Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I'm going to start this post off by covering my other news first, because there will be spoilers later on, and those of you who don't want to know how the book ends will miss the other stuff if you stop reading at the spoiler alert.
Anyway, as for the other news, it is completely badass and completely lame, all at the same time. The badass portion is the bit where I tell you that today was my first managers' meeting ever as a kind of assistant manager (I'm not sure what my position will be called yet). I feel so official, and I feel like I have a lot to contribute. I also feel so young, and that I have no idea what I'm talking about. I guess on your first day, you're supposed to feel that way.
My second piece of news, lame as it is, is that I had forty-five page views on my blog yesterday. Awesome, right? No. Most of them, I am thinking, were me, trying to figure out where most of my prior traffic came from. That's pathetic. Anyway, on to the book, even though I'm sure no one is reading this.
Water for Elephants follows the narrative of an old man and a young man simultaneously. The old man is the ninety-three year old version of the twenty-three year old Jacob Jankowski. The present Jacob is living in a nursing home, attended by nurses who don't really care what he wants, save for one nurse in particular, Rosemary. He is visited every Sunday by some member of his extended family, and the week before the next visitor, a circus sets up within view of the nursing home. This causes a flood of memories for Jacob, memories of his own circus days, working in a traveling circus as a veterinarian. He was in charge of a large menagerie of animals.
I admire the way the book was written, interlacing the past storyline with the present. The author plainly spends more time constructing the more elaborate past, making it the focal point for the majority of the book, but it becomes clear that the present storyline is integral to the book. This is not just a story of the exploits of a young man in the circus, nor is it the empty ramblings of an old man. This a story that explores the fate of those who truly live their lives to the fullest, and perhaps a warning to current society about how we should treat our elderly.
Jacob begins his reminiscing with his parents deaths in a car accident, and his imminent jumping of a train. This train happens to be the Benzini Brothers' Most Amazing Show on Earth. What Jacob comes to learn and reveal, is the seedy underbelly of what circus life was in the old days. Witnessing acts of animal cruelty to a much beloved elephant, redlightings (the removal of staff from the moving train, sometimes over train trestles), the refusal to pay a month's wages to half of the staff when times are tough, and ultimately the beating of a lovely wife and performer.
As Jacob learns the ropes to the circus business, whose toes it's okay to tread on, and whose toes he should stay away from, he falls in love with the very person he should stay away from: the wife of the superintendent of the menagerie, Marlena. Marlena's husband, August, is a very jealous man, who is paranoid schizophrenic, imagines the affair between Jacob and Marlena, resulting in beatings of the circus elephant, as well as his wife. Jacob and Marlena plan to run away together when Jacob's life is threatened by the ringmaster and August. However, when the men who got redlighted over a trestle in place of Jacob and managed to survive catch up with the circus at the next town, all hell breaks loose. They release the animals, causing the stampede that was considered the third biggest circus disaster in circus history. During said stampede, two murders occur: that of August, who is killed by the elephant driving a stake through his head, and that of the horrific ringmaster, who was hung by the men he tried to kill, both murders a sort of revenge. Jacob, witnessing the murder of August, keeps the elephant's secret for years and years. He and Marlena, having an elephant and eleven horses, having nowhere to go after the Benzini Bros. circus falls apart, join up with the Ringling Bros. circus, and eventually settle down, donating the elephant to the zoo where Jacob takes a job as a vet.
In the present, Jacob is disgruntled because no one will listen to his wishes, when it comes to taking his medicine, or even opening the blinds. One single nurse treats him with respect. This principle applies to Jacob's family as well. They come, bearing news of no real importance. Jacob catches important information by eavesdropping, and none of his visitors come often enough for him to remember who they are, save for his children. For them, it is a chore to sit with him, and every family member is eager to leave at the end of visiting time.
On the visit that was supposed to happen during the circus weekend, Jacob's son forgets about visiting him. No one was able to come and visit, and Jacob has been left behind. Not to be deterred by one city block, some wobbly legs, and no one to accompany him, as he's just been told he's being abandoned by the only person that respects him (the nurse, Rosemary, is moving away), Jacob sets off for the circus on his own.
When he arrives at the circus, he is stopped at the gate by a teenage boy because he cannot pay. The director comes out and welcomes Jacob in when Jacob tells him he used to work for the circus. The director is even more delighted when he finds that Jacob was present for the Benzini Bros. circus disaster of 1931, and invites Jacob back to his trailer when the show is finished. Jacob tells all. Even the elephant's secret, that he kept for so many years. And the director listens. Respectfully. The cycle comes full circle when the police show up looking for Jacob. The director lies, telling them that Jacob is his father, and agrees to take him on in the circus as a ticket seller. Jacob has a new family, as the ringmaster of the Benzini Bros. called them, he's back in business doing what he loves, and he has a family member who likes to listen to his stories. Jacob, a man who embodies Carpe Diem, is finally respected and heard.
I loved everything about this book. I love the way the story was told. I loved the dual storylines. I love the way the book ended. I loved the symbolism. I loved it all. Prior to this book, my favorite novels were the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde, but I think that this book has blown those novels out of the water and now sits in the slot of my favorite book of all time. Props to Ms. Gruen for writing a brilliant novel.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Lions and Tiger and Bears, Oh My! (Yes, there was just one tiger, and he was sleeping)

