The Hunger Games, and it’s Unlikely Bad Guy

WARNING: SPOILERS!

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So, I’ve been a fan of the Hunger Games since I read the books a couple of months before the first movie came out.  I read all three books within a week, and have been hooked on the franchise ever since.

Now that the movies have all come out and I’ve reread the series again, there is one character that seems more despicable than the rest, at least on a personal level.  Oh, you’ve got President Snow and his league on pompous minons, controlling their little slice of the world through cruelty, suffering and callousness, but he’s always been the antagonist…the thorn in nation’s side, shall we say.  And then you’ve got President Coin, who came along towards the end of the series, originally positioned as a saviour, though it was hinted the whole way through her story that she was basically just a female version of Snow.  No, there’s someone in the books and the movies who’s betrayal really upset me, probably more than it should have.

Ceasar Flickerman.

Aka, this dude:

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Yeah, I bet you didn’t see that one coming.  In a book full of people who fall into two categories – brave and noble or weak and untrustworthy, there are plenty of people I could have said.  While it’s true that Gale’s betrayal (though unintentional) was tough, I still didn’t find it as uncomfortable to read/watch as Caesar.

I’ve thought about why this is for a little while now.  I mean, on paper it doesn’t make sense – he’s the embodiment of everything that is the Capitol.  His perfect teeth, his expensive outfits, his garish coloured hair and eyebrows.  He’s the face of the Hunger Games, and thereby all it stands for.  He’s shallow and fake.  Yes, on paper I should feel nothing at all about this character except mistrust and disgust.

I don’t though.

He seems like such a friendly guy in the first two books/films.  He helps the nervous contestants on stage, getting them through situations they’ve likely never even envisioned themselves in.  If it wasn’t for him, a lot of them wouldn’t get sponsors, and if they don’t get sponsors, they’re basically doomed in the arena (“If no one sponsors me, my odds of staying alive decrease to almost zero” – Hunger Games, Book 1, Chapter 8).  Plus, even as an embodiment of the Capitol, his crazy hair and over-the-top personality really make him seem like a good guy.  Even Katniss – who doesn’t seem to like anyone much, even her pretend-boyfriend most of the time – seems to get along with him.  Surely that’s saying something?

Then it all changes.  Once the dramas happen after the Quarter Quell, he becomes another minion of the Capitol.  He interviews Peeta several times, watching him appear increasingly unwell, and pushes him along.  In the films, he’s also the one that puts out the alerts for Katniss, which adds a whole other level of betrayal, and I think is what got under my skin the most.  It’s one thing to side with the Capitol, but quite another to speak in such a horrible way about someone you knew personally, who never did anything to intentionally harm you.  Yes, her rebellion affects his way of life, but he saw firsthand that she never wanted to be the figurehead of anything.  When she revealed the wedding-come-mockingjay dress, he saw her surprise.

He also saw what she went through in both Games.  I think, underneath the betrayal, his character upsets me because he had the chance to really help out the rebels.  He was centre stage.  The audiences ate up every word he said.  After watching the Games for the last fifty years, meeting all these kids, interviewing them…then watching their gruesome deaths, surely even he could understand the rebellion.  Surely he could see what they were fighting for.  If he came across as heartless from the start, or distant, or uncaring, then maybe it’d be easier to swallow.  The fact is, he was never any of that.  He seemed like a genuinely nice guy, and nice guys don’t throw kids under buses like that.

I guess the other reason he upsets me is because he is basically positioned in a similar light as Effie Trinket.  Both preening, pretentious, yet ultimately wonderful people from an otherwise messed up, wasteful city.  In fact, Effie was probably written as much more of a Capitol lapdog than Caesar, and with less power to help.  Yet, when it came down to it, Effie chose her side not on how it will affect her, but for her loyalty to Katniss and Peeta, and for knowing how completely messed up it is that she’s had to see so many kids she’s gotten to know personally die.  She lost her whole way of life by doing this, and it would almost be understandable if she didn’t join the Rebellion.  Caesar, on the other hand, fought the rebellion, betrayed people he could have done so much for and ultimately played a part in the deaths of so many people.

War is never easy, but that doesn’t excuse the actions of some people.  Especially people like Caesar.  He felt like a friend, someone I could trust, and then went and stabbed everyone in the back.  The worst part is, I should have seen it coming, but didn’t.  I just hope that whatever happened to him after the war ended, it was something Katniss and Peeta had a hand in.  After all, what goes around, comes around, right?

I Want a PlayStation!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Out of Your Reach.”
Was there a toy or thing you always wanted as a child, during the holidays or on your birthday, but never received? Tell us about it.

While I’m sure there were a lot of toys I wanted when I was really little, I don’t remember them.  I had a lot of toys growing up, so I’m sure the ones I really wanted, I got.

What I do remember desperately wanting and constantly being told “absolutely not!” was a PlayStation.  All my friends had them and I wasn’t allowed.  My mum believed they were a waste of time and if I got one, I’d never get off it.  She was probably right, but it didn’t mean I didn’t feel hard done by.  Why could all my friends have one and not me?

