Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hungry? Oh, Why Not.

Okay, when I first started this post a week ago, it was a rant.  I am going to try and meld it into something cohesive.  To that end, I have broken this posting up into three parts: the previews for the Hunger Games, the movie itself, and the book series.  Now, let's get along to it.

Okay, let me rant a little.

Stephanie Meyer ruined vampires, teen fiction, and fantasy.  All in one fell swoop.  Or at least, she tried really, really, really hard.  Aside from the fact that I do not understand what all the fuss is about (I mean, there was hardly enough plot in the last Twilight book to make into a book, let alone two movies), and aside from the frightening surge of teenage fanaticism, Stephanie Meyer has made it so that every fantasy book series for young adults gets compared to Twi-hards and their insatiable frenzy.

Thank god I got into Harry Potter beforehand.

Here is my question: how many people are going to pass up something popular because it gets associated with Twilight?  Case in point: The Hunger Games.

Thank god I got into Suzanne Collins beforehand.

If I hadn't, I probably would have really truly put off reading The Hunger Games.  Like forever.  Because seriously, why do I want to read something that's just another Twilight?  When there is basically no shortage of reading material in sight?  And that would truly be a shame.

The way I see it is that Harry Potter is the stuff one bright person saves during the type of rebellion Collins' Panem is created, and hands the rabble-rousing hordes the manuscript of Twilight instead.  Then someone, somewhere, will be a little warmer that night around their fire, and Stephanie Meyer will finally have contributed something meaningful to the existence of humankind.  And, also the way I see it, The Hunger Games falls somewhere in between.  It's like Vilette.  Hardly anybody reads that Bronte novel.  But it's still out there, probably still quality (though I'm not a huge Bronte fan myself), and people do still read it.  Just not as much as they read Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre.

Initial rant over.  Begin section 1:  previews.  Can I just say the previews before the Hunger Games sucked?  And sucked massively.  There was Snow White & the Huntsmen -- it begs the question, how many interpretations of Snow White can we have in a single year?  There's at least one other coming out and it's definitely not the first in a slew of recent reimaginings of fairy tales.  And let's not even get started on TV shows on the same topic.

Next up is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  Despite the fact that one of America's finest leaders is currently doing whirligigs in his grave, do we really need to mess with today's kids' knowledge of history any more than we already have?  I mean, mutants were behind the Cuban Missile Crisis.  This we know.  But do we need to add the weight of mishistory to one of the most important events in the lifetime of our nation?  And let's not forget that very obviously in the preview they link the vampires with the Southerners.  Because obviously Confederates were pure evil and not really human.  I'm sure that will go over really well in Georgia.

Moving right along, we have The Avengers.  Okay, I'll admit it, I enjoy a good superhero movie as much as the next person, but I just don't see the point of this line-up.  You have Captain America, Mr. Goody Two Shoes who has no inner conflict whatsoever.  How boring.  Then you have Thor.  Okay, yeah, he's hunky, and that hammer is awesome, but beside his smolder, what's he good for?  Blacksmithing?  And let's not forget the Hulk -- a temper-tantrum throwing two-year old.  Who happens to be green.  Insert minor characters only die-hards know.  Instantly forgettable.  Throw in a token woman who's nothing more than sex appeal.  Last but not least, possibly the coolest character, Iron Man.  Why?  Maybe because Tony Stark is secretly a genius and he made that creepy heart thing in a freakin' cave in Afghanistan.  I hate to say it, but he may be even cooler than Batman.  Wait, no, Batman wins.

Finally, the crowning achievement of underwhelming previews, Breaking Dawn: Part II.  The preview literally consisted of a monologue of Kristen Stewart talking about how awesome she is, as Bella.  With shots of her hideous engagement ring.


It's no wonder our society is falling apart.  From the dawn of human communication, storytelling has been a way of giving ourselves identities, of distinguishing ourselves from our mute surroundings, and of passing down the depth of the human experience throughout the generations.  Communication is more than mere stories -- it is the very fabric of our existence.  Excellent storytelling lifts us out of ourselves, inspires us to do better, be stronger, have hope. . .in short, it shows us our potential and encourages us to reach out and grasp it.  Stephanie Meyer writes self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing fluff.  She is simply helping to lead to a gradual decline in the human condition.