Alex and I went to the zoo today. I'm sure that we spent way too much money, but we got a good four hours of exercise in in the bright sunshine (Well, it was shining for the first hour anyway, which is about all you can ask for in the Pacific Northwest, especially in March). Luckily, I had the day off so I could enjoy it, another rarity for a sunny Sunday, or any Sunday for that matter. Generally speaking, good sales associates are in high demand on the weekends. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and saw all sorts of different animal, or "Aminals" as one woman (yes, a grown woman) called them. Way to encourage your child's vocabulary. I bet you say "Libary" too. I don't know that I have a bigger pet peeve than the mispronunciation of words, and I realize that makes me a bit of a hypocrite, because while I will never admit it to AAS, I have a slight problem with the words "salmonella" and "vicinity". But I'm working on it, okay?
Anyway, back to the zoo. Maybe it's that AAS and I never really grew up, but we really enjoy our trips to the zoo. We'll start out at the entrance with the map, giggling excitedly, and animatedly planning our route. Unfortunately, most zoos aren't arranged in a perfect circle, so we often find ourselves doubling back, because WE CAN'T MISS ANYTHING! Seriously. Honestly, there are so many animals that I can't say what my favorite is. I will push parents out of the way to see the different breeds of monkeys, press my little nose against the glass to watch the penguins swim, and trample small children to see the giraffes, elephants, and the big cats.
AAS really likes all the animals with the name dragon tacked on to the end. He's obsessed with dragons. He's got a collections of dragon figurines. If you even breathe the word dragon, he's there. So you can understand his excitement at the komodo dragons, bearded dragons, ect. He has also proclaimed that he loves the sloth bear, and the taiper. Check 'em out folks, they're cool animals.
***SPOILER ALERT*** This is where it starts to get emo, so if you're here for the humor, bugger off.
Towards the end of the day, AAS asked "Doesn't it feel good to take the full day off and not do any chores?" I answered yes, but in my head, I was thinking God, no. You see, when I take a day off to myself to not do anything but relax, hang out, read a good book, my mother, with whom we're currently living with (yeah yeah, I'm 22 years old and living with my mother. Get over it. Our economy sucks so much that I, having just graduated from a prestigious school with a psychology degree, can't get a job in my field, and all the other jobs don't pay enough to pay the bills. So yeah, I'm living with my parents), guilts the shit out of me when she gets home from her four to eight hour a week job for not doing any chores while taking a day off from my thirty-two to forty hour a week job. So any time I take a day to myself, I mentally prepare myself through the second half of the day for receiving the pissy third degree for all the dishes in the sink, and the floor not being vacuumed, essentially nothing done. Mom had even called this morning to tell me that she found ants in our room, that we possibly have rats, and that she hung up Alex's towel "so the door could close to keep the dogs out of our room" (not that they do any damage when they're in our room to begin with). Really, the truth is that she's so neurotic about the door molding. She's actually neurotic about a lot of things, like making sure everything, (and I do mean EVERYTHING, including all the stuff that normal people would leave plugged in, like the TV, and the lamps) is unplugged so there is no chance of fire, and locking both locks on the door, to prevent break-ins, regardless of whether someone is home, or anticipated home within the hour, and about the way the dishes go into the dishwasher, and keeping the shower curtain closed after all showers, ect. And AAS wonders where I get my OCD. Thanks Ma.
On an unrelated note, AAS and I had complimenting dreams a couple nights ago. He dreamed he left me for his two-bit whore, cheating ex-girlfriend, and I dreamed I called him a jerk (for something completely unrelated, but I thought it tied in well together.) Same night. No joke.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I am so sick of not having friends.

