Category: Pop Culture

The True Meaning of “Stick To Sports”, cont’d – The NBA China Debacle

The True Meaning of “Stick To Sports”, cont’d – The NBA China Debacle

No, sports guys and gals, you don’t have to stick to what you’re paid for- but the NBA’s kowtowing to China shows why you should.

For at least a quarter century now- and arguably going as far back as the Nixon administration- the country that currently deems itself “the world’s only superpower” has bent over backwards for a vicious regime that has brutalized many of its people since the middle of the 20th century.  (This blog post isn’t really about that, but for just a few examples, click here, here, and here.)  As challenging as life may be for some Americans, none of us can comprehend what it’s like to live under a dictatorship like China, other than the ones who have had to escape from one.  This is especially true for those who believe Donald J. Trump’s presidency is the worse thing imaginable.  But again, this post isn’t about that- not primarily anyway.

People go to Twitter to take all kinds of stands on various issues- politics, sports, ice cream toppings.  But those in the public sphere who do so often create more of a stir than intended.  Such was the case with Daryl Morey, the General Manager of the Houston Rockets.  With Hong Kong rising up against the Chinese regime for months now, Morey expressed support for the protesters with a seemingly simple tweet.  But in today’s hyper-polarized social climate, very few things are simple, particularly with one of the NBA’s biggest international customers.

The NBA, usually lauded by the virtue signalers for speaking out “courageously” on social issues, was not silent on the issue, although they probably should have been.  They took the extraordinary step of criticizing Morey for supporting the protesters.  But it didn’t stop there.  In fact, they were just getting started.  Paying fans who held a banner that said “Free Hong Kong!” were removed from a game…in Philadelphia, no less.  Is there a more pathetic symbol of what’s happening with this country, when the city that once hosted the Declaration of Independence signing doesn’t allow fans to support freedom for others?  What does that say about our freedom?

Getting back to the NBA, though, the story reached a crescendo when LeBron James, who has bounced between the spectrum of sports hero and villain more times than we can count, had the nerve to criticize Morey for commenting about a subject that he (Morey) “wasn’t educated” on.  That’s right- the same man who was once infamously told to “shut up and dribble” by a conservative gadfly was now doing the same thing to a highly esteemed general manager, for speaking out on a worthy cause.

 

LeBron
LeBron didn’t deserve the hate he received from the public at the beginning of the decade, nor the love at the end of it.  The truth, as often is the case, is somewhere in between.

Ultimately, this issue is not solely about LeBron James- or Warrior’s coach Steve Kerr, who disgracefully invoked sporadic mass shootings in America as a shield to widespread Chinese oppression.  It’s about the culture of expecting athletes to be more than athletes.  Starting with Babe Ruth and leading up to Michael Jordan, superstar athletes were thought to be more like real life superheroes, long before “MCU” became part of our lexicon.  Partially overlapping that period has been the socially conscious athlete- or what is sometimes derisively referred to as “woke athlete”, derived from the idea that someone is awake to the problems our society is facing.  This can be traced back at least to Muhammad Ali, a very controversial figure in his own time, who took on the establishment in protesting the Vietnam War, at considerable personal cost.  Whatever shortcomings Ali had as a human being, this act of bravery has been lauded, at least in hindsight, as a positive example of an athlete being more than just an athlete.

Unfortunately, many poor imitations have been attempted since then.  When addressing issues in today’s society, athletes and their backers (click here for the original “stick to sports” blog post) will predictably invoke Ali, in a nauseating self-congratulatory circle-jerk.  We have freedom of speech in this country- Philadelphia 76ers pregame debacle notwithstanding- so it’s fine when a future Hall of Famer wants to speak his or her mind about topics beyond what their famous for.  But they should not automatically expect to be congratulated for “bravery”, particularly when the endgame of what passes as “sacrifice” turns out to be signing a lucrative dollar contract with Nike, a multi-billion dollar company that has cynically and successfully turned “woke culture” into an even bigger cash cow than the one that they’ve been milking for decades.

So the next time LeBron James, Steve Kerr or anyone else want to speak out on an issue, it’s worth remembering that it’s their right to do so.  It’s also worth remembering that when real sacrifice was on the line, they refused to remain silent.  They took sides with the oppressors.

(Meanwhile on the court, opening night for the Lakers is on Tuesday, as they face off against the new look Clippers.  And if I may exercise my free speech, by the time the circus at Staples Center gets going, aging LeBron’s off-court debacle will be the least of his worries…)

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Review Of “Get Out” (spoilers)

Review Of “Get Out” (spoilers)

When discussing the highly acclaimed “Get Out”, there are two separate elements that need to be considered.  It’s hard to judge them individually, as they’re so closely connected.  Nevertheless, I’m going to try anyway…

“GET OUT” The Movie

All in all, I thought it was pretty entertaining, particularly the first two thirds.  I was somewhat puzzled by the “R” rating for a while, but towards the end, they more than made up for it.  I thought the acting was very good- not necessarily in a traditional sense, but each character did what they had to do.  The protagonist, Chris, was intelligent, likable, and cynical.  His girlfriend Rose seemed trustworthy, compassionate, and a bit naive.  There was something clearly not right about Rose’s father, as he seemed almost intentionally awkward in trying to prove he wasn’t racist- an early queue to the audience that all was not as it seemed.  The mother was very mercurial, as she seemed the most in-tune with who Chris truly was, yet didn’t reveal her true intentions- neither to the audience, nor to Chris.  Rose’s brother was kind of gratuitous in the grand scheme of things, but seeing his friendly banter turn outright racist as he got drunk was cringe-inducing, in an effectively tension building sort of way.  It was also a good contrast between the other minor characters’ overt racism, who were so over-the-top in their ignorance and rudeness, it was more funny than infuriating to witness.  As for the other black people in the movie, their odd behavior was the biggest mystery of all, with the white people (or should we say “caricatures”) being a very close second.  Last but not least, Stephen Root, as the one white male who seemed to have some redeeming qualities, turned out to be arguably the biggest scumbag of all.  (Though, truth be told, it was probably a multiple-person tie.)  In a nutshell, the setup was perfect.

Nevertheless, this was far from a great movie.  I felt like the scene where the mother hypnotized Chris- producing the iconic closeup of his teary-eyed face- somehow managed to simultaneously have too much going on, while not being properly explained.  It was effectively done and sufficiently chilling, but the premise was confusing.  In the guise of helping Chris to quit smoking, she takes him to his worst memory, to put him in a “sunken place”, to prepare him for the process of transformation?  Wait…what??

Then, there was the big revelation, which turned out to be…body switching.  Okay, I admit that there were some clever clues, and I appreciate movies and TV shows that give the audience a chance to stay a step ahead of the game.  (The Sixth Sense, Arrival, etc.)  I just wished there was a more satisfying explanation for all this creepy behavior, which dominated more than half the movie, than “the ol’ switcharoo”.

Also, this movie was sold as a “comedy-horror”, and while director Jordan Peele is a genuinely funny man, I really didn’t find much humor in this movie at all- good, bad, or otherwise.  Were we supposed to laugh uproariously at the wacky sidekick, who didn’t get integrated into the main story until the very last scene?  I’m sorry, but he just didn’t do it for me.  He wasn’t terrible, but I don’t really remember laughing out loud at anything he said.

By far, the biggest (and most confusing) error was Chris finding out that his sweet girlfriend was in on it the whole time…twice!  First, Chris discovers a whole bunch of pictures of Rose with a number of black men she had dated- and one woman, who happened to be the family maid- after saying that Chris was her first one.  Right there, we know Rose is no good.  But then, not long after, we see Rose pretending to be horrified at her family’s actions, as Chris pleads with her to get the car keys so they can leave.  Mid-panic, Rose stops, and looks at Chris with a deadly stare, giving some sort of Hal from 2001 Space Odyssey response- something like, “You know I can’t do that, Chris.”  Well he SHOULD have known, anyway.  But seriously, was Chris supposed to be surprised?  Were WE?  We already KNEW she was in on the plot- did Peele and the rest of the Get Out crew forget about that earlier scene?  They simply could have hinted at it- for example, having Chris discover a picture and ONLY one picture of Rose and the maid- or, they could have had Chris confront Rose about all the pictures later, at an appropriate time.  But the way it was done just didn’t make any sense.

