Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Garbage Dump

Time to collect odds and ends for the end-of-the-year trash bin, so that I can start fresh for the New Year. That the subjects are mostly women is entirely coincidental. 

Julia Biryukova: Over two years have passed since the disappearance of Sky Metalwala, the infant that the Russian native allegedly left in her car while in search of gasoline. Bellevue, WA police determined that there was more than enough gasoline in the tank to make it to the nearest gas station, and in this regard and everything else Biryukova continues to be “uncooperative,” as is the rest of the tight-lipped Russian immigrant community she has likely been hiding out in. Biryukova—who has a history of mental illness—was apparently angered by a judge’s decision to allow her ex-husband visitation rights to the boy. Despite the fact that the police have received over 2,000 “tips” as to the fate of the boy, there apparently has been no “break” in the case.

Sarah Palin and Ann Romney: Their dreams of taking up space in the White House, thankfully at an end, hasn’t ended their habit of being major annoyances, thanks to the media. In between doing cooking tours on morning shows and riding her horses, Mrs. Romney continues to wail about how the media “elected” Barack Obama, and has been asserting that if hubby Mitt was president, he would have averted the recent government shutdown by killing “Obamacare,” despite the fact that Romney signed into law something very similar to it while governor of Massachusetts. For his part, Romney has stated that he would have opposed Republican tactics during the shutdown, which makes one wonder who is wearing the “pants” in the family. 

Not that Romney hasn’t made any gaffes himself since the election; his suggestion that minorities voted for Obama because they expected “gifts” was offensively racist. Newt Gingrich called him out on the remark, stating that Asians are “hardworking” and don’t expect gifts, yet a large majority voted for Obama; the suggestion that blacks and Latinos expect “gifts”—especially given the fact than immigration reform has gone nowhere and black unemployment continues to be the highest among all demographic—should also be defined as a racist notion, Newt. 

For now, the Romneys are living the idle rich life in La Jolla, California; Ann Romney apparently has nothing to do but pine for what might have been. Do we really need to suffer any more of that?

Palin, meanwhile, made news recently in her defense of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson, who was suspended from the A&E reality show for racist and homophobic remarks. You never heard of the show? Don’t feel bad; I never heard of it before Palin opened her mouth. If you remember “The Beverly Hillbillies,” you’ll get the drift about what the show is about—except that instead of oil, it is duck whistles that made the family rich. Also, it isn’t supposed to be “amusing,” like Palin isn’t. 

Palin often makes highly offensive statements herself, although the only reason she was relieved of hosting her own show on Fox News was because there wasn’t much there once you got past the “snappy” Palinisms (kind of like ESPN’s Chris Berman). This past November, Palin was talking about the government shutdown, and typically off-target she told an Iowa audience (she’s not really thinking of a presidential run, God help us) “When that money comes due – and this isn’t racist – but it’ll be like slavery when that note is due. We are going to beholden to the foreign master.” Well, any criticism of the president from the likes of Palin can’t help but have racist undertones understood by its target audience. I suppose she is talking about China, to whom we lost most of those 3 million manufacturing jobs to during the Bush years despite all those tax cuts. 

It is absurd to suggest that the world’s largest economy—even in relation to China, despite its far larger population but far smaller per capita income—will become a “slave” to a foreign nation, and MSNBC’s Martin Bashir called her out, quoting from the diary of Thomas Thistlewood, a slave overseer, including these choice bits:

“A slave named Darby catched eating canes; had him well flogged and pickled, then made Hector, another slave, s-h-i-t in his mouth.” Pickled refers to having a salt solution rubbed in the wounds caused by the flogging, which increases the pain; the other part is self-explanatory (I hope). 

“Flogged Punch well, and then washed and rubbed salt pickle, lime juice and bird pepper; made Negro Joe piss in his eyes and mouth.”

Bashir was pointing out that Palin’s suggestion of “slavery” was an insult to the real sufferings of the actual slaves, not the petty “inconveniences” that people like Palin would “suffer.” Nor did he actually suggest that any of these things should be done to Palin for her many verbal offenses designed with either the evilest intent (remember the “kill him” at a 2008 rally during a Palin rant about Obama?), or symptomatic of the complete ignorance Palin has in regard to the “interpretation” of her rhetoric (remember the “Don’t Retreat. Reload” with targets on Democrats? Did Jared Loughner take that literally?). 

