Fiddling With The Murk

The most recent episode of Game of Thrones featured an epic battle, but the presentation was so dark and murky that I felt like I was missing a lot of what was happening.  Hey, is that dragons tussling in a dim, inky cloud of ashes, or . . . what?  How in the devil is Arya running through a pitch-black tunnel?  I think that’s Sam screeching under the onslaught of the undead, but everything is so muddled maybe it’s not.  And am I supposed to be able to see the expression on Jon Snow’s face as he stands in the darkness, backlit by some feeble flames?

game-of-thrones-s08e03-759I couldn’t believe that HBO would air an episode of its top-rated show that was so difficult to see, so I decided the fault had to lie with the specific settings on my TV.  The TV is years old, I’ve long since misplaced the owner’s manual, and I haven’t tried to adjust the settings in as long as I can remember.  That meant just looking at the buttons on the TV remote — as opposed to the cable remote — to try to figure out which ones might change the video quality so I could rewatch the episode and hope to actually see what was happening.

There was a tiny button at the bottom of the remote marked “pict” that I figured probably referred to “picture” and not to Scotland’s first people, so I pushed that and saw that the options were things like “sports,” “custom,” “theater,” and “vivid.”  I have no idea what the different settings meant, but “vivid” at least sounded like it could help me decipher what was happening in the HBO murk, so I chose that.  But it seemed like there had to be a way to address the brightness of the picture, specifically, so I kept searching.  Another button labeled “menu” seemed promising, and I found that it included “brightness” and “contrast” and other options, so I cranked the brightness up to 100 and adjusted the contrast up to about 85, and then settled back to rewatch the GOT episode.

Alas, it didn’t really help — I was just seeing some lighter murkiness and was still struggling to determine exactly what was happening in all that blurry blackness.  And when I switched over to regular TV, I saw that my adjustments had really messed with the screen so that, for example, I had somehow cut off the bottom of the picture in sports broadcasts where the score is displayed.  How did that happen?  So I found another button that allowed me to shift everything back to the original factory settings, and found that that fixed everything — except the picture quality on the GOT episode.

Oh, well . . . I guess the Battle of Winterfell was just meant to be an exploration of darkness in the world.

Estate Planning Lessons From . . . Game Of Thrones?

With the first episode of the new, and final, season of Game of Thrones set to air tonight, everyone’s trying to horn in on the buzz of the show and the excitement of the fans who want to see what happens to the bloody island of Westeros.

5imy29fw-720Don’t believe me?  Exhibit A is this clickbait article from the wealthmanagement.com website for financial planners entitled Eighteen Estate Planning Lessons from “Game of Thrones.”  Here’s an example of one of the “lessons”:  Daenerys Targaryen demonstrates that you should “take inventory of your clients’ assets” when helping them plan for retirement.  In case you’re wondering, apparently a British financial has actually tried to value Daenerys’ army of Dothraki, Unsullied, and three — wait, scratch that, two — dragons and has concluded that she’s got several hundred million in assets to account for in her estate planning.  Other estate planning advice tied — in some cases, pretty loosely — to the GOT plot includes don’t rely on do-it-yourself wills and thinking about how to provide for your descendants beyond simply having a will.

If you’re a big Game Of Thrones fan who’s been ruminating about estate planning, it’s clearly the perfect article for you.  Of course, the biggest estate planning advice you can draw from GOT is to get the heck out of Westeros, so that your estate planning efforts, whatever they may be, aren’t immediately triggered by your untimely death at the hands of a murderous and sadistic bastard son who you stupidly decided to legitimize, turncoat allies, scheming witches, giants, or white walkers.

It’s pretty amazing how Game of Thrones has pervaded American culture these days.  What’s next?  18 Game of Thrones lessons on diplomacy?  18 Game of Thrones lessons on child development?  18 Game of Thrones lessons on how to buy a used car?

