate: "In the book, I gather, Breaking Dawn’s unplanned-vampire-pregnancy plotline is something of a Trojan horse for a conservative, pro-life agenda: Apparently immortal mutant vampire life also begins at conception. Here, I wouldn’t say that’s a major factor (or if it is, there’s so much other allegorical weirdness in the air it’s hard to separate it out.)"
  • Linda Holmes at NPR: "But when a saga popular with pre-adolescent girls peaks romantically on a night that leaves the heroine to wake up covered with bruises in the shape of her husband's hands — and when that heroine then spends the morning explaining to her husband that she's incredibly happy even though he injured her, and that it's not his fault because she understands he couldn't help it in light of the depth of his passion — that's profoundly irresponsible."
  • Dan Kois at The Village Voice: "Expect much to be written about this, and for op-ed hacks on either side of the debate to squeeze Breaking Dawn for all it’s worth; the film’s actual politics are muddy. Bella, who’s willing to have the baby even though it’ll certainly kill her, could best be described as anti–life, while the vampires trying to strong-arm her might be pro–abortion, but they’re pretty determinedly anti–choice." 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

BLOGGING THE HUNGER GAMES, pt. 25: Killing Yourself To Live

Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 25

Funny thing about this final deus ex gamemaker: at first I was like: “WEREWOLVES!? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?” But then I was like, “Oh, maybe they're not werewolves...” And then I was like “HOLY SHIT THIS IS FUCKED UP AND AWESOME.”

Because at first, yeah, it seems like Cato is being chased by giant wolves. He runs, Katniss and Peeta run (it's interesting to note that Katniss seems to keep forgetting Peeta is even there, obsessed as she is with her own survival) and Katniss doesn't get a good look at them. But she signals for the outraged YA fans to wait up a second—this isn't another damn werewolf book, Katniss promises!

Up close, I'm sure their more menacing attributes will be revealed.

Cato climbs the cornucopia, and Katniss follows while Peeta limps along trying to catch up. At the top (the shape and look of this thing is kind of hard to imagine. I mean I guess it's like your standard Thanksgiving centerpiece, but gold and enormous and flat enough for three people to stand/lie down on?) Cato is lying down, catching his breath. Katniss is about to kill him when she remembers Peeta (“Oh right, Peeta exists!”-Katniss) and sees him struggling to climb up, wolves on his tail.

Two things happen before our heroes and villains get their acts together and fight. Peeta gets bitten on the leg but subdues his attacker with a knife. Then Katniss looks one of them in the eyes (don't look them in the eyes, idiot!) and has a horrifying realization.

“It's them. It's all of them. The others. Rue and Foxface and...all of the other tributes,” I choke out.

She recognizes their human-like eyes and sees collars with identifying district numbers (classy touch, Gamemakers). YIKES. I mean, we knew that the government of Panem didn't care much for the lives of these kids, but to create monstrous creatures in their images is some next-level shit. I don't even want to think about the actual mechanics of doing such a thing, because any way you slice it (cutting out eyeballs, reanimating and genetically enhancing corpses) shit is DARK. Recall Peeta and his vow to make sure the capitol knew they didn't own him—that certainly wouldn't have been the case if he'd been killed in the games. Overall it's such a grisly and horrifying moment that I tried not to fixate on Katniss's further descriptions of the creatures, because them shits is still werewolves. But anyway.

Katniss eventually recovers her wits enough to remember to kill Cato, but by then motherfucker has Peeta in a headlock. Katniss takes aim and he points out that if she kills him, Peeta will fall and die too.  They have a brief standoff before Peeta draws an X on Cato's hand. He figures out what it means a split-second after Katniss's arrow pierces his hand, and he falls backward to the beasts below.

And here's another fucked up part. Peeta and Katniss wait on top of the cornucopia for the cannon to signal Cato's death, but it doesn't come. The beasts are killing him slowly, dragging it out. Hours pass, night falls, and poor Cato is still getting torn up on the ground.

Peeta's leg wound turns out to be pretty bad, so as they wait out the clock on Cato's life and the games Katniss makes a tourniquet (out of her shirt! HUBBA HUBBA) to try and save Peeta's leg. More time passes, and Katniss is filled with pity for Cato, being tossed around below her. At some point he lands close enough to them, and Katniss decides to use her last arrow to put him out of his misery. She looks at the “raw hunk of meat that used to be my enemy” and thinks she can hear him say “please.” So she kills him.

We've certainly had periodic glimpses into the capital-e Evil of Panem before, but never has it been thrown into such stark relief. The end of the Hunger Games proper is a stone fucking bummer. Suzanne Collins makes sure any kind of thrill we might have gotten from the violence before now is long gone. I thought I was signing up for George Orwell-lite, but this is more like Michael Haneke-lite. And Haneke-lite is still HEAVY AS FUCK.

The cannon sounds, the wolves run into a trap door, but nothing happens to signal the end of the games. No fireworks, no dancers. Katniss and Peeta limp down to the lake, and an announcement blares: they're taking back the rule change; there can only be one Hungerlander again. O cruel!

Peeta stands up, and Katniss immediately points her bow at his heart. And then he throws his knife into the lake. WHOOPS. I hate it when that happens! He offers to kill himself—which would have been easier with the knife—and unties his tourniquet.

