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Artsy

The Hunger Games and Crack Cocaine

I think The Hunger Games might just be the crack cocaine of book series.

Now, hear me out here. I know the writing isn’t overly sophisticated. The characters have weird names. The font is so big you might think you’ve stumbled into a children’s story. But in 10th grade Health class I did a project on crack cocaine (I promise I have never actually done crack cocaine) and wikipedia kindly reminded me that the side effects are as follows: increased heart rate, boosts in energy, decreased appetite, feelings of euphoria, loss of touch with reality, and an ever-growing craving for more.

I have felt probably too many of those things in connection to The Hunger Games to be considered a healthy and functional human being. But a few people (like, a couple million or so) have seen Catching Fire in the last week, so I figure now is as good a time as any to tell you a few ways in which the series is awesome.

1) Plot Line
For the eight people left on the planet who haven’t read the books/seen the movies/googled the plot out of sheer curiosity, let me fill you in. In the futuristic dystopian society of Panem, twelve Districts serve to power, clothe, feed, and entertain the people of the Capitol. The people of the Districts live in poverty, while the people of the Capitol live in utter excess. Every year a boy and a girl, aged anywhere from 12-18, are chosen from each of the Districts to compete in the Hunger Games: a nationally broadcasted, spectacularly orchestrated fight to the death. The winner of the Hunger Games brings food and other necessities back to their home District, thus encouraging support for the “tributes” from the starving Districts.

So the concept alone is crazy. Kids are killing each other on TV, and the people of the Capitol are treating the whole thing like it’s the season finale of The Bachelorette or something. But then there are the details, the blow-by-blow descriptions from Katniss, the series’ narrator, about where her life goes after she volunteers for the Games to save her younger sister. Every chapter– and I mean every chapter– ends with someone’s life hanging in the balance, some terrifying new obstacle coming to life in the arena, some horrific piece of news about Katniss’ friends and family. And yes, it is always horrific news.

It’s not a happy story by any means. About halfway through Catching Fire, the reader comes to a realization: Katniss is screwed. There are exactly zero ways for this to end well. The politics, the danger, the characters… they’re so vivid it’s almost painful. Katniss somehow becomes a centerpiece for an entire revolution, all because she didn’t want her sister to die and her self-preservation instincts made her look really good on TV. The dread you feel for Katniss and the people of Panem is real. Distract-you-from-your-homework, keep-you-up-at-night, make-it-difficult-to-talk-about-anything-but-the-books real. “Addictive” is something of an understatement.

2) Token YA Love Triangle
Peeta loves Katniss. Gale also loves Katniss. Katniss is kind of like ugh I just want to save my family and get out of here, but gives in to loving both of them at different times when she’s not too busy fighting state-of-the-art killing machines and stuff.

Though many people (and by many people, I mean Julie and my mom) report the love triangle to be their least favorite aspect of The Hunger Games, I enjoyed the crap out of it, and the vast majority of pre-teen girls would support me on this one. If the government-versus-people thing isn’t enough to get your blood pumping, the love scenes scattered throughout the series will get you through. (Though 50-60% of them are probably faked for President Snow’s cameras– it’s just so hard to separate reality from fantasy in the arena, you know?)

In addition to these wonderfully convoluted plot lines, the series’ sexual tensions bring us some of the best couple-nicknames since Bennifer and Brangelina:

Peeniss! KatPee! Kale! Gatniss!

Ah, young love.

3) Social Commentary
But more than the cliffhangers, more than the love triangle, even more than the totally badass nature of Katniss herself, there is the importance of what Suzanne Collins is actually trying to say here. The people of the Capitol have everything, or so it seems: food, clothing, homes, gadgets. They fret over clothing trends and party lists and gossip about the Games while the people in the Districts live in constant fear of having to watch their children be slaughtered on national television. It can be a commentary on how a government can use fear to manipulate its people. How humanity treats enemies in times of war. How superficiality and greed can corrupt a society. How economic division can lead to revolution. How “reality” TV can warp the truth so radically that we aren’t even be able recognize it anymore.

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This is a real ad, recently released by CoverGirl. The mysterious voice counting down in the background alludes to the countdown that happens before the Games– a countdown to when the young tributes are allowed to start killing each other. The styles in the ad look similar to those showcased in Panem’s Capitol– the ultimate symbol of greed and excess in the books. And these styles are being used to make as much money as possible, here, in real life. It makes you think.

So The Hunger Games offers more than just a story about a girl who wears her hair in a braid while she fights for her life and the people she loves, though it is one hell of a story. It’s romance in wartime. It’s a layered criticism of contemporary society. It’s an excuse to watch Jennifer Lawrence interviews on YouTube for hours on end. And it’s a whole lot better for you than crack cocaine.

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Artsy

Wasting Money is a Good Idea

There’s a reason that I wear the same pair of beat up blue keds with socks (you’re totally not supposed to wear socks with them) everyday. There’s a reason I don’t own a more vast collection of fashionable scarves (though I totally wish I did). And there’s a reason I don’t have any jewelry (besides the fact that I’d lose it all).
I have a philosophy for money management. And I don’t mean a real-life responsible one. I’m not going to tell you to save your pennies and build good credit so that you can get a car loan and pay off your student debt (though you should probably do those things). My philosophy for my work-study wages is this:

Spend your money on things you can do. Things you can experience and remember and write about later. As Hannah has advised you, don’t hesitate to buy those 26 dollar concert tickets. They’re absolutely worth it. The opportunity to get off campus for night and walk through a city to see the people who live on your iPod singing that song you love is worth every penny. Hell, the time spent jamming in the car with your roommate on the way there is worth it in itself.

