Friday, September 22, 2017

Four things I know about the Kingsman franchise ahead of my viewing of The Golden Circle

With Kingsman: The Golden Circle ready to take on It at the box office this weekend, I thought it would be nice to do a post for all you peeps out there that don't know much about the "behind the curtains" stuff of this franchise. Namely, there's four things that I know:

1) Colin Firth wasn't supposed to be in the sequel. The popularity of the character virtually demanded it be done though, and I guess I'll know soon enough how it happens.

2) It's loosely based on "The Secret Service" comic book series by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. I've never read the comic book myself (I bet Pat Dilloway has), but I do like that it's "over-the-top" like a comic book movie. I think a lot of the spy genre stuff that's come out these days is too grounded in reality. I want to see fantasy mixed in with these super spies. Like fantastic crazy stuff...unbelievable stuff. Not a string of gun-kata martial arts maneuvers that goes on for about an hour and a half (with some dialogue dribbled here and there in a half-assed attempt at cobbling together a story).

3) Colin Firth did 80% of his own stunts. I'm really surprised at this because a lot of the stuff that his character "Harry" does is really impressive. Maybe not Tom Cruise impressive, but Tom Cruise is kinda crazy in my opinion.

4) In real life, Taron Egerton (who plays Eggsy Unwin) is scared of dogs. I actually share this phobia to some extent. I was attacked by a dog when I was eight years old. I see that dog oftentimes in my mind whenever I look at someone's pet. I feel like people don't realize how much of the "vicious animal" still remains inside their beloved family member. But it's there...always lurking.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Is epic fantasy fiction written by men just a red pill wonderland?

I think the true "Wonderland" is the internet. It's a strange place because the psychology of people is strange, and when you get so many ideas being shared, you are bound to run into anything that you can imagine and a few that you never could. One of the things that I've discovered/run into on the internet is a whole community of "Red Pillers." These are an enormous group of men who essentially co-opted the scene from the original Matrix wherein Morpheus asked Neo if he wanted to take the Red Pill or the Blue Pill. Men who are "Red Pill" are referred to by this community as being ideal men, with strong alpha masculine traits. Divorce is referred to as "wealth extraction," and liberals (because of a strong connection with modern feminism) are truly hated/loathed. Contrary to what many may think of me, I find their discussions among each other to be fascinating. Lurking under the surface of every man in this online community are extremely embittered feelings that have no outlet. To say that these men will never trust a woman again might even be an understatement. Rather, to say that these men actually have contempt is what's really going on, and the real struggle with these people seems to all center around one basic idea: how does a modern man feel masculine, powerful, and respected (sexually--it's always about sex) in settings (whether they be at bars, parties, raves, or at home having dinner) that are ultimately dominated in sexual tension. These men even have their own vocabulary consisting of words like "beta cuck." All of this rests (of course) on an underlying principle that men need to embrace in order to get around to the idea that men need fixing to begin with, and it's this: young attractive women have all the power in relationships and men are dogs begging for scraps.

It's a fascinating premise, and I have no idea if it's true or not. For some people it probably is, for others it probably isn't. Sweeping generalizations never seem to work out just right, but I've often discovered that buried within a generalization might be a shred or two of some truth. And this again may depend entirely on belief. In other words, what a person believes may actually make some thing true, which is not to say that it is "factual." I'm saying this now because "facts" and "truth" are oftentimes confused and used synonymously, but they are not the same thing. But I digress. No, what all this "red pill" stuff got me thinking about was the genre of "fantasy fiction," which is more or less dominated by "Game of Thrones" right now. But there are other examples aplenty, and I (for one) love both to write and to read fantasy fiction. It wasn't until I started to read all this "red pill" stuff online though that I truly started seeing how a lot of fantasy fiction written by men is filled with "red pill" qualities. So (for that matter) are video games like World of Warcraft and other such things.

In these fantasy worlds, which oftentimes are based in some kind of world that is similar (or borrows strongly from) the medieval periods of Europe and Asia, you can read exceptional tales of fictional lives that are literally filled to the brim with something lacking in a lot of lives: meaning and purpose. What a concept, right? In many of these stories, women (for the most part) need to be saved a lot, whether it is from rapes from monsters and other such evil creatures, or from tyrants or other such bad agencies. I suppose that a lot of fantasy (in fact) rests on the trope of good vs. evil, but even if it doesn't (such as that presented by George R.R. Martin), it does need to have constant conflict between groups (think the warring kingdoms of Westeros) because only in conflict can men really prove how masculine and mighty they are. I started to think that this may be a reason why games like World of Warcraft and the fantasy genre (typically awash with nerds) are so popular with men as are gaming and comic book conventions (which also have a greater percentage of men than they do women). In other words, I started to think that because our country is so safe (let's face it comparison to other countries the U.S. as a whole is a pretty darn uneventful place to live). To clarify, I'm not saying that the U.S. doesn't have its problems with crime and punishment, inequality, justice, etc. What I'm saying is that we are not war-torn, nor do we have a widespread problem regarding access to food and water and other such necessities. Americans for the most part, have the ability to enjoy a concept called "free time," which means that (as a society) some of us even experience boredom on a regular basis. But a side-effect of all of this free time is that a lot of young people no longer have purpose and meaning.

Enter in the epic fantasy, whether it be presented as a role-playing game, a video game, a fictional book of a thousand pages written by George R.R. Martin, or some virtual reality thing that I have never yet seen, and I suddenly realize what's going on here. It's a "red pill" dreamland. In these entertainments, men feel powerful when (I'm beginning to suspect) they don't feel powerful in real life anymore. In other worlds, in our society there's no one that really needs to be saved anymore in some "dramatic" way. There are no dragons to slay. The modern way of "saving" someone is to get a job and turn over a paycheck, which has far less appeal than raiding the horde of an ogre.

Anyway, all of this collapsed into an idea that popped into my head about why boys don't read fiction anymore (for the most part). Sure there are still some of us out here that do, but it got me to thinking that if publishers want to have boys read fiction then they're going to need to make stories wherein (when a boy reads it) he feels powerful. It sounds pathetic, right? Why do men need to feel powerful? But it is something I'd like to open for debate to see if anyone else has noticed this. In any event, we live in interesting times.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Game of Thrones animated series launches December 12 and it packs a lot of information even if the CGI is bad.

In the gulf that exists between now and whenever the final season of Game of Thrones arrives on HBO, we now have a storybook-style animated series called Game of Thrones Conquest & Rebellion. The first episode, which is about four minutes long, actually explains A LOT about Westeros that I never got from the books or from the television series. It's probably been explained by George R.R. Martin at some point in his encyclopedic books that he's put out, but I've only purchased those as gifts for other people and never for myself. It's one of the things I plan to change in the near future.

So, I watched the first episode. The animation is clunky but the narration is pretty great. It's narrated by actor Harry Lloyd whom (if you remember the first season of GoT) played Dany's brother Viserys who received a "golden crown" of death from Khal Drogo. For what it's worth, Harry Lloyd has excellent pronunciation, and I think I could listen to him for hours narrating word after word.

The whole mini-series is 45-minutes long and is available as a bonus gift for pre-ordering the Game of Thrones season 7 blu-ray. I think I'm going to just try and track the others down online and see if I can watch them.

You might be asking, what did I learn in this first four minutes that I already didn't know?

