Monday, August 30, 2010

spoiler alert!

I finished reading Mockingjay last night.

[I'd like to preface the this post with this rant.]

I think I was looking for something other than what these books turned out to be. I was looking for an adventure story and, while there was plenty of adventure along the way, in the end it was more about who Katniss ended up with than what happened to the people she was fighting for. It was almost like reading Twilight dressed up and sold as Harry Potter. If it weren't for all the dying going on I'd feel cheated.

Or maybe I just hoped too hard and tricked myself into thinking that the Hunger Games wouldn't be another girl-loves-guy-but-then-this-other-guy-comes-along-and-it-takes-three-books-for-her-to-really-decide series. I was hoping the love story would end up as an incidental aspect of the plot, not the ending point of the final book.

[End rant.]

Despite this particular setback, it's obvious that I had to enjoy this series to have made it to the last book and read it in a matter of days (as much as I love reading, I'm really slow at it).

I feel like most 'real' sci-fi authors use a dystopian setting as social commentary -- which can be annoying. However, Suzanne Collins manages to create a post-apocalyptic world whose commentary is more subtle than overbearing.

I was always surprised by the deaths of certain characters -- characters you'd think the author would keep alive for the sake of continuity. Like Cinna for example. Or Finnick, you feel like he should've made it out alive to share in the triumph over the Capitol. These unexpected deaths add a sense of reality to the series.

If it's not too morbid of me to say so, the constant death is what makes these books meaningful and sets them apart from other young adult fiction (that I've read anyway).

But I feel like the author should've played up the death aspect even more. I always love it when books explore the nature of death (HP7 did a great job of that). I would've loved for the author to develop some kind of philosophy around death instead of leaving it an incidental although integral part of the story.

I think there are few books that I read and like that I would recommend to just anyone -- but The Hunger Games series just might have something for everyone.

Update 5/19/2011: Looking back, I think there are fewer people I would recommend this to due to how the series ended.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Weezer 2010: too little, too late?

Whenever I blog about Weezer it always ends up being a long rant that I feel like no one would care about reading but me and I end up deleting it before I finish. This may turn into that. But so be it, because maybe I just need to get it out of my system.

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Nostalgia is so in right now. And Weezer seems to be capitalizing on it. A few weeks ago Weezer released a single called "Memories" from their new album Hurley (this might be their best album cover yet), due out September 14. The song details the band's exploits during their early days and reaches levels of fuzz and rock rarely, if ever, seen in Weezer's past decade (could this be due to the band recently signing to Epitaph?).

If that's not enough, the band is set to release not one, but two throwback albums during the month of November. The first is called Death To False Metal... A Collection Of Unheard Songs From The Weezer Vault (previously titled Odds and Ends -- though I'm curious to know how much of this collection is actually 'unheard' -- old demo Weezer tracks weren't hard to find online in the early '00s).

The second album is a two-disc deluxe version of the fan favorite Pinkerton. Though I'm pretty positive I've heard every song that will be on the 'deluxe' portion of this album I'm nevertheless excited for it because a.) my Pinkerton CD skips like nobody's business and I feel cheap rocking a burned copy; after all, it is one of my top three favorite albums; and, b.) they might release it on vinyl (although I already have an import version of Pinkerton on vinyl). In addition to all this Pinkerton goodness, hardcore fans can purchase a three-disc 'superdeluxe' version of Pinkerton that includes the third installment of Rivers' Alone series (Alone is a collection of Rivers' home-recorded demos; two Alone albums have been released so far).

In sum, we're being bombarded with five albums worth of Weezer in the span of less than two months.

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When Weezer's Pinkerton was released in 1996 I had just turned 14. I bought the album a couple weeks after it was released; I found it in the used section at Sam Goody for $9.00. I remember listening to the album the next day while working on my bike in the garage. I didn't hate it, but I didn't get it -- the rough guitars, the raw, intimate vocals, the raucous, bombastic drumbeats -- it was certainly a change from their debut Blue album. I wasn't surprised that it had ended up in the used section where I found it only a couple weeks after the album was released.

Pinkerton did have one pop gem, however, that kept me coming back to the album during the first year of owning that album: the album's first (and only semi-commercial) single, "El Scorcho." I listened to this song almost every day before school in eight grade. I know this song like I know few things in my life.

When I found out that Weezer would be stopping in Tempe during their Pinkerton tour on December 17, 1996 (I'm pretty sure of this date) I knew I had to go. But, my mom didn't agree with me. She said I was too young to attend such a concert. I was devastated. I remember walking around the block and crying (gimme a break, I was 14) when I found out I couldn't go.

I didn't see Weezer live till 2000 at the Warped Tour in 'lovely' Chula Vista, CA, with Danny, Joby, and Jeff, as evidenced in this charming photograph -- a story for a different blog post, perhaps.

Like I said, I didn't quite 'get' Pinkerton when it was first released. In time, though, I came to regard it as work of masterful genius and my love for it even surpassed that of the Blue album.

- - - - -

A week or so ago MTV News caught wind from Rivers himself of some news bound to excite even the most cynical Weezer fan: Weezer's plans for a Blue/Pinkerton tour to coincide with the release of the Pinkerton deluxe edition.

Attending a Weezer concert where they play nothing but songs from Blue and Pinkerton is something I've dreamed of since 1996. So why am I not jumping up and down and peeing my pants with joy?

I just revisited a blog post from almost two years ago wherein I describe my excitement and elation at the announcement of Jimmy Eat World's Clarity tour.

So why doesn't the announcement of a Blue/Pinkerton tour illicit a similar emotional response? Here I am, I'm not even a cynical Weezer fan and I refuse to let myself get excited. What did me in? Was the Raditude straw that broke the camel's back? (I do love a few songs on that album -- I just have an impossible time hanging with tracks like "Love is the Answer" and "In the Mall.")

Where was Weezer two years ago when Jimmy Eat World was announcing their Clarity tour and paying back the devotion of their longtime fans with the gift of a lifetime? Is Weezer's potential Blue/Pinkerton tour too little, too late?

Don't get me wrong. I still love Weezer. You know I'll be in the front row of whatever Blue/Pinkerton show I can get to (which will probably be in California because I doubt a tour like this will come to Phoenix). Maybe the Blue/Pinkerton tour is just what I need to rekindle my love for Weezer... a love that has been ever more fleeting in the recent years.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Perseid power

Late Wednesday evening I embarked on a nocturnal photogging journey with my buddy Seanathon Tedwerd and a new friend, Caleb. The following photo resulted:

The purpose of the journey was to take star trail photos and view the Perseids meteor shower. We were successful on both accounts.

We ended up finding the perfect spot to take photos -- a small dirt road connecting Power Road and the Beeline Highway that passed at the foot of Red Mountain (is that even the real name of the mountain?). The headlights in Sean's van threatened to cut out several times but that only contributed to the spirit of adventure and camaraderie.

With work in the morning, I didn't get home to 3:30 a.m. -- it was worth it.