Let me set the scene. It’s last Friday, and you’re on a 30-mile stretch on 95 south and The Mowgli’s are serenading you through the radio the whole way there. You get lost in Boston trying to take the right exit off of Storrow Drive (note: this feat is completely elusive and you’ve never once taken the right exit off this fucking deathtrap of a road but that’s okay, there’s good music playing and better people sitting next to you). A few wrong turns and some vague Google Maps directions later, and you’re walking on Comm Ave under streetlights that feel like Christmas lights towards some great music. You squeeze in late and thank God that you’ve got that one friend who’s not afraid to squeeze her way to the front, because you’ve got a great spot. Some couple won’t stop whispering dramatically to each other long enough to watch the openers, but by now you’re too excited to notice. The openers thank you profusely and leave. They were good, but you’re ready for the reason you came. The lights above you dim and a group of eight heavily bearded men shuffle onstage. Their respective guitars start the chords of one of your favorite songs, the first song! You turn to your roommate and mouth it’s Slowly Slowly! over the music and screaming. She laughs and both sing the first line. The rest of the night only gets better.

To me, that’s totally worth $26.50. And if I have a few less pairs of cute shoes because I wasted my money on various shows and books, then I won’t let myself complain. Because last Friday was pretty awesome. And all I have to show from it is some magic marker X’s on my hands, an album on my iPod, a signed Harry Potter coozie, and some wonderful memories.

I am now the proud owner of a Harry Potter coozie signed by none other than Colin Something, lead singer of the Mowgli’s.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLSBU6PoXNw&w=560&h=315]

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Artsy, College, Uncategorized

Confessions of a Concert Junkie

My friends, I think I have a problem. They always say the first step is admitting you have a problem– “they” being psychologists and my parents and leaders of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings if the movies are accurate– and I think it’s time to address this head-on.

I am a concert junkie.

When I was four years old, I saw the Barenaked Ladies in their underwear. It was at an outdoor concert– yes, my parents brought me to an outdoor BNL concert when I was four– but I don’t remember a whole lot about the music. (I mean I’m sure it was awesome, it was the freaking Barenaked Ladies, but I’ve been told I was too busy napping to notice.) All I remember is waking up on a blanket in the grass to find four grown men in their underwear staring at me from a huge-ass 90’s Jumbotron. And then– try to contain your giggles– these four grown-up people walked out on stage, in their underwear, and started playing saxophones. One of my fondest memories to this day.

With a first concert experience like that, how could I not get hooked?

BNL was a tough act to follow, but elementary school brought in some big names. I saw Britney Spears (like, I’m not a girl, not yet a wooooman Britney Spears), Kelly Clarkson (I HAVE HAZEL EYES TOO! I resisted shouting from the balcony), and the Cheetah Girls (minus Raven Symone, but they still brought down the house).

Middle school was the KISS 108 Concert phase, the stand-in-the-rain-for-six-hours-to-see-Flo-Rida-years. If you don’t live in the Boston area, our “today’s greatest hits” radio station has a pop concert bonanza every spring. My cousin Kristina and her dad somehow managed to score cheap tickets for three years in a row, so we saw a lot of artists who hit the twelve-year-old-girl demographic square in the braces: Rihanna, the Jonas Brothers, Dashboard Confessional, Boys Like Girls. Out of all of those, I actually think the Jonas Brothers were the best performers. (They cartwheeled better than they sang, but damn, could they cartwheel.)

High school brought Mat Kearney and Coldplay, and more importantly, my first real experience with the rush. Because that’s what a good concert is– a rush. The song you’ve listened to for years, the one with the lyrics you wish you had written or the refrain that makes your head spin, the band is playing it right now, and you can feel it in your forehead and your chest and your fingertips. You are the music. You’re not thinking about anything but your feet on the ground and your hands in the air and the bass that feels like it’s beating your heart.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XehthI7caM&w=560&h=315]

(I didn’t take the video, but the concert I went to looked a lot like this. The wristband lights are genius. You go, Coldplay.)

And since I got to college, I’ve been chasing that rush like there’s no tomorrow. I’ve never met a $26 concert ticket I didn’t like. (For some reason they’re always $26.) In the last year I’ve seen Ingrid Michaelson, Into It. Over It., Macklemore, Passenger, and Kendrick Lamar. Last Friday my friend Sean and I saw Macklemore, again. (He rocked it, again.) This Friday some wonderful lady friends and I are going to see The Mowgli’s. And Julie just bought us tickets to see Kodaline in February. (We’ve bought so many tickets lately that Ticketmaster has started sending us emails just to say hi.)

Like I said, I might have a problem.

But you know what? This might be the best problem I’ve ever had. Sure, I might not be able to buy new clothes for the next ten years because all my money is going to concerts, but my doctor told me I stopped growing when I was fifteen so that totally shouldn’t be a problem. Bottom line: if your favorite band is coming to your city, go. The rush is worth it every time.

Author’s Note: This post was indeed an excuse to gush about my music wrapped in a story about my addiction to concerts. Click on the links and dance around in your underwear, I promise you won’t be sorry.

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Artsy, College, Music

For All You Hopeless Wanderers Out There

Hello all! So I’m going to be honest, I was a little busy today, and over dinner I came to the startling realization that it was my turn to post. So I’m going to answer an archaic, unanswerable question: is there anything better than Mumford and Sons’ song Hopeless Wanderer?

Yes. So please enjoy a music video for Hopeless Wanderer as performed by Jason Sudeikis, Ed Helms, Jason Bateman, and Will Forte.

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I’ve probably watched this about 37 times in the past two months. Hope it made you laugh!

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