Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Birds: Part II

As promised, here is another post about birds. In case you were wondering, here is the first.

Bird 2: Mockingjay
Mockingjay is the concluding volume in the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. The series is a bleak dystopia set in a not-so-distant future in what I saw as North America--really called Panem in the books. The government was overthrown, then recreated. The citizens of Panem were separated into districts by their fields of labor (like wheat, coal, livestock, etc.). There is a bit of commerce, but it all happens through the Capital. The Capital decides who gets to have the luxuries, and they make sure that the citizens of Panem remember the wonderful things they did by recreating a government from chaos and providing food for their people.

The Capital has a bit of a funny way of doing this though--they require that each of the districts send a boy and a girl (picked at random) between the ages of 12 and 18 to a televised teenage deathmatch each year. This holiday (if you can call it that) is called "The Hunger Games." All production stops while the Hunger Games are being televised. Rich citizens will send gifts to people in the Games to help them out on their journey to kill everyone else. There is a lot of money invested in bets, and the longer the Games go on, the more expensive it is to send gifts.

Boy it is hard to talk about a book when you can't really give specifics/spoilers.

I don't want to say too much more, but there are a lot of social parallels to today's politics mixed in with slight hints of the barbarics of the gladiators in ancient Rome. While it sounds utterly depressing, I found it to be an invigorating read. The books don't dwell on death and destruction (although there is a healthy chunk of that in there), there is a love story involved, as well as familial relationships.

Wifey picked up Mockingjay on a whim in Costco. We had borrowed the first two novels in the series from Wifey's sister (by the way, the first one is great after I got used to the writing style, and the second one was good, but a bit too transitional for me. I needed more action and less character thinking during the first half of the book). Wanting to finish the series, I voraciously devoured Mockingjay. It did not give me the ending I was hoping for, nor did it go in the direction I was planning, but it left me fulfilled. I have thought a lot about the decisions of Katness Everdeen since reading this book, and find a lot of similarities between her and I.

Katness has a way of seeing situations that don't directly involve her with clarity. She can enter a battlefield and know where to go and what to do to pull off a win. She can know how to spite her enemies. She can get into her nemesis' head and understand what he is thinking, or what his next move might be. But when she is in a situation that she has to make a decision on her own, she can sometimes cripple herself.

When Wifey and I were dating, it got to a point where I was working nights full time and going to school full time during the day. This left us little time together, and what little time we had, I was a healthy mix of zombie and vegetable. I was doing too much while trying to woo a woman, and I was losing in all respects. Because this was a bumpy time, Wifey and I had some good long meetings (they were too formal to be chats, mainly my fault) about where our relationship was going. At one point, I knew that I really liked her, and wanted to marry her, but she just didn't seem all that interested.

*begin flashback ripples and harp strumming now*

Flash back to a year and a half earlier. I was living with a different pair of room mates, one of which was in a pretty serious relationship. He was in the same boat I was going to be in once a year and a half had passed. He really liked a girl, but she wasn't reciprocating. I encouraged him that he needed to get rid of her if she wasn't going to put in the effort to make their relationship happen. He hummed and hawed, but wouldn't commit to dumping the girl. A few months later, she dumped him, and he was heartbroken.

*begin return flashback ripples and harp strumming now*

I was sitting in one of my sleep-deprived stupors one day, trying to figure out what to do. I knew I loved Wifey, and wasn't sure if she even liked me. I realized that I was in the same situation that my friend had been in a while back. I tried to give myself my own advice, but the situation seemed more complicated than that. It didn't feel right to just walk away because I had such strong feelings for this girl. I was in a situation where I had to make a decision for myself, and I was crippled by it.

I think that Katness does this a lot in the last book. She just isn't sure what she wants. She can decide to do something for the good of her family, but when faced with a decision that affects her happiness, she fumbles through with indecision. Some people complain that this is poor writing, but I found it quite true to character.

I also related to Katness' feelings of futility. She is put into a situation where she can do some real damage to the flawed system that she lives in. As she is posed with a crucial decision, she keeps with the current system. I think a lot of people are frustrated by the government at this point, and I don't necessarily think it is the fault of the current (or even former) administration. There are a lot of people willing to point out that there are major flaws in today's systems; however, there are not many people who are willing to create solutions for those problems. I think that if we had more people willing to take some action (or even willing to take responsibilities for their actions) that many of these issues would become easier to handle. I realize that there are many people out of work right now, but if there were less people like Wanna B. Doctor who are willing to sit and collect unemployment while jobs pass him by and more people who are willing to keep busy however they can that things would be better.  Not fixed, but better

I was out of a job for eight months after I graduated. It was hard on me, but I ended up doing a lot of volunteer work. It kept me busy--which helped me keep my sanity--and gave me something to talk about in an interview when the inevitable question comes up: "So, what have you been doing for the past eight months." People with any kind of sense would at least answer, "Job hunting." I felt that it gave me a let up to talk about how I was helping people or doing something more productive than surf the Internet all day scouring forums and listings for jobs. If you don't have a job, work anyway. Who knows, you might get a new skill, or someone might notice how hard of a worker you are while you are there and give you an informal interview while you are working together. Stop thinking, "How can I mooch more?" and start thinking, "How can I help myself find a job?"

Sorry, I'll get off my soapbox now. Back to topic...

Anyway, read the series. They are worth your time. While it isn't exactly a story touting puppies, unicorns, and rainbows, it is a good ride with some very human story elements.

There is still another bird on its way, so stay tuned. I know I have a few of you hooked, as I see certain numbers of people coming back at the same time of day. Feel free to spread the word if you like what you read.

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