Last but not least, once Chris escaped and made his way off the property, the movie just kind of felt like a pretty standard slasher film.  That’s really not my cup of tea, but even if it were, the cleverness pretty much seemed to dry up at that point, as blood took over as the main element.  The one small exception was the aforementioned wacky sidekick, who FINALLY provided a purpose as the film closed out, which is discussed more in the next section.  Speaking of which…

“Get Out” The Statement

Although the movie’s humor was unfortunately lacking, the critical reaction did a great job filling the void, albeit unintentionally.  Sometimes, life imitates art, and such was the case with the endless praise that this movie received for its social commentary, almost proving Peele’s point after the fact.  In the same way that Rose’s father “bragged” that he would have voted for Obama a third time if he could, the largely white, liberal movie critics could not stop gushing about the thought provoking metaphors used in this movie, basically showing well-to-do affluent white liberals using black people nefariously for their own selfish purposes.  Lest anyone think I’m exaggerating, some ACTUAL reviews stated that Get Out was “a compassionate, thoughtful look at race” (“compassionate”??), a “sharp-eyed allegory”, and “so special”.  The praise was so non-stop, one can almost imagine the critics saying, “I would vote for Get Out as Best Picture TWICE if I could!”

Lest anyone think that I, a white man, am offended at such a depiction, nothing could be further from the truth.  Politically, I lean more right than left, and enjoy few things more in life than seeing someone point out the hypocrisy of liberal virtue signaling.  I just think that this movie did not do a particularly good job of that, outside of Rose’s father getting acquainted with Chris early on.  The shindig (which turned out to be an auction for Chris’s “services”- talk about lack of subtlety!) just showed a bunch of aging white people, callously evaluating Chris to his face, as though they were shopping for a car.  As a Twilight Zone-esque plot device, it was fine.  As the kind of scene that was supposed to “make me think”, it fell very short.

The best thing I can say about this movie as a conversation about race is the statement that it DIDN’T make, which ultimately ended up making the movie slightly better.  As Chris nearly escapes, killing the whole family in the process (with his girlfriend being last), a police car pulls up to the property.  Jordan Peele allegedly considered having the movie end with Chris’s arrest at the gory scene he left behind.  Now I admit, THAT would have offended me, with the message being portrayed all too clear, to a public already sharply divided on this issue.  Fortunately, Peele went for the “safer” ending, having Chris’s best friend get out of the car, to take Chris away from the scene.  In addition to wisely choosing to end the movie on a “high” note (relatively speaking), it was also an unexpected twist, in a movie that seemed to have run out of them.  It also gave Chris’s wacky friend an actual reason to exist in the movie, and not a moment to soon.

So all in all, the movie itself was pretty entertaining, if a bit too gory for me in the latter part.  But as far as contributing anything more serious to the broader conversation about race relations in modern America?  Well………………………..

do_the_right_thing
Though 30 years old at the time of this post, this movie is far more suited for “a dialog on race”
Game of Thrones Meltdown- Who’s To Blame, How Upset We Should Be, And One Way (Of Many- Oh So Many) It Could Have Been Better

Game of Thrones Meltdown- Who’s To Blame, How Upset We Should Be, And One Way (Of Many- Oh So Many) It Could Have Been Better

Maybe Drogon destroyed the Iron Throne because he thought it fatally wounded Dani. It IS made out of a thousand swords, after all!

Sometimes, an opinion is so close to unanimous, it’s practically a fact.  Such is the case with Game of Thrones’ disaster of a finale, a series that was so epic, it’s hard to believe it was the same show. The final season had already been panned by many, but also had a fair number of defenders, as well as some genuinely entertaining moments.  Some enjoyed The Long Night, while others seethed that the long winter we had been promised for nearly a decade lasted less than two hours.  (And yet there are STILL people that don’t believe in climate change!)  I already wrote plenty about it all myself, and my initial opinion was mixed.  After the second to last episode, though, I’d given up all hope on a remotely satisfying conclusion to the series.

Nevertheless, I’d spent much of the past month and a half on this thing- reading, analyzing, and writing- so of course I was going to watch the last episode.  But I was watching with very low expectations- low expectations, as it turns out, that would not even be met.  Not only did the writers just mail it in, they forgot to put the postage stamps on!  To use an NFL analogy, it would be like watching the team you root for in week 16, after being eliminated in week 15. “Maybe there will be a great catch, or something else worth salvaging to see,” you think to yourself.  Instead, your team loses 45 to 7, and the only touchdown comes from the star running back, who suffers a career ending knee injury when getting tackled at the endzone.

All those episodes, all those story arcs, so many of which were insufficiently answered at best, completely neglected at worse.  In fact, I can only remember one which ended far more powerfully than it began, and was so minor in the grand scheme of things, most of us didn’t even know it was a story until well into the series.  And it can be described in exactly one word-
hodor

THE BLAME GAME

After each episode (except the finale…hmmmmm), executive producers David Benioff and David Weiss- or D & D, as they’re commonly referenced as- would take a victory lap, in the form of an explanation on what the viewers just saw. As such, they were literally putting their faces on the final product, making sure everyone knew who to thank for what was arguably the greatest show on television. While it was widely known that George RR Martin (GRRM) was the literary genius behind the novels (at least for a while), the TV show was D & D’s creation.

Throughout most of the show’s existence, this worked out well for them.  Things started to turn ever so slightly, when the show started to run past the content of the novels. Unlike Lord of The Rings or Harry Potter, the creators of the onscreen product had to largely come up with their own content, working only from an outline that Martin shared with them.  Many people, not just book snobs, noticed the drop in quality, but for the most part, stuck with it throughout.  Most still thought the show was very good, and were already way too invested in this thing, anyway.

So the years continued on, and GRRM still hasn’t release any new material.  Eight years and counting, and he’s been working on TWO Game of Thrones novels…and other projects, as well!  Weirdly, it kind of makes sense- part of GOT’s greatness was the way one story would divide into a multitude of stories.  Apparently, this is how GRRM operates in real life, as well.  A man with so much on his mind surely can’t concentrate on one thing, much to the detriment of the fans.

Back to the show…fairly recently, D & D apparently declared that they had enough, and wanted to wrap things up.  While a show like Big Bang Theory continued on, years after its glory days, D & D were already thinking about their endgame, with the war of the seven kingdoms nowhere near a conclusion.  (Ironically, The Big Bang Theory, a standalone sitcom with a secondary story arc, apparently had a better conclusion that Game of Thrones, which was BUILT around the conclusion.)

So here we all are, in May of 2019, and it’s undeniable- even for the relatively small group of fans who tried to defend season 8, at least prior to the series finale- that everything felt rushed. And there was a reason for that- because it WAS rushed! No need to go into too many specifics- we all know the deal by now. But if the writers had to have Dani take over Westeros and go mad (in that order), that’s got to be, at a minimum, a half-season, not a half-episode.  Similarly, Jon killing her and having his fate decided by the leaders of Westeros is a multi-episode affair.  The way the action (or lack thereof) went straight from Jon stabbing Dani, to debating what to do with prisoner Jon…
*record scratch*
Wait, wait- Jon is a prisoner?!  How did he get captured?  And even if he DID get captured, how did Grey Worm- not exactly the most laid back character- resist from killing him right then and there? How is Jon alive at all? HE COMMITTED REGICIDE AGAINST A QUEEN WHO HAS A MILITARY THAT SPANS AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE!!! *exhales*  Sorry, I’m getting into specifics.  But seriously- the whole thing reminds me of an episode from the Simpsons heyday, where “Poochie the Dog” unceremoniously gets taken out of the Itchy and Scratchy show, and after his final scene, a quick graph shows up that says…
poochie
…and hey- in this intentionally awful plot explanation, at least the Itchy and Scratchy show had the decency to EXPLAIN what happened to Poochie! (More on this Simpsons episode in a bit.)

Even somehow forgiving all this nonsense, how did BRAN end up ruling Westeros?  I have yet to see one person defend this, let alone in a way that makes sense. (The actor himself thought it was a fake script, setup for a laugh.)  The only explanation that remotely makes sense is that’s the way GRRM has it planned out, and D & D wanted to honor that.  If that’s the case though, he has thousands of pages to set it up, whereas D & D had “Tyrion”- or whomever that morose character that Peter Dinklage was playing at that point- unconvincingly try to explain it in a few sentences.