I learned a little more about the Doom that came to Valyria, and that everyone apparently could just fly around on dragons. I thought it was something that only the noble houses of Valyria could do. I also learned that the Targaryens somehow knew that the Doom was coming, and they fled ahead of it to the isle of Dragonstone. That was interesting. They brought with them the know-how to build the fortress and then Aegon and his two sisters surveyed the nation of Westeros from the sky in order to commission a gigantic map (you see it in Stanis's war room in Dragonstone). I also learned the names of the ancient great houses. I didn't know that the Starks were the oldest house. I suppose I could have put that together, but I never did. I just knew they were a powerful house and ruler of the largest kingdom of the seven (if not the most sparsely populated).

The episode is definitely worth a watch, and I've embedded it below for your convenience. Who knows? If it's popular enough maybe HBO will explore it in live action through another Game of Thrones-esque series in the same world.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The theme for Star Trek Discovery does not build into anything grand shows promise.

This is the new title theme from Star Trek: Discovery. For the record, I liked all the themes from the various Star Trek's with the exception of Enterprise. I just found the electric guitar and vocals to be too jarring for me to fall in love with the Rod Stewart-esque beginning for Enterprise. My favorite beginning is the one for Deep Space Nine. 
If you like music, you should click play and listen to the whole thing. Seriously, just do it. Here are my thoughts after having listened to it:

1) It shows promise. For Star Trek, I want the main theme to draw me into the grandeur and wonder of the world of Trek. I want to be immersed. And yes, Enterprise didn't do this for me.

2) The theme needs to be memorable. This particular one is not as beautiful as DS9 or Voyager's, but I think it'll do. It may grow on me.

3) I'm not completely sold on the trombones at about 1:58. I think they'd be better served at the beginning and not the end. Just my opinion as it is the classic Star Trek theme.

4) Does it seem to have a Game of Thrones influence from about 1:11 on? Listen and let me know.

5) Overall, it seems a little choppy. To clarify, the opening notes give way to a small ostinato which you expect to build to something but doesn't. And then the Alexander Courage fanfare (original Star Trek theme) just cuts it off. But really, it's hard to do better than Dennis McCarthy.

Now if you have time, compare the above theme to the below theme from Deep Space Nine as played by the City of Prague Philharmonic and as composed by Dennis McCarthy. Needless to say, I have always loved the DS9 theme because it has trumpets! It has power! It has majesty! Anyways...this new one is going to have to grow on me. Sigh...I suppose I'm a music snob.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Orville is basically a polished version of Star Trek minus any dignity

Dignity is probably over-rated anyway. If you disagree, you probably won't like The Orville. I, however, did end up liking it quite a bit. Living modern seems to lack all kinds of dignities these days. Even minus a president who will say anything that comes to his mind, we have a culture where it is no longer considered "crossing a line" to just ask people how much they make or spent on something (even if you don't know them), to ask them if they masturbate, or to air entire arguments between couples on Facebook (or for that matter broadcasting it on Facebook Live) So The Orville seems particularly timely because it does all of those things, refusing to back away from its crew needing to "take a piss" or from talking about a messy divorce that's broadcast over the loud speakers. Truth be told...I don't particularly like the fact that nothing is taboo in our culture anymore. For one, I kind of liked it back when people had manners and said "thank you" or used the word "please." But it is what it is, right? Maybe all the grossness of life being aired like it is on reality television is the remedy for a culture that (otherwise) might tend to glamorize life. It's the "anti-glamorization" movement so to speak. And I think it found a good representative in Seth McFarlane.

Seth is an interesting guy. A creative genius he no doubt is, but he also seems to have some incredible clout with Fox. He was the one that got Neil deGrasse Tyson's reboot miniseries of Cosmos to get made, and it doesn't surprise me that Fox clearly threw a huge budget behind The Orville (as well as giving it a coveted Sunday night air time). The powers that be seem to love Seth McFarlane. The Orville looks very slick and polished too. It has a big budget feel to it, putting to shame any Star Trek series's special effects that I've seen to date. We'll see how this fall's Star Trek: Discovery measures up. However, I have a feeling though that they'll be fairly comparable as far as visual effects go. I just hope Star Trek: Discovery is more nuanced, takes itself seriously, and has a slower pace. I miss a slower pace guys...everything these days seems to be made for people with attention deficit disorder. With The Orville, I felt a little breathless as every scene seemed to be jam-packed with action.

As far as an homage to Star Trek goes, I liked it a lot. But The Orville does go where Star Trek never did: it dared to poke fun at it's own crazy ideas. We get introduced to an invention which has the ability to create a bubble of time wherein everything else inside that bubble gets aged a hundred years. As a scientist points out...the implications are huge in that you could grow crops in a single night for a city of starving people or other similar uses. But they use it to age a banana into dust and to grow a redwood tree mixed with tardigrade DNA (so that it can survive in space without food or water) to destroy a spaceship. It works but again...without much dignity. It's funny of course. I just wonder how long they can keep it up before the slapstick becomes kind of tedious. Can you imagine the reception audiences would have given forth if the "Genesis project" had been treated with such abandon?

And this makes me beg a question to the public at large: is a theme of space any fun over a long haul when it is done tongue in cheek? Humor kills drama, and drama is the bread and butter of any traditional one hour television show. Would Law and Order have any of its impact if all the scripts were performed in such a way as to be slapstick and without dignity? I'm not sure that it would. So it'll be interesting to see how my feelings toward The Orville develop over the course of the season. Will they deepen or will I be glad to see it go?

Anyway, what did you guys think of it (if you watched it)? Are you going to continue with the show on Sunday night? Or did it just rub you the wrong way? I'm looking forward to reading your comments.

Friday, September 8, 2017

These Studio Ghibli Hayao Miyazaki prints are just stunning and I want them all.

These Studio Ghibli/Hayao Miyazaki prints are just stunning. I really want some of them, but getting things custom framed can really break the bank. I recently had one oversized picture triple matted and framed with museum quality glass and it weighed in around $800. It's totally worth it...but there's only so many of those a man can afford. And if I can't afford to get a picture framed, I might as well not even have it at all.
"Night Falls on the Spirit Realm"
The Forest Spirit
Atop the Camphor Tree
Gutiokipanja Bakery
If you are a fan of Miyazaki's work, check out the prints on THIS PAGE.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

For today's insecurity I confess that I have a bad romance for first person perspective.

Today is the first Wednesday of September, so it is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group day. As usual, I'm going to tackle the question which is:
Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn't think you'd be comfortable in??
The answer is "Yes," and I surprised myself when I wrote a story in first person. I didn't think I'd like it, and (at the time) I actually really got into it. But then with time, I fell out of love with first person. Is it okay to have a "bad romance" with first person? There are days when I'm so on board with it, and then there are days when I really can't stand it. I'm not sure what's my deal I suppose.

And it's that way when I'm reading too. For example, I loved first person in the Iron Druid series, and then I fell out of love with it and stopped reading the books. At some point, I'll probably go back to them, but by then I might be in love with first person again. Ugh. I totally don't make any sense. Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Warner Brothers is making a streaming service and a live action Teen Titans series is on the slate

I know I've railed against everything having its own streaming service, and Warner Brothers starting their own just added one more rock to the pile. It would be tempting to say that there's nothing that Warner Brothers has right now that would make me want to subscribe to their streaming service. However, at some point in 2018 it has been announced that there is going to be a live-action Teen Titans. The only actress I know who has been cast is for the role of Starfire, and that goes to Anna Diop.