“You're not leaving me here alone,” I say. Because if he dies, I'll never go home, not really. I'll spend the rest of my life in this arena trying to think my way out.

Peeta mentions that “they have to have a victor,” which gives Katniss an idea. If they both kill themselves at the same time, there will be no winner. So she pulls out the berries that killed Foxface and holds them out for the world to see ("If there are poison berries at the start of Act III, they'll come back before the end of Act III"-Chekov). They agree to do it on the count of three, and when they reach it Katniss wonders if her gambit won't work. But at the very last second the Gamemakers announce that they've changed the rules back, and Peeta and Katniss are the winners of the Hunger Games. Huh!

Friday, November 11, 2011

NO CHURCH IN THE WILD: An Advice Column

This week marked the launch of NO CHURCH IN THE WILD: The Video Series, starring yours truly and directed by Internet Celebrity Jory Caron. Episode one is here, and episode 2 (which is a rehash of an early column--that will happen sometimes!) is here.


I'm writing my college apps, and I have absolutely no idea what to say, how to write them, or where to even start. Any words of advice for the biggest case of writers block in the history of the world?

Well, lets put things in perspective here. The biggest case of writer's block in the world happened to Truman Capote, and the runner-up is probably Shane Carruth. You are at best in third place. But I agree, this is serious. I mean, your college application essay is a very important document. A person that your prospective college pays nine dollars an hour is probably going to look at it for 30-45 seconds! SO MUCH PRESSURE!

See what I did there? Relax. I am of the opinion that college application essays are not nearly as important as your teachers would like you to believe. It's just an easy way of getting you to pay attention when they blather on about five paragraph structure. "No, this is important! You won't get into college without it!" You know, I thought about answering this question in the form of a five-paragraph essay, but it's not even worth the effort for the joke!

Now that you're relaxed: what should you write about? I'm not going to give you the bullshit answer, "write about what you care about," because we all know that is easier said than done. Instead: what do you think you CAN write about? Think about a conversation you've had recently. Any subjects you discussed where you felt like you said some witty, insightful shit? Or maybe some subject where you just felt like you had more to say but the conversation moved on to whether or not 2 Broke Girls was still good or something? Start with that.

Worry more about writing well (or at least not writing BADLY) than what your essay is about. Everybody gets their college essays so brutally finessed by teachers and friends these days that a college with its proverbial head on its shoulders probably only uses them to make sure you're not a total idiot. Can you coherently form a few sentences? You'll be fine.

College essays are the red herring of the College Application Process. No more, I say! Let's tear back the curtain. What's really important is whether or not your parents are rich. Your parents are rich, right?

I have a friend at my school who can be really emotionally draining. She constantly texts or facebooks me about the most mundane aspects of her day, usually to complain. I love her to death and she is one of my few friends here, so I don't want to lose her, but I don't really know how to handle this situation. What should I do? 

The Age of Connectivity has had a weird effect on some people huh? It's like they had this pressure valve nobody knew about before, and now that they're sharing every thought in their head they can't plug it back up or they'll explode. I guess they used to be the sort of people who called our parents all the time and trapped them in long conversations, so in a way maybe you should be grateful that you only have to READ your friend's neuroses.

Anyway, to get away from this you just have to do the standard drawdown. It's working for Obama in Iraq, and it will work for you. Slow your replies gradually, over the course of a few weeks, until you are only responding once or twice a day. If you do it slowly enough, your friend will almost subliminally follow suit. With any luck, she will have democratically elected a new, stable mental government by 2012. You'll be greeted as a liberator!

A friend was torn between two guys. She eventually let one down gently and dated the other guy for a week. Guy #2 broke it off and she realized how much she cared about Guy #1, and when she asked him out he told her no. When's the appropriate time to say "You were kind of dumb to think he'd wait around for you to change your mind"?

I dig how you've structured this question like a joke: a friend was torn between a rabbi and a Native American. But I guess your question is: when do you get to gloat at your friend? Probably never. Be a good friend and act like both guys were assholes. How dare they have emotions and desires, etc? Fuck those pricks. She's better than them. See?

Got problems? Get at me here. Use the anonymous option. Be advised that the questions are POURING in right now, so I might not get to you for a while. Previously: "But how do you move from 'talkative classmates' to 'fuckative ass-mates'?"

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

BLOGGING THE HUNGER GAMES, pt. 24: Fox Confessor Brings The Flood

Previous entries can be found in the directory.


Chapter 24 

Katniss explains to Peeta the way Foxface had been grabbing supplies from the careers—and that she'd been doing the same to them until Peeta “outfoxed” her. Yes, she really uses that word. Fall back, Katniss. They figure that Cato knows where they are now, but probably won't make a direct attack. So they settle down and cook, deciding to hang onto the poison berries in case they can pull the same trick again later. For a couple of murderers, these two are still pretty committed to killing as passive-aggressively as possible.