As of this writing, most people are laying the blame for this debacle at D & D’s feet, with some occasional grumblings about GRRM’s going nearly a decade without releasing a new book.  So does the novelist deserve a bigger piece of the pie in the blame sharing? When the TV writers turned A Song of Fire And Ice into a long running TV series, did they expect him to be done by now?  Did they have any indications to the contrary?  The backlash feels more like something seen in sports, like when a heavily favored team loses in the playoffs, and everyone blames the coach.  But without any background information, we just don’t know how this came to be.  Hopefully, someday we’ll here more about this debacle. Maybe THAT can be GRRM’s next novel!

WHO OWES WHAT TO WHOM

As this is playing out in real time, there’s an interesting existential debate going on, regarding how much the fans are “owed” by the writers, particularly GRRM.  On one hand, this is a universe HE created, HE worked on, and HE took chances with.  The reason we all flocked to Game of Thrones in the first place is because of HIS genius.  So does he “owe” us anything now?

Getting back to the example of Poochie and the Simpsons, that episode came out at a time when the Simpsons had been on TV for a while, and some fans were grumbling that it had lost its edge.  (Oh, if only they knew!)  Word was spreading to the writers via message boards that there was some grumbling going on. Having the public react en masse like that was a fairly new phenomenon, as the internet had only been mainstream at that point for a few years. (Again, if only they knew.) Comic Book Guy, representing disgruntled fans, told Bart that he believed Itchy and Scratchy “owed” him. Bart, representing the writers, complained to Comic Book Guy that cartoons provided entertainment for free, and if anything, Comic Book Guy owed THEM. The response was the now famous, and very applicable to GOT’s series finale…
worst-episode-ever

THIS TIME IT’S DIFFERENT

Bart had a point about the entitled fans, but it’s not entirely applicable to Game of Thrones- and not just because HBO isn’t free. Just like with The Big Bang Theory, the Simpsons is a standalone show, where viewers tune in to be entertained for a short period of time. Any continuity is icing on the cake- not many care a whole lot about the consistency of the storylines, as they’re mainly just designed to keep the jokes going. There have been controversies here and there, such as when Principal Skinner was discovered to be an impostor, but it didn’t take away from the series as a whole, and CERTAINLY didn’t negate all the greatness that preceded it. With Game of Thrones, the main “unwritten rules” are the same ones we apply to series like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings- from Day One, we’re going on a journey that will lead somewhere. And when we get there, wherever “there” is, we are promised it will all make sense- and in GOT’s case, “it” was a lot!

So, we absorbed all the storylines and characters, along with a lot of emotional wreckage along the way.  Each episode was judged on its merit, but it was always understood that it was just a small point on an arc.  I’m trying to find the words, but I just can’t, and since a picture is worth a thousand of them, here’s something that’s been going around-

horse

Truth be told, the warning signs have been there for years. South Park’s GOT parody is primarily famous for its “Wiener” song and the jokes that go with it, but in hindsight, the part that was best lampooned was right here, way back in 2013-

south_park

I guess the best way of saying it is that if you watched Game of Thrones with a soap opera mentality- just enjoying all the drama and action as it came, not knowing or caring much about the future- it was fantastic, with far more great moments than bad ones. But, if you watched it expecting to walk out of the journey as satisfied as you walked into it, you probably should have listened to Butter’s advice, and gotten out when you had the chance.

“I’d Like To See YOU Do Better, Random Blogger!”

Fair enough, fictional skeptic. Let’s start out by giving D & D the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say they wanted to stay as close to GRRM’s vision, still unknown to the public, as they possibly could. And let’s assume that given that he has thousands of pages to fill in, whereas they only have a few hours, it’s literally impossible for the story to live up to expectations. Fair enough. That STILL does not excuse the atrocity that was the series finale, where characters wandered around for a third of the episode, like a kid starting a 500 word book report with, “I really really really really really really enjoyed it.” On the contrary, they should have been trying to figure out how to fit TOO MUCH into the short span of time, not stretching it out! It felt like they had short timer’s syndrome. It’s way too late now, but just thinking here and there over the past couple of days, I strongly believe this would have made a better series finale. I’m not even saying it’s good- I’m just saying it’s better. You decide.  Here goes…

Everything up until Tyrion getting captured stays the same, minus all of the walking around. (In MY version, the characters have some work to do!)  Arya convinces Jon that they have to rescue Tyrion.  Jon is reluctant, (“She is my queen! And my aunt! And my maybe girlfriend!” etc. etc.) but goes along with it.

Next scene- Jon encounters Greyworm.  Jon tries to reason with Greyworm about Dani’s madness- he used to love her, but he has to kill her.  Greyworm shows the slightest bit of acknowledgement that Jon is right, but ultimately out-Jon’s Jon. (“She is MY queen!”) They battle.

Cut to Tyrion jail cell.  Jon shows up, explains that he killed Greyworm, and that he’s going to free Tyrion.  Along comes Dani, to remind Jon that Tyrion is not just a Lannister sympathizer- tryingto reason with Cersei, costing Missandrei her life, then freeing Jamie- but is an ACTUAL Lannister!  Jon reminds Dani that she burned innocent people.  Dani reminds Jon that this is the place where those innocent people cheered his father’s beheading.  Jon is moved by this.  Dani says they can rule together.  Tyrion looks horrified at what’s unfolding.  Jon and Dani go into kiss, and then…Jon stabs Dani.  Dani screams. Hearing the screams, Greyworm (?!) and Jon (?!!!) come running to the scene.  Everyone is looking at each other in disbelief and/or disgust. The “Jon” who killed Dani reveals himself to be…Arya! The faceless man trick! The real Jon goes running over to Dani.  Dani says, “What have I done? I just wanted the world to be a better place!” Jon says, “I know.” Dani says, “You know NOTHING, Jon Snow,” and dies.

Okay, NOW we cut to the scene with the leaders of Westeros.  In this script, GREYWORM is the prisoner.  The group need to figure out who the next ruler of Westeros is going to be. Bran says that the Lord of Light brought Jon back to rule Westeros.  Sir Davos responds, “Yeah well, the Lord of Light’s been wrong before. Personally, I don’t think much of the (c-word).”  Uncle Tully gives his dorky speech, Sansa dismisses him.  Everyone smirks.  Sam takes a sip of his Aquafina, the audience has their comic relief.  They decide Arya is to be queen, as she slayed the previous queen. Arya doesn’t want it, saying, “That’s not me,” and winks at the camera (or not), gives it Sansa, who has shown her political depth and skill to be worthy of ruling.  Everyone agrees.  Greyworm is pardoned, and to not go to war, he is given rule over King’s Landing.  Greyworm, being Greyworm, sneers and says that the moment he is released he will be going to war with Westeros. THEN Sir Davos gives his “too much war already” speech.  Tyrion reminds Greyworm of Dani’s original goal to be a liberator.  To break the wheel.  The wheel has been broken.  It’s up to Greyworm to build a new one. Greyworm is moved, but reminds everyone that the queen’s death will not be forgotten by the Unsullied, Dothraki, etc. etc..  The group decides that Jon will take the fall for the queen’s death, much as Ned Stark did all those years ago, for a cause greater than himself.  Jon will be banished to the wall as “punishment” for what “he” did. (And yes, he gets to pet ghost.)

Gilly leaves Sam, as she’s been plotting her revenge for the perfect time all these years, for leaving her in that brothel.  Also, because she has options now.  Arya goes west to discover the Game of Thrones version of America.  Jon goes back to The Wall, looks at the gaping hole and says to the Justin Turner lookalike, “Okay- we’ve got work to do!”  Out in the distance, a dragon flies towards the screen, which goes to black.  The words, “GAME OVER” flash.  Roll credits.

 

dark-phoenix-trailer-jpg
Sansa will have her throne, even if she has to go to another franchise to get it

MOVING ON NOW

That’s it. Hopefully we’ll have some other non-narcotic entertainment to get addicted to soon. Until then, enjoy the rest of your lives, everyone!