Starfire was never my favorite character. However, she was pretty dang cool with orange skin, an asymmetrical costume (a lot of artists get this wrong), and the ability to channel really powerful blasts of energy through her hands. We're talking Cyclops (from the X-Men) level energy blasts...enough to level buildings or destroy other such landmarks. She also could fly, and the way she was drawn, her jet stream just kind of emitted from her hair (it sounds silly now but it actually looked pretty cool in the comic book panels). For most of the comics that I read, she was in love with Dick Grayson, a.k.a., Nightwing, a.k.a. the first Robin from the dynamic duo of Batman and Robin. She was also known as Princess Koriander, which I thought was a really nice-sounding name.

My favorite character of the Teen Titans has always been Raven. The daughter of Trigon the Terrible, she is a follower of Azar's teachings (a goddess that was killed by Trigon). Azar was basically a comic-book version of Buddha and Raven was always trying to suppress the evil that was inside her (and was of course inexplicably linked to Trigon the Terrible). Raven had some very unique powers. For one, she had a soul self that was black that she could use to carry people and things in (like a massive handbag to an alternate dimension). Anything inside that soul self was subject to her full mind control powers. In one comic book, she even had Starfire inside waiting to surprise a villain that Raven captured (and they ended up fighting in the expanse of Raven's soul). Raven could also teleport around and she (of course?) had mind control similar to Jean Grey.

With that said and out of the way, yes I'm very excited. However, I want to rant about streaming services yet one more time. This is yet another streaming service that I will have to pay for to get a single TV show. I sincerely hope that everyone trying to manage their own streaming teat is going to have negative results, forcing them to realize that it's easier and more cost-efficient to just let Netflix or Hulu handle it. I don't love paying subscriptions to a billion different streaming services (and I think there are some people who are also in my same basket of thought about this).

If anything is to blame, it's because too many people bitched about cutting the cable and wanting everything a la carte. So yeah...that's what we're getting stuck with. I think some people will figure out that when you want everything that the a la carte menu offers, it ends up costing the same as just buying it whole, but without all the hassle. In the meantime, I guess I'll just plan on going broke trying to manage streaming services.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Let's talk about all the ways Viserion and the Night King and the army of the dead can meet their end.

After Viserion's death from a magic ice javelin thrown by the Night King in the episode "Beyond the Wall," I think everyone knew that this was a game-changing moment. The shocking death aside, the fact that Viserion could make the wall crumble in upon itself with such efficiency was both beautiful and terrifying. Dragons are incredibly powerful, and I gotta say...highly unappreciated by the army of the dead. At least a living army would have experienced awe. The dead? Not so much. Anyway...I've been talking with friends (naturally) about the season finale, and here's what we came up with on the ways that Viserion might die.

1) Qyburn's scorpion (obvious).
Assuming that Gendry (the blacksmith that so conveniently showed up to run a marathon in "Beyond the Wall") can craft javelins/arrows/spears with dragon glass tips, and engineers can make one of Qyburn's scorpions...I think this is an obvious solution.

2) Melisandra of Ashai (less obvious, but really cool).
In the third episode of the seventh season, Jon Snow arrived at Dragonstone and Varys walked out to speak with Melisandre who was standing on the island's cliffs. She revealed to him that she was heading to Volantis (which is a free city in Essos that is the location of a prominent Red Temple), and she made an ominous declaration to him, "I will return, dear Spider, one last time," she said in reference to Westeros. "I have to die in this strange country, just like you." So it makes me ask, "What is so important that Melisandre would need to come back to Westeros to do that ultimately leads to her death?"

So here's the thing...and please bear with me on doesn't look like to me that Viseryon was turned into an ice dragon. He's not a "different" species, although his fiery breath weapon is now blue instead of fire-colored. But if Viseryon is in fact a dead dragon brought to life through the Night King's power, there is nothing to stop Melisandre from bringing a dead dragon back to life through the power of the Red God.

Perhaps this is the part Melisandre has yet to play in this story. I'm thinking that she comes back to the Great War at a very dire point, and that she uses the power of R'hllor to bring Viserion back to life, snapping him out of the Night King's control and allowing the dragon to turn on its former master at the last second. And this is probably how Melisandre dies too.

Priests of the Red God R'hllor revered the dragons as "fire made flesh." I can see no greater insult to the red god than to have a dragon be enslaved to serve the Great Other (in the beliefs of Melisandre's faith there are only two of ice and one of fire. The one of Ice is referred to as 'The Great Other'). Anyway, it makes sense to me that R'hllor could use his priest to wrest control of the dragon from the power of the Night King.

The Night King.
1. Arya Stark. 
I like to believe that there are reasons for everything in a well-scripted show like Game of Thrones. So why does she have a dagger made of Valyrian steel? Hmm. Was it so that she could cut Littlefinger's throat in the season finale? Or is this some profound foreshadowing? In other words...we know that White Walkers are vulnerable to Valyrian steel. The dagger also has significance in that it was promised a death (Brandon Stark) but that his mother stopped the assassination in season one. Could this also be foreshadowing? Either way you look at it, the event of arming Arya with the dagger is probably significant...more so than just using it to cut Littlefinger's throat. There are a couple of ways she might possibly be able to do this.

She might be able to use her face changing powers to get close to the Night King, although it seems unlikely she would be able to actually get a face from one of the White Walkers as they burst (inconveniently) into shards of ice upon death. But I'm not exactly sure how her powers work, so I'm going to say that it may be in the realm of possibility that this happen.

The second way Arya may kill the Night King comes from a rumor that Brandon Stark is actually the Night King (which seems to be hinted at strongly in the show). Here are two clues that this may be true.

They wear the same style of clothes.

The season finale showed the army of the dead in an aerial view that looked a lot like the Dire Wolf sigil of House Stark (as they walked past the shattered wall).

Here's how the theory goes: Bran uses time-travel abilities to go back to the moment that the Night King was created by the Children of the Forest in order to intervene, but gets trapped within the body of the zombie lord instead. So, once people figure this out (namely Arya) it seems killing Bran will kill the Night King as the two are linked somehow. In which case, Arya fulfills the death that was promised to the dagger (and thereby satisfies the god of death whom she worships).

2. A dragon kills the Night King.
Either a resurrected Viseryon brought back by Melisandre (as stated above) or one ridden by either Daenerys or by Tyrion Lannister.

3) Jon Snow kills the Night King (obvious). This showdown has been brewing from season one. The White Walkers were always Jon Snow's storyline. Now that the White Walkers are an apocalyptic force bent on destroying all of humanity...what better way to take out there king by none other than Jon Snow himself.

The Army of the Dead.
1) Dragon Fire.
Daenerys still has two dragons. If she can teach them how to dodge ice spears, they could decimate a hundred thousand soldiers pretty quickly with dragon fire (especially given that wights are flammable). The problem (of course) is keeping the Night King from shooting them down with ice javelins.

2) Thousands of arrows tipped with dragon glass arrow heads.
This is what I'd do. I'd make so many dragon glass arrow heads and train people to just shoot high in the sky and have the rain of arrows come down on the army. Fill the sky with so many that it blots out the light of the sun. I think that'd take out a lot of the army of the dead in huge swaths.