 

 

Pooling The Game

Well, the NCAA Tournament is over, and your annual foray into gambling with your officemates has ended — in abject failure, as usual.  You’re feeling a bit wistful about it.  In fact, you acknowledge, you don’t really care all that much about the money element of the office pool — it’s the social interaction, and the trash talking, and the possibility of getting bragging rights, that’s the real attraction.  It’s been fun following your brackets and talking to your friends about how you’re doing, and you’ll miss that.

hand-of-the-king-pin-replicaSo how about scratching that itch by getting together with your friends and combining the concepts of office NCAA pool, fantasy sports league, and everyone’s favorite big-budget quasi-medieval/sword-and-sorcery/dungeons-and-dragons HBO show?  Except, unlike the NCAA pool where you’re trying to pick winners of basketball games, in this pool you’re trying to select the characters who are most likely to get killed and earn your team valuable points.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to the Game of Thrones Death Pool.

It’s straightforward.  Identify fellow rabid fans of the show, figure out how many of your pals will be in the pool, and set a time for your draft.  Come up with a list of characters (there’s a lot of them, by the way).  Figure out what you’re going to kick into the kitty and how you’re going to allocate the money — whether it’s after each episode, or at the end of the season, or both.  Decide how many rounds the draft will go.  Prepare a grid that people can use to keep track of who’s drafted whom, and appoint a commissioner — being a Game of Thrones pool, perhaps Archmaester or High Septon is a better title — who will keep track of the scoring, provide a brief recap, and let players draft from the list of remaining (and new) characters to replenish their roster and replace the characters who’ve been killed.

And then get together with your friends, have your draft, and enjoy an adult beverage or three while you’re deciding whether Brienne of Tarth is more likely to get knocked off early in the season than, say, Varys or The Mountain.  There’s some strategy and skill involved, because even if you’re reasonably sure that a character is going to get rubbed out at some point — like, for example, Cersei — if you think they’ll last through the first few episodes you might want to hold off on drafting them in favor of a more minor character that could easily meet their maker in an earlier episode.

We had our Game of Thrones Death Pool draft last night, and it was a lot of fun.  We each are kicking in $45, points and money will be allocated after each episode and at the end of the season, and the ultimate winner will get an authentic knock-off Hand of the King pin purchased from Amazon.  There were five of us, and we had five rounds in the draft.  I drafted second and am pretty happy with my team, which consists of Melisandre, Qyburn, Baric Dondarrion, Yohn Royce, and Gilly.

Let the GOT Death Pool begin!

The GOT Countdown

On April 14, HBO will broadcast the first episode of Season 8, the final season of Game of Thrones.  All dedicated, borderline-obsessed GOT fans will then have the chance to savor six new episodes that will wrap up the TV version of the story of the Targaryens, Lannisters, and Starks.  (Don’t even get me started on when we might get the next installment of George R.R. Martin’s book series that launched the TV show, which has been the subject of almost as much speculation as the Mueller Report.)

jon_snow_and_daenerys_targaryen_got_png_by_nickelbackloverxoxox_dcrioxu-preI’m interested in seeing exactly how the story comes out, of course.  (Hey, I sure hope the living somehow defeat the Night King and his Army of the Dead!)  Mostly, though, I’m just curious about who is going to even survive until the story’s end.  There are so many characters on the show it’s hard to remember and list all of them, as we realized when we were talking about the show with friends over the weekend.  (Don’t forget Grey Worm, or Tormund Giantsbane, or Podrick Payne, or Eddison Tollett of the Night’s Watch!)  And one thing has been clear about Game of Thrones from the beginning, whether you’re talking about the books or the TV show — even leading characters get knocked off with Grim Reaper-like regularity.  And since it’s the last season, I’m guessing we can expect a real bloodbath, and maybe a colossal battle or two in which multiple characters that have gotten a lot of screen time get mowed down.