Combine that with Snooki's due date being on the purported day the world will end, and it's time for Apocalypse Now.

Rage at previews subsiding.  Onto section 2: the movie.  All in all, I liked the movie.  I thought Jennifer Lawrence had the right kind of intensity for Katniss, and Josh Hutcherson the right kind of sweetness for Peeta.  Although having said that, the main things I remember that kid in are like Journey to the Center of the Earth and Bridge to Terrabithia.  DAMN he grew up.  I kept finding myself lost in thoughts about how thick his neck was.  Kinda on the creepy side (his neck), but I'm gonna let it slide.  I did perhaps laugh when I found out that Gale was played by Thor's baby brother.  I may still be laughing.  So we know by pedigree he's got the smolder.  I'm just uninterested next to Peeta.  C'est la vie.

Cinematically, I thought they got quite a few things right.  I liked the shaky camera work.  It gave the impression of violence while not actually showing you every gory detail of teenagers literally ripping into each other.  I was kind of relieved.  Next, I loved the sound track.  Not just the music (which was passable, though no John Williams), or the song she sings to Rue (TEARS EVERYWHERE) but the actual sounds of the movie.  I was expecting much louder and over-the-top.  You know, every punch that lands sounds like the guy's fist was made of pure iron.  But no, I thought actually it was wonderfully understated.  Finally.  It still conveyed the feeling of the arena, too.  And maybe the best thing I liked about this movie was that it felt like a movie.  FINALLY a director gets the pacing right for something like that.  I felt like the last, oh, seven Harry Potter movies didn't really feel like movies -- more like jumbles of scenes.  Like I was repeatedly being dropped into a pensieve.  And it wasn't boring as all get out like at least the first two Twilight movies.  There were also some nicely scripted lines.

Anyhow.  The biggie, section #3:  the books.  I broke.  It took me probably a solid year (maybe more) to actually buckle down.  With no small amount of complaining and poo-poohing, I did it.  And did it in a scant number of days, might I add.  I really had no right to turn up my nose.  I love Suzanne Collins.  I do.  She created Gregor.  He's my favorite.  Really truly.  So I should've been more open to this.  I am a not-so-secret snob, and I know this about myself and I don't like this about myself.  And yet, I act snobby time and time again, usually with stuff like this.  What am I, a hipster?  God I hope not.

By and large, I enjoyed them.  Yes, they're not great literature.  I honestly think that realm is reserved for Harry Potter.  I do.  But they're not drivel.  There's actual thought and meaning behind them, and most of the plot is well thought out and executed.  I say most, because I got so mad I could spit in the third book, and I felt it could've been done better.  It did feel like a bit of a let-down to the series, and I would maybe say the first one is my favorite this first time around (although the second was great).  And who am I kidding, I love an epilogue.  Love love love them.  I know it's trite, I know it's cliche, and I get mad at certain books that don't have them.  My best friend and I used to read the Dear America diaries when we were in elementary school, and she would berate me because I would always skip to the epilogue because I had to know how their lives played out.  I wanted to know if two people who fell in love got to stay in love, and if it all worked out for them.

So I may not have cried at all, I may still prefer Gregor, but I thought The Hunger Games was actually worth my time.  I probably will read them again (I read them so fast the first time I think I missed stuff), and I will recommend them to people.  And, for future reference, I will post this blog in order to remind myself that I need to loosen up.  For heaven's sake, just read it.  Who cares what other people think, just give it a chance!

You might be pleasantly surprised.

I was.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Read This Book, Comrade!

So recently, I have been challenging myself a lot.  I don't mean that I've been going out rock-climbing and have pushed myself to the limits of my strength.  I mean I say to myself "You're going to finish this book in a week!"  And then I do.  It started out simply enough -- read the last 4 books in a series in a week.  Mission accomplished.  Then, read Death Comes to Pemberley in a week.  Mission accomplished.  Next, read The House I Loved by Tatiana De Rosnay in a week.  Mission accomplished.  It was easy with the last two because they 7-day books.  See, we have this neat thing at my library called "Most Wanted".  It's a selection of the newest, most popular books, and you can only check them out for 7 days.  You can't put a hold on them or reserve them, you can't renew them, and they're intended to be out there for people to just pick up on a whim.  Likewise, we do that for really new movies and give them a 3-day check-out.  I like this because it pressures me into really diving into a book and finishing it.  Death and House weren't hard -- they were both relatively thin fluff novels.  And then I saw Catherine.