3) Kill the White Walkers.
We learned from the episode called "Beyond the Wall" that the magic of animating the dead stems/flows from the one that did the animating. A lot of the animating has been done by the Night King. Kill him and probably 90% of the army will just fall to pieces.

There are six episodes left, and they are all rumored to be of feature length (around the two hour mark). This may mean that we've got a lot of epic stuff in the works coming down the pipe from HBO. However this ends...will it be an apocalypse? or will it be a last ditch effort thrown by the living to conquer the dead? I'm sure it will be entertaining television. But it's clear to me in writing this post that the living does have many options to deal with what's coming for them. They just have to get busy and actively work to put their differences aside.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Is Game of Thrones going to end with an apocalypse?

Guys, in the Dragon and the Wolf, the season finale of the penultimate season of everyone's favorite tv show, I gotta say that I had hope. I had hope that Cersei somehow (either because Tyrion said the right things or because she had thoughts of the welfare of her unborn child) saw the light. That she recognized the threat of the army of the dead and the Night King. But when she turned around and decided to back-stab the alliance, renege on her promises, and threaten her brother Jaime (who might have just escaped King's Landing with his life), that little bit of hope I was feeling got snuffed out.

How are the living going to defeat the dead? Their army just keeps on growing, and they have an ice dragon now that took down the wall (kudos to my friend Kevin who predicted as much on my post on Friday). As a side note, I'm kinda wondering what's up with Viseryon's breath weapon. Is it fire or ice? Blue fire? Cold fire? Whatever it was, it sure made quick work of that section of the wall. And it looks pretty cool. I'm not certain why Viseryon's wings are all tattered now though (other than it looks cool that way). I'm just not sure why they would be so tattered after being pulled from the lake, but maybe all the undead knocked holes in them or something.

I'm not quite in full despair mode for the next season (rumor is that it will be two years from now with six episodes each two hours long). Here are things I really was pleased to see that give me some glimmer of hope:

1) Littlefinger's dead. I was kind of thinking that Bran was telling the Stark girls what was up with Littlefinger and making sure that they didn't fall into his trap. I was surprised when they turned the tables on him, and it felt good to see Lord Baelish finally die. At this point in the story, he was completely useless, conniving and scheming while an army of the dead was marching down on them all.

2) It was great to see (finally) that Jon is not a bastard and that his last name is Targaryen. That's going to make the last season very interesting as he's the legit heir of the iron throne. I always saw Jon and Dany sitting in King's Landing when it was all over. But now, I'm pretty much thinking that everyone is going to die. There just doesn't seem to be a way to defeat the army of the dead without Cersei (I'm thinking of Qyburn's "scorpion" invention here). They need that tech to fire dragon glass arrows at the frickin' ice dragon or they are all going to die quite fast.

This season was a pretty wild ride. The final season will soon be upon us, and I suppose the whole world will be tuning in to watch. But is it too much to ask that the world doesn't end in an apocalypse? 

Friday, August 25, 2017

We need to talk about the Beyond the Wall episode of Game of Thrones.

So let's talk about that episode of Game of Thrones that aired last week. It was called "Beyond the Wall," but there's really only one thing that anyone is talking about: the mutha-f*ckin ice dragon. My friend Jake has been yammering about an ice dragon for over a year now. He even showed me a picture of the Night King sitting on top of an ice dragon that he claimed was from this season of the show. I told him it was a fake. Now I'm not so sure. Jake seemed to think that the ice dragon would come from inside the wall itself (which I thought was ludicrous), but now that I know it's Viseryon, I kinda wish it had come from inside the wall. I kind of liked Daenerys having three dragons. I suppose if one of them needed to die, going by way of the Night King was about as epic a death as you could hope for. And boy is the Night King ever powerful. He took out that adult dragon with one throw! As a side note, I love that Drogon dodged the second throw. He's obviously learned something from Qyburn's "scorpion." So what does an Ice Dragon mean exactly? Let's think about this....
1) The Night King didn't turn Viseryon into a mindless undead. He turned him into one of them. That means that Viseryon is an intelligent undead (not mindless) and can make his own minions (just like any of the other White Walkers). It also means that he's invulnerable to anything except dragon glass and Valyrian steel.

2) The Night King can now fly around. This means that he can be everywhere just like Daenerys. One moment she's in the south where Dragonstone is and in the next moment, she's north of the wall saving Jon Snow (and the travel time between them appears to be essentially the time it takes liquid water to turn into ice at around the freezing temperature). So in the time it takes to make ice cubes in your freezer, the Night King could be anywhere he wants to be if only for that wall thing....

3) Prediction for this week: The wall is coming down. It has to. With only six episodes left in the final season, the wall as a plot device to separate the north from the south has run its purpose. Either that...or it will be rendered useless as Viseryon freezes the ocean with his breath to allow the army of the dead to walk around the damned thing. And for what it's worth, I've been frustrated that the army of the dead appears to be stopped by water. If the Night King brings the cold with him, why isn't he freezing the lakes and oceans so that his minions can walk on solid ground?

4) Second prediction for this week's season finale: Cersei dies. Her story is just about up methinks, and I don't think she's capable of allying herself with Daenerys. Jamie's going to need to take over (he's already the Kingslayer folks!), and I think he'll take Cersei out so that we can get down to business: the seven kingdoms uniting behind Daenerys and Jon Snow to fight the Night King.

5) Prediction for the final season: Viseryon will be killed by a dragon glass spear hurled from Qyburn's "scorpion" invention. That's why we were introduced to it in this season. It's an invention that will come in useful to unseat the Night King from his ice dragon mount. That is (at least) how I see it.

6) Question: Can Bran warg into an ice dragon White Walker? He's already established that he can enter the mind of a living human like Hodor. What's to stop him from taking control of Viseryon?

7) My fear: The wall will come down because Samwell makes it back to the north with Gillie and has brought the horn of winter with him. The Night King kills Samwell, takes the horn, and brings down the wall. That would be terrible. I really like Samwell Tarly. He's the only truly good person in the entire series (which unfortunately means he has a target on his back).

Anyway...I'm sure the season finale this Sunday will give us lots to speculate and talk about for sure. See you then.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The total eclipse of 2017 was the most beautiful sky I have ever seen.

I had plenty of time to reflect on the great solar eclipse of 2017. Leaving Idaho Falls, Idaho where my father still lives, it took us four hours to go fifty miles because the traffic on the interstate and every back road and highway was so clogged with people trying to drive south. Once we hit Pocatello, we drove about fifty miles per hour on average to Salt Lake City, with a few places that was bumper to bumper for miles on end (and traffic proceeding at a crawl). My friend summed it up best when she said, "Eclipse traffic is real folks." sure was. Was it worth it? Yes.

"Totality" was the most spectacular natural phenomenon I've ever seen. Just prior to it, as the sun was rapidly disappearing, there were waves of light racing across the ground, separated by dark bands. I learned later that these are called "shadow snakes," and they are incredibly rare. The sky to the west got dark and hazy, the temperature dropped, and the colors became intensified almost like a 4K television set. I'd never seen anything like it. Then (of course) the sun disappeared behind the moon and it looked like a black spot in the sky. I was in a twilight world where the only light came from the ring around the sun.