Because it’s clear that many characters are going to be stabbed, hacked, hung, immolated by dragons, poisoned, or have their throats deftly cut by Arya Stark, I find myself putting the characters into death-related categories.  There are the characters that need to get killed to satisfy the bloodlust of the viewing audience (Cersei Lannister, Euron Greyjoy, the Mountain, and Qyburn, Cersei’s evil wizard/chemist/mad scientist), characters that you know are going to bite it at some point, but at least are likely to die in heroic fashion (Beric Dondarrion, Brienne of Tarth, Ser Jorah Mormont, Varys, Theon Greyjoy, and probably Gendry, King Robert’s hammer-wielding bastard son), and characters that you would be really angry to see get killed but you know deep in your heart that it could happen because the show likes to throw shockers at you (Tyrion Lannister and Arya Stark).  There are characters that you don’t want to get killed but, if they must, you hope that they get some richly deserved revenge first (Asha Greyjoy and the Hound).  But what about the Khaleesi?  Jon Snow?  Sansa Stark?  Missandei?  Ser Davos Seaworth, my favorite?  Creepy white-eyed Bran?

One of the great things about Game of Thrones is its utter unpredictability, from the point Ned Stark got beheaded through the Red Wedding to the present.  And we’ve got less than three weeks to go before we start finding out.

The [Insert Noun Here] At [Insert Location]

The other day I was driving through southern Pennsylvania when I saw a billboard for one of those condominium/retirement community developments.  The name of the place was “The Views at Bridgewater.”  What kind of views, I wondered?  I didn’t know, and I wasn’t going to stop to find out.  But I did notice, once again, what seems to be an alarmingly ubiquitous trend in naming new real estate projects.

english_word_22the22In the old days, a developer would have simply called the new project “Bridgewater,” but at some point a marketing genius decided that adding “the” and a one-word description would be much more attractive to potential buyers.  Maybe using the specifying “the” is thought to give the development a more distinctive feel.  Whatever the reason, this same naming convention seems to have been adopted by every real estate developer in America.  It’s always “The” followed by a noun identifying a physical feature followed by “at” followed by a location.  So, if somebody were to develop a condo project in the Westeros world of Game of Thrones, it inevitably would have a name like “The Walls at Casterly Rock” or “The Cliffs at Dragonstone.”  And if this naming convention had been developed before Seinfeld was broadcast, his parents would have lived in “The Units at Del Boca Vista” instead.

And just as disturbingly ubiquitous is the overuse of periods in advertising real estate developments.  Every “mixed use” development seems to feature “Live.  Work.  Play.” somewhere in its brochures and billboards.  Why the periods, rather than commas?  Probably because somebody did tests with a focus group, and decided that periods were more definitive and therefore more compelling.

Do these marketing approaches work with the average American?  They must, because they’re everywhere.  English teachers undoubtedly cringe at the overuse of one-word sentences, but at the same time feel a certain welling sense of pride that words and punctuation can be the difference between a successful real estate venture and an outright failure.

As for me, I’ll just continue to “Breathe.  Eat.  Blog.” here at “The Brickwork at German Village.”

Immersion, Or Calculated Exposure

The other day someone asked why I wasn’t writing more about the latest episode in the ongoing Trump Administration Train Wreck in Washington, D.C.  I’m not sure exactly which deplorable event triggered the question — and I guess that’s the problem, isn’t it?

There are so many appalling, clumsy, bumbling, disgraceful, weird, inept, and dispiriting things happening in Washington, D.C. and the country these days that you could write about the misadventures of the President and his ever-changing team all day, every day.  And some people pretty much do exactly that.  They’ve become immersed in the failures and struggles and cheap insults and ill-advised statements and revel in addressing them and talking about them.