Palin has never had to apologize for any of her ignorant, bigoted statements, and obviously is too mega maniacal to ever do so; but as might be predicted, any criticism of a right-wing hack brings down the thunder of the hypocrisy brigade from both the right and the mainstream media. Naturally MSNBC felt it had no “choice” but to fire Bashir. 

Justine Sacco: I recall an incident in which a glorified waitress on an airplane asked me if I had the flu. The reason why this was an offensive inquiry was because it was during the alleged “swine flu” epidemic that was essentially a media creation that never happened, and it allegedly originated in Mexico, although this was never proved. I wasn’t displaying any “symptoms,” but the flight attendant apparently thought that I looked “Mexican,” and people “like me” were filthy carriers of disease; she probably heard this on Lou Dobbs’ “Broken Borders” show on CNN before he was fired for his many misinformation malfeasances. 

This no doubt was the mindset that persuaded “public relations” executive Sacco of the media company IAC to opine via Twitter "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!"

Is it not amazing how people get into trouble with Twitter? They say you can’t accuse anyone of racism even if their actions can be interpreted that way; they have to say something that “suggests” it first. Well, here you are. I suspect that Sacco wasn’t speaking so much of AIDs per say, but speaking to her stereotypes and fear of blacks in general, and a country in which at least politically is “controlled” by people of skin much darker than hers. Her stupidity in making her thoughts known for all to read was a public relations nightmare for IAC, and obviously Sacco was wrongly placed in her position; the company had no choice but to fire her. 

Barbara Eden: Now for the “entertainment.” I have confessed that I am much more a “fan” of the “golden age” of television—encompassing the first 25 years of medium—than I am of the current variety. I have also mentioned that one of my favorite TV shows was “I Dream of Jeannie.” Thus it was with some disillusionment that I discovered that in real life Barbara Eden is quite a different “character.” Not that she is a “horrible” person or anything like that, but she is clearly an egoist who served no “master” but herself; in fact, she is more like her dark-haired alter-ego in the show, “Jeannie II,” at least in the way that character treated people as if they were her slaves.

Eden recently published an autobiography that spends very little time on the show that made her a household name and object of many a male fantasy; in fact, the point of even mentioning the show seems to be as an opportunity to abuse the memory of co-star Larry Hagman—which she never did during interviews before he passed away. Hagman was by all accounts a pain in the ass, but Bill Daily would later say that he understood his tantrums about derivative scripts, and noted that Eden would just sit and watch, allowing Hagman to be seen as the "heavy" in these battles. It says a great deal about Eden when she claims that her “favorite” episode involved a lion which roared and caused everyone on the set to run in fear except her; I’ve seen this episode, and the lion only appears for a few seconds at the very end, just before the closing credits. 

The only true interpretation of Eden’s tome was that she was a “workaholic” who had little time for anything outside of her career, including Mathew, her son with actor and first husband Michael Ansara. She didn’t seem to have time to take into account other people’s feelings, save in hindsight. Eden seems to think that every male she ever met tried to “hit” on her, although I suspect that in her egotism this was the way she interpreted any interaction that was “friendly.” She drops a lot of names, but apparently she was in truth a bit of a prude, and never suggests that any of these guys got past halfway down the first base line with her—if in fact they tried. Eden was already in her mid-30s when the series began anyways, and you can tell she was no longer young by the series’ end in the close-ups, requiring the help of face powder to keep the fantasy alive. 

I really hate doing this, because I am such a fan of “I Dream of Jeannie.” But Eden seems so consumed with self in her book that her son’s death by drug overdose seems less a tragedy for him than for her; instead of trying to understand what went wrong, she tells the reader to look how sad she looks in the picture at her son’s funeral. She apparently never really understood the impact of her absenteeism, and even confesses to being “hurt” when her son told her that he preferred to live with his father after she divorced Ansara. 

I suppose some things should have been left in that Jim Beam bottle. 

