Game of Thrones, 5.7 Brief Review-Predictions

*Warning, this article is darkly intelligent and full of terrifying spoilers*

Well, another week, another action-packed hour of plotting, chaos, and mass murder in the land of Westeros. This one certainly had its shocking moments, but perhaps it’s best to focus on one development in particular – a foreshadowed event that now (for truly the first time in the T.V. series) seems more like an inevitability rather than wishful book-reader dreaming. If you haven’t read the books and or don’t dare to ruin the shocking revelations to come in the sure-to-be shocker-packed final three episodes of this season, turn back now.

Many of you, book readers or not, might be familiar with the ominously (yet aptly) named Lady Stoneheart (LS). For those of you not acquainted with Westeros’ finest hangwoman, a quick google search should clear up any confusion – though again I remind you, spoilers abound here.

Most book readers have long since given up on the appearance of LS in the T.V. adaptation. Indeed, it seemed after her lack of mention in any of the previous couple of seasons that she simply wasn’t in on the HBO-version party. But last week’s episode has renewed hopes that she will in fact be joining us, and soon. Here are the five main reasons why:

 

1) The Brotherhood Without Banners Returns –

It’s likely with all the other madness and murder raging throughout the land that many viewers have long since forgotten about these once popular figures; this band of Robin Hood-esque vigilantes, including: Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr, Gendry, etc. However, they’ve now been mentioned in more than one episode this season.

Say what you will about the show moving beyond the source material, but whether you agree with some of the writing decisions thus far, the show runners are highly tuned in with pacing, plotting, and suspense building – and that seems to be exactly what they are doing here. Think about the progression. The Brotherhood was mentioned by Walder Frey and others to be raiding throughout the Riverlands – just like in the books. This reminded viewers that the band of lovable anti-establishment rebels we last saw a few seasons back are still out there, carrying on the good fight for the people. However, in last week’s episode, we saw the Brotherhood practicing what they once condemned: raiding, pillaging, and murdering anyone and everyone in their wake.

This is a far different version of these outlaws from what we’ve known. Why this change of heart? A change to Stoneheart, perhaps? As they themselves warned last episode, “The night is dark and full of terrors.” This certainly sounds like the motto of a band of raiders who may have lost their more morally justifiable leader in exchange for a Red God power-fueled zombie lady.

A little context here: in the books, Beric sacrifices himself to resurrect Catelyn (they find her body washed up on a riverbank a few days after the red wedding). Despite Thoros’ strong opposition to this due to her advanced state of bodily decay, Beric passes his life to her, finally leaving us for good while reanimating the ruthless and vengeful Catelyn, henceforth know as LS.

Clearly the Brotherhood has ‘lost their way’.  It seems pointless now to bring them back into all of this without delivering on a much bigger reward. LS hanging Freys and joining in with the havoc of winter certainly seems like a juicy payoff.

 

2) It Makes Sense Thematically –

Season six has largely been thematically centered around this idea of resurrection – both physical and spiritual. But what’s more important are the specific effects of these rebirths.

Take Jon Snow, for example. His was a quite literal resurrection. He died, and then was brought back to life. Otherwise, little seems to have changed for his emotional state. He’s still fighting the good fight, trying to do what’s best despite the odds and consequences. This motivation would strongly contrast with the resurrection of LS, whose rule would seem to be one built on terror rather than pure justice such as with Jon. In a series that is mainly about the relative humanity of those struggling to protect, save, and avenge those they love, this fits right into the thematic fabric of it all.

Some of the other hints feel almost as if we’re being slapped in the face with thematic foreshadowing. For the Gods’ sake, look at what Stepton Meribald (who is trying to resurrect the Hound’s soul) preaches to his congregation literally seconds before the Brotherhood darkly rides in to demand tribute: “It’s never to late to stop robbing people, to stop killing people, to start helping people. It’s never to late to come back.”

Maybe for the Septon it’s not too late. Maybe not even for the Hound. But the Brotherhood and LS? Their hearts at least certainly don’t seem to be in the right place.

 

3) Lining Up with Book Content (And Connecting to the Plot Moving Forward) –

When Jaime was sent on his wild golden goose chase in Dorne last season, many wondered if he would ever make it to the Riverlands, like he does in the books to end the siege against the remaining Tully forces at Riverrun. It looks like the show runners are finally bringing his plot back in line with that of the text, but what next?

In the books, Jaime is able to find a peaceful resolution to the stalemate, though if his initial conversation with the Blackfish in the show is any indication of what’s to come, it’s not going to end well for either side. However, there is still hope. With Brienne en route, her negotiating might perhaps be the only chance to prevent imminent bloodshed, as well as save Jaime’s life and Jon’s uprising in the North.

