Monday, May 20, 2019

The end of the Game..of Thrones.

Ramblings Post #368
My previous post got so many things wrong it wasn't even funny. A whole bunch folks I had written off not only survived, but came out the other shining. Wow. But now it's over and all that's left is the finger pointing. Sophie Turner who played Sansa feels that people dissatisfied with the ending are being disrespectful to the people - the artists, camera people, stunt folk, etc., - for all the effort they put into trying to make it the best show. But I think of it like going to a restaurant: I don't care how much effort the chef, the wait staff, the decorator put into all of it, if you serve me crap then it's bad restaurant. That's not disrespect, that's just real.

This whole thing is just loaded with Spoilers, so watch the episode first....
Great shot. I mean, the cinematographer and effects dudes worked this one. 
It's interesting how many folks found the image of Daenerys framed by wings of her dragon Drogon as she strode into speak to her victorious troops so iconic completely missed the fact that the scenes that followed invoked a rally in Munich in 1942. I mean, the shot wasn't particularly subtle either, nor was her speech about keeping the victory train rolling. As much as storytelling has created the idea in us that the hero is following their destiny, the idea that the villains motivation is also their belief in destiny shouldn't be lost. But then truth be told, the only satisfying ending for many viewers was for Daenerys to be crowned Queen, for her to then be completely supportive and understanding of the North's concerns and have the formidable Sansa also be crowned Queen of the North, Arya to do something majestic and all the male characters to just admit the women were better rulers than them and be accepting and ultra-supportive of their new futures as well. 

I'm starting to realize most of the commentary I have read on Game of Thrones has a particular viewpoint.

 We waited almost two years for this ending, which at best lackluster. It was not as horrible as How I Met Your Mother or Seinfeld, but it was only satisfying in the way that a jelly sandwich is when you were expecting well crafted pizza or a perfectly cook steak; you're not hungry anymore, which is was the point, but not really. To me, the whole season felt like the producers just started checking off boxes to get the ending they had been assigned. HBO offered them a full season, and probably would have given them two more just to keep it going a little farther. But they said nope, we can get it all in. They were wrong.

And the last episode has so many holes though it's hard to square up. So Jon kills Daenerys, and Gray Worm doesn't just kill him? They were cutting necks in the streets just minutes ago, now there is a call for justice. And after Daenerys goes down, her followers didn't immediately go crazy? After all, they were just cutting necks in the streets minutes ago. Wait, seeing as how they literally arrested and executed Varsys in five minutes for betrayal, why wasn't Tyrion ashed up immediately? What happened to Arya's prophecy about the eyes? Was that the whole Prince that was Promised thing? Was the whole point of Jon's heritage just to unhinge Daenerys? They didn't do a damn thing else with it. Why was everyone cool with Sansa saying the North would go it alone? I mean, damn, Yara was right there already mad and spitting fire! And finally, hold everything else - since nobody saw Jon hilt up the tyrant to be, how did they know? Did noble ass Jon confess? It should have been: Daenerys? Oh, she just left on Drogon. She's the Queen, she doesn't answer to me, I don't know where they went. Anyway, I'm headed back to Winterfell, toodles ...

She looks like she'll be a warm, benevolent ruler, doesn't she? Shot via HBO
I may have to sign the petition to request HBO redo the whole last season. And this time make it 15 episodes, so we can see how this all is really supposed to play out.

Apparently, according to this and so many other great series, endings are hard. Very hard. It has been clearly evident to the readers of the novels that Daenerys was going to go mad at some point. She not only bought the whole destiny to rule thing, she'd got the matching loveseat and ottoman. And to be honest, while she is good at the conquer part - what with her dragon cheat code - she's never demonstrated an aptitude for the actual ruling part. She'd "liberated" Slaver's Bay and Meereen only to muck them up and abandon them for more conquest, something she was about to continue in Westeros. She'd just destroyed the capital and had no real plans to rebuild, or feed, or even manage her new subjects just more conquest. Her fanbase however really loved her story arc and all it's triumphs, weeee!