Then there are those of us, like me, who just don’t have limitless capacity for outrage and who like to think there is more to their lives than President Twitter.  I care about what’s happening, of course, but with everything else I’ve got going right now I just can’t deal with it 24 hours a day.  I don’t want the fact that Donald Trump is the President of the United States to permanently change my personality, or my outlook on life, or my relations with family, friends, and colleagues.  So I’m going with the calculated exposure approach.  I’ll try to keep track of the latest firestorm, but when it comes to really engaging with things I’m going to pick my spots.

We had some friends over on Saturday night, and as the evening ended I found myself thinking how great it was that HBO is airing the new season of Game of Thrones right now.  Why?  Because it gives us safe, neutral ground for talking about something other than Trump and politics.  Because it seems like pretty much everybody is watching the show, you can have an enjoyable conversation about most hated characters or best battle scenes or regrettable deaths, and nobody is going to get really angry because you identify Ser Davos Seaworth rather than Arya Stark as your favorite character.  It was great to be able to freely talk about something without worrying that someone was going to touch some third rail in the conversation that would leave people feeling upset.

For me, at least, there’s a lot more to the world than Donald Trump.

GOT Breakfast In The Making

It’s another beautiful Sunday morning, and the bright, uncommonly temperate weather can’t help but stimulate the appetite and put thoughts of Sunday breakfast in my head.  But, since another episode of Game of Thrones is in the offing, what kind of breakfast could help to stimulate a Westerosi mindset as well?  

Our local grocer doesn’t sell wild boar meat or unskinned rabbit, so a little improvisation is in order.  We’ll go for eggs and turkey bacon — the better to remind us of those unfortunate dragon-sizzled Lannister bannermen — some juicy fruit to simulate rivers of blood, and a cantaloupe that will allow me to get out a sharp implement and start flailing away with some satisfying thunks and hackings as I separate flesh from skin.  Put some onion in the eggs to acknowledge Ser Davos Seaworth, the Onion Knight, and you’ve got a feast worthy of Winterfell.

Dragons On The Wing

The current season of Game of Thrones is moving forward at a breakneck pace.  So many big-picture things are happening, it’s easy to forget parts of the story and to overlook the smaller, more evocative scenes that might be giving us some foreknowledge of things soon to come.

We’ve seen the rise of Euron Greyjoy and the further emasculation of sad sack Theon, the obliteration of the sand snakes, Stark after Stark returning to Winterfell, and Sam’s gross yet awesome surgical capabilities.  (Who knew that being a capable doctor just means following a set of written instructions?)  We’ve seen Cersei and Jaime throwing caution to the winds about their incestuous relationship, a bunch of long-anticipated first meetings and reunions, Tyrion’s sketchy abilities as general and war planner, and Bran’s creepy new three-eyed raven personality.  (No wonder the former three-eyed raven became part of a tree.  What living Westerosian would want to hang around with these guys?)  And maybe, just maybe, Littlefinger has maneuvered himself onto Arya’s shrinking death list.

dragon-from-game-of-thrones-season-7And last night, we saw dragons.

Sure, we’ve seen the dragons before, ripping people to shreds, hissing and terrorizing.  But last night, in the fantastic battle of the loot caravan, we finally saw what dragons can do on the battlefield . . . and it’s chilling.  With Daenerys in the dragon saddle, Drogon laid waste to huge chunks of the Lannister forces, leaving dozens of the bannermen of the lion lit up like screaming, flailing torches and turning the wagons of golden booty into melted hells.  Game of Thrones has shown us some epic battles, from the Battle of the Blackwater to the Battle of the Bastards, but last night’s dragon-blasting war scene was the best one yet, a hold-your-breath, what’s-going-to-happen-next jawdropper.   And with the show having no problem with knocking off characters, who knew if Jaime was going to survive his brave yet foolhardy charge at the wounded Drogon and Daenerys?

