Friday, September 7, 2012

Election Madness 2012: Fight It!

Social media has the power to alternate from amazing to annoying in literally a matter of seconds depending on what is going on in the world.  I love social media; there is no question that I am addicted to it and I can admit that.  Facebook was originally great to keep in touch with older friends and I joined twitter specifically to obtain sports news as it was released.

Social media transforms daily though, and so has my use of it.  Facebook became more of a medium to “stalk” older friends rather than actually interact with them.  It also became a forum to voice your opinions on anything and everything to your friends.  I try to use it just for sports and things I find humorous, but as we hit election time, politics is easily the biggest component of it for most people.  While this is annoying, I am at least connected to all of my facebook friends by a major interaction – we have met in real life (at least with 99% of my fb friends), conversed, and have some sort of shared experience.  Therefore, I know what to expect around election time, and facebook includes a handy “Hide” button if I get really irritated.

Oh Twitter, what have I lost you to?!
Twitter is a much more difficult medium to manage.  You follow people for a specific reason, but events like an election transform everyone’s twitter accounts into something you’ve never seen before.  I first joined twitter looking for sports news, then made an effort to provide sports news, and continued on with it to the point that I have made friends over twitter.  This led to the creation of a 2nd twitter account so the people who followed me for sports have the option to follow my other interests and personal life if they so choose, but they are not forced to deal with it if they only want sports.  This is not how twitter usually works though.

The norm is one twitter account = every thought/feeling/piece of information possible from one person.  It’s often wonderful until you start reading about the side of someone that you don’t want to know about, don’t care about, and never want to hear about again.  For me, that side always involves politics.

I don’t hate politics; I am just indifferent to other people’s views of it.  Your tweets will not change my mind about my thoughts and values.  Your facebook statuses will not change my mind either.  A well written blog, article, or report may change how I think and feel, but surely not character-limited messages.

Beyond that, many political posts on social media are inflammatory.  Let’s face it, we all are on various social media sites to get involved in discussions, or get replies/favorites/retweets/likes/shares/etc.  You don’t put a thought out there without wanting someone to read it and react to it.  As such, election time appears to be perfect for people to throw out any sort of inflammatory statement to either be lauded as intelligent or strike up an argument.

We're all doomed.
While I’m indifferent to how other people view politics, I can’t help but get irritated with many of the comments I see from supporters of either side.  Politics is no longer an intellectual debate about what is best for the country.  Politics is a dirty, hair-pulling, slap fight where one side has to be better than the other side and also must be right all of the time.  Often, what starts as an intellectual debate will turn into finger pointing about how the other side has screwed up or is wrong about something.  These are not debates about making the country better.  Sure, the debates are founded upon that principle and begin that way, but they devolve quickly into my candidate is better than yours, my party is better than yours, and now I’m better than you too because you’re an idiot just like your party and your candidate.  This is especially rampant on twitter where thoughts are limited to 140 characters.  Even when people aren’t arguing against each other on twitter, there are a plethora of subtweets created for the other side.

I realize not everyone is like this, there are many bright individual who do not act like this, but they also don’t spark debate nearly as frequently as well…so all of you are absolved.  Now a slight transition off of social media and just to my view on politics if you care:

This is not about Obama vs. Romney.
This is about Obama OR Romney.
This country often takes a sports atmosphere to politics.  It’s about winning and soundly defeating the opposition.  It’s about being better than the other side.  It’s about why this side is better than that side.  The problem is, running the country is not a sport. When one side wins, they still need to care about the other side and the other side does not go home.  The operation of the United States is not better off because one side won, or the other side one.  It may trend better based on a certain candidate or party at any given time, but that is not what makes the country better.  The US improves as all political parties and all political beliefs meld into policies and actions that benefit the country as a whole.  No one is right all of the time and no one is wrong all of the time.  This is a concept that is lost in politics though, and it is why I don’t get involved in political debates and why I don’t care about what anyone else may think about politics.

Back in 12th grade, my AP American Government teacher had us fill out our voter registration forms in class before we turned 18.  As we filled them out, she left us with one lesson:  Don’t truly define yourself by any affiliation because you will slowly give away your independent thought on various topics to that affiliation.  I hated that class but that is a lesson I have held with me.  Don’t label me a democrat or republican, liberal or conservative, etc.  I will be what I need to be when the country needs that vote – sometimes it will be a liberal agenda, sometimes it will be a conservative agenda, but I will decide that every 4 years.