Katniss tells us that Peeta is a “whiz with fires,” getting a blaze going out of “damp wood.” Is that supposed to represent the way he's awakened Katniss's sexuality? Is she the damp wood? After dinner Katniss wants to climb a tree to sleep, but Peeta wants to go back to the cave. Just so we're clear on the symbolism here:

Katniss: tree/penis preference
Peeta: cave/vagina preference

Also, I mean, every new couple has that fight, it's understandable. Cave or tree? I've been there. Katniss decides to let Peeta win this round, and they hike back to the vagina. Peeta sleeps through the night and then Katniss does until mid-afternoon. So, like, what happens on TV at this point? Highlight reels from earlier in the games? (In fact, as our heroes trek onward, Katniss starts referencing past events. So, maybe!)

Our heroes decide to go face Cato and get it over with, but they want to wash up first. You know the feeling: you're gearing up for a big fight so you want to be fresh and clean. But when they get to the stream for some sexy washing up times, that streambed is dusty and dry. Bummer, man. That's like pouring a bowl of cereal and then realizing you're out of milk. Or like, starting to have sex and then realizing you don't have a condom. (“Just the dip?”-Peeta) They hike to another spring and find that one dry as well and conclude that the Gamemakers are drawing them to the lake for a showdown. Katniss is like, “bitches, we were on that already.” She feels like it was always going to come down to her and Cato, that the other dead kids were just a distraction, which sounds sort of like Suzanne Collins is feeling down on herself. Hey, Suzanne! Don't worry, this book was kind of fun!

They pass the scene of the Tracker Jacker incident and Katniss starts flashing back, in case we forgot Glimmer's pus-filled, exploding body. Katniss kicks the nest and it dissolves into dust, re-emphasizing how little we know about what was real during that whole thing (this is a time when Collins's terminal vagueness problem isn't a problem at all. Shit's very David Lynchesque). They reach the clearing and walk around the metal cornucopia where they started, making sure motherfucker isn't hiding underneath like Hussein or Gaddafi. Hey, have you noticed the way the government seems to be leaking more and more embarrassing details about dead tyrants and terrorists these days? I mean, Saddam happened and him hiding out in that hole with the crazy beard and getting his mouth examined was kind of weird, but dude ended up with his dignity more or less intact. Then Osama happened, and they were like “we found Bin Laden's stash of jerk socks.” And now with Gaddafi, it's even worse! I mean, I know these guys were bad news but can't we just kill them and leave it that?

Once again, Collins does that thing where a scene that will end up being five or six minutes in the movie happens on a single page. Katniss and Peeta sit by the lake and she sings Rue's song. The Mockingjays pick it up and start overlapping the melody, and it's beautiful and probably kinda Brian Wilson-y, but then the melody becomes discordant and crazy as Cato crashes through the trees. Katniss shoots him and her arrow bounces off his chest. He charges at them, ready to kill, but then Katniss realizes he is unarmed. And then he runs right past her. Hey Cato! The fight is that way! But it turns out he's being chased by some kind of monster. That summary of the action right there is about as long as the actual action in the book. More and more I'm feeling like that Stephen King's description of this as a “jarring, speed-rap of a novel” was less a compliment and more a criticism.

Friday, November 4, 2011

NO CHURCH IN THE WILD: An Advice Column

There's this girl in my film class. We've quickly become friends and she is pretty cool. I'm actually starting to have a thing for her. The friend who introduced me to her thinks she might be interested in me. Thing is, she's 21, three years older than I am, and I'm not sure if I believe him. How would I know if she really does have a thing for me and how should I go about becoming more than friends?

Look for body language cues! If when she talks to you, she orients her legs toward you, that means she wants to show you her vagina. If you cross your arms and she unconsciously imitates the gesture, it means she wants you to bite her nipples. Body language doesn't lie! This stuff is 100% scientifically proven (see Shakira's article in the March 2006 edition of the American Science Journal).

An older woman! That's the way to be, my friend. She'll buy you booze and instruct you in the ways of boozy sex. She'll teach you more mature pop-culture references, like what the show Friends was about and who Michael Rapaport is. You'll be the envy of your friends and maybe also your dad.

But how do you move from "talkative classmates" to "fuckative ass-mates"? I think the film angle is a good one to take. Girls in film class like to go to the movies! Except the ones who are just doing it for an easy English credit, but I sense that your lady is not one of those bitches. Is there an art-house place near you? Pick a critically successful movie with non-threatening male leads. Like, Michael Shannon is a phenomenal actor, but he's weird-looking enough that you're safe. And I hear great things about Take Shelter. Also there's Weekend, which is about gay dudes! No threat there! Invite her to the movies and then take her to a cafe or something afterwards to discuss. NOW: it is important that you don't use any class-terminology to discuss the movie, no matter how smart you want to sound. Don't let me hear you talk about fucking chiaroscuro, okay? Keep a lid on that shit. Talk about the movie like a person. And at the end of the night, say "we should do this again sometime." And then flash an easy grin. Chances are she'll yank her underwear off right there, but if not: lather, rinse, repeat.

So. There's this boy. We started hanging out a month and a half ago. A few weeks after we started hanging out he got my number from one of his friends and started texting me. It was kind of weird, since he had a girlfriend at the time. He's attractive, funny, and smart. What more can a girl ask for, right? Him to be single. Then he was. Less than 8 hours later he kissed me. Since then we've been on a date. He dated his ex for over a year, should I be concerned he "moved on" so quickly?