I don't know that I have social anxiety exactly, but it is extremely hard for me to make friends. I am uncomfortable talking to strangers and making conversation with people I don't know. I work retail, so I have no problem talking to people, but I am uncomfortable coming up with subjects to talk about with people I know nothing about. When AAS and I moved up from Salem, we were optimistic about meeting people, both at work, and at our new hangouts. Problem is, we don't really have a hangout like we did in Salem at the Spur. All the country bars are too far away to drive to, and the one that is near is an older crowd that dances almost none of the dances that we know. As for work, I'm working at the store that I started at years ago, and I am not comfortable inviting people from work out to hang out in a social setting. AAS hasn't found a job yet, but stays home doing various household chores and cooking, so that's out. Anyway, my life has been reduced to reading, blogging, movies, and work. Near to no social life, aside from my mom, AAS, and my step-dad. So if you want to be my friend, leave a comment with your email. I promise to be a hoot. Not as much of a downer as this post makes me seem. :)

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The Sometimes Daughter, by Sherri Wood Emmons

My first thoughts upon finishing the book:
Good book, but maybe three out of five stars. I thought I might identify with a book called The Sometimes Daughter, and I did for some things. Maybe I didn't care so much for it because the writing was strictly narrative with no underlying meaning, or maybe I just don't care for hippie stories, but this isn't a book I'll be passing on to anyone anytime soon.
***SPOILER ALERT*** (and brief synopsis)
The book follows a young girl named Sweet Judy Blue Eyes, starting at birth, and spanning almost two decades of Judy's life. Judy's mother was a hippie, and didn't always take the best care of Judy. For instance, she would sleep with men other than her husband while Judy was in the next room, unattended and eating marijuana brownies. Cassie, Judy's mother, runs off with her daughter to a hippie commune in Kentucky. When Judy's father finds out that her mother kidnapped her, he goes to get Judy from the commune, and sues for custody. This is when the disruption of Judy's life begins.
Throughout her elementary years, Judy was teased and tormented because of her crazy mother and her ridiculous name, all while resisting more kidnapping attempts. Her mother eventually joined up with Peoples Temple and was nearly involved with the mass suicide that occurred in Guyana. Luckily, Cassie turned up, physically unharmed, but extremely emotionally scarred. When she has healed, she disappears again, and Judy doesn't hear from her for years.
The next time Cassie enters the story, she has met a new man, Navid. She is pregnant, again, and she is engaged to be married. Judy visits her twice, the first time for the wedding and the birth of her half-brother, Kamran, and the second time a year later to visit. The second time Judy visits, she notices her mother repeating the behaviors that she exhibited with her father: cheating and leaving her new family. Cassie ends up in an ashram in India, and has once again disappeared from the novel. By the time she reappears, Judy has been a drug dealer, a cheerleader, been arrested, been broken up with, and had an abortion. The book ends with Judy cleaning up her tumultous life and asking her mother the questions her mother should have answered years and years ago. We also find out that Cassie went through some of the same experiences that Judy went through, like the abortion, and we find out just how screwed up Cassie is, as a result of her mother.
For this review, I think I will pick from some of the reading questions in the back portion of the book:
What responsibility, if any, does Cassie's mother bear for her daughter's choices?
When we find out that Cassie had been raped at a party, and that rape had caused Cassie to become pregnant for the first time, Cassie's mother shamed her and sent her to a home for pregnant teenagers so the baby could be given away when it was born. Cassie's mother had called her a slut when Cassie told her what had happened at the party, instead of validating Cassie and her feelings, calling the crime what it truly was. As a result, Cassie felt rejected, and as Kirk (Judy's dad) argues, Cassie leaves her relationships and her families because she is afraid of being left, and being hurt again. I would argue that Cassie's choices also reflected on Judy, and caused some of the behavioral problems with Judy. Judy, who formed a clear ambivalent attachment to her mother developed less-than-healthy behaviors in her young adult life. Selling drugs to make money, and then having sex with a random stranger after her breakup were poor choices on Judy's part, and while I have to say that she made a choice in those instances, I will also suggest that it was partially the fault of her mother, for indirectly encouraging unstable behavior by not fulfilling her role to Judy as a stable role model.
While I'm on the point about Judy having sex with a random stranger, I would also like to address whether this incident should have been classified as rape. Kirk is understandably angry with the boy Judy had sex with when she tells him that she is pregnant. The critique that I have for Sherri Wood Emmons was the lack of a clear line, defining what he did as rape. I think that she was trying to draw a parallel between Judy's experience and her mother's but it needed to be more clearly defined as rape. What labeled it for me was the fact that the boy who raped Judy gave her alcohol before he started taking off her clothes. She also never really consented, and she was upset, and waited for it to be over. I think that it wasn't clearly identified as rape because of society's misconceptions about what rape is. If someone is taken advantage of while under the influence of alcohol, it is rape. If the victim isn't able to make clear choices about what they are doing, it is rape. I think the young man should have been reported for raping Judy, even though Judy wrote it off as not rape.
On a final note, Cassie's own story about her baby's adoption and her own rape explains her behavior to a certain degree. I think that what effected Cassie the most was her mother's response to Cassie's rape. However, despite the terrible occurrance in Cassie's life, I do not believe that it is any excuse for her to act the way she did toward her children. What she needed to do was see a counselor or a therapist to heal from her childhood issues before trying to become a mother herself. If she had done this, she might have broken the cycle, and not have started her daughter on the same path.
The book ends on a good note with Judy seeking closure from her mother, with the suggestion that with time, everything will be okay.
My father was in my life until just last year, and everything is not okay. Even after I had my closure. I don't think that the ending of this book was realistic, but in a society that sells books and movies by happy endings, it was doable.

