Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Blood Donations

It was a long time before I started giving blood. I had convenience as an excuse, and of course the idea of being stabbed and feeling the life drained out of me wasn’t exactly inviting. But they have blood drives at work, so when it’s like a five minute walk and I can be done before most people even show up at work, I figured I was out of excuses. The first time, I nearly passed out when I sat up. I think it was because I hadn’t eaten recently or something, though. When I’ve had enough to eat and drink, it usually goes okay, after the initial stabbing and after I manage to distract myself from the feeling that my life is draining out of my arm. (This last time, they got the needle set up wrong, and I ended up with a nice bump which has since gone down and been replaced with a huge bruise that’s the size of my hand and has icky lines crisscrossing it, showing [I guess] where the wrinkles of my sheets are when I sleep. But I digress.)

So, the following isn’t intended as a public service announcement or a moral discourse or anything; it’s just the thought process I use to make myself go and get stabbed, etc.

There are soldiers out there, fighting to keep the country free and safe. Some of them end up being killed for it, and others are severely injured. Imagine you were given the option of taking a bullet for a soldier, with the condition that after a few hours, you will have no lasting injuries. If you refuse, the soldier will die. Would you take it? Of course you would. You’d pretty much have to, seeing that you already owe him or her your safety. The pain wouldn’t even be a consideration because you’d see it as paying a debt.

Now, repeat that question, but not with a soldier this time. Just a regular person. You’d still probably accept the offer. Maybe you don’t owe a debt, but the tradeoff is obviously a good one. (And of course, you’d want someone else to make the decision if you were the one who were at risk.)

Okay, so lest this sound preachy, I have to admit that on the before-mentioned, most recent donation attempt, while I was lying on the table with my blood leaking not into a needle but into my arm, while I could feel my pulse in my elbow and my consciousness slipping away, burning with fever and a little nauseous, the above argument lost all weight and I was having a really hard time wanting to go back to my office and set up another appointment. All of a sudden the no-consequences clause in that hypothetical agreement seemed a little shaky. But, while I still have an impressive bruise, I guess the life-draining-out experience was still just an hour or so, so I guess I’d better go set up that appointment. Sigh.

The Hunger Games

I wasn’t really interested in The Hunger Games, mainly because I find the whole gladiator motif very unappealing. But I figured it’s a useful thing to be able to talk about, so I read it. (Plus my wife said I should, and she is very wise.) So here’s what I thought about it.

Stuff I liked:

  • Surprisingly, the book doesn’t go into what turns me off most about gladiator stuff – the idea of turning basically good people into murderers by threatening them. It happens in the real world, like in gangs and terrorist groups and stuff. But it’s a very distasteful topic in fiction. In this book, all of the good people who die are killed by bad people (that is, by people who are okay with killing innocent people). So you don’t have to worry too much about the moral corruption of the “heroes”.
  • It presents an interesting world, and it’s interesting to see the main character’s impression of her fate unfolding, mostly beyond her control. (The book is told in first person, present tense – unusual for an action-y story, but it works here.) In particular, it’s interesting how the author throws out a lot of science-fiction ideas in a very casual, matter-of-fact way. They’re not novelties; they’re just there. (Not that the opposite is bad, but this way is unique.)
  • It’s pretty fast-paced, engaging and all that.

Stuff I disliked:

  • While the descriptions of violence are not overly graphic, there’s some pretty gory stuff going on, especially near the end. The whole torture and mutilation thing puts a dark cast over the story. (Not surprising, but also not exactly uplifting.)
  • While again it’s not described in detail, the author makes sure you know each time Katniss isn’t fully clothed, which is quite often and usually in front of men and/or a camera. So you kind of have to keep your mental camera averted.
  • The end isn’t very satisfying. This is understandable since it’s part of a series, but from what I hear, the series goes downhill from here, so it would be nice if the first book gave you more closure.