I’m not sure what I want to see more:  Cersei killed by being immolated in dragon fire, or Cersei killed by the combined talents of Arya and Sansa and the other remaining members of the Stark clam.  Until last night, I would have chosen the latter, but fully knowing what agony befalls the victims of dragon fire is making it a closer call.  And I think it’s high time to introduce the Night King and his staggering, lurching army of the undead to a little taste of what dragons can do, too.

Game of Thrones has gotten so good, with so many interesting things happening to so many characters, it’s painful to contemplate that it’s not going to be on forever.  But for now, we can relish the wonder of dragons — and rewatch the episodes, to make sure we aren’t missing anything.

Go Westeros, Young Man

Like everyone else in America, I watched the first episode of the new season of Game of Thrones last night.  It was good to see the old gang again.

I loved the first scene of the new season, but then I candidly just can’t get enough of Arya Stark killing the Freys.  In fact, I’m really kind of sad that she’s apparently ruthlessly murdered every figure in the Frey clan, from creepy Walder on down to the most obscure cousin once removed.  I’m almost hoping that we’ll discover some rump branch of the Frey family, so that she’ll have the chance to gut or poison them, too.

lyanna-mormont-gotArya was just part of the Stark Ascendant theme that’s playing out in Westeros these days.  With Arya gleefully knocking off Freys and now heading south to take on Queen Cersei, Jon Snow and Sansa ruling in the north and training every man, woman, and child to fight the White Walkers, and eyeball-rolling Bran finally on the Westeros side of the wall, we’re seeing the best days for the Starks since poor Ned lost his head.  Unfortunately, there’s already friction between Jon and Sansa, and it doesn’t look like the remaining members of the Starks will have a family reunion — at least, not yet — but it’s good to see the Starks back as a force, even if it probably will only be temporary.  And with the considerable support of the formidable Lyanna Mormont, who isn’t afraid to call out and face down every aging, bearded windbag leader of a northern house who punked out on the Starks in their time of need, who’s to say that the Starks can’t win in the great game?  If I were going to war, I’d definitely want the awesome Lyanna Mormont on my side.

As far as the great game goes, the pieces are all in position.  Cersei’s got her ally in the Iron Islanders and their horny leader, Daenerys has finally reached Westeros with her dragons, her Dothraki horde, and especially Tyrion behind her, the White Walkers are on the move south, and we haven’t even heard yet what the House of Dorne and the Martells are going to do to stir up trouble.  For now, we can just appreciate the fact that there are unoccupied castles, like Dragonstone, handy and available for the taking if one of the players decides they can use a forbidding base of operations.

I hadn’t realized how much I was looking forward to the new season until I watched the first episode and enjoyed seeing these familiar characters and their fictional world once again.  Now, if only we could get the next book in the series out of George R.R. Martin . . . .

Finally, All On The Same Chessboard

Last night’s Game of Thrones season finale was so chock full of quick cuts and action that the show ran 10 minutes longer than usual, and you almost needed to take notes to keep track of the developments.  But the upshot is that everybody is back in Westeros, or at least well on their way there, accompanied by flapping dragons overhead.  That means we’re heading toward a colossal confrontation next season.

051d9f9d686043c4_pro23-xxxlarge-1Watching the episode, I almost felt like the show’s creators wanted to be sure to touch every major character, and every major setting, at least once.  So we got to see Cersei exact her revenge on the High Sparrow and his acolytes, as well as Margaery Tyrell and her brother and father, by blasting the Great Sept of Baelor to kingdom come.  Of course, Cersei being Cersei, her triumph came at a cost, as decent King Tommen hurled himself from the Red Keep.  So, the old crone’s prophecy was right — all of Cersei’s children are dead.  That didn’t keep Cersei from somehow crowning herself queen, however.  And we also got to see that Cersei is moving well into dear departed Ramsay Bolton territory on the sadism scale, by letting what’s left of The Mountain have his way with Septa Unella, the burly, grim-faced nun who sternly shamed Cersei last year.