We're dealing with a classic opportunist here. You know the type. They come across a nice field and they play ball until a greener or skinnier or shaved field comes along, and then they move. I would proceed, since it seems like you like him, with the expectation that this thing is not a long-haul relationship. Maybe you can get some karmic justice for his jilted ex by Paying It Backward (which is like Paying It Forward only negative): date him and keep an eye out for someone better! Of course, Paying It in any direction is risky: your next beau could have the same doubts about you. Also, I mean, look what happened to Haley Joel Osment!

I'm a tallish girl with a nice face (a bit on the chubby side but oh well), and pretty big boobs (C or D cup I don't really know); I'm a senior in HS and taking all AP classes... and all the guys I've ever met are like the guys from Twilight- absolutely sexually defunct. Many times I've worn shirts where my boobs are practically falling out and yet they talk politely to me and their eyes NEVER stray down. Like, what the hell? WHAT DO I DO. HOW DO I GET ASKED OUT I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO ANYMORE!?

The academic fast track has a curious way of desexualizing the youth of America. In high school I exclusively dated dumb girls for that very reason. But you're some kind of mutation: the AP student who isn't obsessively focused on her career. Bravo! You must not be Asian. JUST KIDDING, I know there are Asian girls with big boobs out there. What, did you think I was referring to the academic stereotypes about Asians? NOW WHO IS RACIST? Still me, right? ANYWAY.

You have to break out of these non-sexy circles. Are you involved in any after school groups? I did student government, and our meetings were crippled by sexual tension. We did less than the 112th Congress!

Of course, budget cuts have ended most after-school programs, and if your school is still springing for AP classes you guys are probably particularly hard-up. But no matter how much education budgets get slashed there will still be ONE reliable place to get fingerbanged after school: DETENTION. The next time one of those nerds won't give you the up and the down, slap him! Make sure your teacher sees. That afternoon you will meet a brand new group of boys, many of whom you've probably never seen before. At my school they were the ones who got shuffled off to the Agricultural Department after Freshman year. We studied the quadratic equation, they fixed cars (I am not even kidding. New Hampshire!) and like, plowed the football fields or something. And they also FUCKED. How do I know? Most of the girls were pregnant (it's hard to work on a chassis in the third trimester, I pity those girls). So obviously bring your own condoms to detention. They will not have any.

Failing that, the good thing about AP classes is that you'll be finished with your workload a month before graduation. When that weight lifts off of their shoulders, your male classmates will see you with new eyes. And when that happens you might want to invest in a few turtlenecks. Those nerdstares BURN!

NEED ADVICE? Get at me on Tumblr. Use the "anonymous" option, please. Previously: "Why are you doing all this DEEMING, man? Ease up on the deeming." 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

BLOGGING THE HUNGER GAMES pt. 23: Waiting For The Damn Fight To Start Already

Just after saying that I didn't think there was a lot of thematic content involving “hunger” in a book called “The Hunger Games,” Suzanne Collins threw me a bone (no pun intended). This chapter has lots of little details revolving around food and the way it can sustain or destroy us. There's nothing particularly meaty, though, (pun sort of intended).

As we reach the end of this book I think I'm finally circling the real issue, which is a kind of terminal vagueness. The sci-fi and dystopian elements of Panem are interesting, but in a survey course sort of way—for a book about a post-apocalyptic world it's neither very political nor very scientific. Katniss and Peeta's relationship is vague in two or three too many ways: his feelings are unclear and so are hers, and so we don't know whether to root for them to get together or not, even as its basically the only thing driving this story forward. I mean, if Katniss really doesn't like him, who cares how he feels? Who the fuck is Peeta to us, even now? And why does Gale come up every now and then? Who the fuck is Gale, really? And then there's the way the little thematic beats—Katniss's issues with her mother, with her father, the concept of hunger, Katniss's political awakening(s)—haven't added up to anything. Odds are they set up developments in later books, but that's not a good enough excuse. This book is an unsatisfying meal.

Chapter 23

Peeta urges Katniss to take it easy with the food they just received; it's so rich she may have trouble keeping it down. Much like Peeta's corn-fed jizz am I right? Oh god, that's awful, instead let's note that the over-rich food probably foreshadows the way hardscrabble Katniss will have to adjust to wealth when she wins the games. That's a much more astute point. (“My dick is a much more astute point.”-Peeta) So they eat just a little, and then Peeta prods Katniss to talk a little more about how he has “no competition.” As usual, this scene feels like Suzanne Collins is following some kind of formula. One sentence that indicates Katniss's love for Peeta is real, then one that reminds us it isn't. Then one that suggests maybe Katniss is wrong that it isn't real. Repeat. Forever.

We catch a break when Peeta references the “Victor's Village,” which is apparently like, a little cul-de-sac in each district where the champions live after the games. The one in District 12 only has one resident, Haymitch. Which means he probably lives in all the houses, which means Katniss and Peeta will have to choose theirs wisely.

“Well that one's the booze house. That one's where I go to the bathroom. That's the one where I make homemade jerky. And that's one over there is the jerky house.” Haymitch coughed.
“What, is that where you store the jerky?” Peeta asked.
“Uh, no.”