Paulette Goddard: I heard something on radio awhile back about a Canadian woman, Patricia O’Byrne, who was not going to be charged with kidnapping her daughter after 20 years on the run. She had abducted her 20-month-old child in violation of a custody order in Toronto, and disappeared. She was finally discovered in British Columbia, where she pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of abduction. The prosecutor urged a sentence of 18 years in prison; instead, a judge sentenced her to an “extraordinarily” lenient 22 months (or less) of “house detention”—which is the adult equivalent of being “grounded.” Considering the fact that she lived life “underground” for all those years, this is probably less a burden for her than the judge believes. 

According to newspaper accounts, O’Byrne’s attorney claimed that she was “sexually abused as a child by male caregivers and she also witnessed horrific domestic violence against her mother that required plastic surgery for her face.” Or at least this was O’Byrne’s justification for her actions, for “No abuses were reported to police” at the time. The attorney went on to say that O’Byrne "believed she was the only one who could keep her daughter safe." Yet to all accounts her father was a decent, caring man—and even O’Byrne refrained from making false accusations in court. In “explaining” the leniency of the sentence, Judge Mara Greene noted incomprehensibly that "At some point, the abduction became less about Ms. O'Byrne's concern for the safety of her child and more about protecting herself from detection and prosecution. Be as it may, “She took full responsibility for her actions and did not do anything to vilify (the father) Joseph Chisholm to his daughter or the court."  

For most men who have had to deal with the court system in similar cases, this attitude of “understanding” of the woman’s point of view, even if there is strong possibility it is based on falsehoods meant to elicit sympathy, can be frustrating or even infuriating. But if you think cases like O’Byrne’s is a recent cultural phenomenon, or if the reasons given for these kidnappings (or abductions) do not have psychological effects on a child (particularly a daughter), then the following is a story for you: 

Being a film buff, I have an appreciation for the work of Charlie Chaplin. Two of his films feature his alleged wife at the time, Paulette Goddard. I say “alleged” because there was never any official marriage ceremony, although it “officially” ended in a Mexican divorce sometime in the early 1940s. Although she was never a real box office star, Goddard had a reputation for having an uncanny ability for accumulating wealth through a succession of husbands. She was still a teenager when she married and divorced Edgar James, a lumber magnate. The $375,000 settlement in 1930 was the equivalent of $5 million in today’s money—quite a haul for a flirt then employed as a “dancer” during those Depression days. Her character in Chaplin’s 1936 film Modern Times is somewhat ironic; in a tattered dress exposing ample leg and bare feet for most of the film, one wonders why some sugar daddy hadn’t scooped-up this beautiful “gamine” who exuded as much carnality as rascality.  

Goddard was obviously something of an enigma. Information she supplied about her childhood and personal life were subject to personal whim, and the truth could rarely be pinned down. Julie Gilbert’s fawning 1995 biography about Goddard cannot be trusted, since Goddard usually provided the press outright lies about her past that Gilbert apparently accepted as “fact.” Even the available documents provide contradictory or misleading information, beginning with her date of birth. When asked for clarification on any point, Goddard often responded like a defendant being cross-examined on the witness stand; like Jodi Arias, she always seemed to be trying to “outsmart” the interrogator with contradictory statements with a touch of arrogant self-assurance. Caught in a falsehood contradicted by established fact, or in making a statement that made no logical sense, Goddard would claim loss of memory, make mock of the question or questioner, or claim lack of competence to give a proper answer.  

There is an issue of LIFE magazine dated Dec. 17, 1945 that demonstrates this propensity, leaving no room for doubt. The following story appeared under the bi-line of Oliver Jensen, in a futile attempt to piece together her past:

In the case of Paulette Goddard, almost all of this information is confusing. Life’s reporter, studying the published record, found that Miss Goddard is without question the worst-documented actress in the land. So delightfully contradictory were even the basic facts that the reporter set them down on paper and arranged an interview with Miss Goddard at the Plaza Hotel in New York. She was sitting in the cocktail room in a black coat over a white dress. 

“Miss Goddard,” began Life’s interviewer, “it says here that your real name is both Paulette Goddard and Pauline Levy.”

“Of course it’s Goddard,” she said.