In the north, Jon Snow and Sansa have gotten back onto the same page.  Sansa has rebuffed Littlefinger’s creepy and huskily stated attentions — so far, at least, but he’s a pretty persistent guy — and thanks to the gutsy young girl leading House Mormont, Jon Snow has been crowned King of the North by acclamation.  (Wait . . . seriously?  Another King of the North?)  Even more shocking, Bran’s ability to see the past through heart trees has clued us in that Jon is not Ned Stark’s bastard son at all, but rather the son of Ned’s sister Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen.  Since Rhaegar is Daenerys Targaryen’s older brother, that means The Unburnt and the Mother of Dragons is Jon Snow’s aunt.  It’s all pretty confusing, and sets up next season for some further reveals on what happened to start Robert’s Rebellion so long ago.

What else?  Well, Sam’s in the library of the Citadel.  Ser Davos got Jon Snow to throw the child-burning Melisandre out of the north.  Benjen’s brought Bran and his gal pal back to The Wall.  Jaime threw a few insults at Walder Frey and got back to King’s Landing in time to see his beloved sister crowned as queen.  Daenerys cut loose her paramour.  Grandma Tyrell made it to Dorne in time to hush the brash sand snakes and start to plot her revenge against Queen Cersei with the assistance of Varys — who really is getting around these days.  And speaking of getting around, Arya Stark made it from Braavos to the Twins in the blink of an eye and, using those skills learned in service of the Many-Faced God, got to scratch old Walder Frey off of her to-do list.  About the only people we didn’t check in on were Ser Jorah Mormont and his battle against greyscale and Brienne of Tarth.

The episode ended with Daenerys, and Tyrion, and the Unsullied, and the Dothraki horde, and her dragons, in full sail toward Westeros, where she will try to wrest the Iron Throne from Cersei’s cold, dead hands.  So, after long forays into Meereen, and Braavos, and the Dothraki plains, all of the main characters are finally coming back to the Westeros chessboard.

Oh, yeah, and one other thing:  The Citadel has announced that, as the Starks have long warned, winter has finally come.  We may as well start to get ready now for some undead White Walker action when next April rolls around.

Moving Too Far, Too Fast

We all knew that, this season, Game of Thrones the TV show would move past Game of Thrones, the books.  What I didn’t fully appreciate was how far, and how fast, the TV series would progress.

game-of-thrones-season-3-osha-630x355One of the most enjoyable things about the books in my view has been the deliberate pacing.  The stories have taken a long time to unfold, and in the meantime we got to revel in the sigils of the minor houses and what kind of elaborate food was being served at a banquet and the colors and cut of the doublet of some obscure lord who appeared briefly and then vanished from the storyline.  With the TV show, there’s none of that.  Major characters come and go and get knocked off at breakneck pace.

I hate it that characters I really liked are being killed right and left — like the wildling woman who watched after Bran and Rickon after Theon Greyjoy conquered Winterfell — but mostly I’m concerned that the story is just moving too darned fast.  In the George R.R. Martin world, it would have taken 300 succulent pages to get to the point of Daenerys torching the leaders of the Dothraki, and Sansa and Jon Snow resolving to march on Winterfell and try to kill the execrable Ramsay Bolton, but in the series it takes only an episode and a half.  How far are we going to get in the story line this year, anyway?

And that’s the big issue for me.  Much as I think the TV is great, I like the books even better.  What’s going to be left of the plot when this year’s episodes are over?  And if George R.R. Martin doesn’t bring out the next volume until next year’s episodes air, the disconnect is just going to be too much.

Slow down, HBO!

Graphic And Gratuitous

Kish and I enjoy the Sunday night shows on HBO.  The shows are addictive, but boy — they really push the envelope to a very uncomfortable extent.