It was intrigue at first glance.  I have always been fascinated by Russian history.  When I was a kid, that really inaccurate and cheesy Don Bluth movie, Anastasia, was one of my favorites.  I can still sing every song from it.  More importantly, intellectually, it sparked a life-long interest in Russia.  So far (and still) it's really only a casual acquaintance and I don't presume that I know much of anything about it, but it keeps me interested and learning.  When I was a teenager, I saw this movie called Russian Ark.  It is, hands down, one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen.  It is the longest single, uncut shot in movie history, clocking in at an hour and a half (i.e. the whole movie).  It's about this guy who loses consciousness, and when he regains it he doesn't really remember who he is but he's wandering around the Hermitage with this European from the 19th century (you never see the narrator).  They walk around, run into famous figures from history (who are usually kind of sinister), and talk about art.  Oh yes, and there's an overtone of philosophy and the meaning of life.  Really an interesting movie.

When this big book arrived on our shelves, I was curious.  I knew about Catherine the Great from that movie, but I didn't really know anything about her.  Having said that, I felt sort of stupid.  Here I am, professing to be interested in Russian history, and I don't really know that much about it.  I put myself on the request list, but as it was 160 people long I didn't really have much hope of reading it before I left.  But then, I DECIDED LIFE WAS TOO SHORT AND I WAS GOING TO READ IT MWAHAHA. So I waited patiently until an available copy showed up somewhere in Most Wanted, snagged it, and started reading.

This book reads like a novel.  Seriously.  Or else how did I get through 574 pages of biographical history in a mere 7 days, wherein I worked a total of 25 hours?  The writing style interested me immediately and kept me interested the whole way through.  Here are some cool facts about Catherine to prompt YOU to read this book:

#1:  Catherine was the foremost European collector of art during the Enlightenment, which led to the creation of the aforementioned Hermitage, one of the premier museums in the world today.

#2:  She created the first governmental body of people to include representatives from every class in the empire, including peasants, long before the American or the French Revolution.

#3:  She extended Russian territory down into the Baltic (taking a huge chunk of Turkish land), created a Russian navy, placed a former lover on the throne of Poland, and then used his ineffectual governing to literally dissolve Poland and split up its territories between herself, Austria, and Prussia.

#4:  Catherine took the throne from her mentally unstable and damaged husband, Peter III, with relative ease.  And then, instead of merely acting as regent for her son until he became of age, she ruled it all herself.

#5:  Born a German princess, she learned Russian, she converted, she took a new name, and she passionately involved herself in everything Russian so she could better run the country and look after her servants.

And #6, not about Catherine but I learned it while reading this book and it was very interesting: France used the guillotine as their main form of capital punishment until 1977.  1977.  I had no idea and I find this practice insane.  I know that, as an American, I have no proverbial leg to stand on, but still.  Guillotine?  Really?

I learned soooooooooooo much from this book.  Ever heard of Battleship Potemkin?  Yeah, I learned who Potemkin was.  I learned about the leading monarchs and intellectuals of Europe, I learned a ton about Russian culture and institutions, and, mostly, I learned about the life of one extraordinary woman.  She did what she liked, ruled how she like, but was still conciliatory, kind, and in absolute control.  I would recommend this book for everyone, not just a hardcore history buff.  It is good enough to appeal to everyone, while not compromising the intellectual integrity of the material itself.  Massie's research is impeccable, his style entertaining, and his portraits human and realistic.  I think it is a mark of a good biographer when you come away feeling like the person being chronicled was, in fact, a person -- not a saint, not a sinner, not untouchable, but a human with fine points as well as flaws.  Massie excels at making the basic humanity of Catherine (and thus her similarities to us today) stand out.

In conclusion, if you want to read anything, here's the book for you.  Maybe don't read it in a week, but do check it out.  I promise you'll be showered with rubles and jewels and character sketches if you do.  And next up for me: the first book in the Hunger Games series.  I am way more interested in reading another lesbian novel at this point (anyone read Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters?) but I have checked it out, the movie's coming out tomorrow, there's no turning back.  It's sink or swim, and I'm determined to swim.  Catch you in a day or two.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My Coup

First of all, HAPPY PI DAY!