Atonement, by Ian McEwan

Okay, so I don't have time to do a plot synopsis, and it's been awhile since I read the book, but here is a shortcut if you haven't read it yet, but want to, or if you haven't read it, don't want to, but want to know what I think about it. If you don't read the synopsis, it's unlikely that you'll know what I'm talking about. Anyway, here it is. Credit to Wikipedia for that.
Okay, back? Good. My thoughts:
When I finished the novel, I thought WTF? Seriously?
Atonement basically sets some conflicting emotions on edge. The first three parts are supposed to be Briony's somewhat fictionalized account of a crime she provided false testimony for as a child. The reader can tell that Robbie was not the perpetrator, even before Briony begins to doubt herself, and what she saw. The parts are written from the perspectives of Briony, the younger sister, Cecilia, the older sister, and Robbie Turner, the alleged criminal. Ultimately, I would rate it three out of five stars. It is a good book to puzzle over, but it's not one I will be recommending five years from now.
Throughout the book, the reader is led to believe that several crimes occurred: The rape of the cousin, Lola, and Briony's false testimony to her witnessing Robbie exiting the scene of the crime. For the first part of the book, we are fairly certain that Robbie did not commit the crime, and that the hysteria that overcomes Briony is the fault of her overactive imagination, mixed with images of her sister and Robbie having sex, and Cecilia climbing into the fountain, naked and angry. Briony lacked context for these situations, so she imagined the context to be something that she was familiar with: shame. This opinion is solidified throughout the narration of Robbie during the war, and Briony;s own confessions and guilt in her narration. Years pass and Briony sees her sister and Robbie, and the novel within a novel ends with Briony setting off to make things right by meeting her sister and Robbie's demands (writing a letter to get Robbie excused, explaining the situation to her parents, ect.), and Cecilia and Robbie standing together, united after years of longing.
The book ends with Briony discussing the novel she had just written about her own atonement. However, this epilogue, for lack of a better word leaves the reader questioning whether the story was actually true. She discusses her letters from Mr. Nettle, who was represented as a corporal, a friend of Robbie's during the war. These letters are correcting Briony on her accuracy about the various aspects of war that she addressed when writing from Robbie's perspective. She dismisses his corrections with "If I was concerned about facts, I would have written an entirely different novel," yet later she confesses that the account was entirely true, and that it could not be published because of the libelous things she wrote about Lola, and the actual rapist, Paul Marshall, whom Lola married. The whole epilogue is consistent with what she wrote in her novel, however, in the last paragraph, she confesses that she fictionalized the deaths of Robbie and her sister, that the two never reunited, ect. So, even in her journal, she is still living in the whimsical world, nor revealing the truth, and that leaves the reader to question, as was her intention, what actually happened.

