Jon Snow And J.R.

Today we’re killing time before the first episode of the new season of Game of Thrones airs.  Between now and then we’ll probably watch a few of last season’s final episodes to make sure we are fully caught up and current on the characters, but we’ll tune in without fail to see if there is a big reveal on Jon Snow.  Could he somehow, some way, perhaps with the aid of his direwolf Ghost — might turn out to be aptly named, eh? — survive the brutal, literal stab in the back attack by his brothers on the Night’s Watch?

jon-snowI can’t think of a TV show that has has the same kind of pre-season anticipation since the Dallas “Who Shot J.R.?” controversy back in the 1980.  For those who didn’t watch Dallas back then, the controversy was not only who shot the despicable but roguishly charming J.R. Ewing, but also whether J.R. would survive.  Since Larry Hagman was the star of that incredibly popular show, however, everybody figured J.R. would pull through, so the big question was who shot him — not an easy call since J.R. had managed to cheat, outmaneuver, embarrass and humiliate pretty much everybody on the show.

The Game of Thrones cliffhanger is of a different kind, of course, because it’s been clear since the outset that major characters are routinely knocked off — the Stark clan alone has been decimated — but also because there are so many other rich plot threads left dangling.  So Jon Snow could easily be dead and gone, with no more muss or fuss, but there’s lot of other things to wonder about.  Will we get to see Sansa Stark knock off the horrendous Bolton Bastard — hopefully in painful, bloody, graphic fashion?  What about Daenerys, and Tyrion Lannister, and the dragons?  What the heck are Bran Stark and Hodor and the frog-eaters doing north of the wall?  And I’ll be happy just to see any screen time for my favorite character, Arya Stark.

Game of Thrones has become quite the phenomenon.  Who would have thought that a fantasy TV show would develop such a rabid following?

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Furniture Facelift

IMG_0909We’ve had the same patio furniture for a long time.  It’s durable and comfortable wrought iron, and all it needs every once in a while is a touch-up with some spray paint.  Today was the day.  OK, we’re ready — bring on the sunshine and the 70s!

The Crossing

Sometime in the very near future, the world will witness something that has never before happened in the history of homo sapiens:  the number of people 65 and older will be larger than the number of children under the age of 5.

Demographic experts call it “the crossing.”  It’s the point at which the upward moving line on the age chart representing people 65 and up crosses the declining line representing children under the age of 5.  The result is like a big X on a graph, because once the crossing occurs, those two trend lines are forecast to continue until, by 2050, the number of senior citizens will be more than double the number of young children.

census_bureau-chart-65_and_older-under_5-1Why is this happening?  The old age part is the easiest to explain:  advances in medicine and treatment of disease are allowing people to live much, much longer than they ever have before.  We’re routinely setting records on life expectancy and the number of people who have lived past 90 and even 100.

The other line on the graph, though, isn’t so readily explained.  In some countries, people are just having fewer children, or no children at all.  This isn’t a worldwide phenomenon, but one that has focused on certain “first-world” countries.  Japan, the European countries, and Canada are all among the oldest countries in the world.  In Japan, 26.6 percent of the population already is over age 65.

It’s not hard to foresee the serious challenges posed by these long-term trends.  Without young people in the demographic pipeline to grow up, get jobs, and contribute their tax dollars, it’s hard to see how the social welfare model can be sustained.  The health care and retirement payment costs of a growing number of elderly ultimately will overwhelm the tax contributions of a shrinking number of workers.  And eventually, old people do die — which means that the “old” countries will soon become much less populated countries.  What will it mean to Japanese culture and the Japanese social model and, for that matter, Japanese influence on the world stage when that country’s population is but a fraction of its current size?

One other thing about demographic trends — they’re not readily reversed.  We’ve been moving toward “the crossing” for decades, and soon it will be here.  Get used to seeing a lot of gray hair in the world, folks.