Honestly, I don’t truly care who wins this election.  I just care that the country improves.  In a month or so, I will do my due diligence research on the candidates and determine who I think will give this country the best opportunity to improve.  At that point, I will not tell you about it, I will not tell you who I will vote for, but I will go perform my civic duty and vote on election day.  No matter who wins, I will root for that candidate to fix everything possible about this country within his means.  In four years, I will go through the same cycle.

One thing is for sure, I will never bother you with my political stances on twitter or facebook.  I will just rant on my blog about how much I can’t stand people who do that.

PS – I’m well aware that political debate creates new ideas and fosters intelligent thinking.  I am not opposed to any of that.  I’m opposed to when it is done disrespectfully or in a closed-minded situation…which is most often the case.  Honor everyone’s views as you would like yours to be treated. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

How The Hunger Games Ate My Soul

The internet can be a very scary place sometimes with all of the crazy people on it; but it can also be an amazing place when you feel like one of the crazy people.  This past Sunday, I deemed myself to be crazy when I sat at my laptop with the intention of searching “Hunger Games Withdrawal.”  Thanks to the magic of Google live searching, I felt slightly less crazy as I made it to “Hunger Games Withd” and saw the automatic options pop up as: 1) Hunger Games Withdrawal, 2) Hunger Games Withdrawal Symptoms and 3) Hunger Games Withdrawal Books.  Thank you internet, I know I’m not alone.

Rewind to the previous Sunday.  Actually, first rewind back to March when The Hunger Games came out in theatres.  I hadn’t read the books at that point and everyone was raving about the trilogy and the movie that was about to come out.  If I can, I like to read the books before seeing a movie (ie: Harry Potter – it makes a huge difference), so I ordered the trilogy on Amazon.  I never got to reading it though and skipped out on the movie in the theatres.

Now, back to the previous Sunday.  With the DVD release scheduled within a week, I decided it was time to finally read the first book of the trilogy so I could see the movie.  I gave myself the week to do it, and tentatively scheduled in my head that I would then spend a week on the 2nd book and a week on the 3rd.  Apparently schedules are made to be broken.

I proceeded to devour the first book and finish it by Monday.  After taking Tuesday off, my obsession was peaking so I spent Wednesday and Thursday cruising through the 2nd book.  At that point, there was no chance of any restraint as I finished the 3rd book over the weekend.  That brought me to Sunday and no new Hunger Games book to turn to.  Over the past week, I had essentially shunned friends and a few too many responsibilities to lie down in my bed and read.  I wanted more, but there was no more.  I pathetically found myself feeling down and mildly irritated with the fact that I had excess free time and no new book to read in the series.  My google search provided me with solid options for my next trilogy (everyone suggests Divergent by Veronica Roth), but it’s not going to be the same.

As if I were quitting a drug cold turkey, each day has gotten a little better, though I still have pangs for more Hunger games.  This whole post seems melodramatic, right?  It is, and yet I was doing the dishes today and randomly thought of the name “Cressida” from the series.  The Hunger Games trilogy seriously was a drug and I’m a recovering addict now.

Now that the movie is out, I still have not seen it yet because A) It’s quite hard to find via Redbox, B) I’m afraid it will be disappointing in comparison to the book, and C) I don’t want to get sucked into it just to feel empty at the end when I have to wait until November 2013 for the next movie.  With that, I shall move on to my actual book thoughts (SPOILER WARNING) so I can release my thoughts on the trilogy and get one step further away from my unhealthy obsession with it.

Book 1: The Hunger Games (SPOILERS)

The fresh ideas and concepts of The Hunger Games carry Book 1 with ease.  Between the history of the districts, the relationships of the characters, and the actual event itself, it’s almost impossible to put the book down as you are eager to find out what happens next.  Random thoughts:
  • Definitely a bigger fan of Gale than Peeta.  Peeta was so whiny and soft that he came off as a very annoying character to me.  Gale had the spotlight much less, but seemed like a calm and steady friend.
  • The one moment that crushed me was reading Rue scream out “KATNISS!” before she was killed.  Everything about Rue seemed awesome and pure; that was the most crushing death to me of the first book (and the series honestly).  I still can hear the little voice I made up in my head for it.
  • The concept of Tracker Jackers has ensured that I will never go near a bee or wasp again.
  • It would have been interesting to learn more about the mutts, especially at the end when they look like the dead competitors
  • Overall, I was happy with the first book and content with the information provided in it.  It was certainly the most complete of the 3 on its own.