Monday, March 05, 2012

The Hunger Games Trilogy

Before I graduated college, I never had much time on my hands for pleasure reading. However, for those of you who don't know me, I also happen to have something of a book addiction, and this has been present almost my entire life. Since I've graduated, I have a lot more time on my hands, and when I'm not doing things like interviewing for better retail jobs, apartment hunting, or studying for the GRE, I am catching up on four years of pleasure reading that I have missed out on, and the mountains of books that I have never read that I've acquired in the process. 
I just finished the Hunger Games Trilogy, and those books have been on my list for over a year and a half now. They proved to be just as delightful, surprising, suspenseful, and, for lack of a better word, rewarding as I was told they were. I definitely give the series five stars, and I would rate the quality of the writing and the cleverness of the plot up there with the Harry Potter series. However, they were much less predictable than the Harry Potter series. 
The Hunger Games welcomes you to a world similar to that of George Orwell's 1984, a dictatorship, where the government has the last say in everything; the way the citizens think, move, speak, and otherwise conduct themselves. Each year, the capitol city hosts The Hunger Games, selecting twenty-four children between the ages of twelve and eighteen. These children are made up, paraded around, and eventually send into a large arena of land to kill each other. The players develop strategies, alliances are formed, and the games continue, with only one victor: the last child alive. 
***SPOILER ALERT*** (Go to the second half of the post if you want to hear about The Sometimes Daughter). 
Except this year. Katniss Everdeen, who volunteered to take her sister's place in the games resigned herself to death when she stepped up on the stage. Leaving behind family and friends, she meets up with someone who had saved her life once before; Peeta, her childhood acquaintance. The two present a united front, when in reality, Katniss suspects Peeta of acting. This is stretched even further when Peeta confesses during his interview that he has always been in love with Katniss. With these words, Peeta wins the hearts of the viewers. Katniss, who does not feel the same way, plays along. When the two are thrust into the ring, their bond quickly drops because Peeta joins up with the children who make training for the games their careers, a group Katniss despises. When a new rule that two competitors can win is introduced, Katniss sets out to find the man who confessed his love for her, determined to keep him alive so the two of them can go home. She plays along with his star-crossed lovers ploy. When it was down to the two of them, the gamemakers changed the rule about two competitors being able to win, so one would have to kill the other. What they didn't know was that the two had stored poisoned berries in the event that an enemy would steal and eat them. These berries are the very thing that Katniss proposed eating so that no one would win. The capitol balked at the idea of not being in control, and allowed both children to live. However, the states that make up the country of Panem (the last remaining country on earth) took this to be an act of rebellion towards the capitol, and it caused an uprising. 
I don't know that I can say for sure that Katniss's actions at the end of the games are what really caused the rebellion amongst the states. While Katniss was trying to preserve a bit of herself, and die on her own terms, I would argue that her actions were taken partially because she and Peeta had become friends. I would also argue that she loved him, if only a little bit, because of the way she described her feelings, and what she felt during several of his kisses. Also the fact that she drugged him so that she could get the medicine needed to save his life speaks volumes about the depth of her emotion. 
The idea that Katniss was trying to play the games on her own terms was illustrated by several parts in the book. The idea was first introduced by Peeta, when on the roof of the training center the night before the games began. He said something along the lines about not wanting to change who he was just to survive. This was a theme that was carried throughout the trilogy. For the most part, she refused to kill anyone unless they had somehow wronged her, or in self defense. She decorated the body of her ally. She refused to kill Peeta. 
I would also argue that Peeta's choice of allies was a smart decision. In choosing the career competitors, he ensured his own safety by promising to lead them to Katniss, and he ensured Katniss's safety by helping her to escape. These actions are what allowed the duo to get out of the arena alive, and into the next book. 
Catching Fire was a bit of a blur to me. President Snow, the dictator, came to visit Katniss, telling her that she had to convince the rest of the country that she really loved Peeta, because apparently she did not do a good enough job during the games, and her male friend from childhood didn't do much to help that image. So he proposes a wedding on the victory tour. But it is too late. The states have already begun to rebel, and no amount of convincing that Katniss does with get the states to realize that rebelling is a dangerous plan. So the president takes drastic measures. He announces that the seventy-fifth annual Hunger Games participants will be selected from past victors. Because she is the only female victor from her state, and there are only two male victors (both her friends), Katniss and Peeta are guaranteed a second round in the ring. Little do they know, they will be rescued by the people leading the rebellion, and whisked away to the state that no one knows exists. This could have been predicted by some savvy readers, but for me, I was completely surprised. I didn't know what to make of Katniss and Peeta's allies protecting the two of them, one of them essentially committing suicide to save them. What we learn later in the novel is that most of the competitors are aware of this plan. Katniss and Peeta are separated because the rescue team was not able to get Peeta. Most of the others were saved, but Peeta, as well as one other rebel were captured by the capitol. So ends book two. 
There were several twists in this plot that I couldn't help but gasp at. I freaked out when it was announced that the competitors would be chosen from past victors. I was very impressed at the way Suzanne Collins paints with words. Katniss's prep team, and especially her designer were fantastic. Each time Katniss appeared in the costume, I could see it burning, which was the goal of Suzanne Collins. Her imagery was so fantastic that even though the technology does not exist, I could picture the costumes so clearly.
In portraying the costumes the way she did, Ms. Collins set the stage for Katniss to be the leader of the revolution. In the first book, Katniss wears a pin given to her from the descendant of a prior competitor of her state, one who had previously died in the ring. The pin is a metal representation of a mutation of a tool that the capitol came up with to record conversations. It comes to stand for freedom, and the communication tool that was literally used in the ring, and figuratively used outside of the ring (I'm referring to the mockingjays that Rue and Katniss used to communicate, and the bread with the imprint of the mockingjay). The irony is that the people of the capitol also wore various mockingjay paraphernalia after Katniss and Peeta had won.
On to book three: Mockingjay. As life progresses in the new state, the capitol tortures Peeta, brainwashing him to believe that Katniss isn't the love of his life, that she is dangerous, and that she should be killed by any means. They also used him for a mouthpiece, instructing him to call for a cease-fire. Katniss has seen the front lines. She has seen what the capitol is doing to the people that provide them with everything they need to survive, and she allows herself to become their mascot on the condition that she gets to kill President Snow, and the safety and pardoning of the other participants in the seventy-fifth games. Peeta is eventually rescued, and the moment he sees Katniss for the first time after his stay in the Capitol, he tries to strangle her. The rebellion continues, the rebels taking each state one at a time, ending with the second state. Katniss sees different parts of the war, but enough to keep the rebels going with her passionate words. When the rebels take the second state, Katniss gets shot. Luckily, nothing was harmed except for a few bruised ribs, and Katniss continues on. The rebels were going to take the Capitol last. During the Capitol raid, half of Katniss's team gets taken out by the Capitol's defense systems, including what they call "mutts" (animals that have been altered and crossbred to make killing monsters). When they finally take the Capitol, the President is caught and held captive for the remainder of the book. He had been about to surrender when bombs were dropped on children surrounding his mansion like a shield. When help rushed in, the bombs exploded a second time, recalling Katniss to a conversation she had with her childhood friend, Gale, about traps. She stumbled into the President's holding cell, and he confirmed that the bombs were sent by the rebel's side, and that her sister who was initially called into the games had died as a result. He also planted in her head a seed of doubt about the way the new republican government was going to be run, and suggested that it wouldn't be any different than the government that they had just overthrown. The new president, Coin, had been a competitor for president with Snow, and had just stepped in to his position. So when the time came for Katniss to publicly assassinate President Snow, she instead fixed her arrow on Coin and killed her. Snow also died that day from poisoning himself slowly over the years. Peeta is eventually healed, and Katniss chooses him over her childhood friend Gale, because he is truly kind, whereas Gale's kindness only extends to the people that were kind to him. 
I thought that the shooting of President Coin was the largest turning point in the trilogy. What had struck Katniss was Snow's last line to her, stating that he thought they had agreed not to lie to each other. I found it interesting that in the end, Snow was kind of an ally to her. He knew he was going to die, I think, because he died on stage at the same time as Coin. I think that he was resigned to his fate, so he himself was able to commit himself to the cause and bring down the government. I think that he was probably thinking that if he couldn't be dictator anymore, then no one could be, and that the people were too stupid to govern themselves and would probably die out eventually. I think that it was also possible that Snow once competed against Coin for the dictatorship, and won, and that convincing Katniss to kill Coin was his last move, and his way of winning the game and beating Coin once and for all. 
When discussing the book with a co-worker, he asked whether I thought that Gale was responsible for Katniss's sister, Prim's death. While some might argue that because he came up with the idea for the bombs, it was his fault that Prim died, I want to bring up a counter example. The atomic bomb. Just because Albert Einstein created the atomic bomb does not make him responsible for every resulting casualty. I would, however, make the argument that the new government/the rebels were responsible for Prim's death, because they were the ones who put their own people in the Capitol during the bombing, while preying on society's instinct to assist the wounded to inflict more casualties. 
Also, while Gale seemed like the right choice for Katniss to end up with, I feel that it was fitting for her to end up with Peeta, the man that she had been through so much with. Just competing in the Hunger Games ruined her relationship with Gale forever, and not just because he had feelings for her and was jealous. She had been through so much trauma that no one could possibly relate to it. I would equate her trauma to that of a war veteran's, or possibly an abused woman. Peeta had experienced some of the same things, and that made the two able to relate to each other, making him the obvious choice.
All in all, I commend Suzanne Collins for writing such a wonderful, unpredictable, and well-woven storyline. The imagery was amazing, and I really admire how much she took from history to make this book. The thirteen states supposedly represent the thirteen original colonies, you can see some of the World War Two references, even the way people looked, and how body types reflected different styles of living (heftier bodies meant wealth in the twelfth state, whereas skinny bodies represented wealth in the Capitol). It was the use of history and the knowledge that history repeats itself that made this book so realistic, and caused it to seem like a real possibility for what the future may hold. For those that enjoyed Orwell's 1984, Zamyatin's We, and Huxley's Brave New World, you will most certainly enjoy this series. It is definitely a mind bender.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Puzzle That Won't Be Fixed

