Sunday, May 4, 2014

Blog #13

Question/Subject: : Write a critical reflection on one of the presentations you have seen this week.

Out of all the presentations I've seen, the one I enjoyed the most was The Hunger Games and the Art of War. I personally love philosophies on war and strategies of that kind, and so it was a treat for me to see somebody give a well thought out presentation on the subject. I thought the 5 commandments of war that Muhar chose to present were interesting and important out of all the ones that could've been picked, so I agree with what he showed us. In fact, I would say that the only part of the presentation that could have used improvement is time management. I wish that he had used his time more wisely so as to properly present all of his points. Time ran short at the end and he was forced to rush through the later commandments and I genuinely would have liked to hear a more in-depth analysis of how they would pertain to the Hunger Games.

When I first saw the movies, the first place my mind went was "what could be done to win? What could possibly be a foolproof way to ensure survival?" These thoughts were followed directly by my own conclusion that I couldn't possibly survive and that I would've probably tried to retrieve a backpack in the beginning of the Games and had a trident shoved into my chest or something like that. This presentation was something that I think everybody always wanted to hear, just how one should go about winning the Hunger Games.

With the exception of the time troubles, I would say that Muhar's presentation was very good and I enjoyed hearing it. The subject was intriguing and the presentation was visually engaging and furthermore, he got the audience to answer some questions and bring us into the presentation and thus made it more involved. The handouts were clear and concise without being too jumbled or confusing, but they also didn't take away from the overall presentation by making what he was saying redundant.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Hunger Games # 12

Question/Subject: : Write a reflection on the nature of Evil in our times and in The Hunger

I can honestly say that I don't know what the nature of evil is, at least not yet. I've never experienced anything in my extremely sheltered life that would lead me to believe what evil is, or what it's like to see it first hand, to feel it. The best I could do is to come to a conclusion not unlike what Dr. Baron showed the class during his presentation. The idea that evil is a lack of compassion, the enjoyment of other's suffering. This makes sense to me, I suppose. I've never met anybody like that, really, never witnessed it. Sure, I've seen some pretty gnarly road rage and stuff like that, but nothing that comes close to this definition.

Then, I heard Mr.Sztajer's speech about his time in the concentration camps and I think I truly understand now what true evil is. Evil is when people abandon their morals for a greater ideal. They allow others to do their thinking for them and they begin to let their hearts and minds look to people in "power" to decide what's right and wrong. True evil isn't hatred or anger. It's apathy. Looking at another human being and simply not caring about what happens to them or where they go, or how awful they must feel. To see a person, starving to death while they dig their own grave and not feeling anything... That is evil. This coincides with what Mr. Sztajer said at the beginning of his speech: "The best way for evil to win is for good people to do nothing." Therefore, those that knew what was going on in Germany and did nothing, they're just as guilty as those that fired the guns or ran the camps. There is a debt owed to the survivors and victims of the Holocaust that society can never, and will never pay. Society allowed evil to exist and perpetuated it, and this in itself is evil.

The same can be said in the Hunger Games for the people of the Capital. They watched the Hunger Games every year, and they didn't think twice about the suffering of the children, the horrors of the districts, or the pain that every family had to endure while watching their son or daughter die. Instead, they bought into the hype from President Snow and allowed it to happen. It is easy to simply say that Snow is evil and be done with it, but the fact remains that the people of the Capital looked on for 75 years and did nothing, and I don't think there's a whole lot more evil than that.

Hunger Games #11

Question/Subject: Do you believe in the End of the World? Why? Why not? Which
scenario is according to you most likely to happen?

To start out, this will be a pretty simple blog, and one that the reader may find unsatisfactory. Or you might really like it. It really depends on who you are. Personally, I do believe in the End of the World, but this is simply because I am of the Christian faith, and this is basically what we work for. This whole business of going to church, talking to others about our faith and spreading the word, is all in preparation for the Rapture and the End Times. I believe in the prophecy of the Bible, specifically the book of Revelation, in which there are multiple prophecies depicting what will occur when the Second Coming of Christ commences and sweeps the faithful up to be with him.

