Do not judge this book by its cover…

pinkhungergamescoverMy daughter brought The Hunger Games home from school this month. I told her she could read it since she was “almost thirteen” and I couldn’t locate my own copy for her to borrow. We’ve talked about the kid-on-kid violence in the book and the love triangle cliché. But there are themes and issues I think she’ll gain insight from: heroism in the face of oppression, the non-violent resistance expressed by characters like Cinna and Peeta, Haymitch’s PTSD. Besides, it’s a great read, written well.

No, the book’s not the problem.

The problem is the cover of the edition she brought home. This picture does not do it justice.

It’s pink and sparkly!?!

The Hunger Games is not a pink and sparkly tale. It does not warrant a fairy-tale princess cover with Dr. Seuss lettering. What are these publisher’s thinking? It’s a “girl’s” book so it needs a “girl’s” cover? Every twelve-year old girl in America has read this book so now we need to open up the market to six-year-olds? Call me crazy, but a pink cover with sparkly green lettering and the title The Hunger Games makes me think the book is a spin on Cupcake Wars.

I suppose they could use this technique on all sorts of “dark” books to trick readers into thinking they’re in for a lighter read. Word War Z with zebra stripes? The Kite Runner with a smiley face on the kite? The Shining featuring Frosty the Snowman? Too bad Amazon previews don’t take a sample from the middle of the books…

You’re off to the Hunger Games…”Today is your day…” to kill off some kids…”So…get on your way!”

Quote extremely modified without permission from Oh, the Place You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss.


My Turn: The Force Awakens, or How to Clone a Story

You’ve all seen it right? Maybe a couple times by now? Know the dialogue by heart? Even if you haven’t seen it, you’ve heard all about it. Read reviews. Glimpsed the Facebook chat and Twitter feeds.

What? You live on Tristan da Cunha you say?Well, if you haven’t seen it, turn back!!! Spoilers abound. I’ve waited a couple months to post this, and frankly, I can’t wait a moment longer.

My review: I hated it. I loved it. I hated it some more. I hated myself for hating it. I hated myself for loving it. It disappointed on so many levels, but then there were occasional bright and shiny moments that made me feel very, very happy.

It made me pop in the DVDs and rewatch the first three (no not those other three, I pretend they never happened).

TOP FOUR FIVE EIGHT, ok TEN REASONS I HATED IT, but I’ll stick with FIVE for now…

1. Desert Planet. All those Imagineers at Disney and all they can come up with is another desert planet for the primary setting? Tatooine meet Jakku, Jakku meet Tatooine. What? You’re the same planet and we just don’t know it yet? Well, that explains everything.

Hero on harsh desert planet

Hero on harsh desert planet

Heroine on harsh desert planet.

Heroine on harsh desert planet.







2. Death Star 1, 2, and yep, there’s another one. Really? Years of advancement in space weaponry and what do we get? A Supermassive Black Hole devouring everything in sight like a giant space PacMan? A genetically-engineered army of creatures that feed on both technology and flesh? An insidious space vapor that once inhaled makes the brain compliant to all Empire commands? No. We get a third Death Star. With the same weaknesses. Obviously The Empire has a short memory.

3. The Angsty, Misunderstood, AngryTeen with Parent Issues and a Big Light Saber.  Kylo Ren isn’t a villain. He’s a thug who throws a tantrum when he doesn’t get his way. Does he cooly dispatch dissenters with the wave of a hand? No, he whines about them and then orders others to do the job for him. Does he fight his father in an epic battle to prove his superiority? Why, no. He might as well have murdered him in his sleep. Boo. Just boo. I would’ve rather seen a Disney Villain take down Han Solo. Yeah I’ve joined the hatin’ on Ren bandwagon. BTW, he should’ve taken his helmet off for the first time on the catwalk with dad. BBTW, why does every death star have to have a catwalk over a vast abyss?

4. Oh Where Oh Where Did the Chemistry Go?

Maybe if Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher had gone out for a candle-lit dinner a couple times before filming they wouldn’t have seemed like a couple of dead fish in a sack. Han and Chewie still had that ease you love to see when two people “get” each other, but it was no wonder Han and Leia weren’t together any more (even before you-know-what happens to Han). When Leia says, “As much as we fought, I hated it when you left,” she might as well have been saying, “Don’t you have somewhere else you have to be?” And no, age didn’t kill the chemistry. If you think you can’t be old and hot at the same time then you must’ve missed Katherine Hepburn and Laurence Olivier in Love Among the Ruins, or Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin in It’s Complicated.

5. Who’s in Charge Now?


The Empire? Well how did that happen? Wasn’t the Empire defeated in Return of the Jedi?  Maybe a little backstory to set the political stage would’ve been helpful. ‘Cause if the Empire’s in charge, what’s The FIrst Order trying to accomplish, and if they’re not in charge, why is The Resistance called The Resistance?

So with all these flaws, why does this movie have a place in my heart? Well, that’s a subject for another post, but one reason is:

Doesn-t everyone have one?

Doesn-t everyone have one?


What’s to Like About Rockford: Thanks a Lot Forbes Magazine


Number Three? America’s Most Miserable Cities? Ranked third After Flint, Michigan (number one), and Detroit, Michigan (number two)? Are you freaking kidding me? Rockford? How do you even know where Rockford is on the map? Honestly.

Honestly. We’ve got our troubles. But number three?

Now I know numbers. In another life I cranked out numbers for a living. Acres of spreadsheets. Formulas, statistics, the works. So let’s see what it takes to become miserable according to Forbes this year…

The misery index is based on 9 factors. First, the average unemployment rate between 2010 and 2012, which doesn’t take into account that the average unemployment rate for Rockford, although high, has decreased during that time frame. Don’t believe me? This from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: Dec. 2010 12.9. Dec. 2011 12.5Dec. 2012 11.2

Second, median commute times to work for 2011. Ummm. Yeah. Because, it takes like 20 minutes to get anywhere in Rockford. Ask anyone. “So. Where are you?” “Target” “Ok. See you in 20 minutes”. “I’m leaving the post office now, be home in 20 minutes.” So this one is pretty much bogus. You want to see commute times? Drive from one side of LA to the other.

Third, violent crimes per capita from the FBI’s 2011 Uniform Crime Report. Yeah, for Rockford, this one is ouch (BTW mostly theft crimes). Yet, although high, there are twelve metropolitan statistical areas higher for this time period, including such places as Anchorage, AK, Memphis, TN, and Springfield, IL. Download the report yourself from here.

Then they included the change in median home prices between 2009 and 2012; foreclosure rates in 2012, and property tax rates. They also factored in income tax rates and the weather. Maybe I’m in denial, but I’ve seen more foreclosures in the beach community where I vacation than here in Rockford, and honestly, the weather is not. bad. It’s not Fargo, ND. Shoot, it’s not even Milwaukee.

I live here. I work here. I’m raising my kids in this community. I have friends here. My church is here. This is my home.  And I’m not miserable. And granted, I don’t represent everyone in Rockford, but in my line of work I interact with a fair number of people and most seem to be more hopeful than miserable.

It snowed again on Friday, which according to Forbes should contribute to my misery. I went sledding with my family. Perspective. Something the statistics don’t take into account.

Photo © Dekanaryas