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


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


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


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?