However, unlike most, I don't really tend to read into these things. I'm not preaching doom and gloom, nor will I ever stand on a corner with a sign that says "The End is Near! You Must Repent!". Unless I was doing it ironically... Anyway, my main point is that I believe that the prophecies themselves, in their written forms are very symbolic, so much so that it might even be impossible to know exactly what's going to occur when the End Times commence, so I don't pretend to know anything about what this may entail. I just simply have faith in the idea that what God has said will happen, will happen, and that's that. We, as humans, have no way of predicting this, in my opinion, so there's no point in getting all worked up. Everything in due time. There'll be plenty of time to get in a tizzy when there's Beasts with multiple heads rising form the ground and the Antichrist is ruling us all. That's when you worry. Until then, just do your thing.

Due to these things, I don't really believe that anything catastrophic will occur until these foretold events. I don't think that the world will just suddenly end from a meteor strike, or a random super volcano, because if the entire world's population is decimated, well that sure puts a damper on the whole glorious Rapture thing, am I right? This frees me up from being stricken with conspiracy theory overload or agonizing over whether or not I should join a cult to achieve transcendence, because honestly, I'm feeling pretty good right now in my theory of the Apocalypse.
(Katniss and Christ imagery. See what I did there?)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hunger Games Extra Credit- Children of Men

Children of Men is an excellent dystopian cinema piece concerning the idea of human extinction through infertility. While this may seem interesting, I'm sure the reader is thinking "What does this have to do with the Hunger Games?" Well, it turns out, quite a lot! The militarized government of Great Britain is not unlike the heavily regulated districts of Panem, where the government attempts to keep the lesser people down through intimidation and violence. This results in an uprising that claims many lives as the people try to reclaim their freedom from oppression.

Also, both works focus on hope and the effect it can have on people. The idea that there could be a cure to infertility is the central mechanism of hope in the movie, while Katniss herself and her defiance are the personification of hope in the Hunger Games. While some look to exploit the hope for themselves, others simply take it and use it for what it is: a symbol that things can get better.

Similarly, both protagonists are everymen, although I suppose Katniss is an everwoman. Neither wanted to be a hero, but they found themselves thrust into the center of a conflict and asked to accomplish amazing things. Both characters had suffered traumatic deaths of people they cared about and both had to defend somebody from outside forces that looked to harm them, with Kee and Peeta playing these roles. Ultimately, both characters accomplish their goals of bringing hope to the masses and keeping the idea alive, whether it be a newly born child, or Katniss herself as the Mockingjay.

Hunger Games #10

Question/Subject: Write a reflection on "The Hero's Journey" and how it relates to the Hunger Games.

In the Hunger Games, I'd say that the hero is definitely Katniss, and who would argue? She's the main character and  the focal point of the narrative, with everything being filtered through her stream of consciousness point of view. However, I would propose that Katniss isn't the only one that embarks on the hero's journey throughout the series, which is what makes the entire story so enjoyable. There isn't an underdeveloped character, as they all go through struggles and tribulations that they reader gets to watch them overcome. This adds overall depth to the story, as each character isn't simply a paper cutout that takes up space or fills a redundant purpose.

For example, Peeta begins the story as a meek baker's son, who couldn't even tell a girl that he thought she was beautiful. As the series progresses, he becomes a man, maybe not a stereotypical man, but a man. He comforts Katniss in her times of need and strife,  becoming stronger for all his struggle. He manages to survive the arena not once, but twice, and he survives the torture of the Capital, throwing off their mental brainwashing. The Peeta at the beginning of the books would not have been able to do all this, but the reader witnesses him change dynamically throughout the novels to become a completely different person by the end of the series, someone that Katniss could love and more than just a simple foil to the main character.

Also, I believe one of the biggest journeys undertaken by any character is that of Haymitch, who begins the series as a depressed and lonely drunkard. As he bonds with Katniss and Peeta, Haymitch begins to redefine himself and rediscover what it means to care about others. He becomes an important member of the rebellion and proves himself an able mentor, providing for the tributes in the arena when they needed him most. He makes progress at every turn and becomes an inspirational leader by the end of the series, as it was his wit and cleverness that made the whole rebellion possible, with him helping to orchestrate the rescue of Katniss from the arena to become the Mockingjay.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Hunger Games: Blog #9 Extra

Question/Subject: Write a reflection about Dr. Casey's lecture and story. You must relate what he talked about to the content of our class, specifically to the notion of leadership in The Hunger Games.

What makes a leader? Well, for one thing, it could certainly be said that a leader requires drive and ambition. Nobody ever became a leader by sitting back and letting everybody else do everything for them. That comes after they manage to snag power, am I right? Anyway, a leader needs to be exceptional in some way. Whether this includes public speaking, philosophy, financial merit, or any other myriad of options, there needs to be something that sets a potential leader apart from other candidates. In addition, there needs to be an opportunity for this potentially exceptional person to show their followers that they are worth following.