Katniss and Peeta revile at the thought of having Haymitch as a neighbor, and there's a weird beat where Peeta confuses him with Cinna. I mean, I know they haven't been in the story for a while but come on, dude! Katniss realizes that her relationship with Haymitch is much closer than Peeta's, given the way they seem to wordlessly communicate via sponsor gifts. Reconsidering Haymitch leads Katniss to wonder aloud how he won the games in the first place. They conclude, as though it is some kind of revelation, that he “outsmarted the others.” Well duh!

“How do you think Haymitch won?” I asked.
“Well, my guess is that he survived longer than everyone else,” Peeta said.
“Yeah, probably.”


The other thing is Katniss realizes Haymitch has to train kids and watch them die, year after year, and that if she wins that will be her job, too. Dark! Or maybe this will be the beginning of a dynasty! District 12 is the new Red Sox. Then the nightly anthem blares, and Katniss ignores it because she assumes nothing has changed today. Peeta watches the sky and informs her, in a particularly well written scene, dialog-wise,* that Thresh is dead.

(*Katniss is preoccupied with food, Peeta is repeatedly trying to get her attention while she talks absent-mindedly. It's very Sorkin-y.)

Like us, Katniss feels a weird mix of relief and seemingly inappropriate sadness. We all barely know Thresh, and he was mostly just an obstacle to victory. But he showed profound humanity like, ten seconds after bashing someone's head in with a rock. That's notable. As Katniss slides into the sleeping bag she says a silent goodbye to him. So long, Thresh.

That leaves Katniss, Peeta, Foxface, and Cato. Common sense indicates that Cato will be the last foe standing, but Foxface has been this half-curious half-threatening presence for kind of the whole book. Turning her into the final villain would be an interesting choice. Maybe we'll find out her real name! I bet it's Katelyn. In the future, every class will still have nine fucking Katelyns. I also don't know if we should make anything of the fact that in the movie version of this, all of the black actors will now be dead.

The rain finally stops, so they go hunting, and Katniss is repeatedly frustrated by Peeta's inability to walk quietly. His injured leg is scaring off the game. A similar thing happens when I go clubbing with my friend Gimpy Mike. So they agree to briefly split up, and Peeta gathers roots and berries while Katniss goes hunting solo. Nobody makes any caveman hunter/gatherer jokes. They whistle to each other to keep in touch, but when Peeta stops answering her call Katniss goes running to him, fearing an attack. When it turns out he's OK, Katniss unloads on him in highly stereotypical TV girlfriend fashion. It's meant to be another indication of Katniss's real feelings—she realizes after a hugging Peeta that she's trembling—but it's mostly just embarrassing. You used to be so independent, girl! One thing she bitches about is that Peeta seems to have eaten some of their food while she was gone (“Why didn't you call me? We could have had lunch together?”) but he denies doing so.

And then a cannon goes off and a hovercraft collects Foxface's body from a few yards off. What the what? Peeta braces for Cato but Katniss looks at the berries Peeta's been collecting and and recognizes them as highly poisonous. She tells Peeta it's his kill as the chapter draws to a close. In other words, Foxface poached some of their supplies and died from it. Food as a weapon! Twist! It's also kind of fun that Peeta being an idiot is what killed someone who is obviously very smart. Very Frank Grimes.

Stray notes
  1. Another too-vague thematic thread: the socioeconomic stuff. Early in this chapter, Peeta alludes to mostly eating stale bread, and Katniss suddenly realizes that he didn't exactly live the cushy life she once imagined. And that maybe her Peeta/Gale Prep school/Hard knocks dynamic needs some revision. But later in the chapter, she laughs at Peeta's unwillingness to take his boots off outside—the fact that he's still scared of the woods—and wonders if Gale is watching and laughing, too. Katniss is kind of a jerk about this stuff, huh? “Peeta, you need to acknowledge your privilege.” -Katniss. Shut up, Katniss.
  2. Hey do you guys remember how Peeta coldly murdered someone? Is that going to come up again?

Friday, October 28, 2011

No Church In The Wild: An Advice Column

I just broke up with my lover because he wanted to go backwards from being involved to dating. He has some serious mental/health problems (which I have never minded supporting him about). He says he is like - fucked. And needs 6 months+ to try to get a handle on his shit. Also maybe he wants to fuck other people. He doesn't want to put me on hold til then. Chances we will ever reconnect?

Hopefully there's no chance! Dude sounds like bad news. His mental breakdown just HAPPENED to coincide with a desire to fuck other people? FLAG ON THE PLAY. I know we'd all like to use the insanity defense every now and then (last night I ordered a pizza and I feel guilty about it today but I was perfectly sane when I did it, you know?) but its bullshit most of the time. Unless it's used to avoid the death penalty or an overly-severe punishment for a non-violent drug offense, in which case it's legit even if it's a lie. The system's broken!

Make a clean break from this joker. He didn't have the guts to actually dump you, so he blamed his brain and even tried to keep you in his pocket to fuck later. If you're still hoping to reconnect after that, YOU are the one who is crazy. (I'm not being glib here, I'm seriously saying you should seek out a medical health professional. Maybe he'll be hot!)

In my last relationship, I didn't even get break-up sex and the last sex she had was with someone else. This seems to be a pattern with me. I'm loyal and faithful but unforgiving. Relationship over. In analyzing this, I believe I give the impression that I don't give a damn. I'm no romantic and I don't believe in anniversaries, holidays and all that horseshit. They make no effort to hid that they cheated on me like they did it on purpose. Have you ever met a woman that would match my profile?