It was the most beautiful sky I have ever seen. When the sun's corona exploded into view behind the moon, it lay gently against a backdrop of midnight blue. The sky around it was filled with stars, and this midnight blue faded to a green and yellow and red on the horizon in every direction. There was a sunset no matter which way I turned, 360 degrees, and it was incredible. It was otherworldly, and the experience left me awestruck. I felt small, insignificant in the universe, and it was a good feeling because it took me away from any thoughts that I had and made me live in the moment. 

What an incredible experience, and I got to share it with my dad, my friend Meg Dolan, and some people that I work with who drove up for the event. Did anyone else take the time to watch it? Below is a picture that my boss took of it from up on a hill. He shared it with me, and it's better than anything I took.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I'm dreading the eclipse but I'm still going to try and watch it.

I've decided that I'm heading to the zone of totality for the eclipse that's scheduled to pass over the United States on Monday, August 21st. So I'll be pausing my blog until Wednesday of next week. You may wonder why this wasn't a "set" thing, and it's because I've been dreading the eclipse the more and more I hear about it. Driving there is going to be a real conundrum.

My hometown is in the zone of totality, but it's a town of only 50,000 people. And they are expecting half a million to try and drive from Salt Lake City to Idaho Falls this weekend. The local news has been saying that porta potties are going to be available on interstate 15 for the first time in history. Why? Because apparently the traffic jam is going to make Los Angeles traffic look heavenly in comparison. Reports are saying that people may run out of gas on the interstate (idling) as it were and that you should take food and extra gas tanks just in case. The trip to I.F. normally takes about three and a half hours. They are saying on the news to prepare (just in case) for something that takes twice as long.

Additionally, in my home town, the grocery stores sold out of food. Milk, groceries, bananas, you name it... Crowds hit the grocery store hard on Monday in a panic. Lines went around the block at every food outlet and gas station. All because of a solar eclipse and people questioning whether or not they will be able to get supplies.

This may be one of the worst decisions I've ever made. But I'd like to see the eclipse, and I already have glasses for it. I want to see the sun's corona live. I think it will leave me with a sense of awe. I hope it doesn't cloud out. If the weatherman says it will be obscured by cloud cover, I'm going to stay home. I bet there's a lot of pressure on the local weather people here to get the forecast for Monday just right.

Anyway, to anyone else out there that's trying to make the trip, I wish you good luck. See you on the far side of the shadow.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Five assorted musings regarding the Eastwatch episode of Game of Thrones

"Eastwatch" as envisioned by Ted Nasmith. It actually looked a lot like this in the episode last night.
This week's episode of Game of Thrones seems to have set up a pretty strong White Walker episode. And for what it's worth, it was a good episode in its own right. Here are my assorted musings that I took away from the episode (and feel like pointing out):

1) I thought for sure that Jaime Lannister had his goose cooked and drowned last week when he fell into that lake. How Bron saved him other than it being "plot armor" is beyond me. But I suppose that Bron has proven himself time and time again to be an incredibly valuable resource to the Lannisters. For what it's worth, I think that the showrunner of Game of Thrones understands George R.R. Martin very well. George typically cliffhangs something in the books, making you think that something important has happened (Arya being blind for instance). And then when the tale resumes, it's just a minor thing and resolved within a couple of minutes.

2) I was pleased to see that Drogon didn't die from a poisoned harpoon. I'm also not really sure why Tyrion and Varys are making such a big deal of Daenerys burning her enemies when they clearly chose that fate as opposed to bending the knee. I would have bent the knee immediately, but then again, I would find little honor in allowing myself to be burned alive by dragonfire. There's bravery and then there's just plain stupidity. I did like how Dickon stood with his father though. They held hands at the end. That was a nice touch.

3) I'm not sure what Jon Snow hopes to accomplish with his little band that are headed north of the wall to capture a wight and bring it down to a meeting between the queens. They may find that the magic that animates the wights doesn't work over a great distance from the Night King. I think that someone should have at least mentioned that possibility...that it might have some kind of range they don't know about. Also, it's strange that the maesters at the Citadel still have such a hard time swallowing Samwell's tale about the Night King and the army of the dead. Are learned men really that skeptical in a world where dragons are real?

4) Cersei has nothing to win by helping out Jon Snow to take on the Night King. I'm not sure why even trying to convince her that an invasion of walking dead men is real is even a strategy. If she admits that it's real, then she loses any support of locals in Westeros who will march north to fight the army of the dead with Daenerys. How does that at all solidify her position? It doesn't. It only weakens it, which means that even having a meeting with her is at best a waste of time and at worst, incredibly dangerous.

5) Littlefinger knows Arya is following him and manipulated her into finding that raven message. My guess is that it's from season one, when Sansa was forced to write to Robb to try and get him to bend the knee to King Joffrey. Splitting up Sansa and Arya (sowing doubt between them) is in Littlefinger's best interest as together, they are too strong for him.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. Do you have any assorted musings you'd like to share in the comments below?

Friday, August 11, 2017

I shouldn't have to pay to see the new Star Trek series airing this fall and yes this is a rant.

I just want to say once and for all that cord cutters, greed, and the twisted idea that monopolies are somehow inherently bad are (in the very near future) going to nickel and dime the middle class to death. A man (or a woman) should be able to subscribe to cable and get all the channels. It should be easy. That's it. Done. One bill. Yes, all monopolies are not bad people. Sometimes monopolies can get things done efficiently and with government regulation, can make it so that they aren't too powerful.

But in this country of "greed is good" where everyone is punching each other's lights out to fleece the middle class, I am now faced with the following dilemma:

1) I need to subscribe to cable so that I can watch episodes of The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Legion, Better Call Saul, Shameless, and American Gods live (as they air).

2) I need to maintain an Amazon subscription so that I can watch shows like "The Man in the High Castle."

3) I need to maintain a Hulu subscription so that I can watch shows like "The Handmaid's Tale."

4) I need to maintain a Netflix subscription so that I can watch shows like "Luke Cage" and "Jessica Jones" and "The Defenders."

5) I will need to maintain a CBS All Access subscription in order to watch "Star Trek: Discovery" this fall. This is complete bullshit by the way. I should be able to get this from CBS for free.

6) I will need to maintain a Disney subscription because they just announced that they are going to have their own streaming service and are pulling all of their stuff off Netflix. Why the hell not? Everyone else is making money with their streaming service, I'm surprised it took Disney this long. So I guess for any new Star Wars series or Indiana Jones thing or Pixar or just plain old Disney movies, I'll need to have a streaming service for it.


Everything (AND I MEAN EVERYTHING) is going to this model of pay as you go. The problem is, this will keep you on a treadmill forever. You will never get ahead with pay as you go. Ever.

/End Rant

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Here are two burning questions I have about the Spoils of War episode of Game of Thrones

This last Sunday, the fourth episode of Game of Thrones' penultimate season aired called "The Spoils of War." As episodes go, it was a really good one with (spoiler alert) a battle that "set the Guinness Book of World Records" for most people set on fire at once. The last twenty minutes or so of the episode are thoroughly entertaining. But having watched those last twenty minutes over again, I have some questions (or maybe it would be better to say "observations" that are certainly open-ended and just waiting for some answers). So, I'll share them with you:

1) Why is the harpoon chucker that got Drogon in the shoulder called a "scorpion?" A scorpion has a poisoned tail as most people know. Was the ballista harpoon poisoned with one of Qyburn's deadly cocktails? He's already demonstrated quite the skill at manipulating and recreating poisons. I can't believe that the whole parade in front of the Dornish queen in the dungeons of King's Landing was simply to showboat how Cersei intended to kill one of the Sand snakes. So, are we about to see Drogon sicken and then die? I would hate that, but she does have two more dragons, and I suppose there's an irony to being wounded in the shoulder and then dying the same as his namesake, Khal Drogo.