This afternoon, I saw my life crash down around me
In the middle of the fabric section at Walmart.
Funny place to leave sharp shards of a life.
As I leaned down to pick them up,
Toss them into my bag,
I noticed the faces of my college friends in one,
My high school clique in another.
The generic face of someone I've never met,
Topped by strawberry blonde hair.
A glimmer of a bad date,
And another of a good date gone bad.
A mother who can (but won't) support her daughter.
A sliver of school drew blood from my fingertips
And tears from my eyes.
I had worked so hard to pick all those pieces up,
And put them back in the shape of my life,
But they kept slipping though my fingertips,
Slicing the flesh,
Before I could get them over my purse.
I finally realized I wouldn't get them all,
So I left some of the most unimportant pieces behind.
Now I'm sitting here at this desk,
Examining them.
Which ones fit where?
I can't seem to find the school piece,
But I'm sure I grabbed it.
And without that piece,
The piece with my friends evaporates.
The sharpest shard,
The one with my mother's face on it
Leaves no room for the school piece.
Some glass,
Like the large one with the generic face,
Seem to overlap much of the other pieces.
And then I saw the shape of my life:
A compass.
My compass is broken.
I've lost my direction.
I don't know how I've managed to get home;
Or is this my home?
It certainly feels more like a prison,
The screens on the windows acting as bars.
The piece that had been missing since before the break in the store
Now stares up at me,
Laughing as I grasp frantically at the pieces,
Cutting myself even more,
Just looking for that school.
He should be happy about that.
And then I see the needle.
The bent metal that reflects the familiar blonde hair and brown eyes.
The best friend long gone.
She smiles,
Nodding towards the piece that overlaps,
Then looking up toward the heavens,
And I get it...
I think.



