I keep hearing the words “Hunger Games” being bandied about. I see signs with the words “Hunger Games” plastered on them. People keep making references to “the Hunger Games”. I believe there is even a blog on the front page of WordPress that has something to do with the “Hunger Games” on it. I never really paid enough attention to figure out what they were about or why I should care.

And then I read Thingy talking about “The Hunger Games” on her blog, and so I decided it was time to find out about them. I whisked myself to Wikipedia forthwith, and commenced to read. So, The Hunger Games is a series of books for young adults, which, like all YA books nowadays, has been adapted into a movie, which comes out tomorrow.

I have to admit, just reading the synopsis made me a little bored. “Post-apocalyptic America…dystopian totalitarian government… sacrifices by lottery…” It all seemed tired to me. As Thingy noted, the “deadly lottery” aspect of the story sounds a lot like “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. (Full disclosure: I only know about that story because it’s the model for Vault 11 in Fallout: New Vegas… another post-apocalyptic tale.)

But then,as Zaphodb2002 commented on this post: “It is more about how the story is told, not necessarily what the story is about.” So, just because it’s got a lot of familiar trappings doesn’t mean it’s not an interesting book. I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

I wonder why the post-apocalyptic idea is so popular. I guess because it gives the author a “clean slate” to build the kind of world s/he wants. And maybe because it lets you show familiar settings in a state of destruction, and that’s pretty dramatic. But it certainly seems like the post-apocalyptic genre is popular with audiences these days. I wonder why.

I’m not an expert on the genre, but I don’t think it was always thus. It seems to me that fiction that dealt with “the end of the world as we know it” used to be just plain apocalyptic–e.g. Dr. Strangelove, where the end of the movie is the nuclear annihilation. I wonder what the change signifies.

And another thing: is it true that one of two things almost always happens with the post-apocalypse: either there is no government, no law and order, and humanity is reduced to fighting gang-warfare style, or else there is a tyrannical, all-powerful government controlling the wasteland. Or is that just my impression?

As long as we’re on the subject, how is this related to another phenomenon both Thingy and Ferrerman have addressed lately: “preppers”? That is, people preparing for what they believe to be the imminent apocalypse. Are they fans of post-apocalyptic fiction? If so, since they all seem to be going the “gang warfare” camp, where’s the sign-up sheet for the “tyrannical government” camp? I bet the first 50 people in get cushy positions in the Thought Police or something.

Anyway… how depressing. Perhaps Tom Lehrer can make us feel better:

This wasn’t so much a “Trump ploy” as it was trompe l’oeil–as early reports said he’d be endorsing Gingrich, and now they’re saying it’s Romney. (And I’ve been waiting for years to use that awful pun, so you had best be laughing right now.)

But really, the question is: can there really be anyone who cares what Trump says? And if so, is there any reason to think there is still hope for the country?

I jest, of course. People are always interested in celebrity endorsements. And that’s not indicative of a dangerously shallow approach to politics by press and populace alike.

I’m really not being sarcastic here. I’m actually trying to convince myself of that.

The best secret agent in all of the land
      Was told to report for his briefing.
                 His boss said the orders that he would reveal
Came from the top of the chain of command;
       For, after through much intelligence leafing,
                 They knew where to find the plans he must steal.
“Tell me,” said he, at the end of the talk,
         “What are these plans–what’s their import?
                  Must be big, to such risky attempts to compel you.”
Back and forth, the leader did walk,
           And said “After you get in and return from that fort,
                   The content of those plans I’ll be only too happy to tell you.”
Dispatched then, by chopper,
       To that secret fortress way out in the East,
                  He readied himself to take on this mission.
Assuring his footing was proper,
         He watched from a hill till patrolling had ceased,
                   And swung on a line down into position.
From there, using cunning and stealth,
         He sneaked behind boxes and under the trees,
                   And finally leapt (from twenty feet up!) through a skylight.
(If you want to take care of your health
          This profession is very unlikely to please,
                   But if they make this a movie, this will be a highlight!)
He silently slipped through the place
          And made his way to the big metal safe–
                   But, for his life, he couldn’t see how he could crack it!
The alarms went off all over the base,
          A guard saw our agent, and started to strafe,
                   And right past his ear whizzed a full metal jacket.
The mission was scrubbed then and there!
          He escaped, though ten times he nearly died;
                    And he asked when he radioed in to command:
“I’ve failed! But please make me aware–
           That safe was unbreakable–what plans were inside?”
                     The reply: “the plans to cracking that safe, as I understand.”
The moral, my friends, is simple enough;
            It’s something of which all should be aware,
                      (Even if they’re not a spy crossing a border.)
Because, even though it can be tough,
            Everyone really ought to take care
                       To see to it that they keep all their orders in order.                  

Conservatives fret
About raising the debt;
Yet they haven’t a plan to raise taxes.
The ceiling, they praise it
Saying “if we don’t  raise it,
Well, Earth will still spin on its axis.”
Disaster they court
Obama to thwart,
So take what they say with some salt.
I’ve got a feeling
We must raise the ceiling
Or else Limbaugh will “win by default”.

“Was it something I did in another life?/I try and try, but nothing comes out right/for me.”  

So begins Warren Zevon‘s darkly humorous 1987 hymn to bad luck “Bad Karma”. I often joke that this ought to be the fight song for my favorite sports team, and indeed it seems quite fitting for almost any team that I support even casually in any sport. They almost always seem to lose in heartbreaking fashion once I start pulling for them.

This is another way of saying I’m sorry that I took a passing interest in the fortunes of the U.S. women’s soccer team. It always ends badly for teams I support.

“I was going to suggest to you that you serve your eggs with hollandaise sauce in hubcaps. Because there’s no plates like chrome for the hollandaise.”–Thus spoke Mitt Romney, in a terribly awkward move for a Presidential candidate, according to Dana Milbank of The Washington Post.

Well, if we can’t have presidential campaigns based upon anything substantive or important–and that ship sailed a long time ago–I suppose there are worse things than seeing who tells the best puns and shaggy dog stories.

Via Eclectic Iconoclast, I read that PBS is going to start interrupting its programs to air commercials. A Time article anticipates PBS’s defense: “They [PBS] still make programming that commercial TV can’t or doesn’t sustain. Put as many car commercials in it as you want, CBS is never going to air Nova on a weeknight.”

Perhaps I am missing something, but I think that this is perfectly true: PBS cannot be said to be just like the other networks, even now. Clearly, they are still attempting to put on programming that the other networks would find it unprofitable to air, and so their plan appears to be: act like the other networks, only make less money.

I read the Newsweek article about Americans doing poorly on the citizenship test. One quote from the article I take issue with:

“The world has changed. And unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more inhospitable to incurious know-nothings—like us.”

To date, I have seen little evidence of this. The know-nothings seem to get by just fine. It’s mostly the know-somethings who suffer.

(Hat Tip to Thingy for the Newsweek article)

 “Views in favour of dictatorship, xenophobia and anti-Semitism are increasing in popularity” in Germany. (Hat Tip to Little Green Footballs)

I am reminded of this quote from a Tom Lehrer song:

“Once all the Germans were warlike and mean,/But that couldn’t happen again/We taught them a lesson in 1918/ And they’ve hardly bothered us since then.”