2) Why did Arya end up with the Valyrian steel dagger? If she was going to kill more people, she hardly needs a Valyrian steel dagger to do that. Just about any dagger will do. The thing about Valyrian steel is that it's useful against White Walkers. Guys...I think this detail in the show is important. I think we've just seem some foreshadowing that Arya is going to kill the Night King and most likely take his place as the leader of the White Walkers--a "Night Queen" as it were. What do you think?

Anyway, those are my two questions/observations I had regarding the episode. I'll be interested to see what those of you (who watched it and care to respond) have to say. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Comic artist George Rottkamp gives us a snarky look at how the characters in Game of Thrones have changed in seven seasons.

Game of Thrones season 7 is on the downhill slide to its finale now. My friend, Meg Dolan, sent me a group of comics drawn for Dorkly by artist George Rottkamp. They feature everybody from Jaime Lannister and Jon Snow to Daenerys Targaryen, and if you're a fan of the show, then you'll probably smile. It's odd to see just how the characters have changed in seven seasons, especially when taken in this kind of context.

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Dark Tower was an excellent popcorn flick. Just keep your expectations in check when you watch it.

Last night, best friend Brad Habegger and myself decided to take a portal to mid-land in search of The Dark Tower. We both had low expectations. While at dinner, we talked over how Stephen King's movies (with a few rare exceptions) are pretty terrible. We also knew that The Dark Tower was getting panned by critics because (for the most part) people were expecting a direct adaptation of the books, and the director chose to tell the story from the point of view of Jake Chambers (which isn't how it is in the books). In adapting the story to film, they chose Jake because they felt he would be more relatable to an audience (having come from Earth). And inevitably, this decision ended up angering a bunch of die-hard fans. Both Brad and I were fans of the books (he's more of a die-hard one, and I merely think they are "good" reads), but we were both pleasantly surprised. Brad even said it was "excellent," which I definitely agree with. Maybe the key here was that we went in with such low expectations there was only one way to go (and that was up). Anyway, in my viewing of the movie, it may help you to appreciate it more if I point out some obvious "Easter Eggs" which end up serving as connections to Stephen King's other works:

1) There are the remains of Pennywise's Carnival in mid-world. Pennywise is the clown from IT, which has a movie adaptation coming out in September.

2) There is a framed photo of the "Overlook Hotel" that can be glimpsed inside Jake's psychiatrist's office. The Overlook Hotel was featured prominently in Stanley Kubrik's adaptation of The Shining, which Stephen King apparently hated. Honestly, I don't think Stephen King knows what he's talking about when it comes to film adaptations of his stories. He should just stick to writing.

3) Walter O'Dim/Walter Paddick/Randall Flagg (the man in black) has a group of psychic-powered kids working on his behalf. If you remember from The Shining, the kid, Danny, had "The Shine." This term is used explicitly in this manner to draw a connection to Stanley Kubrik's film.

4) There's a shot of Roland approaching a doorway covered with a poster that was also seen in The Shawshank Redemption, which is a good film by the way. Andy Dufresne used it to cover his escape route out of the prison.

5) There's a non-rabid Cujo in the film (a huge Saint Bernard) in a shot of a street in New York City.

6) There's a tiny model car that gets pushed around that's a dead ringer for the car in Christine.

And here's an additional fact that may help you to understand what's going on in the film if you choose to go and see it:

1) Who is the Crimson King? Though you never see him, the Crimson King is the guy for whom Walter works. He is the primary antagonist of King's eight-volume Dark Tower series and the archetypical embodiment of evil. His father was King Arthur, which essentially makes him a half uncle of Roland (the Gunslinger).

Overall, I'd advise you to lower your expectations for the film, and then it will be enjoyable for you. It's a fantasy that has a lot of fun with itself, borrowing heavily from all the books except for Wizard and Glass. In particular, The Wastelands plays prominently in this adaptation. So having enjoyed the film, I guess I'm now in "wait and see" mode, wondering just own on earth they are going to make a television series for it this fall (based on the movie). I mean, the movie did have a pretty complete story arc. I guess we'll all see when it happens.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The IWSG post for August 2017 is all about the pet peeves.

It's Insecure Writer's Support Group time again. If you want to know more about this blog fest started by sci-fi author, Alex Cavanaugh, go HERE.

Here is the August 2nd Question: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

1) In reading, it's just having to read something that isn't interesting to me. And I'm not even sure if I can tell you what is interesting and what isn't. There's more (or less) a feeling that comes over me that "this is going to be good." If I don't get that feeling, I usually read to about page 75 or 100 to try and see if it develops. When it doesn't, I feel like I've wasted my time. So yeah, that's my pet peeve with reading.

2) In writing, my pet peeve is forgetting details about characters and plot. I should have a better memory. But then again, I forget how to spell words that I swore to myself (when I was in high school) that I'd never get wrong. Growing older is like having micro insults sneak up and pepper your ego by taking away small things that you used to take for granted. Over time, I'm sure they all add up to one big thing (but thankfully that's still a few decades down the road).

3) In editing, my pet peeve is getting bored with my own writing. At this stage, I've probably gone over the same words a dozen times, but I know that there's still more I can do. The tedium sets in and then I start looking for distractions. Eventually, I get the job done, but not without thorough procrastination. It's definitely a pet peeve. I applaud you writers who have the discipline of a Shao Lin monk. You are amazing, and you definitely deserve all the buckets of money that you make at your career.

Thanks for coming by, and I hope you liked my list of pet peeves :). 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Dunkirk left me a little shell-shocked which is to say that it's an incredible film.

What to say about Dunkirk?

I really knew nothing about this part of history going into the movie. I decided to go and watch it in IMAX, because Christopher Nolan never half-asses anything and I knew that if this film was going to be released in IMAX, that it would be filmed for that particular screen in the highest definition film possible. That's just how Christopher Nolan does things. The effect was visceral, explosive, thrilling, and got me so emotionally invested in this film that I want to see it again.

And this it a movie?...was so different from anything else I have ever seen that it felt more like an experience to me. You know how you can go to Harry Potter world and get your own Harry Potter experience with magic wands that light things up? You know how you can go to Disney World now and visit Pandora? It felt a lot like that.

There are no main characters in Dunkirk. I actually don't recall anything except for one boy's name who was in a lot of the scenes, but he certainly didn't have any more dialogue than anyone else. I know Kenneth Branagh was there looking amazing in his English navy uniform. Harry Styles was there too (playing a French soldier) along with Cilian Murphy and Tom Hardy (Christopher Nolan regulars). The really weird thing is, I felt like I was there too. About the only thing that breaks the notion of me being there is the presence of the music...a masterful soundtrack by composer Hans Zimmer. I realize that in real life, there's no soundtrack following me around adding tension or romance to scenes, but if that kind of thing did exist it wouldn't be a bad choice to go with Hans Zimmer. The man knows how to score a scene (even the really long ones).