I tried pleading with her, sucking up to her, doing extra chores.  Nothing worked.  I even decided to do a school project on the history of the PlayStation…I don’t even know why I thought this might sway her stone-cold resolve.  This went on for years.  It wasn’t that mum was totally opposed to video games, as we had several for the computer, all of which she’d bought for us at one point or another.  I guess she just thought we spent enough time on the computer as it was playing them, that we didn’t need another gadget to kill time on.

We didn’t get a PlayStation until I was working, and I had to pay for it myself.  After years of wanting it, I scrimped and saved as much as I could, and finally got one.  By that stage, though, all my friends who’d had them for years had started outgrowing them, and the machine didn’t get as much usage as you’d expect.

I guess I’m just more of a PC gamer.  I don’t know whether that’s because that’s what I grew up with, or because I find they are easier to use, but even now, after buying another console a couple of years ago, don’t get very much use out of them.  The only real time they get turned on is when friends are over, and even then it doesn’t happen much.

I guess it’s like the old saying goes – “you only want what you can’t have”.  I only wanted it because I didn’t have it, and once I finally had it, it lost it’s appeal.  Lesson learnt!

“What was the Last Game You Played?”

The last game I played was my lifelong love, the Sims.  I was introduced to the game when I was about twelve, and I’ve never looked back.  One of my favourite childhood memories was playing the Sims 2 when I first got it.  There were so many amazing new features and adjustments from the original game and my sister and I spent hours exploring it.  There are always families you make that stick with you.  For TS2, it was Hayden and Alyssa and their brood of offspring.  As TS2 didn’t allow for the whole neighbourhood to age up simulatatiously (that was introduced in the Sims 3), I spent many hours playing Hayden’s family, then Alyssa’s.  I started with Hayden’s parents.  I saw them meet, fall in love, marry, get pregnant with him then his siblings.  Then I played Alyssa’s family and oversaw the same progression.  As these were some of my first families that were able to age up (the original Sims didn’t have an ageing feature), I got very attached to the families.  When I finally got Hayden and Alyssa to meet and marry, I was so happy.  It had taken so long to get the two families to become one, so it was really special.  They had kids, and I played through them too.

Anyway, I digress.  The game I played most recently was the Sims 3.  I have the Sims 4 but I just don’t like it.  I don’t like that the neighbourhoods are segmented, that it doesn’t age together, that it’s so complicated to get job promotions and romance happening.  I just feel like it’s a lot of hard work.  I especially don’t like that everything seems to have taken a backwards step – the babies are attached to their crib (the Sims 1 did that!), the neighbourhood doesn’t age together (the Sims 2 was the last to do that), no toddler age – my favourite age group (the Sims 1 was the first and only game prior to skip this).  This is why I’ve stuck with TS3.  It has massive amounts of expansion packs, custom content and is basically the best of all the games combined.

As I’ve played the game for so long, I’m always on the hunt for different ways to play.  The family I’m playing right now is the Johns.  I started with Aubrey, a young adult.  I put her on a vacant lot, used a cheat to completely wipe out her funds, and sent her to go fishing.  The only way she was allowed to earn money was from making it herself – she wasn’t going to get a 9-to-5 job, but she could do things such as fish, paint, write or steal.  For a long time, her day consisted of fishing from mid-afternoon to midnight, then inviting herself over to a random person’s house, then stealing 3 items from their house (as a kleptomaniac, she could steal 3 items every 24 hours, but I can’t control what she steals, only who she steals from and what room it’s taken from).  Slowly but surely she started to build her funds, and her house.  At first she was forced to used her local gym for toilet and shower usage, and she’d nap on one of the couches there.  She’d buy fruit and vegetables from the grocery store and snack on that.  It was great when she was able to afford things such as a bar fridge, toilet and bath.  It was even better when she could afford to build walls so she didn’t have to live under the stars.

Her whole young adult life was focused on building up her money and house.  When she aged up to adulthood, she had a small house with a few rooms, and a little bit of money tucked away.  She was driving a flashy car that she’d managed to steal, so that was nice.  The second part of this family challenge was she was to adopt all her kids, not get pregnant.  I did this as I’m so used to the old meet-marry-reproduce routine that I decided I wasn’t going to do this any more.  I also decided I’d use coin flips to decide the gender and age of the kids she’d adopt, and I’d use babynamegenie.com to randomly pick a name for them, as I liked in TS2 when you’d adopt, they’d come pre-named (something that doesn’t happen in TS3).  To add to the rules and to tie into the first part of the challenge, she had to have enough money to be able to give each adopted child their own bedroom.  She adopted her first – Logan, a toddler-aged boy – a few days after her birthday.  It was a lot of fun, though challenging, as she still had to fish and steal, along with teaching him how to walk, talk and use the potty (oh, that’s another rule too – all adopted kids must be taught the basics!).  She managed it though, even if it meant she was almost always in a constant bad mood and state of exhaustion.  After Logan aged up into childhood and went off to school, Aubrey adopted another boy, this time a baby named Owen.  This was an even bigger challenge as not only did it mean he was really young for longer than Logan was, but he needed care around the clock.  Aubrey began skipping her fishing trips more often, though still kept up stealing which was the higher-income-generator of the two.