In the case of Dr. Casey, he showed his merit by being exceptional at everything he did throughout his career, proving that he was a worthy candidate for a leadership position. He seized chances to perform above the call of duty and showed those around him that he was what was needed for the College at that time, in terms of leadership needs.

This type of scenario could be applied to Katniss, albeit with slightly altered circumstances. Substitute an academic setting for a post-apocalyptic, dystopian setting and volunteering for extra advancement opportunities for volunteering for a televised death-match and they could be the same person! Jokes aside, most leadership opportunities present themselves in the same manner, with an opportunity to prove the exceptional skills of an individual. Katniss showed the people of Panem that she could be a symbol of defiance for them when she volunteered for the "opportunity" that was the Hunger Games. She had set of skills and a temperament that made her special in comparison to many of the other tributes and had a chance to show it. This skyrocketed her to fame and a position as the symbol of the rebellion in Panem.

Katniss and Dr. Casey are but two examples of a long line of leaders that have risen to power or fame through the exact same series of events. There's Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Lenin, George Washington, the list goes on, but the circumstances will never change. As long as there's an opportunity, uniquely gifted people will rise to the occasion and show the people what they think they want.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Question/Subject: Write about "Gender Relations and Romance in The Hunger Games" (women’s capabilities and potential, taking on traditional male tasks, subversion of traditional gender roles, gender transgression, etc.).  Make sure to include the lecture by Dr. Raley and Chapter 11 from Pfarr & Clark  in your reflection.

Katniss is quite an interesting character from the viewpoint of modern gender roles. It's quite easy to see that she turns the gender roles on their head with every time that she saves Peeta from certain death or shoots a rabbit to provide for her family. These types of actions are usually reserved for the male leads in stories such as this, those that tend to speak little and use their actions. Katniss, however, performs all of these male roles without sacrificing what makes her a woman. For instance, she is still tender and kind, albeit rather awkwardly at times, when she takes care of Peeta or her sister. Also, she is quick to perform matronly duties such as protecting Rue. This would provide basis for a genderless role of sorts within The Hunger Games. She manages to be all the gender roles and at the same time, none of them. This leads to interesting interactions with the other characters, all of whom perform differently than would traditionally have been expected.

For instance, Peeta is much more of a "woman" than Katniss, constantly getting himself into danger or making a stupid decision that requires him to be rescued. This has resulted in considerably negative feedback from the male population that watch the movies or read the books. Where as it could be hypothesized that women don't tend to resent a woman performing these roles, men seem to rebel against Peeta's character because it makes them uncomfortable to see a male robbed of his masculinity. 

Also, there is Gale who is more masculine than Peeta, but also seems to lack certain male traits as well. He is overly preoccupied with Katniss, in an almost Bella-like way that characterizes him throughout the plot. He is almost never seen outside his role of love struck boy next door or testosterone driven strategist, which is an interesting dichotomy in itself. He isn't Peeta, who clearly fulfills the "damsel in distress" role, but he isn't a male lead either or a sidekick. He's more of an underdeveloped character that exists and is decidedly average, which is not what most viewers would expect. He's flawed. He's handsome but violent, intelligent but overly stubborn. He's too human to fit into a traditional male role and thus is difficult to deal with.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hunger Games: Blog #7

Question/Subject: In chapter 16 of the Mockingjay, Collins writes about District 12 "We may have been the smallest district in Panem, but we know how to dance." Discuss the importance of music and dance in The Hunger Games compared to Appalachia. Make sure to talk abut at least one of the 3 songs mentioned in the trilogy: "Deep in the Meadow," "The Valley Song" and "The Hanging Tree."

In the world of The Hunger Games the people are oppressed by the Capital, physically and mentally through the presence of the Peace-Keepers, the fences keeping them in their districts, their isolation from other people and the lack of food. One of the only ways they can show their defiance is through their culture: Music, poetry, and other commonalities that bind the people together, giving them a common identity. What's fascinating is the fact that this is common throughout the world, fictional or not. From 1987-1991 in the Soviet occupied countries of Eastern Europe there were mass demonstrations that were characterized by singing of nationalistic songs, expressing their individuality as countries and denouncing the oppression of Soviet rule. Through this non-violent method multiple states were released from the U.S.S.R. and their independence was reinstated.