Let me get this straight: you don't want to be romantic (or apparently put much effort toward a relationship at all) but you still demand fidelity? Why? What's it to you? If anniversaries and holidays are horseshit, why isn't monogamy? Who the fuck are you to deem that? Why are you doing all this DEEMING, man? Ease up on the deeming.

There's an old saying: "Your girl vindictively fucks someone else once: shame on her. Your next girl vindictively fucks someone else too: you must have strange expectations about relationships." It's as true today as it was when Ben Franklin wrote it in 1991. Take his advice to heart, even though THAT Ben Franklin was just some guy my dad knew.

I still wish I could help you out, but my new dating site, Heteronormative-Patriarchal-Fuckwad-Match.com is still under construction. I've just got a piece of clip-art and a midi file up there while I meet with venture capitalists. But I heard there's a dating site for Ayn Rand fans, so maybe you could start there while you wait for me to develop my algorithm. And if you run into Sean Parker, mention my name, okay? Thanks.

"Change it to Fuckwad-Match.com. It's cleaner."-Sean Parker

If someone went for almost 16 months without having sex and had zero prospects for the immediate future, what would you tell them? Some have said it's not that big a deal. Others are more honest and think it's a grim scenario at best. You?

I was at an airport recently and through a series of wacky events my luggage got switched with Rick Santorum's. Weird, right? Anyway that day I found out what a Fleshlight is. Have you heard of them?

But seriously, Ross--I mean, whoever you are--16 months is not so bad. Hell, I went without sex for almost fifteen years! I'm sure as soon as you learn to walk and reach the next level of cognitive development you'll be knee deep in pussy. Just mind that soft spot on the top of your head.

I'm still kidding, buddy! Think about it this way: in the olden days, King Arthur only let his Knights of The Roundtable get laid once a year. Hard to believe, right? THAT'S BECAUSE I JUST MADE IT UP, THOSE GUYS GOT LAID CONSTANTLY. You're doomed. Donate your genitals to science before they fall off from lack of use. Thanks for writing in.

Got a problem? Hit me up here. Use the "ask anonymously" option please. Previously: "One hundred monkeys in a room with one hundred typewriters will eventually have sex with each other."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

BLOGGING THE HUNGER GAMES pt. 22: That Awkward Moment When

So! First post after everyone (including me) agreed how bored they were! YIKES! Here goes nothing! Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 22

Katniss wakes up, thinking she's back at home, in her bed with her family. Psyche, you're in a shitty cave with Peeta! That's like when you're waking up and you half-dream that there's some really good food in front of you, like Chinese food, and then you reach for it and there's nothing there...and also you're in a cave with fucking Peeta.

He tells Katniss that he woke up and found her in a pool of blood. He bandaged her up, with what I am not sure (“Your bra.”-Peeta) and now proceeds to help her gain her strength back. ROLE REVERSAL! All in the space of like, 20 pages! There's a raging storm outside, and Katniss guesses that the Gamemakers are doing it to juice up the fight between Cato and Thresh. She tells Peeta what happened with the latter dude showing her mercy and Peeta mentions that they should hope Cato kills him so they don't have to. Seems crass, but I was thinking more or less the same thing. I don't like agreeing with Peeta, it makes me feel dirty.

Hearing Peeta talk about it gives Katniss her most human moment yet; she realizes that she doesn't “want anyone else to die” and is full of profound rage at the Capitol. But she doesn't say anything, for fear of like, bears ravaging their cave in retaliation or something. Could happen! Hover bears, maybe!

Later she asks Peeta about the area of the arena that seems to be Thresh's domain, he tells her it's an endless field of tall grass with a “sinister feeling to it.” So obviously we'll end up there sooner or later; Chekov once said if there's a field of tall grass in Act II someone has to run through it in Act III. Or mow it. Peeta's fear of the field (c'mon buddy, if there's grass in the field, you know?) causes Katniss to unfavorably compare him to Gale. Peeta grew up in a house that always smelled “like baking bread” whereas Gale graduated from the university of hard knocks, with a BA from the Kennedy School of Paranoia. He'd see the field as a risk but also a potential reward—and wouldn't, we gather, be as much of a pussy as Peeta is being. She wonders if the revolutionary rhetoric she and Gale used to toss around would “shock” Peeta.

Wait, wasn't Katniss the one having a political awakening like two chapters ago? Wasn't she finally realizing what Peeta and Gale meant when they trashed the government? I've got whiplash over here. Katniss's level of awareness and political savvy changes from paragraph to paragraph; she's like an Occupy Wall Street protestor. PEETA IS THE 1%!