“But it also says your father was both J.R. Goddard and Joseph Levy/or Levee, and when a national magazine said Mr. Levy or Levee wasn’t your father, he sued for $150,000, charging mental anguish. Didn’t he win the suit?”

 “Wasn’t that silly?” smiled Miss Goddard. “All he got was $35 a week, just $35 a week. I thought it was so funny.”

 “What was your mother’s maiden name?”

“But it also says that her maiden name was Hatch—Alita M. Hatch.”

“Oh yes, of course. That was before she married my father, J.A. Goddard.”

Goddard is alleged to have had a great-uncle named Goddard, but there is no record of her mother marrying or having a relationship with a man by that name.

The interview move on to her date of birth. It was pointed out that the dates most frequently given were 1911, 1905 and 1914.

“Isn’t that funny,” observed Miss Goddard, “because I was actually born in 1915.”

“And you were first married when you were 16?”

“Yes, to Edgar James.

“But that was in 1927. We know that. That made you 12.”

“I don’t know about that,” responded Miss Goddard. “Anyway, I don’t know that it was 1927. 

“It’s in the record of the divorce proceedings.”

“I’m simply terrible at mathematics,” said Miss Goddard winningly.

“The record,” said the interviewer, “says you did definitely divorce Chaplin in Mexico. It also says that you did or did not marry him in the following places: aboard the yacht Panacea in London, Mexico and Canton, China.”

“Isn’t that silly?” said Miss Goddard. She then told how another reporter had sought the same facts years ago at the Chaplin ménage.

“He was assigned the job for a month and never found out,” she said triumphantly. “He used to accost me in the restaurants and bars and get fresh, and he hung around the house. Once he was in the driveway of my house when I was driving out. I told the chauffeur to run him down.”

The vital statistics on Miss Goddard’s hair record that it is naturally both blonde and brunette. Life’s investigator authoritatively established that at the moment it is naturally dark.

“According to the record, Miss Goddard, you spent your early life with your mother’s family, the Hatches or Goddards, either in Toronto, Montreal, Great Neck, Manhattan, Washington D.C. or in a convent.”

“Oh, I’ve lived everywhere, just everywhere,” agreed Miss Goddard.

At this point the interview ends when her then third husband, actor Burgess Meredith—probably best remembered as “The Penguin” in the 1960s Batman TV series, and “Mick” in the Rocky films—chimes in that “Yes, she looks out of the car all the time and says I’ve lived here—and here—and here.” 

This is just a suspicion, but perhaps Goddard’s odd behavior and notions (referred to as “fun” by film critic Pauline Kael) could be accounted for by a childhood with a mother similar to the case noted above. The record states that when Goddard was very young, her mother sought a separation from Levy, and seeking to avoid sharing custody with him, went into hiding, moving from state to state, city to city, even country to country. Despite this life on the run, Goddard would claim that her father had abandoned the family, which Levy denied (oddly, Goddard’s mother did not seek a formal divorce until 1926, years later). Levy stated that Goddard’s mother simply disappeared with their daughter, and he knew nothing of her whereabouts until she became a well-known actress. Goddard would claim in a 1938 interview that Levy was not her natural father, which prompted a lawsuit by Levy. As revealed in the interview, Goddard at least admitted to losing the lawsuit, being forced to pay her father a weekly stipend.

Traitor or not, Snowden's revelations "exposed" the prowess of American hackers, and the vulnerability of U.S. computer systems to foreign espionage

After the latest “revelations” from the German magazine Der Speigel that NSA hackers have broken through Microsoft Windows encryption methods—as if that is “news” to anyone who has been plagued by Windows malware—Edward Snowden, still hiding in his Russian redoubt, claims that his “work” is now “done.” He even claims that he still regards himself as an NSA employee; does he really believe that the government is going to give him his old job back? Talk about delusional. Maybe as a bathroom janitor, but certainly not handling classified material. Despite the media’s sympathy with, and exploitation of, Snowden’s actions, he is an artifact of the Cold War. If this was the 1950s, there would be no question that he would be regarded as a traitor by most Americans. 