ACTUAL Review of Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5 – And It Ain’t Pretty

ACTUAL Review of Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5 – And It Ain’t Pretty

Honestly, I barely even feel like putting this together. With one episode left to go, nearly every Game of Thrones character is either dead, or barely recognizable from their original self. Gone is the good-hearted but cynically sharp-witted mastermind Tyrion Lannister. In his place is a gullible optimist, who puts his head down and mopes every time his (obviously bad) plan backfires. The selfless, honorable and occasionally cocky Jon Snow has become a lovesick fool- emphasis on fool. Daenerys Targarean, someone I took issue with early on, was nevertheless the most recognizable face of the franchise, sold to us as a champion of the downtrodden, and a force to be reckoned with. Now, she’s a crazy, murderous ex-girlfriend. The whole thing is depressing- and not the “good” kind of depressing, like Ned Stark’s death or the Red Wedding.

Watching Daenerys’s dragon burn King’s Landing to the ground was a good metaphor, as it felt like what the writers were doing to the entire series. Also with the perfect metaphor, Cersei Lannister, realizing she was going to die by way of the roof caving in, desperately cried, “Not like this! Not like this!” She spoke for millions of fans everywhere.

Before continuing to rant about all the things that went wrong with one of the greatest television shows ever created, let’s pause for some positivity. The production, the music, the acting, and the overall “feel” of the second-to-last episode was first rate. None of that has ever been a problem for Game of Thrones. And if there was only one storyline that had a remotely satisfying conclusion- and there was, in fact, only one storyline that had a remotely satisfying conclusion- it was Sandor Clegane, emphatically pleading with Arya to not follow down his dark path of endless revenge seeking. Even this plotline had holes, as we have been cheering on Arya for YEARS to be getting revenge on those who have wronged her family, her friends, and herself. But personally, I can at least buy into the idea that she needs to know when to say when, and that “The Hound” is the perfect person to teach her this, given he was the one who taught her to have no mercy in the first place. (In turn, she was the one who taught him kindness, which somehow we suspected always existed, deep down inside.) Given all the two of them had been through together, it was enjoyable to watch them have this moment together, right before Sandor plunged to his death, along with his literal monster of a brother, Gregor.

Okay, now back to the griping…For the increasingly problematic direction(s) of the show in recent years, since the novels ended (or so I’ve heard- admittedly I haven’t read a single page), there were always interesting trails to explore. In recent seasons, the writers have opted for killing off many of those trails- literally- by executing some of the most mercurial plot-churning characters in the series, most notably the Tyrells, Littlefinger, and now, Varys and the Lannister twins. (THE LANNISTER TWINS!!!) Seeing how there’s no one left to despise, the writers decided to turn Daenerys into the latest- and, in all likelihood, final- bloodthirsty villain. I mean…what??? Ok, I get it- this show breaks all the rules. Killing off someone who we all thought was the protagonist in season 1 was a brilliant stroke of genius. But that was early on- early enough that the rules of the show were still being established, but late enough for us to be deceived, to the point where it felt like WE were the ones getting the axe. For as long as nearly a decade (for those who watched the show when it first aired), we were convinced that Daenerys was on “our” side. And yes, it was annoying at times, especially prior to integrating her with the rest of the Westeros mainland.  But there was no question that much of the whole thing revolved around her getting to the Iron Throne…eventually.

Things started off quite well with this late-inning plot, in terms of storytelling. Finally, our young heroine ran into some actual adversity, and it took a toll on her patience, while stoking her more violent tendencies. Very subtlety, her hunger for power started to become an alarming issue for some of the more astute characters, most notably Varys. When Daenerys marched to Winterfell with Jon Snow by her side, we were cleverly reminded of the first episode, when we were first introduced to the frosty (no pun intended) relationship between the Starks and Lannisters. The passive aggression between Sansa and Dani, with Jon caught in the middle, had the potential to be one of the most intriguing power struggles throughout the series.

So much for all that. Jon was reduced to a monosyllabic sycophant, repeatedly assuring Dani, “You are my queen!” while adding nothing else of use- neither to the characters, nor to the viewers. In a scene that marked the highpoint of Emilia Clarke’s acting and lowpoint of Daenerys Stormborn’s character, she looked over King’s Landing, knowing that it was all hers, and inexplicably decided that it wasn’t enough by mercilessly burning it to the ground, without any warning or explanation.  Out of the rubble, we are left with a dumbfounded Jon and Tyrion, a traumatized Arya, and Sansa, having second thoughts about when she helped Jon defeat Ramsey (probably).

Anyway, this is more than enough from a guy who sincerely claimed having almost no interest in putting together a recap. Imagine how long this thing would be if I WAS interested! So next week, we find out who sits on the Throne, but at this point, I really don’t care, because no one left is worthy. They might crown Samwell “Teflon” Tarly as the Protector Of The Realm, as the writers seem to care most about his character. (I suspect many in the writer’s room can identify with his character far more closely than any other.) Or, maybe Ned Stark wakes up, and realizes the whole thing was just a dream. It’s probably as good an explanation as any for what we’ve been watching lately.

(Don’t just take my word for it- enjoy this compilation of the GOT actors and actresses thinly-veiled contempt for the ultimate direction of the show- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EA7UQOYskas&app=desktop)

(I’ll end this on a high note, as the silver lining of this tranwreck has produced some very clever memes, which is a lot more than we can say about the writing-

https://www.popbuzz.com/tv-film/game-of-thrones/recap-season-8-episode-4-memes-reactions/)

Game of Thrones Review- And Now, My Watch(ing of Old Episodes) Has Ended

Game of Thrones Review- And Now, My Watch(ing of Old Episodes) Has Ended

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“So Dani, is Westeros everything that Jorah said it would be?”

Well, now that I’ve completed the entire eight years worth of Game of Thrones episodes barely five weeks after I began them, I can poke around the Internet, to see the thoughts of other viewers- and there are quite a few to choose from.

As of this posting, there are two episodes left in the show, and I regret that I wasn’t following along the whole time. I’m sure my overall perspective would have been better, and given an already somewhat fragile emotional makeup- due to internal and external outside of this blog’s scope- the whole experience has left me kind of overwhelmed. I didn’t even realize Daenerys’s post-Drogo pre-Jon boyfriend changed actors in the middle of the story! But all things considered, I thought I understood sufficiently to be able to recap the whole experience, so here I am now.

First off, it was a relief to be able to start browsing the internet, to see various other thoughts and perspectives. I had closed myself off, due to fear of spoilers or outside influence on my opinion. Now that I no longer have that worry, I feel like a reality TV star coming out of hiding, being revealed to the public at the end of the season! Anyway, the most critical piece of information that I found was there was very little original content after season 5 from George RR Martin, the creator of the novels, who is still working on them. Unlike Harry Potter, which released movies well after the completion of each book, the game of Game of Thrones novels are still, as of this blog post, a work in progress. Basically, everything after Cersei’s “walk of shame” has largely been made up by the show’s creators on the fly, with only an outline from Martin to work with. This explains some baffling directions within the show, like the underrated Marjorie Tyrell, seemingly scheming against the High Sparrow with some unknown plan, only get blown up by Cersei, with the rest of the lot. I can almost imagine the one of the writers saying, “How do we get Marjorie out of this?” And another writer responding with, “I have no idea. It’d just be easier to kill her off. Who wants Chinese food?” Ned’s death was horrifying but necessary, and opened some real possibilities on what to do with the main story. Margerie’s death simply closed a few off. And sure, Cersei taking the thrown felt inevitable, as well as riveting, but there had to be a better journey to get her there.

On the other end of the spectrum, the annoying Iron Island plot plods along. “That which is dead may never die,” indeed! Yes, I get it- Yara is a badass female captain in a Medieval world of brute misogynists. But don’t we already have that in MULTIPLE places at this point? She’s a one dimensional character, as well as inconsistent. When we first meet her, she has loyalty to her father, along with contempt for her entitled brother Theon, then inexplicably risks her life and those of her men for this weak, insecure excuse of a man? But, Daenerys needs a Navy, so I guess the writers felt it more useful to have her along for the ride. Perhaps Marjorie and her sharp-tongued grandma get seasick.

