Real or not real?



“Real or not real?” This is the question Peeta begins asking after he has been brainwashed by the bad guys in Mockingjay the concluding volume of The Hunger Games trilogy.  I had difficulty getting started in the first volume of this work. But after the third volume, I think there is some elegance in the plot.

And I especially like the way the author, Susan Collins, poses some important questions about what’s real and what’s fake. Throughout the book, most of the actions take place before an unseen audience. The Hunger Games and their rituals are broadcast to the entire country of Panem as a sort of combination of propaganda, circus for the masses, and a warning since each “district” must select a “tribute” to participate in fight to the death. (Echoes of Shirley Jackson’s story, “The Lottery.”) That audience’s perceptions are often what matter most. Hence the characters include a brave fashion designer who designs costumes for the people in the Hunger Games. There are a trio of people who administer make up and dress Katniss, the main character.

The omniscience of the broadcasting and recording camera is a nice touch. One that echoes a lot of places right now, especially England where the population is routinely monitored via Closed Circuit TV (CCTV).

And the question of what is real and what is not real is an important question to ask. “Crap detection” as Howard Rheingold has called it is an essential tool for survival both online and offline.

I like it very much that this Young Adult sci fi novel is asking some of these questions.  I feel like the quality of the writing evolved. I still think the first pages of the first novel are weak. But by the end I was forgiving the unevenness of the writing because I got caught up in the concepts and the plot.

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My used copy of Brooke Gladstone’s The Influencing Machine arrived in the mail yesterday. I am thirty pages into it and unsurprisingly it is excellent and informative.

From the introduction:

“We hunger for objectivity, but increasingly swallow ‘news’ like Jell-O shots in ad hoc cyber-saloons. We marinate in punditry seasoned with only those facts and opinions we can digest without cognitive distress.

Sometimes we feel queasy about it—queasiness we project back onto the media.

But we don’t really get agitated until we encounter the other guys’ media. Those guys are consuming lies. They are getting juiced up. Their media diet is making them stupid.

What if our media choices are making us stupid? What if they’re shortening our attention span, exciting our lusts, eroding our values, hobbling our judgment?

I admit that I think that TV news makes people stupider. “The more you watch, the less you know.” So I think that Gladstone is describing me in this paragraph to some extent. Great stuff.

One more thing on this subject. Although I abhor Rush Limbaugh, I am troubled by people who want to force him off the air. But, I am much more troubled by his and Anne Coulter’s and other crazy hate filled people’s popularity.  In a free speech zone, we will always have people selling their hate, it’s the number of buyers of this hate that worries me.

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Books Without Borders – NYTimes.com

Amazing stupid laws about not teaching Mexican literature in Tuscon’s public schools…… Tony Diaz, the author, strikes back and plans a book tour, smuggling books into America.

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The Unwelcome Mat – NYTimes.com

More stupidity about people coming into our country…. good grief.

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Male Fruit Flies, Spurned by Females, Turn to Alcohol – NYTimes.com

What can I say? This is excellent.

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Crimes Against Humanity – NYTimes.com

A letter commenting on prosecutions of warlords and perpetrators of atrocities in Africa from a prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials.

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