Being Loved for What I Love

November 18 9:17 p.m.

In a one hour and forty-five minute and ten second conversation, Elena and I linger on a live stream of the Yahoo! Catching Fire red carpet for Jennifer Lawrence but when she finally appears in her tulle dress she flees the microphones. 

November 19, 12:52 p.m.

CS: Ook sorry friend! On a happy note…there is only one day between us and hunger games!

November 21 4:44 p.m. 

CS: Almost time! I’m going to go ahead and head down now Because I haven’t had anything to eat. If you head down there early let me know! 

We have tickets for the 10:15 p.m. showing that we end up swapping for 8:45 p.m. passes. I still arrive over 2 hours early.

6:19 p.m.

EA: Hahah. Great, I’m excited for you and to discuss its social commentary. 

November 22 12:04 a.m.

HM: You just started the movie!!! Ahhh I’m so jealous! 

Sorry Heather, I’ve actually finished Catching Fire at this point sifting through its layers with Chelsea at a bar on a weeknight right now. 

12:10 a.m. 

DB: It was intense, sad, funny, depressing, heart-string-pulling, thrilling, deep. 

1:37 a.m.

HM: Don’t tell me anything. 

2:18 a.m.

CS: Had fun seeing the movie and analyzing it after 🙂 

2:43 a.m. 

HM: Mmmmm yes, in both books it’s the fact that they care and love and are vulnerable in the fact that they allow themselves to care (and be hurt) so deeply, that ultimately redeems them and gives them strength. 

HM: It’s very Judeith Butler’s theory on mourning and violence. Aha grad school life tie-in’s. 

HM: Mourning is the loss of an unknowable part of ourselves that only existed between us and another person. This deep intersubjectivity of identity makes us vulnerable to others. Our vulnerability is exploited by violence and therefore the sheer knowledge of your own vulnerability and connectedness to other will decrease your acceptance of violence. 

HM: By the same token, butler argues that the US has denied its vulnerability as a nation, hiding under the safety of its “first worldness” and allowing itself to inflict military violence abroad because itself does not seem vulnerable –because we are a nation terrified of mourning and recognizing loss. 

7:33 a.m.

MHL: How was it?

11:34 a.m.

DB: I am up for seeing the movie again if you are

1:10 p.m. 

LP: Omg Morgan. It was so good. I loved it. 

6:08 p.m. 

MG: How was hunger games???

6:47 p.m. 

SF: Ahh today?!! is coming out

6:51 

SB: I loves it! I thought it was better than the book! 

10:25 p.m. 

David and I discussed Francis Lawrence’s handling of “the locket” scene as part of our 46 minute and 25 second phone conversation. 

11:09 p.m.

Laura and I discussed agency, manipulation, PTSD, and society in our one hour, fifty-seven minutes and 49 seconds exchange that night/morning. 

Saturday, November 23, 1:17 a.m.

Heather and I professed our love for Jennifer Lawrence’s ability to convey visceral agony on screen in our nocturnal one hour and 15 minutes and ten seconds chat. 

November 24 5:33 p.m. 

KL: Morgaaaan. Please tell me you’ve seen catching fire. 

ML: Omg Kayce have you seen it? I saw it on thursday night, reread it and mockingjay earlier this month and have prob read every single article about it that exists on the web. on friday night i analyzed it in 3 phone convos from 1030-230am

KL: Hahahah yay! I was hoping you wouldn’t let me down. I saw it last night. But I haven’t read the book in forever so there’s of details I wish I would have had on my mind. I remember being upset with the first movie thinking the book was better

7:48 p.m.

MC: Did you see it?? I haven’t been able to see it yet!!

ML: David and i are going to see it in imax on wed and you are welcome to join! 

MC: There’s potential if it’s in hourglass. Hburg. 

8:23 p.m. 

EC: I still have not seen Catching Fire (ughhhhh). I’m going to see it with my sister this Wednesday and will you ASAP after I do..In the meantime, inital reactions or things to look out for/ponder? 

8:43 p.m. 

LP: Lets see it when u come??.(not guaranteeing i won’t see it again before then i dont mind a 3rd time)

9:46 p.m. 

Kevin and I compared and contrasted the first and second movie and their respective book adaptations in a 19 minute, 58 second discussion. 