I've been saying for a while that The Hunger Games will be a pretty good movie, but I might be wrong. Because here, Peeta thinks about food and Katniss guesses that the sponsor well dried up with the cost of those roofies. That prompts Peeta to earnestly beg her not to risk her life for him. Unsure of how honest Peeta is but realizing at any rate that this drama will make for good television, Katniss launches into soap opera mode. “Maybe I did it for myself, Peeta? Did you ever think of that?” she says, maybe throwing a glass of water emphatically. But then, finally, she starts thinking of what would happen if Peeta died, and is overcome with REAL emotion. Let's back up and go over what happened in that fucking paragraph again:
  1. Peeta either made a real confession about his fears and feelings for Katniss or is faking really well
  2. Katniss realized the potential for audience manipulation and began to fake-react to Peeta
  3. Her fake acting brought out actual emotions and the line blurred for her and us as to what she feels
It all starts to clear up in a sec, but as an actor how do you play that scene without coming across as A. far too ambiguous for mainstream audiences or B. ridiculous? It leads to a “real” kiss, real in this case meaning that neither of them is deathly ill and both of them are approaching human emotions for once. Katniss feels a stirring in her chest, but obviously isn't sure what to make of it. ("Is my hard-drive overheating?"-Robot Katniss) Still, she's ready to table the ambiguity for a hot minute and do some more smooching.

Then Peeta notices her head is bleeding again, and the moment is ruined. Cockblocked by your own bleeding head, ain't that always the way? The next day the rain continues to pour and Katniss and Peeta are starving. She guesses that Haymitch and the sponsors want more than physical intimacy (which is weird, why wouldn't you just want MORE PHYSICAL INTIMACY, it's television!), and she wonders how to draw Peeta into such a conversation. And then point-blank asks him when he started crushing on her. Very smooth, Katniss.

So Peeta's “how long I've loved you story” is long and a little weird. Like, it turns out Peeta's dad used to love Katniss's mom. And his dad told Peeta that on the first day of school. COOL THING TO TELL YOUR SON! “Your mother was actually my second choice.” But she left Peeta's dad for a coalminer. Haughty child Peeta was like “Father, why ever would a woman forsake thee for a mere peasant?” And Papa Peeta says Katniss's dad had a lovely singing voice, and that's what won him the girl. That's what did it? Well, chicks love Michael Buble, so. Anyway that first day of school Katniss sang, and Peeta's been crushing on her ever since. (Holy shit, what if this book ends with Katniss becoming a pop star?) A bamboozled Katniss continues to try to square the increasingly circular romance:

For a moment I'm almost foolishly happy and then confusion sweeps over me. Because we're supposed to be making this stuff up, playing at being in love, not actually being it. But Peeta's story has a ring of truth to it.

A ring of truth as loud as a fucking belltower am I right? Peeta confesses to essentially stalking Katniss for her whole life and tells her she just hasn't been paying attention (“Go back and look at your family photographs. I'm in ALL OF THEM”).

“I am now,” I say.
“Well, I don't have much competition here,” he says.


That's not true! Have you heard Katniss talk about how “huge” Thresh is? But anyway, instead of feeling like she needs to put on a show, Katniss suddenly wants privacy. Oh my! She says “You don't have much competition anywhere,” goes in for a kiss, violins swell, rockets take off, etcetera.

But just as our lovers embrace, something lands outside the cave. Katniss snaps into killmode (which probably doesn't diminish Peeta's excitement level) but it's a gift from Haymitch: a whole fucking feast with like, unlimited breadsticks and salad and shit. Okay.

So I sort of feel like the “hunger” theme of this book is underdeveloped. I mean, yeah, in the feast is the same stew that Katniss raved about on TV before the games, which gives it the illusion of coming full circle, but Katniss hasn't really been that hungry so far, has she? You sort of get the sense it was worse for her outside the games, when she had to provide for her mother and sister and to a lesser extent Gale's family. The only other significant “hunger” thing I can think of is the time Katniss's “hallow day” foreshadows Rue's death. The rest of it has just been feasting on wild turkeys and mint leaves and berries. Some hunger, eh?

Monday, October 24, 2011

23 COSTUME IDEAS

  1. John Boehner (orange facepaint, glue on tears)
  2. Slutty John Boehner (subtract shirt, add orange chest paint, smoke cigarettes, pronounce it "boner")
  3. Sarah Palin (tell people you are going to come to their party and then don't go) (revised from the 2010 version of the costume where you go and then leave halfway through because you can "help the party more" that way)
  4. Slutty Barack Obama (say to a girl in a low, sultry voice: "Yes. We. Can." Extra points: be really good at foreplay but terrible at actually doing the deed)
  5. Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark (stumble around the house breaking shit and falling)
  6. Guy Who Compares Everything To Hitler (someone pours him a drink: "Jeez, you're like the Hitler of the bar, bro)
  7. Robot Kanye West (Kanye shades, spout lots of cryptic Illuminati stuff in autotune voice)
  8. Robot Jay-Z ("I guess I got my swagger.exe downloaded!")
  9. Miranda July and/or Annie Clark (for curly-haired white girls with big eyes: just be really neurotic all night)
  10. Slutty Miranda July and/or Annie Clark (read some of Miranda July's short fiction aloud or take off all of your clothes and throw them in the party host's freezer)
  11. Dr. Who (just kidding, don't do this, shut up about Dr. Who)
  12. The Dark Knight Rises (batman suit, fake or real erection)
  13. "Pregnant" Beyonce (wear a fake baby bump, drink excessively, drop baby bump occasionally, get on the phone and yell at surrogate)
  14. Julian Assange (sexy gray wig, look at everyone else's phone)
  15. Rupert Murdoch (less sexy gray wig, same behavior)
  16. Member Of The 99% (just be yourself, you are the revolution! Eat the rich candy!)
  17. Slutty Member Of The 99% ("Fuck capitalism! Oh, is your name not 'capitalism'?")
  18. Dead Osama (it's still too early for Gaddafi, like I would even avoid Santana costumes lest someone get the wrong idea, but you can have at this one, I think)
  19. Slutty Dead Osama (beard+bikini. Say things like: "Are you one of my 72 virgins? No? Good. I'm sick of those prudes.")
  20. NYPD Officer (pepper spray)
  21. Slutty NYPD Officer (Axe body spray)
  22. Slutty Avengers (this is more of a party idea, everyone dresses as an Avenger and fucks each other)
  23. Slutty Large Hadron Collider ("Hey girl what do you say we smash our particles together at high speed?")