I now know that Dorne is the only universally hated plotline in Game of Thrones. I’m not sure why. I found it to be kind of a distraction from the main story, with crude stereotypes. But it was still more interesting than Daenerys wandering around the desert for three quarters of the series, and certainly no more crude than those stereotypes*!  I also felt the ending of the Dorne storyline made the whole experience more worthy, which is more than I can say for the…
ARMY OF THE UNDEAD

The whole “life after death” was the first thing we were introduced to in the Game of Thrones universe. As someone who watched the first episode a full eight years after it aired, I was completely caught off guard. Knowing nothing but “winter is coming”, a pretty blonde princess, dragons, and whatever was alluded to in the South Park parody, I couldn’t believe I was watching something that looked like it was from a zombie horror movie! “How the hell are they going to fit this in,” I thought? It was a question I kept asking throughout the series. And to be fair, it led to some fascinating plots- Jon’s battle with Head Watchman Ted Williams over the integration of the wildlings, Jon needing to convince Daenerys to fight with him, Bran going on a magical mystery tour, leading to the explanation of “Hodor’s” name (the most surprisingly satisfying revelation in the series so far) as well the revelation of Jon’s mother (the second most satisfying revelation in the series so far, and far more important than the origins of Hodor’s name). But the undead story ITSELf turned out to be a huge flop- as someone pointed out online, the Night King turned out to be nothing more than a villian of the week from the old TV series Buffy The Vampire Slayter- and a SHALLOW villain, at that. In addition, his final scene, the slow motion face-off with Bran, felt like a Calvin Klein production. Maybe there’s still some hope we’ll learn SOMETHING else about The Red Lady, or at least how she got the Stannis prophecy so wrong, how she was able to bring Jon Snow back to life, etc.. And, maybe the Lord of Light is still out there. But with two episodes left and so much unresolved, I’m not optimistic.  (*And how about those poor Dothraki, sent to die in the first 2 minutes of battle, while Sam merrily hums along with his Apatow-Rogan inspired wife.)

Incidentally, the books apparently use the “life after death” thing to bring back Kat “Peggy Hill” Stark, in the form of “Lady Stoneheart”, to avenge her family.  Now THAT sounds interesting, as well as frightening. But since the writers went in a completely different direction, we ended up with an awkwardly forced subplot that was not nearly as rewarding as we assumed (or at least hoped) it would be.

The good news is that now that it’s out of the way, we can focus on the REAL battle- first, between Cersei and Daenerys, which I found to be quite promising. Everyone on Twitter thinks they’re Ulyssess S Grant, complaining about the tactical strategy of Team Dani. Yes, it was oversimplified, but so what? Do we need ANOTHER 90 minute dialog-free episode, complete with loud music, loud explosions, and so much movement no one can figure out who is where and what is going on or how it’s getting accomplished? The point is that Cersei holds a far better strategic position than originally thought, and she’s not going to give up her grip on the Iron Throne. It was a little bit annoying seeing Tyrion being such a rube about his sister’s intentions, but the acting is so good that it can be forgiven as wishful thinking for a clever man running low on clever ideas.

Even better than Cersei vs Daenerys is Daenerys vs the Stark sisters. If there’s one thing and ONLY one thing that has gotten better as the series moves along, is the realization from the writers that Daenerys The Savior is a dead end. Finally- FINALLY we have her lust for power, getting in the way of her “breaker of chains” persona, completely disrespecting Jon’s rightful claim to the throne. Jon has been selfless the whole series- easily his strongest attribute- and was more than willing to step aside for Dani’s lifelong ambition. How does Dani repay him? By telling him not to ever tell his sisters the truth…something he uncharacteristically defies, creating an inevitable rift that will surely cause incredible tension amongst the anti-Cersei forces. We even see the Varys and Tyrion at odds with each other- something we haven’t seen since the beginning of the series- which can weaken the “good guy” position. So for all the screaming about how Game of Thrones has lost its way- some of which seems valid- there is more than enough reason to be invested in the final two episodes, other than, “Well, I got this far.”…

 

Game Of Thrones Season 5 Review- Who Died And Made You K…EVERYBODY, You Say? Ok, then.

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(see subject title)

The Good– What has made Game of Thrones so appealing is the thing that is least marketed publicly.  As someone who went through more than 90% of the show’s existence without watching a single minute of the show, not counting South Park’s GOT parody, all I knew was dragons, a pretty blonde princess, winter is coming, and something about a red wedding.  I also knew there was a lot of NSFW, but so what?  A lot of shows have that, particularly on HBO.

What I DIDN’T know was the story of rival families, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, with very relatable characters- even if some of them are often (or even always) unsavory and despicable.  The brutality yet frailty of power, the prejudices, even the good intentions that can lead to the most horrific consequences are, in my opinion, the backbone of the show.  The backfiring of Cersei’s plan to turn the religious fanatics against her son’s wife was quite unexpected, and the scenes that unfolded were captivating.  Jon Snow understanding the need to make alliances with old enemies, which were misunderstood by his fellow Night’s Watchmen, led to his apparent undoing.  As one of the most stoic and stone-faced personalities of the show, Stannis Baratheon has given little to cheer for.  But being a man of his word led to one of the most horrific sequences in the series, which is REALLY saying something.

As for the most famous Game of Thrones icon, I have not been a fan of that, nor have I changed my mind.  (More on that in the next section.)  But by having Tyrion Lanister defect to Danaerys camp, the series finally- FINALLY!- gave me a reason to care about that storyline.  It also gave National Geographic Guy something useful to do.  It was also interesting to see Jamie Lannister turn on Tyrion, without Tyrion realizing this happened.  Tyrion typically realizes EVERYTHING, so hopefully the writers have something planned down the road.

Ramsey Bolton might be the most depraved character in the GOT universe, and it’d be interesting to see a case be made for Joffrey versus Ramsey.  As pathetic as Theon Greyjoy has been, both pre and post torture, the terror that he feels is palpable for the viewers.  Moreover, it helps us feel for Sansa Stark, as she manages to be a prisoner AGAIN for a psychopath!

And then, we have the increasingly curious good/evil power duo of Varesh and Littlefinger, two characters that hover close to the center, but have far more pull than most of the characters realize.  It’s always interesting to see Littlefinger maneuver, thinking maybe- just MAYBE- he has a hint of conscience, only to realize he doesn’t.  Varesh, who started out seeming far more creepy, seems to genuinely care about making the world a better place.

The Bad- Watching 50 hours of a TV show in less than 4 weeks can cause annoying things to be that much more obnoxious.  Certain characters just make me groan as soon as they come onto the screen.  Daenerys’ assistant does nothing except walk nervously with a deer in the headlights expression.  Her boyfriend, always looking to “avenge the queen” or something like that, always has this expression that’s supposed to look tough or angry, but kind of looks like he’s constipated.  He does this apology/confession thing that is really a thinly-veiled brag.  (“I was scared to die.  Not because I’m afraid of death.  I am not afraid of death.  I was afraid I wouldn’t see your face again.“)

Then there’s Sam Tarly.  I’m sure in real life, a guy like that would be great to have around.  In the Game of Thrones universe, he’s like drinking a cup of maple syrup.  He’s always so, “Gosh, golly, gee, wow, I’ve got these wonderful books to read!”  And yet, in spite of having none of the survival skills that this particular universe requires to make it, he not only skates by, but THRIVES in doing so!

Last but not least, of course, is the face of the franchise, Daenerys Stormborn.  Or is it Daenerys Targarean?  Or is it Khaleesi?  I dunno, but I’ve given her a few other titles, as well- White Savior, Mary Sue, Social Justice Warrior.  I’d like to add one more- Beauty Pageant contestant.  You see, she wants to rule over everyone, but only because she wants to end hunger.  And slavery.  And all the mean things that happen in the world.  I don’t know who loves Daenerys more- Daenerys herself, or the writers.  We keep hearing what a special “person” she is, but what makes her special is things she’s magically inherited- namely, dragons and the ability to not be burned by fire.  In terms of her personality, she is the LEAST captivating major character in the show, as well as the most cartoonishly idealistic.

I wasn’t crazy about the Dorne plot, either.  The tragic end was promising, but it didn’t need to take so much of the season to get there.  To me, Dorne felt like another checkbox for the writers, almost as if they’re trying to say, “Ya know, we’re not JUST about Medieval England!”  We already have “the primitives” that have helped carry (for lack of a better word) the Daenerys storyline.  Now, we have “the Latin lovers” in the GOT universe as well.  Sorry, but this particular show’s heart and soul lies in cold, medieval England.  The more they get away from that, the more scattered it feels- and it’s hard enough to keep track of everything as is!