Polls of what Americans think about Snowden and what he has done are all over the map, and tend to reflect the influence of the pollster’s own attitudes on the matter. A Langer Research Associates poll in November found that 60 percent of Americans think that Snowden’s revelations harmed U.S. security. In October, a Reason-Rupe poll found that while 44 percent of respondent between the ages of 18-34 think that Snowden is a “patriot”—this must reflect the depth of history teaching in schools—52 percent of those 64 and over are certain that he is a “traitor.” 

While a majority of Americans take the NSA’s snooping “personally,” meaning that they don’t approve of the agency spying on them personally, a majority does not think what they did is necessarily “wrong” as long as the target is a potential menace. My concern is not what the NSA hackers have done, but how they used the information, and there is no evidence that any information gleaned has been used to embarrass or blackmail Americans. The U.S. supposedly has the finest minds working on computer software encryption, and the fact that NSA hackers have been so successful should be seen as an indictment of encryption failure.

The NSA’s success should also be seen as an example of the ability of American hackers to break into computer systems in China and Russia, who obviously have their own hackers working on U.S. computer systems. In fact, protecting computer software from NSA hackers has effect of doing so against foreign espionage, which in an odd way is the only positive result from Snowden’s activities.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Children killing each other for "sport" makes "Hunger Games" a repellent (and false) vision of the future

There have been many visions of what the “next world” will be like. Some are good, some bad, others indifferent. It’s odd, but life seems to change little in its basics: Work, eat and sleep. The only things that have changed significantly is the rapidity and ease of the exchange of communication and information. During the height of the space age in the 1960s and early 70s it seemed that science fiction and reality were rapidly becoming one, but then Richard Nixon essentially turned off the spigot for funding of manned space travel (this included several more Apollo flights that were cancelled despite having already been funded, and the guts of NASA brainpower was lost forever through massive job cuts). Since then in many respects technology has let the world down; thinking “big” has been abandoned in favor of “small.”  Electronic and computerized gadgets are cute and have modest power requirements; yet even supercomputers cannot help humanity’s feeble mind escape being permanently confined to this planet, save in the world of fantasy. 

I suppose that most assume that life will trudge along as usual, with the expectation that the only significant changes will be in ease of life technologies. Few people think ahead to shortages of natural resources (like fossil fuels) or the effect of pollution on the water or the air. The Earth is big enough to absorb whatever humanity dishes out, or so it seems because it is so hard to notice until the occasional catastrophe occurs. Of course, there are those who think in apocalyptic terms, seeing dangers ahead that the populace needs to be warned of, and usually like a sledgehammer to the head. Of course, no one knows for certain how the future will look, but most visions of this eventuality—especially as envisioned by novelists and Hollywood—seem to be rather pessimistic. 

The problem with pessimistic views is that they ignore societal change and the tolerance level of people for that change. Women (or at least white women) have benefited from societal change far more than any other “oppressed” group in the past 50 years, while blacks have a much higher public (if not to say private) profile that would have been unimaginable in the not so distant past. The fact that gay and lesbian marriage is becoming more “acceptable” is also an indication that the tolerance level of most Americans has not leveled off—or it may simply be that religious-based morality has almost no influence in social policy; people just don’t want to be bothered or called bad names if they don’t agree. Going back to a societal “stone age” in this age of rapid communications where opinions and denunciations can cause revolutions or destroy reputations seems unlikely. 

That isn’t to say that if problems that exist today don’t improve, they won't have “apocalyptic” implications. One of these is the widening income gap between the rich and everyone else, or the separation of society between the elite and the masses. In Medieval times you had the nobility residing in their castles, and the peasants “slaving” in the countryside; but this did not lead to the “Apocalypse.” In fact, the Black Death in the 14th Century was the beginning of the end of feudalism (although it would persist in Russia until the 19th Century), as sharp depopulation changed the nature of the relationship between worker and master. Not that the essential nature of that social structure did not remain a subject of speculation; it certainly was so in the French and Russian revolutions, and Edgar Allan Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death” envisioned a society of noble elites in a castle high on a hill, protected from the ravages of the outside world, until an unwelcome visitor from that outside world intruded on their reveling. 