This week, on Game of Thrones, we were treated to a scene in which a mother and her newborn baby are torn apart by a pack of trained dogs under the control of Ramsay Bolton, who is almost certainly the most sadistic character ever to be portrayed on a popular TV show.  In a partial nod to the sensibilities of viewers, the murderous mauling wasn’t directly shown on-screen.  Instead, we got to hear the screams and cries of the mother and child and the snarls and bites of the dogs and watch Bolton’s sick pleasure as he savored the carnage — which is almost as bad as watching the dog attack itself.

ramsay20and20roose20bolton20game20of20thrones20season206If you watch Game of Thrones, you’re used to seeing bloody death.  In last night’s episode, Ramsay Bolton also assassinated his father, another character threw his brother from a bridge, a knight crushed the skull of a drunken serf against a wall, and a giant swung a member of the Night’s Watch into a stone wall and tossed him aside like a rag doll.  It’s a show in which characters are killed in every imaginable way — stabbed through the skull, throats slit, poisoned, disemboweled, beheaded, shot with an arrow while answering the call of nature, you name it — and kids aren’t off limits.  Last season we saw a sweet young girl being burned at the stake at the order of her power-hungry father and another young girl poisoned as she was sailing home.  But still, this week’s scene of the mother and newborn being killed by dogs seemed to cross a line somehow.

Then, on Silicon Valley, which is normally one of the most hysterical satires on TV, we watched as the founder of a start-up tech venture talked to the company’s new CEO about a business issue while a ready-to-engage stallion graphically mounted a mare in the background.  The point of the horse sex scene apparently was to show the wealth of the new CEO, who mentioned that he’d paid six figures for the stallion’s impressive services, while the founder was visibly discomfited by the horsing around, but . . . did we really need to see that?  Couldn’t we have gotten the same message about fabulous wealth by, say, having the new CEO own a vineyard or a colossal yacht?

I don’t consider myself as a prude, but increasingly I think that popular entertainment consciously searches for new lines to cross and new ways to introduce graphic, gratuitous sex and violence in order to be shocking and edgy.   Such scenes usually distract from the storyline rather than advancing it.  HBO often leads this unfortunate parade.

I’m not going to stop watching Game of Thrones, but now that the story has moved beyond the book, I wish the show would dial it back a notch.  It shouldn’t just be viewer discretion that is advised.

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?

Sunday Night Out

Last night Kish and I went out to dinner and then hoofed it over to the nearby Southern Theater for a ProMusica Chamber Orchestra program called “The Romantic Piano.”  It was an excellent show that featured pieces by Bizet, Saint-Saens, and Schubert.  (The Schubert selection was his rollicking Symphony No. 1, which was a pretty impressive piece of work by a 16-year-old.)

IMG_0840It was a great end to a wonderful weekend that (finally) let us enjoy some terrific weather, and it was intentional, too.  Lately we’ve been making a conscious effort to get out of the house and do something fun on Sunday nights.  We’ve gone to dinners and musical performances and nightclubs, and when some of the spring and summer shows start, like the summer movie series at the Ohio Theater, I’m sure we’ll add those to the mix, too.  We’ve found that stodgy old Columbus has a lot to offer on Sunday nights.

The theory behind this effort is simple:  let’s end the weekend with a bang, not a whimper.  Sure, you can ease in to Sunday night, plop down on the sofa, put your feet up on the coffee table, and watch whatever HBO or your cable channel of choice is showing, and it’s a perfectly acceptable capstone to the weekend.  Unfortunately, I usually end up nodding off if I watch too much TV, and I always think, uncomfortably, of how Angela Lansbury racked up huge ratings with the blue-haired set on Sunday night with Murder, She Wrote.  It seems like camping out in front of the flat screen and watching TV on Sunday night is something old people do.  I’m not quite ready to go there, yet.

That doesn’t mean we won’t be watching the first installment of the new Game of Thrones next week — we’re not being puritanical about it, and I’m as interested in learning whether Jon Snow survives as the next person.  We are realizing, though, that there’s real value in getting off your duff, off the couch, and out into the community on the last night of the weekend.