Also worth mentioning is the show’s consistent plot devices.  Whenever a character has a tender moment with a far more minor character, the minor character is a goner.  This season, it was Stannis’s daughter, followed by Marcella Lannister.  (I admit the suddenness of Marcella’s demise was quite shocking, though.)  The other thing is whenever a character begs for mercy and is then granted it, the punishment is always far worse.  Did anyone really believe Cersei would just be able to go on her merry way back to the castle?  If so, then HA!  These aren’t necessarily bad things, but it does dampen the show’s intended impact.  It’s probably easier to spot, when watching over the course of weeks instead of years, but it’s unmistakable.  In a way, though, it’s actually more entertaining, as it makes the viewer (ie. me) feel clever for staying ahead of the writers.  heh heh

Unsure- From the very first scene in the series, the implication was that the whole GOT universe of noblemen and royalty would eventually get swallowed up by ghouls and goblins.  But the universe of noblemen and royalty is highly entertaining!  Now that it’s starting to happen, how will this transition effect the intrigue of the show?  Not adversely, judging by the ratings and Twitter traffic, seeing how I’m writing this in 2019 instead of 2016.  But I’m still skeptical.

I also may have mentioned, once or twice, I am underwhelmed by the Khaleesi dragon world.  Now that we’re seeing THAT integrate with the main story, as well, which universe will swallow which, from an entertainment perspective?  Will her story be lifted up, or will Westeros have to deal with dragons AND shark jumping?

And as for Arya…what a girl wants, what a girl needs.  Where are the men and women (but mostly men) writing for a show taking a story?  Will the men and women (but mostly men) carrying the viewers to a place shrouded in mystery reward the viewers of a show?  Or are the men and women (but mostly men) wasting the viewers’ precious time?  And why do the men and women (but mostly men) feel it necessary to speak in third person, without using any pronouns in a story?

And what’s Bran been up to?  Seriously, in real life, is it weird for the young man playing him to know he’s going to be on the bench for a while, to be brought back at some unknown time at a later date?  That has to be kind of strange, especially at a young age.

Finally, this isn’t specific to season 5, but it’s worth mentioning at this point- I don’t know how to feel about captivating villains being killed off suddenly at the height of their reign of terror.  We’ve seen it now with Joffrey, Tywin, and the renegade Knights of the Watch, among others.  It’s true that GOT is very good at giving us new stories from the ashes of these deaths, but sooner or later, there has to be something that resolves in a satisfying way, other than, “And then they died.”  (I have a feeling that The Hound is still out there. It could be wishful thinking, as I’d like to see him get some redemption.)

No matter how hard I try, I can’t keep these recaps short.  There’s just too damn much going on with this show…….

 

Game of Thrones Season 2- Where Is All This Going??

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I know from the posters that the Beatle haircut doesn’t last for Aria.

With less than four weeks to watch an additional 51 episodes, I’m just going to bullet point this stuff. There’s only so much Game of Thrones I can cram into my life, and still literally keep my sanity. Here goes…

  • So far, the show is still centered with a theme of rival Medieval English kingdoms, although that’s very clearly about to change, as the supernatural elements are beginning to tear away at the seems.  Not much is clear about this show’s direction, but that much is.  The White Walkers, who opened the series as little more than a teaser for things to come, are literally on the march at the end of Season Two.  Khaleesi is officially the heir to Ronnie James Dio…umm, I mean the House of Targaryon…as the master of dragons.  And Stannis Baratheon, probably the last guy anyone would expect of possessing supernatural powers driven by dark magic, does, in fact, possess supernatural powers driven by dark magic.
  • For now, though, the primary stories still involve all the different houses at war with each other, and to whatever limited extent this show can be explained in a “conventional” way, the Starks are the good guys and the Lannisters are the bad guys.  Of course, this isn’t a conventional show, and Tyrian Lannister is arguably the easiest guy to root for in the series so far.  Ned Stark was, in hindsight, little more than a McGuffin to drive the story along, as well as get the viewers emotionally invested into what’s going on.
  • Speaking of hindsight, knowing what I think I know about the series, the real protagonists are starting to emerge now.  (Sorry, Ned.)  Three of four of them make sense- Tyrian (a dwarf), Jon Snow (a bastard), and Aria Stark (a girl), all of whom have incredible courage and potential, yet were screwed over by life- Tyrian by being a dwarf, Snow by being a bastard, and Aria by being a girl- are beginning to come into their own.  Sansa, apparently released from King Joffrey’s grasp- for now- apparently plays a big role in the series, although I’m not sure how yet.
  • Oh yeah, and Khaleesi- how can I forget??  Sold into slavery to begin her life, there seem to be great things ahead for her.  What, exactly, isn’t clear yet.  She’s the most famous face of the show, and yet two seasons in, still seems like she’s on a completely different show!  (Tyrian even alludes to this, saying, “One game at a time,” when she is brought up in discussion.)  I’m guessing that changes sometime in Season 3.  It has to, right?  How much longer can she wander around the desert, where her main company is some guy who looks like he was poached from National Geographic!
  • I kind of wonder how much I like or dislike a character based on my own personal taste, versus how much the show wants a character to be liked or disliked.  For example, I like the “evil” Cersei FAR more than the “good” Mrs. Stark.  Cersei can be heartless, occasionally downright cruel, but seems to be very self-aware of it, as well as the merciless world that shaped her into that person.  It almost seems like there’s a good woman deep down inside, which was buried by circumstances.  By contrast, Mrs. Stark pretends to be a “proud” woman, but in reality, is anything but.  She treated Jon Snow like dirt, for something that was her husband’s fault.  She blamed Tyrian for a crime that he didn’t commit.  Then, she released the infamous Jamie Lannister behind her son’s back, because she was dumb enough to be outwitted (again!) by Little Finger- who really should have the nickname Middle Finger, because he really sticks to everyone- and I mean everyone– he encounters.  Am I supposed to feel sorry for her for always being at such a loss?  Because really, I just snicker every time her ignorance blows up in her face.
  • What was the deal with “The Thirteen”?  Was that something from the book, that just got crammed in, due to time constraints?  I didn’t understand that plot at all.  The graphic of them standing together was good for a laugh, though.

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    How they all kept a straight face is beyond me- best acting in the series so far!
  • The Stark kid who can’t walk is like Kenny from South Park.  How many times can we be tricked into thinking he’s dead?  I’m guessing one of these days, it won’t be a trick.
  • I enjoyed some characters finally abandoning pretense of noble but violent honor, showing ACTUAL fear, as The Dog backed away from the fire in the middle of the battle, and the new Knights of the Watch ran for their lives, once they realized they were being invaded by White Walkers.
  • Last but least, there seemed to be more of a romantic bend in season two.  Maybe they’re going somewhere with it- ie. the men falling in love weakens them- but I really hope not.  (They probably will, though- Game of Thrones doesn’t seem to let any plot line go to waste.)  To me, at least for now, it just feels like an eyeball rolling distraction.  And of course, we had to be reminded of Khaleesi’s love for her beloved captor…um, I mean late husband.  For such an unnervingly graphic show, Game of Thrones has a lot of heart to it, but the romance just doesn’t do it for me.

Anyway, lots more to write about, but even more to watch.  Onto season 3.  See you in a few days…

 

Game of Thrones, Season 1 Review- Better Late Than Never

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Spoiler alert- the guy in the picture didn’t win

Okay, I get it now.  I didn’t necessarily resist joining the cultural phenomenon on purpose, although I admit to having a contrarian nature.  It just seemed like too much work to get into a series that sounded like it had an identity crisis.  What genre was this?  It looked like an adventure series, sort of like a modern-day Neverending Story (ironically set in the Middle Ages), yet it sounded like there was a lot of pornography and other disturbing stuff going on.  And yet nearly every single person I encountered that had watched the show over the years- and I mean literally nearly everyone- LOVED it!