There were two of them tonight. Two. And it wasn't even busy. So they screwed up my conversion. And on of them called me a bitch. Signs of shoplifting:

  1. Well, I won't tell you all of them, for those of you looking to get ideas. But I will tell you what got my attention tonight. The first girls had large, open bags.
  2. They also looked like they "shopped" at higher end stores, but they were looking in clearance for a gift. 
  3. When someone takes a certain number of clothes into the fitting room, then comes out with less than what they went in with.
Anyway, the first two exhibited the first two signs as well as others, the last one exhibited the third sign. While I followed the first  two around, they noticed that I was watching them, then went to the counter with an item, to do a price check, called me a bitch, and left without buying.
The second lady that came in was visibly upset, but she had some bags on her as well. She took six items into the fitting room, and came out with five, and gave me four. I checked her room for the last item, a pair of black sweatpants that I had set in there when I started the room for her. I asked her about them in a lower voice, like, "Hey, I noticed you didn't leave those pants in the room. Did they work out for you?"  She told me she had already put them back, and I told her that I didn't see her come out of the fitting room, but I must have missed it. She still told me she didn't have them, so I stopped asking, and continued following her. When the last customer had left, she pulled them out of her bag, along with the hanger, apologized several times, and gave them back. I told her that it was okay, that it "takes a lot to give things back." "I'll never come back," she said. She quickly exited the store without another word. She continued to look back to see if I was still watching her, and she looked remorseful, so I hope what I said and my trust in her to do the right thing had an effect on her.
The one thing that I wonder when shoplifters come in is do they steal because they need the clothing, or because they need something to pay the bills, or to trade for drugs? It's the same question that we asked at the service project that I went to to serve the homeless.The question was do panhandlers really need the money? So what if they need the drugs? That is what they need at the moment. Maybe they need to clothe their children. Maybe they need new, clean clothes for a job interview. Maybe they need a coat to stay warm.
Then I think about it some more. And there are agencies that help with those things. A person shouldn't have to resort to crime to make their lives work. And resorting to crime, often makes their lives worse, makes it harder to get a job.
Anyway... just my musings. Maybe that's something I can do with my life.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I Feel Like Such a Badass Right Now.

I could be silly and say "and the reason is you" (quoting Hoobastank, of course), but I think that's an awful song, and while you are awesome, just for sticking around to read my stuff, or wait, that might be all me setting off the view counter, in which case I am brought back to my original point, that I am a badass.
The real reason is because I caught a shoplifter today. Red-handed. By myself. Okay, my boss helped a little, but mostly by myself. Here is the story about how I caught a thief, and my first ride in a police car:
I was working with my boss, HC, and this lady came in with a big coat and a backpack on. She was wandering around gathering items, and I was watching her to make sure she didnt steal anything, because usually people who take backpacks shopping are shoplifting, and same with heavy coats. As she shopped, she raised several red flags, so HC and I were both trailing her. I started her a fitting room, and she brought back a few more items to try on. She went in, and I checked on her twice, both times bringing back more product. By this point, she has five pairs of jeans, two red sweatshirts, and three black vests. So I ask her if I could take the stuff that didnt fit, and she agreed, and handed over two pairs of jeans, two vests and one of the red sweatshirts. Anyway, I knew she had a sweatshirt, a vest and two pairs of jeans left in the room with her. That's about $150 worth of product. A few minutes later, I heard a zipper close and she came out, looks surprised that I'm standing there, then closes the door behind her and books it out of the fitting room hallway. I immediately looked in her room, and saw she just left one pair of jeans, and she's booking it to the front door.
I told my HC, and she tried to stop her and asked for the stuff back three times, then we called the police. HC watched her cross the parking lot into the parking lot of an adjacent building, and within ten minutes or so, a police officer came into the store to ask us to come identify the suspect. I accompanied him to the car, got in the back seat (which was very uncomfortable, by the way. Don't get arrested.) and we drove to the parking lot. We stop, and the other police officer pulls the woman out of the car, and sure enough, it is the woman who stole. He also brings the black vest from my store to the window and asked me to verify the product, and sure enough, it was our product. Shortly after the incident, the other police officer brought the clothing the woman had taken back to the store, and HC and I received statement sheets that we need to fill out for them to pick up tomorrow. It was a very exciting night.