Saturday, October 22, 2011

No Church In The Wild: An Advice Column

How do I get out of the friend zone? Like my friend says that it's not that she doesn't like me, it's that she feels that she sucks at relationships and she doesn't want to hurt me. And I mean, she could be lying, but let's assume it's true. What do I do? How do I say, "Fuck that, let's fuck" without actually using those words? Also, this is private because she follows you and I don't want her to know it's me.

See, now Hollywood would have you believe that friends these days can't get their mouths off of each other's genitals long enough to have "I suck at relationships and don't want to hurt you" talks. But you and I know different, don't we? Also, if you try hard enough you can communicate during oral sex. Especially if you and your partner know Morse code. But I digress.

The friend zone is like a desert, where the sand is made of tiny blue balls/blue labia and every few miles you stumble upon an oasis: she asks you to zip up the back of her dress, she gets drunk and falls asleep on your shoulder, she tells you how handsome/pretty you are. But they're mirages, and you fall gratefully on your face expecting wetness and instead it's just the blue ball sand. That metaphor worked out better than I expected. Anyway.

I'm not sure if you are looking for a relationship or one of those aformentioned Mila Kunis/Justin Timberlake mouth/genital situations but either way--you're in the boring dessert of no sex relationship and you'd like a way out. Totally understandable. Here's what you do: keep hanging out until he or she feels like taking her clothes off. That's it! Like, it's just an entropy thing, I think. Sooner or later, people bang. One hundred monkeys in a room with one hundred typewriters will eventually have sex with each other. And hold on until then.

Unless she's lying, which is probably what she is doing (sorry). But hey, she follows me? Who is she? I'll talk you up to her.

What advice would you give to someone who is recently out of a job?

First off: I'm sorry to hear that. It sucks that that damn socialist Obama gave your job to the terrorists. But really, I hear this economy is picking up, so it's good that you held onto a job until now--your stint of unemployment should be short if you keep up on sending out your resume and all that. Can you collect benefits? Do you have a savings? Even if not, I think you'll be okay. And there is a silver lining to this, because in the meantime you get to live on The Fringe!

Recently I've been catching up on It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, which is a show for which I will always have a fond place in my heart. See, in 2007 I was living very scrappily in a cockroach-infested apartment in what white people politely called "A scary-ass murderhood" in Philly. And it was awesome. For a while I worked at this weird Korean Barbeque where we drank plum wine all day and fucked up everyone's orders (a girl told me I ruined her father's birthday) and the chefs napped on the floor of the dining room between lunch and dinner. Then I worked as a caterer and had enough awkward experiences in a few weeks to supply an entire season of Party Down (one time I catered an event FOR A DOG). And every night Christy and I would go home to our apartment, shoo the roaches out of the sink, and do things like mix popsicles and vodka in a blender. We fried most of our food and just threw the used grease out the window. One night we also threw some of our clothes out the window. And then threw up (PARTY TIP: If you throw up wine and Doritos, for a second you worry that you've lost your internal organs). It was the fucking best.

It's Always Sunny represents that lifestyle very accurately, and in season 6 Danny Devito's character Frank coins a term for it. Living "fringe-style."

[Dee and Dennis run into Frank at a public pool]
Dee: Where'd you get that towel?
Frank: I borrowed it fringe-style from that guy over there. I gave him a bite of my hot dog, and he let me borrow his towel!


Living Fringe used to be exclusively for college students and recent grads, as well as a certain subset of elderly urban hippies and the poorest, ugliest gay dudes. But thanks to the recession, The Fringe is open for anyone, free of stigma! See, for a while I was laboring under the feeling that I wasn't living up to my potential. It was keeping me off The Fringe. Pride, I guess, is what it was. I was using my blender for fruit smoothies, not vodka slurpees. Lame! Then I started reading the signs at Occupy Wall St. protests. I saw guys who graduated at the top of their class at Yale or Brown and had applied for 100 jobs and were still unemployed. So much for my supposed potential, you know? It's kind of liberating! The Fringe is welcoming me back into it's loving arms. Join us!

We need to ride this recession out, is what I am saying. FRINGE STYLE! No use pretending there are opportunities out there for us right now, buddy. There will be in six months, maybe a year. But not right now. If this is depressing you, you're not on The Fringe enough. Do you want a bite of my hot dog?

NEED ADVICE? GET AT ME HERE. QUESTIONS ARE ANONYMOUS. ANSWERS ARE NOT GUARANTEED TO BE AT ALL HELPFUL.