After Owen aged up and was taught everything, Aubrey adopted Quincy, another male toddler.  Having two toddlers and a child and very little money was definitely tough, but I tried to get her back into fishing as much as possible.  On top of that, I also had to get her too cook dinners for Logan (she’d been living off quick meals until then but kids get hungry a lot more quickly with those).  The house was filthy with rubbish everywhere but she just didn’t have enough time to clean on top of everything else.

It was great when Owen aged into a child as it took the pressure off Aubrey a little bit.  She taught Quincy everything, and stole some quality stuff so she could afford to upgrade her house a little and build another room.  From there, she adopted her first daughter, a child named Tess.  It was great to finally adopt an older kid, as it’s a lot less work.  It meant that Aubrey could focus on fishing a lot more, and she soon had a lot more money than she’d had for a long time.

She then adopted a toddler named Boston.  Thankfully Logan was now a teenager, so he was a great help with the latest addition, and between the two of them, Boston was taught the basics very quickly.  The family was starting to really take shape and get everything together.  The kids were doing well in school, the money was flowing in steadily, everyone was in good moods.

Aubrey didn’t adopt any more kids for awhile, focusing instead on juggling the family she already had, earning extra money, cooking meals to feed all those mouths and keeping the house clean.  It seemed like her life was finally becoming easier and less of a struggle.  The kids all started to age up, they got good grades and had friends in school.

After awhile, Aubrey decided to welcome her final two additions to the family, two children – a girl named Rachelle and a boy named Shaun.  The house was at bursting point, but Aubrey didn’t want it any other way.  She achieved her lifetime wish of “Surrounded by Family” and aged up into an elder.

Currently, all the adoptees are teenagers.  Three of them are dating, all of them are doing well in school and the house (which started from an empty lot) is now 13 rooms big.  As per the challenge, each kid has their own room.  They’ve each got a desk in their room, and a bookshelf.

The family also found and adopted an unicorn named Pepper, who is a fantastic racehorse and super pretty.  It wanders around the neighborhood at will but always comes back to eat and sleep.  It’s a crazy household but it’s been a great challenge and is definitely different to how I usually play!

My favourite moment so far was when one of the boys accidentally set the kitchen on fire.  Fires are always dramatic in this game, and it spreads pretty fast.  All the household runs towards the fire (logic, right?) and stress and scream and basically just get in the way.  Well, Boston got too close and went up in flames.  Luckily, being a child-friendly game, he casually walked out of the flames, got his sister to extinguish him and he was good as new.  It was a stressful moment though as I don’t like any of my simmies to die!  After that happened, the fireman rocked up, and his name was Jeffery Jeffrey.  That’s one of the more amusing names the game has randomly generated!

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Do you play the Sims?  What’s your favourite family?

This prompt, and many more, can be found here

Call Me, Maybe

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Call Me, Maybe.”
Describe your relationship with your phone. Is it your lifeline, a buzzing nuisance, or something in between?

I love my phone.  I’m beyond addicted to it.  I’m so addicted, in fact, that I carry a spare one around with me in case I forget my everyday one at home.  It’s bad, I know.  After working in telco for five years and it being my job to know phones backwards, it’s definitely rubbed off on me.  Prior to working in telco, I had a pink flip phone that I’d used for five years.  It was reliable, had access to MSN and Facebook and I could text quickly on it (kids today will never understand how much effort it took to type on those phones!).  After starting in telco, I went through an average of 4 phones a year up until about 2 years ago when I slowed it down to between 1-2 a year.  I was obsessed with having the latest features, the coolest brands.  I knew the best way to get them on contracts so it wouldn’t cost me a fortune.

Like most 20-somethings, I’m part of the ironic group of people who use their phone for everything except phone calls.  If it rings, I’ll answer it, but I rarely call anyone.  I hate talking on the phone.  I’d rather take an extra 10 minutes and have the conversation through text message.  It’s not so much I’m addicted to texting, but as an introvert I find it a lot less confronting.  I have time to reply.  I’m not put on the spot.  If I don’t feel like talking, I can reply later.  I’m also one of those people who ignore calls if I’m not in the mood to talk.  Sorry.  I know if I do answer when I’m in one of those moods, I’m no good to talk to anyway.  One word answers and I try to get off as quickly as possible.  I’d rather ignore the call, mentally prepare myself for a conversation, then call back.  It’s nothing personal against whoever is calling.  I just hate phone calls.

I use my phone for games (sometimes), emails, banking, social media, photography, fitness tracking and navigation.  I use it to post blogs, to find quotes on Tumblr, to play music, to read books.  I read a fact somewhere that Gen Y-ers look at their phones an average of 300 times a day.  No way!  I initially thought it was rubbish.  Then I caught myself pulling my phone out of my pocket again and again.  Checking the time, getting distracted my something else, putting it back, remembering, pulling it out again.  I’d check it continuously for texts.  I’d google something.  I’d check my emails.  I’d post something on Instagram or Snapchat.  I started to realize 300 was probably not a high enough number.  Is it any wonder the battery needs to be charged every night?

Yep, it’s official, I’m addicted!

-JD