 

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Quick Disturbing Dystopian Thoughts

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“So we forgive each other?” The crooked smile climbs up one more time. “Again?”
And I look right into his eyes, right into him as far as I can see, because I want him to hear me, I want him to hear me with everything I mean and feel and say.
“Always,” I say to him. “Every time.”

xx

“You’re still trying to protect me. Real or not real,” he whispers.
“Real,” I answer. “Because that’s what you and I do, protect each other.”

xx

In my rereading of Mockingjay last week, I began juxtaposing Suzanne Collins’ finale with Patrick Ness’ middle novel, The Ask and the Answer. While the books occupy different parts of their respective trilogies, the jarring amounts of violence, torture and death contained in their pages–and what’s more, the pervasive current that relentlessly questions whether good exists, make the compare and contrast impulse natural.

Easily Mockingjay’s most striking quality is how easily Collins’ lets her main characters “get off” so to speak from actively participating in the trauma and carnage brought on by Coin and Snow. Quite understandably and indeed narratively logically consistent with the larger series structure, Katniss suffers from constant post-traumatic stress disorder while simultaneously enduring the physical repercussions of a Quarter Quell’s electric shock. She’s also shot and knocked out for good measure. Peeta, on the other hand, succumbs mentally and spiritually to the Capitol’s injections of Trackerjacker poison and devolves into an unstable and fragile figure.

And what a shame that Collins lets that occur.

Peeta’s character has always been about taking agency in his life. He tells Katniss just before the start of the 74th Hunger Games that he will not allow himself to be a tool objectified by the Capitol.

“I keep wishing I could think of a way to…to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games,”

That Collins denies him that freedom, that she reduces him to desiring himself dead, unable to understand his “true” feelings about Katniss, and an eternal player of the “Real or Not Real?” game, initially is brilliant. It demonstrates war’s totality–the fact that even after shots and spears and arrows may halt–brokenness is permanent. I thought I loved the author for her willingness to sacrifice Peeta’s soul to ground her points about the horrors of war.

xx

“Oh, no. It costs a lot more than your life. To murder innocent people?” says Peeta. “It costs everything you are.”

xx

“It’s not that you should never love something so much that it can control you.
It’s that you need to love something that much so you can never be controlled.
It’s not a weakness.
It’s your best strength.”

xx

And then I wrapped up The Ask and the Answer. Not unlike Peeta and Katniss, Viola and Todd are cast into ordeal after ordeal without respite and startle themselves when they find themselves capable of murder and death. But what makes their tale far more gut-wrenching is that Ness dares to suggest that something might be far more deadly to a character than losing his or her autonomy.

In Panem, the checkmate to Collins’ characters is when they are tortured. In New World, the equivalent to Ness’ characters is that they torture.

Over and over again, Todd and Viola, in a crude paraphrase of the language of the book, collapse and rise again, though in many of the processes they’ve yanked others down with them. Viola arrogantly sneaks out to meet Todd—and sacrifices the life of her friend. Todd astonishes himself by applying his moral blinders that enable him to (almost) mercilessly shackle the Spackle. And then the women.

Further, Ness places his characters in situations where they must choose to bomb, attack, massacre and terrify. And The Chaos Walking series is replete of pages of Viola and Todd–agonizingly–do just that.

Forget that Katniss and Peeta lost their souls to their aggressors–this is exactly into which Viola and Todd transform. A much more chilling and morally precarious proposition.

(And yet, and yet, and yet, and I want to suggest that Ness comprehends that only in participating in their own moral demise, can Viola and Todd ever redeem themselves. If they retain agency while becoming monsters, that same sense of self will be what catalyzes their redemption. But I’m not sure if I totally agree if grace can be a self-initiated thing.)

Collins, through Coin’s relentless ruthlessness, her suggestion of another Hunger Games, her authorization of the exploding parachutes, wants to argue of sin’s perpetual stronghold. But she does not go far enough to show just how evil spreads generation to generation, relationship to relationship, old to innocent.

xx

“…you’ll learn that war only destroys. No one escapes from a war. No one. Not even the survivors. You accept things that would appall you at any other time because life has temporarily lost all meaning.”

xx

“There’s always a choice,” Viola says by my side.
“Oh, people like to say that,” the Mayor says. “It makes them feel better.”

xx

“”Todd,” I say again, a catch in my voice. “On the ledge, under the waterfall, do you remember what you said to me? Do you remember what you said to save me?”
He’s shaking his head slowly. “I’ve done terrible things, Viola. Terrible things-”
We all fall, you said.” I’m gripping his hand now. “We all fall but that’s not what matters. What matters is picking yourself up again.”