For all the moaning about how uninteresting Jon Snow was as a hero, apparently most viewers don't realize he was (is) the author's avatar. But I never expected him to get the throne but he was a just dude who valued life in an age where killing was Tuesday afternoon. I had a theory that Arya would house Daenerys, then Jon would have to defend her and when Drogon goes to ash him it in front of everyone still living turns out he's fireproof as well, confirming his heritage for whatever. Then he'd reject the throne and head back up north, where he'd become a lumberjack, wait, wrong story. Stop at the head back up north part.

I personally found the ending ho-um. Neat, maybe a little too much for something that was so sprawling and gory. You just kind of expecting one last subversion, one last surprise, but I think the producers were already on to the next project in the mind. Or at least it felt that way. When they say that the book was better than the movie (or visual interpretation) this is what they're talking about. I think a lot of folks are going to read the books - should they ever get finished - just so they can sleep at night.

But here were. It's over. done.  

So who really won the Game of Thrones? Did Bran have it rigged from the start? No, the winner clearly was Bronn. Because while Brienne got knighted, Grey Worm lived to the end, Samwell got to have a kid and Sansa got a kingdom all her own, good ole' Bronn went from busted ass Sell-Sword to owning the fabulous estates at HighGarden and a seat on the Small Council as Master of Coin, without having to fight the dead at the Battle of Winterfell or face Drogon at the Sack of Kings Landing. Pretty damn sweet if you ask me.

Barkeep. Some Dornish wine. What? Seriously, no one has cashed in on that yet? Wow. Okay, then whiskey and some water. Make it ice from the Wall. Seriously, no one? Slackers.

Monday, April 22, 2019

So, it was a game...of thrones? Like that?

Ramblings Post # 367
Good television is harder to come by than you think. This maybe the age of "peak TV," but there are a lot of valleys up around this range. And services like Netflix with their drop the whole season at once method are just throwing a monkey wrench in an already creaky service. It's hard enough to be able to discuss your favorite show, but unless you binge watch it the day it drops there is fair to middling chance your neighbor will spoil it for you. Where is the savor? The anticipation? Where is the drama? Still on cable...sorry.

That Game of Thrones season eight episode two has a lot to unpack is an understatement. We're on the eve of the big battle (maybe the first of two this season), most of the named characters have ended up in one spot and as the series heads for its climax we're getting the reflective moments, the we who are about to die dramatic tension build up. Only highbrow style. The author's been very stingy with the plot armor throughout this tale and along the way we've had some fairly memorable falls, from Ned Stark's beheading to the Red Wedding. But since the story left the books behind and it's in the hands of television writers to interpret the story, death's hand has been relatively still. TV contracts and all that. But this being the last season, a whole host of folks are about to eat it because why not. And the resulting streamlining will clean up the story-lines so we can get to the final showdown of either Jon or Dany - depending - with the real big bad, Cersei. Now, it has been suggested by my colleague that it will come down to Cersei versus the Night King, but then the Night King wins because the "mad queen" has no idea what she's facing. Not even with Qyburn and his crazy concoctions by her side. Then again, Theon's sister did make it point to mention she was going to take back the Iron Islands so there was be a retreat spot. So maybe the Night King does win at Winterfell. Or after the "good guys" win, and Winterfell is destroyed, it's the next stop on the final lap around the country.  I kind of doubt that ending, but this story has taken a whole lot of hard lefts, so anything is possible. 

In either case,  I do hope that last episode ends with whoever wins it all pulling it off with a half-hour of run time left to go and we get to see some of the aftermath. So let's start the death pool: 

So, my thinking is Theon is a goner. He'll die defending Bran from the Night King, or perhaps in an odd twist become the Night King for a few minutes. I'm still of the opinion that the King gets mutinied by one of his own followers who it turns out is Arya in a dead ice person's skin. But then I'm not the writer. Oh, and Bran makes it through, because they do end up killing the King. It's the along the way it gets really, really messy.