I binge watched Breaking Bad, right as the series was ending, because it came on a basic cable marathon, and had a very easy to understand narrative- a down-on-his-luck high school teacher gets cancer, so he starts selling meth to provide for his family.  Shocking, original, and straightforward, even if the series inevitably took some twists and turns.  But THIS thing?  Dragons?  Debauchery?  Nudity?  Incest?  What the hell??  I punted, until about a week ago, when Twitter lit up with every single trending topic dealing with Game of Thrones.  Finally, I gave in.  And boy, did I ever!

Basically, this thing does combine seemingly disjointed genres into one insane but riveting package.  What if Tony Soprano gets killed before the end of Season 1?  What if Joaquin Phoenix’s character in The Gladiator had free reign, without a Russell Crowe-like protagonist to stop him? (Ned Stark basically had Tony Soprano’s power and respect, with The Gladiator’s moral compass.) What if the Malfoys got their hand on the deathly hallows?  What if the family from Blades of Glory, quite literally, succeeded in stealing the gold?  What if there was more than one kid that had The Shining?  And this is only the first season- apparently, there are seven more of these!

There’s also another story line lurking, literally beyond the horizon, involving some ghastly ghouls, surely teasing yet another genre that was touched on in the first scene of the first episode- horror.  It didn’t seem to go anywhere in season one, but I trust the writers have something really incredible- and probably not for the feint of heart- just waiting to be unleashed at the right moment.  My guess is that it’s an allegory for people squabbling about petty problems, without any awareness about REAL danger that threatens them all.  But we’ll see.  Or at least, I will.

Here are some other thoughts I had about season 1-

  • I’m a pretty squeamish guy myself, although there was only one moment that really unnerved me- Khaleesi’s ruthlessly ambitious but idiotic brother- basically, an older version of Joffrey without the network to back him up- thinks he’s going to be coronated, instead gets burned to death by liquid metal, in a sadistically ironic “ceremony”.  There were far more gory moments in the series, but it wasn’t the visual aspect that bothered me so much- it was the psychological, instead.  As deserving as he was of this fate, being murdered during a time where one is wrapped in their own vanity feels very cruel- which, of course is the point.  Jason Mamoa’s character smiling as he says in a gravelly voice, “A crown fit for a king,” makes the whole thing that much more chiling.  (This isn’t just a product of fiction, by the way- search for “execution of the Romanov family” sometime, if you must.)
  • Ned getting killed was brilliantly painful, but it was strangely heartfelt, as well.  The two Stark daughters, on complete opposite ends of the spectrum personality wise, both felt incredible pain as they watched their father die in undeserved disgrace.  One of the greater disappointments of the Harry Potter series was that Draco Malfoy never amounted to much more than a brat.  Harry had tons of worthy enemies, but none that were his peers.  With very few exceptions throughout the series, Malfoy’s presence seemed more designed to distract, and allow Harry’s friends to band together.  By transitioning Joffrey from entitled brat to evil ruler,  the story becomes that much more enthralling, particularly as the main protagonist is killed before the end of the first season!  Speaking of which…
  • As someone who couldn’t avoid hearing and seeing tidbits of Game of Thrones throughout the years, I was always under the impression that Khaleesi was the main protagonist, seeing how the actress who plays her was on a plurality, if not majority, of the all the pictures I’d seen of the show.  Clearly she’s the most famous face- and body, *ahem*- of the show, so I was surprised at how much smaller her story was, relative to a few of the other main characters, particularly Ned Stark.  I’m guessing that her role is much bigger in season two and beyond, and the final scene seems to imply that, especially with poor ol’ Neddy out of the way.  Again, speaking of which…
  • One reason why I probably wasn’t as horrified/sad/whatever as I should have been at such a powerful scene as Ned Stark getting beheaded was because I was actually kind of expecting something like that.  Given that I could only remember seeing him in one picture, and I knew the show was (in)famous for killing off primary characters (I’ve seen the South Park parody, and been warned several times), I figured he would be cut down (literally, apparently), at some point.  I admit I was surprised at HOW early he was cut down, but it’s not like there aren’t enough other characters to follow along!
  • The Lannister storyline of lust that dare-not-speak-its-name was also something I’d heard about.  Initially, it seemed like a gratuitous shot, implying that they were depraved, soulless people, because they engaged in this act- sort of how gay characters would have been portrayed in the not-too-distant past.  I was definitely wrong about this, as it was anything but gratuitous- it simply showed just how in love with themselves they were!  From their “logic”, it makes sense- since nobody was as awesome as they were, nobody else was worthy enough to “breed” with them.  Twisted, but consistent with what we know about these characters.
  • As original as this show is, they couldn’t help but to engage in a few tired tropes, particularly as the Dancing-With-Wolves/Avatar native celebration/savagery/etc..  The romantic language was cringe-worthy, as well- “my sun, my moon, my stars, my planet, my solar system…” My GOD!  Stop it!
  • I also found it problematic that Khaleesi falls for the guy that starts out raping her.  This season was filmed in 2011, and the book written way earlier than that.  I’m guessing (hoping?) such a storyline would have been modified, had it come out today.  There were other aspects of the show that were a bit…much, but it’s hard to define that line, as the line is different for everyone.  But the Khaleesi thing?  It reminds me of a sick joke in Monty Python’s Life Of Brian- “You were raped?” “Well…at first.”  And at least that was a joke, intended to offend and sound absurd!  Sorry, I don’t think there’s a place for something like that, even for a show like this.
  • What was the deal with Khaleesi’s right-hand man?  That guy had the easiest acting job on the show.  “The Dathraki are mating with their pray.  Basically, they’re sexual Klingons.”  He seemed more like the narrator of a nature show, than a character on this show.  When Khaleesi’s brother says to him, “I see the way you look at my sister,” I thought to myself, “Really?  You do?  How does he look at your sister?  I thought he was too busy doing anthropology research on the Dathraki to look at anyone else!”
  • Oh, I almost forgot this one, probably because I was TRYING to forget- the most disturbing thing in REAL life was the kid breast-feeding off of his TV mom.  How is that even legal?  The world of child acting is shady enough to begin with- what parent says to a kid, “Hey junior- we found the perfect role for you!  Make sure you get the audition right the first time, okay?”  It wouldn’t surprise me if he screwed up the scene on purpose a few times.  I probably would, if I were that kid!  Moving to the opposite end of the spectrum…
  • I was most sad when Aria sent her dog away, after he protected her from The Dork Prince.  (See what I did there?)  I felt so bad for the pooch- he must have been so confused.  It was probably a throwaway scene for 99% of the audience out there, but not me.
  • Even a show with multiple layers often reveals consistent patterns.  In Game of Thrones, it’s clear that the writers have a soft spot for people who have gotten screwed over by life but try hard anyway, and hate- I mean REALLY hate- anyone who brags about their inherited place in the world.  Whatever evil deed gets rewarded in this universe, flaunting your family’s status isn’t one of them.
  • I’ve seen a few complaints that the SJWs got a hold of the series later on.  I guess I’ll find out for myself, but for now, I personally appreciate a show that has strong but flawed female characters, and doesn’t seem to try preaching anything- just moves the stories along, with complex characters, that can’t seem to escape their fate.
  • Jon Snow seems like a nice guy.  I doubt his buffoonish friend (“Neville” in Harry Potter’s universe) makes it, though.

This review was supposed to be short.  So much for that.  I hope you enjoyed it.

Palladium Rhapsody (lyrics only)

Palladium Rhapsody (lyrics only)

With the success of the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, and the coming apart of our financial bubble (this time, it SEEMS like the real deal, but we’ll see..), it feels like the perfect time for a song parody.  I admit to being inspired by- and also “borrowing” liberally from- the creative “Crypto Karaoke” account on YouTube.  Try this at a karaoke bar- for the 5% of the audience who get the joke, it will be worth it!  Enjoy…

Palladium Rhapsody
-Original Lyrics from Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”
-Original Parody from Crypto Karaoke’s “Blockchainian Rhapsody

Is this the real life?
Or is it fantasy?
Caught in a stock slide,
No escape from a bankruptcy.

Open your eyes,
CNBC lies, you see…
I’m just a poor boy,
But that will change instantly, because
Bull markets come, bull markets go.
Buy gold high, buy gold low.
Anywhere its price goes,
doesn’t really matter to me…to me.