The Blackfish seems intent on remaining behind his walls, ready to fight to the death. So what could possibly convince him to budge? The Blackfish has no trust for Jaime, and just as little respect. However, with Brienne to vouch for him, perhaps a deal can be struck; a deal where the Tully forces would be allowed to surrender the castle, march north to help oust a rouge murderous bastard, and install Sansa to her rightful seat as wardeness of Winterfell.

This indeed is a tenuous theory, as there would be many stark political implications and consequences, but at this point if it is the best option, might all sides agree?

The point of all this is that with the siege lifted and only the Brotherhood left to contend with in the Riverlands, this could be Jaime’s only chance at survival if he is to run into LS like its implied he will in his last scene in the books so far. Maybe lots of hopeful thinking here, but in GOTland you just never know.

 

4) Kill the Freys –

Who doesn’t want to see Freys swinging from trees at this point, especially those two loathsome dopes who were running the operation at Riverrun. It was nice to finally see Jaime smack down someone who deserved it, but what’s next for that pair once the siege is lifted and the Tullys are gone from the Riverlands? It’s entirely possible that we’ll see these idiots happy and eager to return to Papa Creepy Frey to tout their great victory, a victory that the only real hand they had in achieving was the golden one Jaime used to smack them across the face with. Well, we all know what happens en route to places in Westeros: chaos. And what better chaos than LS wrecking her vengeance upon the two who murder her son and daughter-law?

 

5) The Writers Love to Lie –

I don’t know if George Martin has said anything about this, but I wouldn’t trust anything that either he or Weiss&Benioff have to say about the matter. For years readers were convinced that Benjen Stark was not Coldhands (which he seems to now be, at least in the T.V. adaptation). Kit Harrington had to publicly apologize for repeatedly lying about his character being dead – as was ordered of him by the producers. LS’s appearance at this point in the series would simply be another welcome, even if long overdue, revelation.

 

What do you think? Feel free to comment below to share your own thoughts, theories, etc.!

Game of Thrones, 5.6 Brief Review-Predictions

*Warning, this article is darkly intelligent and full of terrifying spoilers*

Swarms of ice-zombies, Franken-Mountain smashing in sparrow heads, Dothraki-dragon barbeques; this episode had, well, not a whole lot of this. Still, after last week’s utter mind/heart bomb this latest installment of GOT came as almost a relief – as seems to be the general formula so far this season while the show continues to deviate from and expand beyond the yet to be completed source material. There were some interesting revelations and set-up – particular for those of us daring, desperate, and insane enough to have read the all books to date.

Benjen Stark, for one, is back, though I’d forgotten that he had been on the show in the first place until Jon Snow’s treasonous watch bros duped him with his whereabouts in the final moments of last season’s finale. This was a particularly interesting development for book readers as we’d all but given up both Benjen and or Coldhands making a big T.V. screen appearance. One may wonder where in the seven hells he was on Bran and Company’s journey north (he aided them to the Three Eyed Raven in the books), but even so, it was fairly obvious who the mysterious man in black was when he rode out of the forest.

It is worth noting that this episode was big on returns: Benjen, Edmure Tully, Drogon. These reappearances should give one hope that more seemingly lost characters might still make a comeback… My votes are for the Hound and Lady Stoneheart – one of which I am almost positive will be revealed as early as the next episode, aptly titled “The Broken Man.” If you’re not familiar with the ‘gravedigger’ theory and don’t mind further and much more detailed spoilers, definitely checkout this video.

Long story short, it seems likely that Cersei’s opponent for her trial by combat will be…wait for it…none other than the Hound. Their battle was foreshadowed in this latest episode, as Cersei says to Jamie, ‘it will be a trial by combat… I have the Mountain.’ She has every right to be confident in her choice. After all, who else would dare to fight let alone could triumph against such a monster? The Hound not only makes thematic sense but it’s just too damn cool of a theory to give up on until I see the Hound’s rotting corpse for myself.

Then again, all too often some maniacal authorial amalgamation of George R.R. Martin, David Benioff, and D.B. Weiss has cleverly shattered our theories and expectations of what’s to come next. I, and many others, for example, were convinced based on the hints and foreshadowings of Bran’s wargtastic experiences so far this season that Hodor was half-horse brain, or full-horse brain, or some other fraction of non-human, post-warg-trama intellect. Yet the reality as it turned out in the previous episode was far more complicated, disturbing, and tragic than I had feared to imagine.