Second of all, this week, I have had what I like to refer to as "a coup".  Several, in fact.

Coup (n): when one wants to do/say/have something badly, and then they do/say/get that something.  WARNING -- it can frequently result in bouts of unexplained dancing, giggling, and fist pumping.  Otherwise known as a "hell yeah" moment.

Coup #1:  A couple of weeks ago, I was checking in some books used recently for a class.  This happens pretty regularly -- we pull a bunch of books related to the class/assignment topic, put it on a fancy-dancy library list (this involves incantations and the occasional swear word), and set it aside for the students.  Then, when they're done, we put them all back.  I was putting back a cart of books for an assignment on Hesse's Siddhartha (GO READ IT RIGHT NOW) and what was I saying?  Oh yes, I found this book -- it was BEAUTIFUL!  It was gigantic and kinda old but still had these big glossy pictures and it was a cultural atlas of India.  I loved it.  And then I just happened to notice the spine was broken!  Shame shame shame.  We can't have broken spines sitting out on our shelves!  No self-indulgent sarcasm intended.  We want to have things people would actually be interested in looking through.  Luckily for meeeeeee, I still wanted to look through that book, even though it was broken.  So I took it off the shelf and had the donations lady price it for me per our usual requirements for pricing withdrawn and donated materials.  In this tough economic time, I would like to savor this moment.  New, on Amazon, this book goes for (drum roll please): $129.71.  I got it for $1.  HELL YEAH.  P.S., this is why the library shop is amazing.  Movies for less than five bucks, kids books for twenty-five cents, popular thrillers for a dollar. . .it is SO cheap and usually we only put the nice stuff out there, too, like the stuff that's not falling apart. It is a great deal, seriously.

Coup #2:  So we're doing this project at work right now for fun about repurposed and upcycled libraries/books.  Make cool things out of your old books, basically.  It is seriously very cool.  Some people make art out of books.  Today I saw a portrait of Obama somebody had made out of carving books.  Yeah, that's pretty legit.  So anyways, I'm going through the books that get delivered to our library twice a day, and what do I spy with my little eye?  A new repurposed library book -- and it's brand spanking new and smells so good and the cover crackles and the crafts look so easy and so cool and it is mine mine mine mine mine!  Okay, I'll share next week, but in the meantime I am going to make a vase out of books.  AND THEN PUT FLOWERS IN IT.  HELL YEAH.

Coup #3:  I am what's known as a book hawk.  And no, I did not make that term up right here on the spot.  I made it up ten minutes ago on the drive home.  I am one of those people who wants a book, then waits patiently for it to arrive, then swoops on it as soon as it arrives and checks it out.  I have booksense and the eyes of an eagle.  Oh yes.  Our staff library database particularly helps if I want to expand to the other branches.  With spies stationed at at least two other branches, I cover 3/5 of the system.  That's not bad, especially considering the other two locations are the two biggest and busiest.  Also known as thanks for the help, mom and dad.  Anyway, there's this new biography of Catherine the Great, by Robert Massie.  It's supposed to be fantastic.  My boss recommended it to me, and she and I have very similar interests and reading tastes, but I was like, no, it's a doorstop, I'll never have time to get to it.  Then, Monday night, I was watching my favorite Russian movie, Russian Ark.  And Catherine gets a little cameo.  And I thought, "Well why not?"  Two days later, my book hawk skills pay off and I have successfully scarpered off with one!  I checked our catalogue every half an hour until someone returned a copy and then I called my spies and they nabbed it for me, the book none the wiser.  HELL YEAH.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Happy Women's Day!

Today is International Women's Day, and so I thought today was appropriate for me to discuss why I'm extra glad to be a woman and why I'm also extra glad to be a feminist.  And perhaps to dispel some unfortunate stigmas about feminisms, or at least how I see it.

First of all, I am glad to be a woman.  And especially a woman today.  Here are a few reasons why:

1.  Today, more than ever, women have more doors open to them.  I have the option to raise a family and make a career and name for myself, all at the same time.