Hold on…stick with the plan.
Don’t let the FED inside your head,
Though precious medals might seem dead.
Hold on, the gold bull’s just begun.
If you sell now you will throw it all away.
Hold on, ooo-woo-ooo!
The dips will make cry,
But the price will come right back this time tomorrow.
Hold on, hold on,
Because the price now doesn’t matter.

Too late.
Nasdaq’s time is done.
For years tech stocks were all buys.
Now it’s time for them to die.

Goodbye fiat money.
I’ve got medals.
There’s no need for all the brokers who steal from you.
hold on, oo-woo-oo!  (“any way the market goes”)
The fiat system’s gonna die.
Gold’s dips are your chance to go buy some more.

(guitar solo)

“I see The Federal Reserve’s brilliant plan!”
“Where’s The Proof?
Where’s The Proof?
Are They Even A Real Bank Though?”

“Markets Are All Crashing,
Trolls Are Really Bashing Me!”
“Bartiromo! Bartiromo! Bartiromo!  Bartiromo Bartiromo let me go!  (Manifico-o-o-o….)”

“I’m Just A Poor Boy,
Don’t Have Any Gold To See…”
“He’s Just A Poor Boy,
Bought Stocks For His Family.
Now He Will Pay For This Monstrosity!”

“Easy Come, Easy Go
Will You Keep Rates Low?”
J. Powell
“No!  I will Not Keep Them Low!”
“Keep Them Low!”
J. Powell
“I will Not Keep Them Low!”
“Keep Them Low!”
J. Powell
“I Will Not Keep Them Low!”
“Keep Them Low!”
“Will Not Keep Them Low!”
“Keep Them Low!”
“Will Not Keep Them Low!”
“Keep Them Low-ow-ow!”
“No no no no no no no no!”

“Oh, my Maria
My Maria
My Maria Bartiro(mo)…

The bubble popped, now why won’t you start listening to me, to me, to meeee!”

(guitar kicks in)

“So you think you can mock me, just give it a try…
as you bought all your stocks near their all time highs!
Oh, baby, get out of your stocks, baby!
Just got to get out, just got to get out of stocks here!”

“The stock price doesn’t matter,
All of you will see
The stock price doesn’t matter…
the stock price doesn’t matter…to me.”

*outro*

(“Your money should go into gold.”)

Despite All Its Problems, America Continues To Bless Colin Kaepernick

Despite All Its Problems, America Continues To Bless Colin Kaepernick

It’s hard to imagine now, but at the beginning of the current decade, Colin Kaepernick was primarily known for being a promising young quarterback.  Even then, he seemed to relish an image as something of an antihero, emerging from the ignorant noise of his loudmouth, no-nothing detractors.  This goes back at least as far as his first commercial, when a younger, much shorter-haired Kaepernick starred in a three-minute (!) spot for headphones, of all things. (Just imagine him trying to put those things on now.)  We see Kaepernick getting off a bus, as thousands of feral-like fans try to viciously shout him down.  Kaepernick, with a sense of cool not seen since The Fonz, ignores them all, stoically listening to a song titled, “I’m The Man.”  Of COURSE you are, Colin.

kapcap
Before causing trouble with his social justice crusading, Colin Kaepernick just liked to cause trouble.

At the time, this was a curious ad. Who in the ACTUAL world hated Colin Kaepernick? He was an emerging star, helping to lead his 49ers to the Superbowl in a rookie season- very marketable, and hardly the polarizing figure that this ad portrayed. Perhaps disappointed by his LACK of notoriety as his star began to fade in 2013, Kaepernick was spotted in public wearing a Miami Dolphins hat- something kind of weird for a quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers to do. Though somewhat obnoxious, it was far from the stuff of full-blown outrage. Still, there were a few 49ers diehards that took the bait, complaining about Kaepernick’s disloyalty- and, in an act of foreshadowing of much bigger things to come, disrespect. Finally, Kaepernick had his real life targets to ridicule, and ridicule them he did, posting a very sarcastic looking picture of himself holding up a Dolphins hat. Making less headlines on the field, Kaepernick seemed to relish the notoriety off the field.

103250-780x550Fast forward another three years to 2016.  Barely on the public radar by this point, Kaepernick grew his hair out, generating his off-field persona as a social justice warrior for a community that, quite honestly, he was never part of.  That’s not to say he doesn’t actually care about this community, as only he knows his true intentions- and to be fair, he has donated lots of money to causes he advocates.  (This is something ALL successful pro-athletes, entertainers, and multi-millionaires in general should do, but that’s for another discussion.)  But regardless of his intentions, the methods Kaepernick used were not exactly constructive towards advancing his newly adopted cause(s).  Rather than bring people together to try working on practical solutions, Kaepernick deliberately stirred the pot, preaching to the choir of people who already believed what he was saying, while deeply alienating those who didn’t, with an incendiary press statement about the United States.  While there are certainly plenty of issues to discuss regarding this country, including that of the troubling relationships between the police and the inner-city communities which they serve, Kaepernick’s initial statement- and this is for those who say Kaepernick’s protest is “only” about police brutality- was a far more sweeping condemnation about the country that made him a rich man, stating that he refused to “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”  (I suppose it’s also too oppressive for him to vote, as he skipped the 2016 election altogether.)  And while we’ve all spent WAY too much time already “debating” (actually, screaming at each other) about the merits and liabilities of kneeling, how about the fact that Kaepernick actually started his protest by sitting on the bench throughout the anthem?!  (It wasn’t enough for him that he’d spend the next three hours doing that?) It was only after realizing it would be better PR for him to kneel, and the rest is history.

And what about the socks controversy? Before becoming the world’s most famous shoe salesman, Kaepernick sported some rather nifty socks, showing pigs wearing police hats. Kaepernick responded with his usual eloquence- seriously, he’s a smart man- along with his typical faux indignation, lamenting this distraction from “the real issues”.  But come on- does someone as intelligent as Colin Kaepernick really not know that these socks would generate a “distraction”? It seems like a reasonable assumption that he went out of his way to purchase these statement-making socks- it’s not like they sell them at Walmart!

And hey, speaking of big, heartless corporations, enter Nike into the picture. Not afraid of exploiting controversies any more than they’re afraid to exploit third world workers- this is a company that once cynically used Tiger Woods’ infidelity to sell their products– they recruited Kaepernick to be the new face of their marketing campaign, under one of the most ironic marketing slogans in American history, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” For the sake of argument, let’s assume that everything Kaepernick stands for is pure and just, as are his motives. What exactly is he sacrificing? Already worth more than he’ll ever be able to spend in his life, Kaepernick’s unremarkable talent was simply not enough to justify the PR headache that any NFL owner surely would have had to deal with, had they signed him. Instead, he was signed by Nike, making far more than he ever would have as an (AT BEST) run-of-the-mill quarterback. And for this, he’s being compared to Muhammed Ali refusing to serve in Vietnam- or even ROSA PARKS?! Only in today’s America can this be done with a straight face, just as only in today’s America can this be consider “sacrificing everything”.

kaepernick
The American flag in the background is a nice touch.

But give credit where it’s due- Colin Kaepernick has achieved the outlaw, antihero status he longed for, probably beyond his wildest dreams, while Nike’s sales have spiked upwards. By hitching itself to his wagon, Nike made a bold but savvy move- alienating Trump’s MAGA crowd, but becoming the hero of the left- a group normally associated with being AGAINST big corporations.  Any boycott Nike will see from this PR stunt will likely be far outweighed by the sales they will generate, as early indicators seem to suggest. At the end of it all, the only “sacrifice” made will be of the Nike products that are being burned to a crisp by the misguided counter-protesters, thinking they’re making some sort of statement besides, “We’re not very intelligent.”  They’d have been far better served donating those clothes to charity, and simply stating that they’re never buying Nike again.  But that’s just not how things are done these days, in a highly politicized environment filled with venom, rancor, and silliness.

As for “The Man” Colin Kaepernick, we’ll likely never see him take another snap in the NFL again.  That’s too bad, because had he done so, he’d likely remind us of the REAL primary reason why he’s not in the NFL anymore- quite simply, he’s just not all that good.  Instead, he gets to be the martyr for a cause that he didn’t even expand beyond the base of people who already agreed with him in the first place.  No matter.  This whole thing is making Colin Kaepernick a rich(er) man, to the point where even HE will have to say, “God Bless America.”