Novelists and Hollywood, as mentioned before, have their own “visions” of the future. Take for instance the following: There is a country with a well-off “Capitol” surrounded by 13 dirt-poor districts, one of which was recently “destroyed” as punishment for rebelling against the Capitol. As further “punishment,” each remaining district must provide one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18, selected by lottery, to kill each other in a “game” until only one remains alive. The “contestants” are required to doll themselves-up like Ken and Barbie to appeal to the “audience.” They are interviewed and give cute answers to gain the sympathy of the audience in order to attract “sponsors” to pay for this stupidity (oops, I think I gave away something there).  

“Naturally,” if any of the “contestants” find favor with the bloodthirsty audience in the Capitol, they may receive “gifts” to help them survive, which is actually a kind of cheating and a bit unfair to the other contestants, I think. This must have come from watching “Dancing with the Stars,” when the audience kept keeping Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol “alive” over much better performers. When the audience becomes enamored with a “romantic” angle between two of the contestants, the rules are conveniently changed so the lovers both survive, but then later the rules are changed back so that one has to kill the other, but instead of doing so they agree to commit a double suicide; since this would be bad for “ratings,” the idiots in charge of this decide they’ll change the rules again. So both contestants “win.”

Unfortunately, that’s not the end of it. In the second installment, the “winners” go out on a “victory tour.” So what was the point of all of this? Wasn’t this supposed to be some sort of “punishment” for acting “rebelliously”? I mean, who wants to die for the “amusement” of the rich and powerful elite? What evidence is there that the “audience” would even tolerate this? Even the average German pretended he or she had no idea of what the Nazis were doing in the next door concentration camp. Then it turns out that because the female hero supposedly embarrassed the powers that be by forcing them to change their own rules—twice—during the last “game,” they view her as a political “threat” by serving as an example for the people in the districts to revolt. How would they know? They are supposedly so poor they can’t afford to eat, but they can afford to watch television? Wouldn’t it be in the interest of the Capitol to keep people in the districts as ill-informed as possible—especially in the practice of such a barbaric “game”? 

Anyways, the two alleged lovers are required to publicly engage. Whatever. Then it is decided that all the previous winners of the “game” must fight it out again (the author must have seen this on Jeopardy). So here we go again, children and teenagers killing each other because people supposedly like watching cold-blooded murder for real and not in the movies (I told you this makes no sense). The whole point of this is just to kill the principle heroine, as if an “accident” cannot be “arranged” for this purpose. Unfortunately, the games must go on, and not everyone we want killed (like the “heroine”) to end this nonsense does so, and survives for another day, or at least the next installment.

Who comes up with bizarro (let alone sicko) scenarios like this? The author of the source novel of this mess called “The Hunger Games” is someone named Suzanne Collins. She supposedly concocted this scenario while TV channel surfing, which in keeping with the inanity of much of television product probably makes its own kind of warped "logic." When I was growing up, television actually did inject social commentary even in the silliest sitcoms, and news programing actually did discuss topics that were actually relevant. But today with hundreds of channels to fill, quality is stretched paper thin, with “reality” shows and their low budgets filling in the dead spaces, and not very well. Who really “gets off” on people who whine, complain and fight all the time? It’s not even funny. 

Supposedly the author thinks that the Roman Empire is a historical forerunner for the plot; it helps, because frankly, using the channel surfing bit (reality TV, the Iraq war) and Greek mythology makes absolutely zero logical sense. You have Rome, and supposedly all these poor provinces surrounding it; certainly there were defined “classes,” then as now, and the principally agrarian society suffered from excessive tax burdens. But this wasn’t out of some “need” to oppress the masses, but to extend the reach of a “superior” civilization, to bring potential invaders to heal under that civilization, to maintain that vast empire and its defense. There were bad rulers of course, but this was not out of “policy.” There were probably far more rulers who sought to improve conditions for the masses than actively make them worse.

But, you say, what about the gladiator “games” where people kill each other for the amusement of the masses? Just one small problem with that assumption: It’s not true. Owners of gladiators didn’t train and maintain them to die—it was too expensive to do so. Even Starz’s “Spartacus” series wasn’t dumb enough to kill-off most of its gladiator characters until the last episode.  In the vast majority of these arena battles, two gladiators fought until one was wounded or too exhausted to fight on; it was only in rare cases where a sponsor of a contest paid extra money to cover the loss of a gladiator that a “fight to the death” was expected. 