2.  I really truly love the color pink.

3.  I'll say it: babies.  I want babies.  I'm not super particular -- I want to make them, adopt them, love them, raise them, empower them. . .just not anytime in the next five years.  Let's be a little financially secure first.

4.  I loved playing with Barbies and dolls and aliens and dinosaurs and airplanes.  I had the whole gamut of toys available to me.  Having said that, the fiance and I have agreed that if our boys want Barbies, they'll get Barbies.  Little boys need to prepare to be fathers just as much as women need to prepare to be mothers.

5.  Being able to speak my mind.  Take this blog, for example!  But I had access to education that my foremothers certainly didn't, and I'm allowed to, say, speak in public without having tomatoes thrown at me.  I really, really enjoy that.

I do love being a woman.  These are only five reasons, but I could go on and on.  But beyond that, I am a feminist.  I believe in supporting women's rights.  Having said that, I'd like to make clear that I am a third-waver.  For those of you unfamiliar with feminisms' history in America, let me sum up.  The first-wavers were people like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, and the lovely ladies who won the right for women to vote.  So basically, founding mothers up to the 1920s or so.  Then, the second-wavers were ushered in during the 1960s, with leaders such as Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique and founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW).  These ladies were your typical bra-burning, outspoken protesters, and it's where a lot of people get this weird idea of feminism as something only bitter old shrews who are vastly unfulfilled are interested in.  Sexless harpies who complain nonstop about how men are the enemy.  Not only is this untrue and unrealistic, but it hampers the cause of feminism.  Then, the modern feminists are third-wavers.  We third-wavers don't see men as the enemy, but certain institutions.  In many cases, men are just as oppressed as women.  We embrace our sisters of all ethnicities and races, and a large part of the feminist cause is including the LGBTQQ community.  We are all for protect and enhancing rights for all humans, not just women.  Let's just say we often put extra focus on women's rights.

I feel that I am not a feminist because I have been pressured into it or because I have it so bad as a woman.  I HAVE IT GREAT.  I have a college education, a wonderful fiance, a job outside the home, and the option to be a mother AND a career woman.  I am a feminist because I know that elsewhere, women don't have it so good.  I am a feminist because I want to stand up for those women, and say to the powers that be, "This is not right".  I am a feminist because men need help too.  I am a feminist because I believe in basic human rights, equality, and justice.  I am not out to get men.  I am not out to trample on other people's rights just to get my own.  But I am here to stand for what I believe in.  And what I believe in is basic human decency.  I believe in helping out others and doing what's right and taking a chance for what you believe in.  I believe in you and I believe in me.

On a personal note, I want to say thank you to all my foremothers and the wonderful role models in my own family.  They have shown me that the sky's the limit and I have just as much right to pursue my dreams as anyone else.  They have allowed me to vote, speak in public, own property, control my own earnings, make something of myself in the workplace, have a career, have access to birth control, and still be a wife and mother.  I appreciate each and every one of you for the sacrifices you have made and the efforts you have given to bettering the human condition.

And now, just for fun, here's my favorite humorous feminist song.  ;)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Hot Stuff

Does anyone else have a problem with things that are wildly popular?

I mean, aside from the fact that some people don't like to be seen as sheeple following the latest trend.  And the other fact that some things might be wildly popular but are vastly unappealing to you personally.  Like, say, Nicki Minaj or Justin Bieber.  And sometimes, when Nicki Minaj fans ask who the heck Paul McCartney is, you just want to punch them in the throat and scream "HE'S A REAL MUSICIAN".  But then you remember that that's mean.

No, aside from all of that, frequently I don't want to get into the popular stuff simply because it's popular.  And no, I'm not a hipster.  I was always concerned about the Chilean miners, not just when they were underground.

I don't know, it's like the more people push me to do things or tell me that I'll really like them, the less I want to pick them up.  It's definitely made me more careful when I recommend things.  Sometimes people are looking for a recommendation and you can almost see it in their eyes.  You really have to look close and judge.  Other people are just being polite because they like you or they're nice people, but really, they're not going to go anywhere close to that band or that book or that movie.

This is ultimately why it took me forever to get into Harry Potter.  Everyone was reading it and everyone told me I had to as well.  I resisted for many years and, being the Tolkien nerd I was, even accused J. K. Rowling of blatantly ripping him off.  I know better now (clearly) but it took me a long time to get over my prejudices against the popular stuff.