Maybe the same type of twist will floor us all for what the High Sparrow really has planned next? He has certainly proven to be a master manipulator the likes of which few in Westeros seem able to counter. When you have the Queen of Thornes declaring that she’s being beaten, the masses cheering for you, and the King and Queen touting their faithful allegiance to the Faith Militant; you’ve really accomplished a scheme or several the likes of which Littlefinger and Varys would both raise a goblet of Kool-Aid to.

But what in the heck does this damn High Sparrow want anyway? There’s some really interesting theories on who the man truly is, namely this one, though at least for the show version such a theory seems less and less likely as time, and episodes, pass. More and more likely it feels as if the High Sparrow is exactly what he says he is: an honest zealot looking to overthrow an empire.

There’s so much more that seems to be setting up for an action packed final few episodes to this season: Arya-Waif deul, battle of the bastards, Cleganebowl, etc., etc., etc. Some of these slower-paced episodes are permissible because the writers have overall done a very strong job at forwarding the plot so far – even seeming too rushed at times. This episode didn’t feature a single non-ice-zombie kill as far as I can recall, though going in we were set-up to expect plenty of hostilities (and ideally more than a few Franken-Mountain head bashings): Arya assassinations, Faith Militant slaughter, Randyll Tarly smacking someone upside the head (which he did verbally at least). This seems to work, keeping viewers off balance as to when the exactly the next bout of chaos shall ensure. This show will turn from King’s Landing politics to a zombie apocalypse so fast that you’ll often wonder if you blinked too long and are still watching the same show. #hardhomehardorharhomehome.

Here’s looking forward to the chaos to come whenever it does! *Raises goblet of Kool-Aid*

P.S. it was really cool to see the mad king screaming “BURN THEM ALL”. Now bring us back to the Tower of Joy already.

Top 12

The top 12 differences between London and New York:

*note: these are the observations of one observer over the course of several days over which time said observer (said observer assumes) experienced less than 1% of the unique and enchanting sights, sounds, smells, etc. that the merry city of London has to offer its guests from across the pond; but anyway, as said observer noted, these are some of the more intriguing observations made by said observer.*

towerbridge2

Tower Bridge as seen from London Bridge

1) When they say, “Mind the gap,” they really mean it – I’ve stumbled off trains and onto platforms up to two feet lower!

2) Americans are generally and distinctly better looking – but maybe it’s just me.

3) The subway (aka “the tube”) has cushioned seats, is practically odorless, and has trains that run seemingly ten times more often than NYC subways.

4) When Americans don’t like you (particularly NYers) they either ignore you or get right up in yo face; beware, the English instead may snootily passive-aggressive you to death.

5) Chinatown is Chinatown.

6) Without tourists the population would probably be about 17 people per square metric whatever unit.

7) Bathroom stalls have lockable doors, but you’re lucky if you get a troth for a urinal (also, you must pass through no fewer than two doors to enter a bathroom, and I’ve found myself panicking my way through as many as six).

8) You swipe your subway card when you leave the subway station.

9) There are telephone booths that I think might actually work – they have telephones inside them at least.

10) The only street food seems to be those delicious, warm-smelling street nuts; but no pretzels, hot dogs, or gyros – the angst!

11) London Bridge is a paltry thing next to the Brooklyn Bridge, although the Tower Bridge is certainly a proper river crossing.

12) Oh yeah, and they drive on the wrong side of the road (although the streetlights also turn yellow when changing from red to green so perhaps they know what they’re doing after all…).

streets

A London street corner.

 

Much A-grumble About Winter

There’s been much a-grumbling in recent days about what seems to finally be arriving: the freaking cold (wasn’t it just, like, August?). Yes, winter is nigh, and so are all of the complaints that come with cold knuckles, chapped lips, and swinging snow shovels like giant lopsided axes in a fruitless attempt to smash your way through driveway ice. But, as with most trials in life, sometimes it helps to look on the bright side of things, especially when it’s already dark outside before you get out of work.

So in the spirit of our now long forgotten summer, or the holidays, or just in a pitiful attempt to hold off the crushing winter blues until at least the new year, here is my list of the top ten things to look forward to this winter:

long2

10. You can leave beer outside:

     This might seem like a useless winter time benefit for non-beer drinkers. Alas, father Joemas can’t make everyone happy, but for those among us who do indulge in the occasional tipsying beverage of choice, this can be a mighty fine season. Aside from the ability to store booze out on your porch rather than packing out your fridge, there’s many-a seasonal craft brews that will be gone come the spring thaw. Drink up now! *WARNING: make sure to bring beer indoors if temperatures drop at night below freezing as not doing so could result in broken beers and a sad you. #:'( #frozentears

9. You can leave food in the car!:

     Okay, this might seem like another one of my crazy Joe-bo schemes, but think about the logistics for a moment (and by logistics I mean laziness). In the spring or summer when I forget to bring my restaurant leftovers inside I sometimes end up driving  a couple of days later and wondering, “Hmm, I really hope that vinegary smell isn’t coming from my engine…” In the winter, I can delightfully stumble across a frozen bean burrito in my backseat ready for thawing!