Book 2: Catching Fire (SPOILERS)

The second book starts off predictably but then takes a very quick and odd turn as the victory tour is skimmed over and you’re left wondering why.  The book then copies the addictive qualities from its predecessor as it goes through the next Hunger Games.  Random thoughts:
  • President Snow is portrayed fantastically as the villain, especially with the idea of the blood on his breath that isn't explained quite yet.
  • After have post-traumatic stress disorder from dealing with Rue’s death in Book 1, the visit to District 11 early in the book was another emotion-filled journey.  Pretty much every aspect of that district visit was perfect (minus the whole people getting shot thing).
  • Since I was rooting for Gale, the public proposal by Peeta was quite irritating to me – especially since it all wasn’t enough to please President Snow anyways.
  • Then, on top of it, Gale gets whipped publically?  Throw the guy a bone, Katniss!  He wants to rebel, she wants to rebel, and Peeta is whiny and wishy-washy.
  • The only time I liked Peeta for a second was in this book when he painted a picture of Rue at training, I’m over this by the time he suggests Katniss is pregnant to the crowd though.
  • Cinna is an awesome steadying force throughout the process for Katniss when no one else can keep it together for her.  His death was expected but unfortunate, certainly the hardest one of the 2nd book for me.
  • The setup of the arena for these games was pretty much awesome.  I loved the clock idea and it was enjoyable trying to piece together every hour.
  • I fully expected the allied group of tributes to refuse to kill each other at the end of the book, not escape by blowing up the force field/arena.

Book 3: Mockingjay (SPOILERS)

The third book felt rushed, sloppily put together, and very uninformative compared to the previous two.  There easily could have been a 4th book in this series if it was written properly.  Random thoughts:
  • I kind of enjoyed Peeta being stuck in the Capitol for most of the book.  His scenes in his propos and his return were perfect for making you question everything that was happening.  I wish there would have been a slower transition from him being hijacked to being useful though.
  • After Beetee gave Katniss a special bow, I certainly expected much more action with it than what happened throughout the book and I thought it would play a much bigger role than it did.
  • The whole 3rd part of the 3rd book could have been a separate book in itself.  The trip to the Capitol appears to happen a little too quickly and too easily.  Even though most of Katniss’s team dies along the way, it never really seemed like she was in danger.
  • The firebombing at the end with all of the children and the death of Katniss’s sister, Prim, was the hardest part to deal with in Book 3.  Prim was as pure as can be throughout the series, though I also realized I was not incredibly attached to her because she was in and out of the picture so frequently.  She should have been more involved as her death came closer for the reader.
  • I also spent much of this book reading to get to the point where Katniss killed Snow, but I was looking for it to be on her terms, not the rebels’.  The fact that he was captured and held before a trial was disappointing.
  • I understand how Katniss can’t forgive Gale since his bomb idea killed so many children, including Prim, but it would have been nice to see more information on whose decision it was to actually use it like the rebels did.
  • The vote for a new and final Hunger games to punish the citizen of the Capitol is a nice twist for humanity at the end.  However, as it’s never played out and there’s no discussion of who is in danger, it’s hard to actually care about that part at all after the meeting about it ends.  This could have been played up much more.
  • When Snow blames President Coin for some of the awful things that happened at the end, I realized we never really learn anything about President Coin in the book.  She’s just there and Katniss doesn’t seek any information or learn anything.  The character development there could have been much better.
  • At this point, with Snow frail on his own accord, I was not surprised that Katniss decided to shoot President Coin.  The book fails miserably here though as she is shut into a room while her trial occurs.  We never learn much about the trial, anything about President Coin, or anything that happened behind the scenes through the trilogy.  This would have been a great place to reveal everyone’s secrets and everyone’s motives throughout the book, but instead the story is wrapped up quickly and without answers.
  • Of course, in the end Katniss ends up with Peeta.  I bet he whines the whole time and she uses him whenever she needs him.

Overall, it was a great and very addictive series.  It just left me with an unfulfilled feeling at the end, as if the 3rd book was done hastily to wrap things up into a trilogy rather than actually finish the story properly.  Now I'm left to figuring out what district I would be in and hoping for a video game...and that the DVD lives up to the book.