Now, sometimes, like I said, this is a good thing.  One word: Twilight.  But other times, this isn't so great: Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, the Percy Jackson books, Artemis Fowl, the Help, Death Cab for Cutie, the Black Keys, LOST, Victoria's Secret, craft beer, and the color pink.  Just to name a few.  These were all things that I very much resisted or am resisting getting into that are quality things actually worth getting into.

I will admit, part of me has hipster snobbery syndrome.  For example, I am a Decemberists fan.  I feel like that makes me anti-Death Cab, for some reason, even though I'm not.  Why do I think this?  Some music-y person please explain this -- they're both great bands, where did this come from?

But sometimes, I get kind of angry.  It makes me mad that people get into a band or an author but then overlook some of their other, really awesome stuff.  It's like people who only like the Decemberists because their last album was pretty popular.  The rest of their albums and music is excellent and super enjoyable, and it kind of makes me mad when people stop at what's popular and don't delve any deeper. They're missing out on so much and don't even realize it.  Or people who only listen to very early Beatles, greatest hits, or very late Beatles.  Middle Beatles and album tracks are stupendous.  Revolver and Rubber Soul are truly inspired works, and hardly anybody knows about them.  Likewise, all my favorite Beatles' songs were not hits.  Or people who listen to covers but don't take the time to listen to the original.  This goes for movies, too.  How many people went back and watched the original War of the Worlds?  Or even picked up the book, unless it was assigned in school?  This kind of thing makes me mad with unknown authors, too.  Yeah, everybody knows about Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut, and I'm not saying they're not great, but would it kill people to pick up some H. P. Lovecraft or even actually look into the Dune series?  I know Hitchhiker's Guide is supposed to be very good (can't get into it), but what about Isaac Asimov?  And I know that people only have so much time and so much interest and that I'm sure I'm equally guilty of this, but is it really so hard to look around a little bit and explore?

For me, all of this is especially true of The Hunger Games.  I still haven't read them.  I keep meaning to, I swear!  For right now, though, I'm going to briefly ignore the fact that I have way too many books to read and say to myself I will at least read the first one before the movie comes out (because I hate doing it the other way around, most of the time, although it helped with Pride and Prejudice because I was 13).  Anyhow, Suzanne Collins is a fabulous author.  Really truly.  But NO ONE HAS HEARD OF HER OTHER SERIES.  And it's amazing!  It seriously kills me.  First of all, it's a 5 book series (yay two extra books!).  And even though it's supposedly a "kid's" book, all the people I know who have read it are adults.  All the people I've recommended it to have loved it.  I read the series two or three times in a year.  My roommate and I read them out loud, switching off chapters, and had the best time.  I cried when I finished the series.  And you know what?  They're imaginative, dark, complex, well-developed and well-characterized books.  They deal with adult themes and Suzanne Collins does not dumb down her material or talk down to the kids reading them.  She treats them with respect, and it shows in her writing.  

Originally, I read the first book, Gregor the Overlander, because my mom had read it and she told me she cried when a cockroach died.  WHAT.  My mother, the scourge of cockroaches everywhere, had cried when a fictional one died.  This was beyond insane.  I HAD to read that book!  Finally, I did, and I read it so quickly.  And then I couldn't stop!  I had to read the rest of the series, right then.  I'm positive my schoolwork suffered, because I couldn't concentrate on anything except these books for weeks.  And they're not just a one-time read, either.  Like I said, I've read these books several times in two years.  They are, perhaps with the exception of Harry Potter, my favorite kid fantasy books.  Better than The Hobbit,  more than Alice in Wonderland, more exciting than A Series of Unfortunate Events, I adore this series.

Unfortunately, you probably have the same HSS as I do.  (Remember, that stands for Hipster Snobbery Syndrome -- yeah, it's gonna be a thing.)  Now that I've recommended it and gushed my little heart out about it, you probably aren't going to pick it up and you couldn't care less about it.  You just know I am going to read the Hunger Games if it kills me, and you're going to go back and rave about Katniss and death-matches elsewhere (which is fine), but I'm telling you sincerely. . .

You're missing out.

Now wasn't that a terribly ironic blog post?