In keeping with this ideological mess, the  author also claims that she based the heroine on Theseus, a “heroic” character in Greek mythology; she probably saw an abbreviated version of the story on the History Channel. But the only possible “link” between the Theseus story and the “Hunger Games” is the part about the seven Athenian boys and seven Athenian girls who were sent to Crete to be eaten by the Minotaur. Theseus, being Athenian, just happens to be in town and takes pity on his fellow citizens, stopping the practice by killing the Minotaur. 

But this is, after all, Greek myth, and the Minotaur wasn’t really all that bad a guy; it didn’t want to be what it was. King Minos asked Poseidon to show favor to him, and Poseidon gave him a white bull that Minos was supposed to sacrifice to him. But Minos liked the bull so much that he kept it and sacrificed another bull. Poseidon became angry and cast a spell on Mino’s wife, causing her to fall in love with the bull and mate with it, and out came the half-bull/half-man offspring who nature had decreed could only be sustained by human flesh. The Minoans didn’t just randomly throw people into the Labyrinth; the Athenians had treacherously murdered Minos’ son, and so as to avoid destruction of their city as revenge they agreed to provide the Minotaur its meal. 

The thing about Greek mythology is that it has very little to do with ethics or morality as we know it.  So someone goes out on a quest not to save civilization or improve people’s lives, but to avenge a personal wrong, or to prove a point. This invariably requires the “hero” to tread on someone else’s turf who does not approve of this, and defends it—and usually winds up being killed by the “hero.” Often a “bad” character is merely someone who has run afoul of an arbitrarily-minded god, and is turned into some kind of hideous thing just for the heck of it.

But the tone of “The Hunger Games” is not “myth,” but a deadly serious vision of the future, based on the usual victimology we have grown all too accustomed to hearing about in the media. To this purpose, we are supposed to “identify” with cold-blooded killers just because they are told to be so, with “good” characters just hanging around to help the female protagonist to survive, with several seemingly sacrifice themselves to allow her to live—despite the fact that we are supposed to believe she is a “selfless” hero of the people, when in fact her principle occupation is her own skin (and maybe her boyfriend’s). This would be “reality” if we choose to see this as it is; but we are asked to view all of this in quite a different way, and thus it rings absurd and off-putting.

I was on a bus recently where I just happened to be was sitting in front of what appeared to be a 16-year-old female and her boyfriend. He was going through a list of incidents in the film adaptation of “Games” that made no logical sense to him; the female breathlessly “explained” that “everything” would make sense if he had “read the book,” because so many scenes and characters were “left out.” But that begs the question: What is the explanation for the (mostly) fanatical critical and fan reception? For this girl, gender politics no doubt was a factor. I mean, what is “cooler” than a poster of a girl pointing an arrow at someone?

But gender paranoia sometimes goes off into flights of illogic that have little correlation with the modern world, save for those constantly infused with their perceived “victim” status. If these “games” were actually “real,” it would be highly unlikely that girls (let alone boys) would be “contestants,” because society simply would not tolerate it, and never has. There is no reason to believe that people will change to “adapt” to that “vision” in the future. Even the Nazis when they were killing millions were too “squeamish” to engage in murder for public entertainment—especially that involving children. 

Because the target audience of this book and film “franchise” is the sub-adult section, this explains the free disposal of logic. Still, one suspects that this whole morally and intellectually rotten infrastructure was built just to “prove” a “point”—the physical and martial “equality” between the sexes, with just a dose of female victim mythology. Here you have a supposedly “starving” female of indeterminate “ethnicity”—at least in the book—except that the lead actress looks like a well-fed, blonde and blue-eyed white female who spent a few hours in a tanning salon and fitted with eye lenses. It’s odd, but doesn’t this describe the conceit of a certain privileged demographic in this country? No wonder Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show didn’t bother to “read up” on the particulars of the plot when he had the film’s star, Jennifer Lawrence, as a guest.