8. My beard suddenly becomes a much more reasonable adaptation:

     As a perennial beard-bearer, I’m often asked, “Aren’t you hot under that thing?” The truth is that I barely notice my beard having borne it so many years now; however, once the winds of winter start whipping across my face, I’m suddenly reminded of why I’ve been cultivating my glorious facial turf all year: #facescarfwin

7. Cozy pajamas:

     Anymore needeth saying?

6. Holiday meals:

     Fall and winter are perhaps the peak seasons for holiday feasting. If American holidays in general are really actually about anything, then the answer is food, and the winners are perhaps Thanksgiving and Christmas. Of course, there are plenty of other great foodie days throughout the year, though the wintertime offers all types of deliciousness not found elsewhere: cinnamon, nutmeg, anything roasted and warmmmmm….

5. Hot chocolate!:

    Hot chocolate gets my vote 365, but if there’s one season where it truly shines that season is winter. If you’re feeling daring, I suggest trying an olde 60/40 – a trademark concoction formulated by who else than me? Basically make a cup that’s 60% hot chocolate and 40% black coffee (you should add more hot chocolate and less coffee based on the desired strength, but I myself am pretty bold so I stick closer to the 60/40 balance, but hey, drinkers choosers).

4. Snowmen:

     Step one: build them. Step two: tackle/sword fight them with sticks.

3. Sledding/warm fires/other activities:

     If it looks like Hoth outside, you might as well make the most of it. Skiing and snowboarding are always a fine idea if you have a chance to escape to a mountain somewhere, but for us common folk: some sleds, a hill, and a handle of Jameson should suffice to pass the time in style.

2. Something to complain about:

     Let’s face it: humans like to complain, even if there’s nothing really worth complaining about. Winter is a fine time to fill our otherwise empty lives with some icy grievances. Just think about the rest of the year when you’ll be able to say, “At least it’s not snowing.”

1. Dreaming of sunnier days, and hey, it could always be worse:

     Since global warming or changing or weirding or whatever you want to call it is going to boil us all away anyway, we might as well enjoy the winter while it lasts. Of course, there’s always the polar vortex, in which case we’ll freeze to death instead. Either way, everything changes; nothing lasts forever. It’s all perspective. The colder the winter, the warmer the summer seems. Until then, hot chocolate and dreaming of the beach sounds like a plan to me.

 

The summer office of professor Labs

The summer office of professor Labs

Blank Placard

As an awareness made flesh

you should probably know the thoughts

of a rock

and a star

and a whole bunch of other

timeless

peices

of this collective clock,

this hopeful thought interred,

this thought that what matters to us

matters to all.

That when we make back to this Earth

that none is forgotten –

or so we say energy goes.

IMG_20141005_181403_848

You should probably know

that a rock’s not a rock

when no two are alike,

nor that book that you love,

nor that soul that you keep.

To live and to be,

as an awareness made flesh,

you should probably understand

that a clock’s not a clock.

That the only puzzle within

is the fact that you are not you

except in what you do.

Except as a thought made flesh.

Inspiration

*Normally I wouldn’t post something so “non-poetic” on this blog, though it occurs to me that many of my family who were in attendance at the Florida eulogy for my grandmother could not also be there for the NY version (which I subsequently edited). Here it is in its original version:

 

Calverton National Cemetery, NY, August 20th 2014

 

The great American author Kurt Vonnegut, once asked, “If this isn’t nice, what is?” I think he was referring to the fact that while we don’t always get to choose the exact circumstances of our lives, we do have the power to make the most of it with those around us.

So I’ll say it now, and then I’ll ask again later, to all of us gathered here today, sharing our memories and thoughts – remembering so that we’ll never forget of our time with one very special woman: how she inspired us before, and continues to this day – to all of us gathered here now to remember:

“If this isn’t nice, what is?”

 

One of my earliest memories is of a holiday party at the little blue house where I grew in the quaint neighborhood of Lakeside Key, in the modest town of Pembroke Pines. I don’t remember much about that party other than that it was a typically muggy Florida evening, our home packed with old relatives and young cousins. I don’t even remember what we were celebrating or why. But what I do remember is standing out on the front lawn, amongst our very large Italian family, and staring up into the clear evening sky at a star – the brightest star I’d ever seen.

