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Monday, February 27, 2012

Hunger Games/Oscars/Azazael

Monday again and I'm glad it's here.  Yesterday was such a beautiful day - it was lost on me, I'm sad to say.  When I finally did get my engines fired up at about three, I spent the next few hours having a manicure and pedicure and when I got done with that, the beautiful day was all but done. And I felt guilty about it because the sweet checkout guy at Whole Foods wouldn't have wasted the day.  Stuck behind his cash register, he pumped me for information about just how beautiful the day was. Later that night, Mark came up from downstairs to do laundry and waxed poetic about his lakefront run.  Like I said, I wasted it - I hope you didn't.

What I did instead of soaking in the day, was read the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy. Norma told me about it recently - I missed the buzz.  It didn't disappoint - it's really well written, fast paced, and compelling - a "can't put it down" kind of book.  What I think is curious is that it comes on the heels of the Dragon Tattoo series which also features a young woman who has to make her way in a brutal world, who shuts down her emotional life as she perfects survival skills. We admire both Lisbeth Salander and Katniss Everdeen because they are hardened, disciplined, unemotional - they beat men even though they love a few of them (that confuses them, the whole love thing - it's the one thing they're not good at).  And even though they  possess honed killing skills, they only kill or maim in self defense or out of mercy.  Seems we want these heroines to be capable of killing but only kill reluctantly - not ruthless or cold-blooded.   The parallels between the two series are uncanny in their treatment of women. What does it say about our times that we find these troubled, tough as nails girls so compelling?

Most of you know I'm writing a book and in a similar vein it is a coming of age book about a girl who lives with brutality who realizes at an early age she has to take care of herself and the few people she loves - her choices are to either be a victim or a warrior - she chooses warrior and conducts her life as one: formidable, take no prisoners, armored up.  She accomplishes amazing things, never takes no for an answer, loves deeply but rarely shows it, is suspicious of people who show her kindness.   She's an easy character to write about for me (cuz she IS me).   I have plucked actual events from my scary childhood and then fictionalized them, rewriting happier or nobler scripts as the spirit moves me (it's the great do-over - I get to revisit trauma and write a different outcome).   From the age of five, my heroine has an active relationship with a reluctant, guardian angel named Azazael.  He has been sent to earth to guard her even though he longs to be in heaven.  He is a fucked up angel, heart in the right place, but he dispenses terrible advice and together, he and the girl get into terrible trouble.   Here is a tidbit from the book, where we learn of Azazael's back story. This writing is raw and unedited:
He told me stories about his life before and after he became an angel.   Turns out he was a tobacco executive, living in North Carolina with a wife and seven kids, when he died.  One day, as he was going into the building where he worked, a woman stopped him and asked his name.  When he told her, she pulled a gun from underneath her sweatshirt and shot him dead.   Later it came out that her husband had died from lung cancer and emphysema and she held the tobacco company and the executives especially, responsible.  
He barely made it into heaven because of the tobacco thing.  His devotion to his wife and children saved him, he had been an excellent family man.  Ironically, it was that devotion that caused his fall from grace.  He couldn’t let go and as a spirit he haunted his family when he should have moved to a higher plane.  Against the rules, he drifted to earth and sat in the back of a classroom or ran up and down the soccer field exhorting his eldest son to victory.   He lay in bed next to his wife while she read and while she slept, causing her psychic angst, unable to be free of him because he was, in fact, still very much with her.  Most of all he lingered around his youngest daughter, Gretchen.  She was the one he loved the best probably because he had almost lost her so many times.   She was born a preemie and there were many times when it looked like she might not make it to first birthday.  It had been Azazael whose name then had been Elias, who sat up with her night after night while she struggled and cried in pain, her face scrunched in agony, tiny angry fists that only loosened when he rocked her and held her bare chest to his bare chest, skin on skin.  
It seemed the only natural thing to do to watch her as closely after his death.  She was five when he was gunned down and for weeks after, she spoke not a word as she waited for him to return.  It didn’t help that her mother and six brothers and sisters were experiencing their own grief and didn’t try hard to reach her and help her understand.   Elias saw all of this and shrieked in pain.   Initially the angels, whose job it was to ease his transition, were successful in restraining and distracting him.  He went through a boot camp of sorts, learning all the ropes, the new ways of the above, rules, etiquette, etc.  They piled extra assignments on him to keep his mind occupied:  count all the fishes in the Baltic Sea, rank the stars in order of brightness, write a prayer for each new baby born in Kazakhstan, and more.  It never occurred to Elias to say no to these ridiculous tasks, he had always been dutiful.  Soon though, he chafed and succumbed to the longing to be with his family.  He became adept at finding slivers of time throughout the day when he could quickly descend to Earth and be with Sandra and the kids. 
The consequences of these transgressions were piling up.   Everything in heaven is quantified and analyzed. There was no lack of personnel who would tally everything remotely worth measuring.  As such, there was an angel assigned solely to Elias who took note of his comings and goings.  Every time Elias descended to Earth to haunt his family, a big black checkmark was entered into a ledger.
In the Hunger Games, the brutal central government hosts annual gladiator type games to impress on the citizens in the remote regions their subjugation. Two children from each of twelve districts for the "games" are "reaped" and have to fight each other to the death in the wilderness until there is left standing, just a single victor.   Prior to the games, there is a lot of pageantry - the children are assigned a stylist team, they vie for sponsors, they prance around for the audience, bets are made. The entire country watches, with enthusiasm, the games on TV.  Yesterday, as I had my pedicure, I watched the pre-Oscar show.  I was repelled - maybe because it was too similar to what I just read. I dunno what it was that bothered me so much, trying to put my finger on it.  I think it was the artificiality of the event.  The co-hosts, with fake sparkling smiles, upstaging each other, the hype over what was really bizarrely uninteresting.  Viewers being exhorted to participate, get on Facebook and Twitter, breathless Twitter comments like, "It's rumored that Angelina Jolie will be wearing red tonight!"  WTF!!!   Tell me, am I the only one who doesn't give a rat's ass whether Angelina Jolie decided to wear a red dress to the Oscars?  Am I the only one who hasn't drunk the Kool-Aid?   Please tell me you think it's dumb too!!!!

Challenge today.  Choose wisely what you decide to care about - don't be manipulated.  Life is too short to give precious time to vapid pursuits and I'm sorry, watching air-brushed idiots talk obsequiously about starlets is a frigging waste of time.  If you're filling your head with that kind of crap, you are just a media pawn.  Don't be a pawn.  Choose wisely what you decide to care about. Better yet, get rid of the TV.  It's the opiate of the masses.


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