Similarly, in the American region of Appalachia, the people that populate the isolated mountains have created a sense of identity through their music and writing. Even as their homes have become increasingly connected to the rest of society they've managed to maintain a distinct cultural identity through their sense of community and ancestry that binds them together and to the mountains. Much like District 12, which is located in the same region, they have felt the sting of industrialization and the sorrow of watching their gorgeous surroundings be marred by the greed of outsiders. Thus, the music of District 12 often matches tone with that of Appalachia, distinctly felt in the song "The Hanging Tree". Songs concerning death and murder are popular in Appalachia, with many of their poems also echoing this theme, with the same thing resounding within District 12. Music is what brings the people together in both regions, giving them a common background and building a sense of community even as the Capital works to break their spirits.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Hunger Games: Blog #4

Question/Subject: Compare and contrast the second book with the film. You can either focus on a few similarities and differences between the book and the film or on one aspect of both, either storyline, characters, staging, portrayal of capitol and district 12, etc.

In my opinion, the second movie was more engaging than the first. I felt that the time spent outside of the arena was just as interesting as the time spent inside. The political intrigue was well represented and I enjoyed watching it unfold. In the book, the reader was always stuck inside Katniss's head and so, they were relatively unaware of what was happening beyond what she was experiencing. The movie didn't necessarily move the audience away from the protagonist, but it played to the advantages of the medium, which was allowing the viewers to know more than the characters on screen. We were privy to meetings between President Snow and other political figures that Katniss and Peeta were never aware of. This helped to make the audience understand what was at stake, and it helped move the slower parts of the book, such as the tedious process of being back in the capitol and revisiting old stomping grounds like the training rooms and receiving scores.

Also, I feel like the arena was presented differently in the movie than I had imagined it in the book. Of course, this is probably due to image differentiation in my ideas and those of the creators of the film, which is fine. However, I imagined the arena as much bigger. In the first book and movie, they gave the audience a feeling of vast open space, and I had expected the same amount of space in the second film. While this didn't necessarily detract from the overall experience, this wasn't exactly as I had expected. For me, individually, it made the idea that the tributes were too scattered to actively skirmish during the Quarter Quell less plausible. It seemed to me that because the beach was the only really safe place within the arena, that everybody should have been there and resulted in more fighting. In my head, when I was reading the book, I imagined the arena big enough that it was quite possible that the tributes couldn't find each other in the thick jungle and massive beach that I envisioned.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Hunger Games: Blog #3

Question/Subject: Compare and contrast the first book with the film. You can either focus on a few similarities and differences between the book and the film or on one aspect of both, either storyline, characters, staging, portrayal of capitol and district 12, etc.

First of all, I just want to let it be known that I deeply enjoyed the first book of The Hunger Games. I've dappled in the art of writing myself a few times and the way that Suzanne Collins presented her world is exactly how I like to do it. The stream of consciousness is a fascinating way of portraying a character's thoughts and emotions and I enjoyed it immensely. The movie, while well done, was not as good as I think it could have been. It did an exceptional job of sticking to the book, which I'm sure many a fan-girl appreciated, but I feel like this actually harmed the film. See, the book was engaging and enjoyable because it brought us into Katniss's thoughts and emotions flawlessly. We knew her fears and her plans, her loves and anxieties all throughout the journey. The reader didn't know or see anything that Katniss herself didn't see or know. This type of format is impossible to replicate within the confines of a movie. Maybe there could've been endless voice-overs, or something tedious like that, but without that the movie couldn't be as suspenseful and enjoyable as the book because we aren't in the protagonists head, we're watching her from afar. I just never felt as immersed and as apart of the action while I was watching the movie.

 This is simply a consequence of the difference in the medium. There's nothing that the creators could have done, really. In fact, I'd see it as a nod of respect to the author's skill as a writer. Her work was so exceptional, that it could only really work to the level that it did in the medium that she originally intended. The Mona Lisa wouldn't be as exceptional if it existed as a statue, just to create a dramatically more important and exaggerated parallel. So, basically, what I'm trying to say is that the book was good enough that I think it just simply couldn't be as good as a movie, no matter how well the creators worked to translate it from the written word to the silver screen. I thought that the actors did well as their characters, I thought that the vision of the Capitol was successfully gaudy and shiny. I thought that Cato looked just insane enough to work as a crazed 18 year old who's trained his whole life to kill children in an arena. It was all smashing stuff, but in the end it wasn't Suzanne Collins's book.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Hunger Games: Blog #2

Question/Subject: Write an analysis of the parallels between the tributes in the arena and the gladiators in old Rome. How can we apply the notion of “panem et circenses” to The Hunger GamesOR Discuss the similarities and differences between The Hunger Games and the Theseus-Minotaur story.