On Women and Katniss and Society

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I’ve been verbally nauseous the past week just pondering what left I have to articulate about The Hunger Games. Part of that has been my own fault; at this point I’m not sure why I haven’t already subscribed to a Panem RSS Feed or set a Google Alert for ‘The Boy with the Bread’ because every other half hour I’ve been fine-tooth combing the net for the freshest critique on ‘Catching Fire.’ Indulge, indulge, indulge. What goes down must come up.

I’ve been starving to put my own thoughts to a page, me with my smorgasbord of unfocused convictions that I never know how to pare down or to tame or harness or whatever other equinal metaphor describes my wild thought process. I’m fairly certain that there’s nothing that so turns me on–on an intellectual level at the very least–as Young Adult dystopian literature with a protagonist in whom I encounter glints (and gleams?) of myself.

Actually, I don’t want to risk being overly honest with myself but potentially it’s merely admiration. In this case–most of that veneration lands at the feet of Suzanne Collins.

Why?

So much cyberspace has been devoted to dissecting the type of stuff that makes up our alleged heroine Katniss Everdeen. She’s a complex female protagonist who seems not overly transfixed on embodying any stereotypical feminine characteristics. I have mixed feelings about whether she deserves the bravery accolades so often assigned to her–and not because bolting into the center of a public square to save a loved one from passing out from a whipping or voluntarily electing to die and die a death that dehumanizes and scrub’s off one’s soul in the first place are not good evidence.

Yet. I have reservations. There are some times where I am afraid that the public’s gushing, oozing delight with Jennifer Lawrence’s rambunctiousness laugh and gleeful potty humor mouth and the fact that she gives a emotionally-jarring performance as a female heroine in a violent and ugly reality ends up artificially inflating how we feel about the emotionally complex and broken Katniss character.

We like Jennifer Lawrence. We like Jennifer Lawrence’s ability to infuse her portrayal of Katniss with a teenager who coos and wails when a nine-year-old is stabbed in the stomach, who brusquely chastises her mother the moment after she was tenderily stroking her sister’s arms, and makes the grueling and deadly decision to let the mutts ravage Cato to pieces. We like Katniss.

Please no.

Here’s my fear. In the society in which we live, we shower accolades on women we deem “likeable.” This is not be to be confused with bland or subservient or mild. But it lives quite uncomfortably with abrasivetough, and insular. “Likeable” women emanate warmth. They hug, they make eye contact, they verbally acknowledge, they goof off. “Likeable” women understand the art self-deprecation and make jokes about their inability to grasp a volleyball serving technique and how their relationship status relates to a whirlpool. And when they seek power and influence, “likeable” women graciously and self-consciously ask permission before cutting lines or edging another out.

Kristen Stewart comes to mind as unlikeable.

Katniss Everdeen also does. Indeed, her indecisive yet calculating and possessive yet indifferent demeanor in tandem with the latter books’ portrayal of her mental volatility, her myopia, and her willingness to ask others to bear her risks–none of that amalgamates into charm.

So why must the press still keep treating her like she has some? Katniss Everdeen is the anti-hero whom Suzanne Collins wrote to be exactly that–one to gnaw at our conceptions of who that vague and prestigious and vacuous term actually fits.

And we don’t. So we foist superlatives on Katniss like “courageous,” “self-sacrificing,” “resilient,” and the fact of the matter is that those are all only true sometimes.

You see, even Katniss knows that. My abridged version of a quite cutting Mockingjay comment follows:

All those months of taking it for granted that [Peeta? The Press? Critics? Fans? Mothers? Women? Men? Teenagers? The Public?] thought I was wonderful are over. Finally, he can see me for who I really am. Violent. Distrustful. Manipulative. Deadly.

And we all know all of that is true. Sometimes. Katniss, with a likeability quotient that matches the 21st Century’s is dead. Long live the girl who subverts not only the Capitol’s conformist conceptions but also gives a middle finger to our own.