“Do you see that star there?” Nanna Millie noticed my gaze and asked. “The really bright one?”

“Yeah,” I answered. “The big one.”

She smiled. “That’s because it’s not a star,” she explained. “It’s a planet, called Jupiter.”

And just like that, my imagination was off and soaring…

 

Nana Millie’s special like that. An inspiration. She’s more than just your typical grandmother. A daughter, wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend; Nana Millie lives many names, but to me she always was and always will be just that: Nana Millie.

I can only talk as one of those whom she has one of these very special relationships with. Each of us has our own unique connection. But as different as our experiences with her are, the essence of these bonds is exactly what we also share.

Our memories will shift and sway, but some memories seem as potent now as they were way back then – and they always will be. Let me explain: Aroma… Need I say more? Okay, Sunday aromas. Salivating yet? Meatballs, lasagna, homemade gravy, Easter pies… Eggplant parm. I’ll say it again. Eggplant parm. Now that’s what I thought. Now that’s aroma. That’s memory.
If that isn’t nice and delicious, what is?

 

Some of my earliest memories are at Nanny and Poppy’s house – of refrigerator candy: stiff twizzlers and cold chocolate, playdough, and catching tadpoles in the lake out back… Great memories. Golden memories. Childhood memories. Nanna Millie memories…

These are family memories, though her family doesn’t end with just you and me. Nanna Millie was always as giving as she was grateful. Nothing made her happier than making others happy – treating others as family. Long before I was born, and back when many of you here now were children or had much more hair, Nanna Millie used to bake cakes for the nuns at her church. How greatful were they? Luckily, I happen to have a thank you note from one of the nuns from way back when, which I’ll share with you now:

“Dear Mrs. Labriola,

Last night all the sisters agreed to make you the president of the cake club. The cake we all enjoyed was the one you so generously made for us. God bless you very very much for your kindness to us. Your time you gave, and all those delicious flavors that go into cake making is deeply appreciated by us all. I hope you know that our prayers of thanks are ever offered up for you and your dear ones. God bless you always.”

Now if that isn’t nice, sweet and caring, and wonderful, then what is?

 

Though she loved to make others happy, Nanna Millie liked to have her own fun too. You know, I never knew that while she was teaching me to play Gin Rummy as a child, she was also going off to hit the Vegas slots with her gambling co-conspirators. “Don’t tell your father,” she’d say if she won. “Don’t tell your father,” she’d say if she lost.

Win or lose, they’d take mid afternoon breaks to watch the soap opera ‘Days of Our Lives’ back in their room. Watching ‘Days’ on the bed, eating ice cream. Then hitting the slots. Now that sounds nice.

No wonder I could never beat her at cards. No wonder none of my friends now can beat me at cards. If that isn’t awesome, what is?

 

Whenever I get down, as do we all, I think of those in my life who have picked themselves up in the face of far greater odds. Nanna Millie lived for many years with Parkinson’s. She’d say that Parkinson’s is just a word and doesn’t define you as a person. So instead, she lived those words. She exercised regularly. She walked. She took yoga classes and energy healing. Whenever I get down, I go to yoga class now. I think of the ways I can pick myself up. While our challenges are very different, our refusal to admit defeat is very much the same. If that’s not inspiring, what is?

I could go on for ages, and in another use of that phrase, I will. We all will, in large part, because of the inspiration and teachings shared with us by one very special woman. A daughter, and a wife, and a mother and sister, aunt, and friend. Nana Millie fills all these roles as we now all fill for others. An inspiration.

 

So for that, I would just like to thank you, Nana.

I love a good gamble, so thanks Nana.

I love yoga. Thanks Nana.

I love refusing to give up, no matter the odds seemingly stacked against me.

I love cooking. And of course, I love eating. Thanks Nana.

And I love staring up at the stars, and wondering, and remembering those who’ve helped open my eyes. So thank you, Nana Millie.

 

And so I’ll ask you all again now: if all of these memories and experiences, and lessons, and inspirations aren’t nice, what is?

And I’ll ask you just one more thing too. You don’t have to right now, but at some point today or tomorrow or even a year from now, I think it would be nice if we all shared one of our memories or experiences, or lessons, or inspirations we enjoyed with Nana Millie. I think it would be nice if we all shared that with someone. Whether with someone here or someone who never knew her, share how she helped you become who you are – even if you didn’t realize it at the time. Share that inspiration in you now.

 

Above all, Nanna Millie loved to see those who she loved be happy. Surely now, with all of us gathered here together, she’s smiling, and very rightly feeling: “If this isn’t nice, what is?”

Thank you.