I think Dunkirk is visual poetry. It's taking an event and presenting it with all of its chaos and inter-moving parts and characters, somehow throwing it all into a mixing bowl, and then laying it out again yet somehow it all works. Despite not knowing any of the characters backstory or their names, I found that I cared what happened to them. Nolan made me believe that the ships that kept getting sunk by the German planes were so real that I felt a little shell shock. As brave soldiers died by getting trapped in sinking hulls, I felt the same tension in my lungs (and the longing for a breath of air) if just for a moment. Somehow...Nolan was able to connect with me (and others in the theater) to form a strange empathy with all of us to the point that I don't think there was a single person present that had any other thoughts except the story.

Dunkirk (at least for me) captured 100% of my attention.

If you haven't seen it, you really should go. Pay for an IMAX ticket. It's worth the price.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Dark Matter on SyFy is actually a really good science fiction space opera that you should be watching.

Dark Matter is actually a pretty good show. I've been a fan for some time now, but when I first watched, I admit that I was skeptical. How would six total strangers waking up with no memory of who they are even end up somewhere remotely fun? I guess my imagination just didn't see a future for it. It didn't see the "humanity in the future" potential that it currently is. So boy, was I wrong.

I love every episode that involves time travel, groundhog day, and being in the past. The Yoshida as emperor arc was really interesting. They've even got a character now that has lost her corporeal body and exists entirely within the matrix of the ship's computer database. Oh and "The Blink Drive" is really cool. And let's not forget that the crew of the Raza has duplicates now from another dimension. The list goes on and on for the wonderful things that the show's creators are bringing to SyFy on a regular basis. If I had to describe it to a roleplayer from the eighties and nineties, I'd say, "It's like 'Shadowrun' in space, but without magic."

If you haven't gotten into the show yet, most of the early episodes rotate around the afore-mentioned self-discovery theme, which can get kind of boring. The real magic started to happen when the show's characters learned about who they were, and then we get to watch as they like less and less of themselves or their ship mates (as a result).

Another thing that I continue to like about the show is that the Raza set looks amazing. And, it's not an "aliens of the week" kind of show that Star Trek oftentimes found itself in. Sure, there are a few stereotypes...the Asian swordmaster comes to mind. But the writing is really solid and the actors are some of the best I've seen in years. It kind of reminds me of the way I felt about Battlestar Galactica about a decade ago.

I think the whole first season is on Netflix, and if you are looking for a great show to watch I highly recommend that you set aside time and just binge. Also, this is not a "people in a bottle" series, which you can easily get confused into thinking that it is. Stick with it, and you shall be rewarded.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The new Spider-Man cartoon on Disney XD has a vaguely modernized 1980's vibe to it.

I think I'm gonna have to start watching the new Spider-Man cartoon that's coming to Disney XD on August 19th. Below is one of the shorts they've released. It's engineered at getting his origin story out of the way so that they can just go straight to adventuring (a splendid idea since most everyone that even likes Spider-man knows how he got his powers).

Given Disney's deep pockets, I am a little bit dismayed that this animation looks only marginally better than the Avengers and Hulk cartoons...meaning that it looks like it has a budget to rival the cost of a Wendy's value meal. But, I guess I could always give it one or two episodes and if the writing matches the animation, then stop watching. One criticism that I have with the animation is that there's little to no shading. That's something any artist learns pretty quickly in art school (of any kind). For some it just comes naturally. Shading in animation must be hard. However, there is one thing I kinda do like about the animation: it has a vaguely modernized 1980's vibe that reminds me of old Dungeons and Dragons cartoons.

But maybe that's a bad thing.... Oh nostalgia, thou art so powerful.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Was Brandon Stark in control of Nymeria in Game of Thrones' Stormborn?

In "Stormborn," the second episode of Game of Thrones seventh season, the most interesting occurrence might have happened in the woods with no one around but Arya. The scene unfolded like thus: Arya was by a campfire, her horse tethered to a tree or bush slightly behind her, when it became clear that the horse was becoming more and more agitated. Wolves started to show up, and they circled her as if guided by something that had commanded them into some kind of formation.

Before too long, a giant dire wolf showed up. All of us jumped to the conclusion that this was Nymeria, Arya's long lost wolf from season one episode 2, when she was forced to chase it into the woods to avoid a killing by order of the Queen (for having bit Joffrey). Sansa's wolf (still a pup) was put down and suffered the fate that was intended for Nymeria. I'd long wondered if that wolf had some part to play, and I suppose with its introduction, the writers are saying that it definitely does.

Arya of course, tried to talk to the wolf to get it to recognize her. She said, "Nymeria, it's me, Arya." And the wolf seemed to recognize her because it left along with its pack of much smaller wolves. Arya wanted Nymeria to follow her to the north, and there was disappointment at first as the dire wolf left. However, then there was something that I didn't quite understand that happened. I had to watch it twice to be sure. Arya says, "That wasn't you." Then she has this look of understanding that crosses her face.

I think what happened is that Arya has spent so much time in the presence of followers of the Many-Faced God that she believes she saw something in Nymeria's eyes. I think that person was Brandon Stark, who is now south of the wall, probably feeling safe, and exploring the world through his warging/three-eyed raven powers. I think Bran saw Arya through the wolf's eyes, and she recognized him. Maybe not enough to put a name to it, but it certainly would explain the wolf formation and the absolute command that the dire wolf seemed to have over its pack.

Anyway, this is just a theory (one of my own that's not from the internet). But it's just possible that we saw how Brandon expects to use his power to help out his family.

What do you guys think?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

People who I would consider marginalized by society love Cersei Lannister and I find that horrifying.

I've been noticing a strange phenomenon since the season 7 premiere of HBO's Game of Thrones this weekend: people whom I would consider "marginalized" are professing love for Cersei Lannister. Before I get into that, let me define "marginalized" and what it means for me. They are people who harbor bitter attitudes just beneath the surface (regarding their poverty, sexual currency, or overall lot in life). In my experience, marginalized people blame everything BUT themselves for any of their failures. Just to be clear...I'm not saying that society hasn't put its foot on the backs of these people. But in my life's wisdom, there's usually a combination of things that lead a person into a downward spiral of "bottoming out," and one of them certainly can be racism, prejudice, or other ills created and spread by society. But that is also (rarely) the only thing that's going on. But why the bitterness? Well...when you grow up being told that you are a special unique snowflake, and it doesn't turn out that way (rather, maybe the opposite ends up being true) then it's easy to see why some people might be bitter about that. The rub is that (as adults) we can't show our bitterness unless we want to have no friends at all. So people learn coping skills to hide all that bitterness and rage beneath a shallow smile so that (to most onlookers) they appear like a normal human being.

Anyway, all of the above is old news to anyone that has gotten to know a decent sample size of the human race. The adult lot is full of "disappointed dreamers" who feel emotionally (and perhaps socially) castrated and unappreciated for their greatness. What I find interesting though, is how many of them identify with the character of Cersei Lannister, perhaps one of the most notorious psychopaths in fiction. Not only that, but they admire her for her strength and dedication. When I found this out through several conversations, I was horrified and fascinated at the same time. Their reaction to my horror was priceless, because many of them didn't think it was bad to have admiration for a mass murderer. Another interesting fact: all of my samples are liberals. Yeah. These are people who want free health care for all, universal basic income for all, feel that the world would be a better place if love was everywhere and everyone had multiple sex partners and could stay stoned/high all the time so that there was only pleasure and no pain. Yes...these same people profess admiration for a woman that burned all of her enemies alive in wildfire and destroyed the entire Sept of Balor (the Westerosi equivalent of Vatican city). I was floored.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Cersei Lannister, she's a Machiavellian ruler who has stopped at nothing when it comes to seizing her throne. Her last living child even committed suicide because of the horrors that Cersei inflicted, and she hardly batted an eyelash. She even twisted his actions saying, "He betrayed me," as if in those three words it was completely okay that your son committed suicide by throwing himself to his death. If the murdering wasn't bad enough, she's tortured people to death or given them over as rewards to undead monsters to rape and enjoy, and she's had an incestuous relationship with her brother her entire life (while married to the king whom she cuckolded gladly). The list of her horrible traits is a mile long, and I thought for sure that there was nothing to admire there. Yet, it seems, if you are feeling "oppressed" in any way, she's probably the character you like most.