Larry Krueger, Damon Bruce, and Being a Woman

I’m not exactly certain what genre of personality I manifested to the world as a 12-year-old. This was my third year of pointe shoes, fourth year of being Margaret’s (on-and-off again) best friend, and first year as a member of my Bible memorization club’s orange polo shirted regimen. I also remember being overwhelmingly overlooked by all pukka shell clad spiky hair preteen boys. Potentially I was as bland as they come but I was also homeschooled, a fact that today’s high society tells me is one of the most interesting pieces of trivia that pertain to me.

The following year, 2003, was when I found baseball. While I lack solid memories of specific days (not counting Barry Bonds’ birthday bash), I recall rhythms of rolling the dial on the obnoxious Gary Radnich show that blathered about baseball and boringness to the ostentatious and nationally syndicated Jim Rome Jungle while unstuffing the dishwasher, then nibbling on my lunch while adjusting the nobs between Rick Berry and Rod Brooks’ equally ego-maniacal absent opines, and finally, lying on my couch and hearing some auditory relief as the scratchy, self-serious Ralph Barbieri and silly Tom Tolbert bantered about all sorts of shallow minutia.

Unsurprisingly the highlight of my day were the Giants games. There were Jon Miller and Joe Angel, whose voices I confused so much as a kid, describing the wacky Bonds’ defensive shift, serving up astonishment about Marquis Grissom’s high level of play and rolling their eyes (proverbially) at Pedro Feliz’s lack of plate discipline. And then, because the Giants were electric and won 100 games that year, I always, always, always defied my sisters’ attempts to sleep and very softly turned on this garage sale-worthy clock radio where I could hear the dessert of my day, Larry Krueger,  who began to teach me the art of having an opinion, even, and so much, towards the people, things, and times that you loved.

XX

The morning the Larry Krueger was fired I was sleeping on a futon in my own room, the same futons that had served as building blocks for decades of fort-construction in our family. I remember that Mallory came in to break the news to me on a morning around nine-o-clock when the sun was well in the sky. And I remember sobbing, right then and there, and knowing, so viscerally and emphatically, that an era in my baseball life had been over.

Loud-mouth Krueger was axed after Giants’ manager Felipe Alou attacked the radio show host’s comments that lambasted the sluggish team’s “brain-dead Caribbean players.” I firmly don’t believe KNBR terminated Krueger for making those comments. The fired him because of the station’s incestuous relationship (see their decision to move Damon Bruce OUT of SportsPhone 680 several years later) with the ball club and political decisions like that get made all the time.

XX

It’s such an odd and dangerous phenomena that when I like someone I’m willing to make excuses for bad and “unacceptable” behavior. I had so much trouble as a 15-year-old (who’d actually mustered up the guts to phone Krueger’s show the year) in stepping back from the situation to ascertain the validity of Alou’s allegations that Krueger’s words were racist. Indeed, I barely cared. I wanted Larry back. I needed Larry back. And Alou took Larry away and my comfort zone of brash, pompous, and cynical opinions about the Giants away, “tough love” during what was a tough stretch for the Giants away, and all I wanted was it back.

This was my radio damnit. My team. My right.

Eight years later. Eight years later boys and girls. Eight years later. And last Friday, Damon Bruce, who possess positively close to zero shame for anything that’s ever come out of his mouth, gave one of his most audacious tirades. Several examples follow.

“I know how professional sports works…But very few small handful of women who are very good at this at all.”

“Message for all the women, all the guidance counselors, the sensitive males . . . all of this world of sports, especially the world of football, has a setting. It’s set to men. Women, ladies, sensitive guys, you can observe, be offended, report on it all. But we’re not changing it for you.”

So much chewy analysis has already been written on Bruce’s words whether it’s women who are eager to provide themselves as evidence against Bruce’s claims or pundits calling out broadcaster for being misogynist.

I, for one, believe that women’s foray into the professional and collegiate sports arena has obviously changed the world–whether from a perception or implementation level. While Bruce, as a male, may see his world intruded upon by people who may actually call out his kingdom about its propensity towards boorish, vicious, sexist and juvenile behavior, I welcome them.