Suzanne Collins cited the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur as one of her inspirations for The Hunger Games. It's a remarkably similar tale, although there are some important differences. For instance, Theseus stood to gain by volunteering to face the Minotaur: A kingdom, courtesy of his Father the King. Katniss, on the other hand, gained almost nothing from her victory in the arena. Apart from saving her sister, she seemed to come out worse than before because she was forced to be with Peeta when she had no feelings for him, and she gained the animosity of President Snow, which made her life even more difficult. Furthermore, Katniss was forced to fight and work against the people she arrived at the Capitol with, while Theseus had nothing to fear from the other slaves that were thrown into the Labyrinth with him. Finally there's the obvious difference: The fact that Theseus faced one opponent, while Katniss faced many, and the fact that they were all human, which adds an element of remorse and guilt for her, while Theseus killed an inhuman monster.

In addition, there are similarities between these two stories. For example, there's the important detail that both protagonists volunteered for their place as a sacrifice. They weren't forced into their situation, but they both decided to take the risk. Also, they both gained the animosity of a powerful person for their troubles. For Katniss, it was President Snow and for Theseus it was the Queen of Athens, who didn't like the fact that an illegitimate son was going to inherit his Father's throne. This adds a layer of complexity to each situation, because it isn't a cut and dry win the games/kill the monster and go home type of scenario. It means that they have continued problems even after their victory. Finally,the conflict is originally created due to the oppression of a large and powerful government. As part of a peace treaty and to ensure fear existed in the populace, the government required the annual sacrifice of youths to keep the citizens subservient. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Hunger Games: Blog #1

Question/Subject: Why did you choose this class? What are you hoping to accomplish in the course? What is your favorite character of The Hunger Games and why?

 The Hunger Games was and is a craze that has taken a fierce grip on the minds and imaginations of the younger populace of America. As an older brother to 3 sisters, I understand the craze better than most. I watched as my siblings burned the midnight oil to finish these books, devouring them with a zeal that unnerved me slightly. They'd stubbornly withstood my every attempt to convince them to read The Hobbit, Harry Potter, and other such books, so I was slightly (majorly) offended, not to mention surprised, when they took up the call to literature on a single 12 year old's say-so. This was in the early days, and I assumed that it had to be something along the lines of Twilight, so I dismissed the series as something for young girls and confused boys. Little did I know... As the word spread and more people flocked to the growing global fan club, I continued to resist. I was much to proud to indulge in this fad. My time was too valuable and the books were too popular to have any real merit, obviously. Popularity was for romance novels and flashy fiction that appealed to the masses, not serious novels of any worth.

When I begrudgingly gave in, I was surprised. I was fascinated by the world the author had conceived, by its rules and histories. It was primitive and futuristic all at the same time, something that really piqued my interest. I finished all three books within a month and put them down, having decided that I approved of the ending and the opinions I had created about the characters within the pages. Now, however, I look at this class as a chance to re-examine what I'd originally thought within a different kind of setting. How often have I sat in an English class and wished for a modern book, something that I could really engage with. You know, something from this century. Now here it is! So really, this is a life-long English student's dream come true and I can't wait.

The only thing I'm looking to accomplish in this class it to leave it with an expanded idea on what The Hunger Games means as a set of novels within a dystopian setting. I have never done any deep thinking on the books or the characters, but I do know something about Dystopian Futures and settings, so I am very interested to see what the series bring to the genre.

My favorite character is actually the Capitol, as in the entity itself, the governing body. I understand all of the characters that the author touches on within the Capitol, what motivates them and why they make the political moves that they do, but I was fascinated by the way the Capitol worked and how the author made it a separate character all on its own. The soldiers, the citizens, the politicians, they all combined to create something distinctly different from the districts and it became the ultimate enemy of all the characters. The idea of the Capitol itself, the yoke that was placed upon the districts and made them bow to a group that conceived messed up ideas like the Hunger Games and fences to keep them constrained and in poverty while the privileged citizens lived like royalty. I find that aspect of the novels interesting and that is why I consider  the Capitol its own character with its own motivations and moves to make throughout the course of the series.