It makes me wonder why. The answer may be simple: oppressed people like Cersei because they wish that they could do what Cersei did to her enemies. And that single thought terrifies me. It's made me look at these liberal "friends" in a different light and made me realize, "Hey...I have different values than these people. There's no way I could do the things that Cersei Lannister has done. I'm just not that kind of person."

There's so much anger and hatred in this country that it feels like it's oozing through the polite cracks everywhere. I saw it on the political right first, but now I'm seeing it on the political left as well. It's been a real wake-up call, and it makes me worried for the future. I suppose a television series like Game of Thrones really does have something for everyone, and it should be a reminder to us all that evil makes a flower bed of anger and grows quite nicely if it is ignored.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Here are my thoughts on the season 7 premiere of Game of Thrones.

I loved the season 7 premiere of Game of Thrones last night on HBO. But there are a few things that bug me with the gap in time between seasons. I mean obviously...there has to have been some time (a month maybe) for Daenerys to sail to Dragonstone with her fleet. If I'm being generous...perhaps three months at sea? So in that time I'm expected to swallow a few of the following (which I did...but I'm kind of complaining about the time compression here):

1) Euron Greyjoy built a thousand ships. Yara and Theon stole all of Euron's good ships, so he had his men go about building more. It seems to me that a thousand ships would be a tall order. They sure as hell slapped those suckers together fast. I mean...the Iron Folk are experts at sailing, but it just makes me wonder how they could put together so many ships in so little time.

2) How did Jorah get all the way to Old Town? I suppose he left Daenerys in the desert so there was enough time that passed. But why did he go to Old Town? I thought for sure he'd go back to the woman that wore the veil in front of her face that we met in season two that said she knew of a cure for greyscale (Jorah's disease). It's disturbing how much of it has progressed, by the way.

3) Why is Jaime Lannister not furious with Cersei? I didn't expect the banter between them to go with such civility. I mean she's a psychopathic murderer whose directly responsible for one of his son's deaths. I don't know why he didn't just strangle the life out of her in last night's episode.

Now onto some assorted musings about the premiere:

1) The White Walkers have undead giants. I wasn't expecting that, and it was a nice touch. Mark my word...before it is all over, Lady Mormont will kill one of those single-handedly.

2) Euron had the balls to mock Jaime Lannister in the throne room in front of Cersei. "I have two good hands." That was hilarious.

3) The Hound has really won me over as someone that has a good heart. I never expected that of him. He has a tremendous amount of empathy for the small folk, and he's swiftly becoming a favorite character.

What about you? Any assorted musings you'd care to share from your watching of the "most-watched television series of all time?"

Friday, July 14, 2017

These are the four shows I'm most interested in watching during Shark Week 2017.

On July 23rd, Shark Week 2017 takes off, and I've already got the schedule of the shows I'm going to watch. There are 18 programs in total that will air on Discovery channel. Below are the details of the four I'm most interested in (and they air early in the week):

Sunday, July 23rd
Great White Shark Serial Killer Lives: Shark experts Ralph Collier and Cal Lutheran, using satellite tags and DNA technology, think that the same great white returns again and again to a certain beach in California to attack people. This interests me simply because I've long suspected that great white sharks are diabolically intelligent.

Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs. Great White: Michael Phelps with 23 Olympic gold medals under his belt takes on a great white shark in a race that he's probably going to lose, but it will still be entertaining as hell.

Shark-Croc Showdown: Of course this is happening in of the 14-foot crocodiles. Anyway, this promises to show what happens when 14-foot crocodiles move into shark infested waters.

Monday, July 24th
Return to the Isle of Jaws: Divers and scientists seek to unlock the mysteries of the new great white hot spot just south of Western Australia. The episode promises a discovery that's 1) startling and 2) will make everyone rethink everything we thought we knew about great whites.

There are a few others peppered here and there that sound kind of interesting. I most likely will be checking them out simply because there aren't a whole lot of options available on television in the summer. Anyway, are any of you planning on watching "Shark Week 2017?"

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Here are my six predictions for season seven of Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones resumes its march toward oblivion with the season 7 premiere this Sunday. To say that I'm excited is to understate things quite a bit. I've waited years for this story to finish, and I'm finally going to begin to see who are the best players to win the throne and how on earth are the survivors going to deal with the White Walkers and the Night's King. Here are my predictions:

1) Cersei will die by Jaime Lannister's hands. Part of this is simply because George R.R. Martin (if anything) is unpredictable. But he's so unpredictable that he's kind of become predictable. There's lots of foreshadowing that Tyrion is probably going to kill Cersei. I don't think that's how things will shake out, because that would be predictable. With that in mind, I think Jaime will strangle Cersei to death (remember the prophecy of the fortune teller in season five?), mostly because in the books he's clearly appalled at the monster Cersei has become, and I think that will carry forth into the show as well. He already viewed her with disgust after returning to King's Landing and seeing what she had done to destroy the Sept of Balor. Additionally, it's well within his right to say that Cersei's actions to destroy the Sept of Balor directly resulted in Tommen's death (Jaime's son). Honestly, it's not much of a stretch to go from "Kingslayer" to "Kinslayer." After all, Tyrion did it first.

2) Sansa will turn against Jon probably because of Littlefinger. Sansa is an unpopular main character. I for one will freely admit that I've found her chapters in George's books to be tedious. She's only become interesting in the last couple of seasons. I also think that she's a little bit resentful that she saved Jon's life by soliciting the Knights of the Vale to come to his aid in order to take Winterfell. Without them, Ramsay would have won and everyone would have been dead. Instead they all called Jon, "The King in the North." In her own words, Sophie Turner (the actress that plays Sansa) has said, "Sansa looks at Littlefinger knowing that he would have put her as Queen in the North and given her the credit she deserved." That's kind of a powerful motivation to turn against Jon Snow if ever I heard of one.

3)  Samwell Tarley will discover the key to defeating the Night's King. I predict it will be in the Oldtown library that he reached last season.

4)  The Wall will come down. I think that Samwell Tarley is carrying the Horn of Joramun around and doesn't know it, and that Euron Greyjoy will sack Oldtown and take it from Samwell to use it as a bargaining chip with the Night's King. The Night's King (of course) then uses it to destroy the Wall.

5)  Arya will kill Littlefinger. She's a face-shifting assassin these days. It wouldn't be much of a stretch to pull this feat off.

6) The Hound kills his undead brother The Mountain. They call this the "Cleganebowl." But seriously...why else would we keep the Hound alive if it wasn't for this?

That's it for my predictions. Do you have any?