And for those, too, who have alleged that women reporters are just as competent as men, I don’t feel that that these critics are actually understanding Bruce’s point. It’s not that these women are lousy at being journalists; it’s that their mere presence challenges all of those tiny little assumptions we make about injuries, contracts, salaries, rivalries, clubhouses, offensive lines, defensive lines, bullpens, starting five’s, locker rooms, huddles, and high-fives. The vast majority of sports that female broadcasters will cover, their gender will at be primarily represented by dance and cheer squads. Rarely will they cover sports where women are the athletes.

Since becoming a sports fan, I haven’t heard an intellectual argument about why sports are so unapologetically divided among gender lines and I’m not here to make one today. I’m only here to say that there is an elephant in the room when half the world’s population will enter a territory previously completely taken over at the ownership, media and player level by one half and then watch it slowly, slowly, cede to more and more, though little by little, to some in that other half.

Regardless of whether the questions they’ve posed inside the locker room are ones that have sought a revolution, or even a reformation, they’ve made men self-conscious of their culture, of its boorish, vicious, sexist and juvenile behavior, and isn’t self-awareness where change catalyzes?

That Damon Bruce linked women to the Ricky Incognito / Jonathon Martin bullying story makes total sense; Martin’s revelations opened up an entire new realm of places for the media (read: those who may have an interest in undermining sports’ status quo) to butt their heads into and critique.

XX

Several years after Larry Krueger was fired and the Razor and Mr. T had been my daily radio pinnacle, Damon Bruce came on the air. Raunchy, never shy about the occasional (and there were plenty) innuendo, and brash, I wasn’t sure always sure how I felt about his style, especially its blatant sexualness, but I loved how Bruce would just dive headfirst into having an opinion.

I’d love Larry and it’d been so long. And Bruce’s passion…

There were also times where as a female listener, I felt totally uncomfortable listening to the show. After Bruce’s fiancé broke of their engagement in 2009 (?), what had been a time when I had felt him truly warm up to females and express genuine excitement about getting married, he would go on subliminal and not so subliminal misogynistic streaks. Damon, I did not need you to gush about this Warrior Girls’ body or start your Nooner segment or make some snide remark about an attractive woman every half hour. Sundress conditions? If only you just left it at that.

Also, posing with scantily clad women on Twitter. Give me a break.

An email that I wrote him at the beginning of this year:

Damon, I’ve been listening since I was teenager and two things. When you say you go out of the box, you really mean it in so many good ways…

That said, it can also be an uncomfortable experience being a female fan and Twitter follower at times. For instances, I felt your Williams’ sisters tweets yesterday detracted from the fact that currently Serena is playing at an elite level and who has a great opportunity to win the Australian Open. But grand slam tennis though usually doesn’t get more attention than a Nooner, if that, so it frustrated me that she was mentioned for a iPhone commercial but not for her current performance. While I try to ignore your Warrior girl comments (by telling myself that they’re paid for their sex appeal,) I felt the Williams sisters deserved better. I do wonder, at times, what a woman must do for you to respect her.

I’m not interested in unfollowing you or not listening to the show–most of the times I love your commentary and tell it like it is attitude. I live in New York City now and yours is the only KNBR show that I still listen to.

Because, as a 23-year-old, who only semi-occasionally plays a Damon Bruce podcast to go to bed to at night, when all of things toxic utterances vomited out of his mouth last week, I did not want to take all my passions and convictions about women and hurl them on him. I did not want to push for his firing.* I did not want him off the air. I did not want to think of another Giants season without a critic and truthsayer and headscratcher.

I thought of Damon playing Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream speech” annually and his unparalleled exposé on the Penn State sexual abuse scandal and his creative ways to engage callers. Yeah, sure, I guess, that should all work towards penance.

But let’s get to the heart of this. It’s not what this incident has said about Bruce. I already knew it.

At the end of the show, Bruce always reminds us that “Sports don’t build character; they reveal it.”

And in my life, “Crisis don’t bolster standards; they expose my lack of them.”

*(Really, I don’t think it would have been a bad decision to let it go. Like I said, he’s really not been a woman’s best friend since he joined KNBR. I’ve never felt any similar vibes from any other KNBR show host, with the possible exception of the not-so-recently departed Barbieri.)