Friday, January 20, 2012

So I have a few new updates to share. First off, I did not get the Assistant Manager job at EB, as expected/promised. This was due to nepotism. Yes, I am bitter. However, I won't dwell on it. ...Who am I kidding? Yes I will, but only until my life gets better than the life of the person who got the job, because I truly deserved it, and I was the best candidate for the job (according to my boss, who was supposed to make the decision, but was strong armed into choosing the other guy). Anyway, this has led me to a variety of things. I will be going to grad school sooner than planned, I will be trying to find a better job elsewhere (as in screw my current company, they don't deserve me anyway) as an assistant manager, because believe it or not, there are other companies hiring for that position, and I received a traveling red dress. I've also started attending church again. That's a big step for me, since I've spent the last three years or so questioning God's existence and being angry at Him when I did believe in him. Firstly, I guess I should start by saying that I have decided to go to grad school to be an attorney, a mediator, or a clinical psychologist. This means either law school or basic grad school. Woohoo! If I choose to go to law school, I'll probably end up back at WU. They are less expensive than Berkeley, even if I was a California resident. If I go for clinical psychology, it will be at UW, which is kind of ironic, seeing as it's the opposite of WU. lol.
Second and only other piece of information that needs other explanation: The Red Dress. Think Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but with a Red Strapless ball gown. Basically, Jenny the Bloggess at is a badass, and started this trend of taking pictures in a red ball gown, simply because she wanted to, and because it would make her happy. She had to share the dress with other women in need of confidence, strength, hope, faith, self-esteem, and empowerment. Needless to say, the dress was worn by many amazing women of different shapes and sizes, and it started to wear out, so Jenny has purchased two more red dresses from the proceeds of her store, and she tweeted about it. This sparked a flood of offers from random strangers to other strangers, giving their strapless red dresses to women in need. This happened right about the time that I was denied that job, when my hopes were crushed. Miraculously, I found a dress on flickr in my size (18 if you need it). The lady who found the dress at Goodwill was not too far from where I live, and she just shipped it to me, no payment or shipping reimbursement requested. It arrived right before I returned from California, and  aside from my chest being too heavy for the boning in the dress, it fit perfectly! I had no idea what I wanted to do in the dress. I thought about going snowboarding, but I didn't want to ruin it for the next girl. Then it snowed. A beautiful bland background to emphasize the color of the dress. So we drove to the nearest waterfall, took some pictures, then I played on some trains in a train museum in the same town. It was a wonderful day, and I had a blast, in part because of the red dress, but also because I had the two people I love most in the world, and I was able to let loose and enjoy myself, because I was a badass for a day. Here are some pictures:

Possibly one of my favorites
The uncomfortable-looking guy standing next to me was a Chinese tourist who wasn't sure about having his picture taken with a crazy American girl who decided she liked running around in fancy dress clothes when it's freezing out. But his wife wanted the picture, so whateve. I figure that's what he had to say about it too, only the Chinese equivalent.

Also, we happened to start a trend, because the place we were standing was closed (as in roped off with a sign that said "Closed due to ice. But nobody ever got good pictures without breaking the rules. So we were rebels. And apparently leaders of other rebels. We could have started a cult.

Finally, one of my favorites (this is saying a lot because my mom gets photo happy when she gets to take her camera out and she took 107 pictures that day. So four is a small piece of the pie). I love this picture because it is so daring, and I am wearing something else that makes me furiously happy: My pointy, pink high heels. They're kind of like Cruella deVille's shoes. I always told myself that I would never buy shoes like that because they look so uncomfortable, and I am all about comfort over fashion. However, I found these in a thrift store, and they are hot pink (same color as they are in the picture) and they made me so happy that I HAD to have them. Especially because they were basically free, compared to other shoes that are similar.
So that's my red dress story. If you need this dress, and you are a size 18, please leave a comment with your email and I will get in touch. I promise it will bring you as much joy as it has brought me.