Tyrion lives only because Bronn is on his way to kill him. I'm thinking of it like the Iron Islands play, in that at this point there aren't a whole lot of red herring scenes left. Bronn shows up, and against his better judgement (and because Cersi paid him in advance) let's the imp live. 

Grey Worm may as well have announced he was retiring from the force as soon as this last case is over. The "what do you think we should do after this" talk is how the literati mark a character with a stab here tattoo on the forehead. That no longer foreshadowing, that's forestamping. I think he'll go down swinging, maybe even just as the battle winds down, where he has hope then gets struck down out of nowhere. But Missandrei sees the epilogue, if only so Grey Worm gets mourned.  

If Brienne hadn't gotten knighted, I was figuring she might have made it. But that tear inducing scene kind of closed out the arc for both her and Jamie, who should also die. I had hoped that Jamie, the Kingslayer would also end it by being the Queenslayer and kill his sister Cersi in the end when she flips out and get homicidal, but that would be too poetic. He's the younger twin, he fits the prophesy. That would be a TV turn, so it could happen, but that's low probability. What I find interesting is that everyone was so excited that Brienne got knighted by Jamie, that they missed she was trying to 'nighted by Podrick. No, seriously, watch that scene again. Last night in town, you go girl! 

Little Lyanna Mormont will live because reasons. I'm honestly not a fan of hers but she'll live because that's the kind of thing that happens on TV. In the book she'd die, because Martin is dick, but this is TV.  

The half the folks in the crypts get taken out. "The dead are already here." You know, the dead folks in the crypts? Starks killing Starks? It's gonna happen, they mentioned how safe the crypts were like 40 times, so it's obvious it's a death trap. How Jon didn't see that one coming after he watched the Night King literally raise an army of the dead I have no idea. And because Varyas is spy and not a fighter, he's in the crypt so he goes down. Damn shame too. 

Sansa I'm on the fence about. She'll be in the crypts for "safety." It would be really sad if she dies by a re-animated Ned or Catelyn's hand, but she's already put Dany on notice that if they live the Targaryen girl will rule the six kingdoms of Westros, if he half brother/cousin Jon don't ace her out. Her living would set the stage for the next two seasons of the show that they aren't going to shoot.  

Samwell and Jorah live because in this sort of story sidekicks aren't the drivers of emotion but the mourners of the fallen. But, it's an either or situation; if Jon lives then Sam bites it, if Dany lives that Jorah redeems himself in his own eyes going out in battle. But I'm pretty damn sure that Jon's gonna live. Maybe. Kinda sure. As I said, Martin is kind of a dick. 

And because the Hound and the Mountain haven't squared off, and this is TV, and the Zombie Mountain is still in King's Landing, the Hound lives through this. That fight should get a good five minutes in the last episode. 

Because I think Arya kills Cersei in the end, I think a faceless girl will make it. Gendry? That's about a fifty-fifty. 

And finally, Tormund has to live. I thought he might sacrifice himself for Brienne, but no I think he makes it. Because idiots like him always do. Otherwise who tells those insane stories?

The cracked up part? Dany's main thrust of finding out Jon's true lineage was "your claim is better than mine," which makes sense in part but sounds or feels incredibly self centered on the other. Not, I committed incest or our line lives, but you just cut the line in front of me. Makes me wonder if she won't take the heel turn and stab him in the back. That would set up an all heel championship match for Westros, but I could see it. Maybe.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Tiger Woo!

Ramblings Post #366
Sometimes you get it back. You know what I mean. You don't know when you lost it, or where you lost it, you don't know how you lost it, but you know you don't have it right now. So you stop take a deep breath and re-assess yourself. Then you buckle your chinstrap, wipe away the sweat and go back in and finish that damned cheese log. That really is not the best sports metaphor. 

I still have the Tiger Woods branded golf game for the PS3. I still have a PS3. I also still have about ten or fifteen courses I've still not played from that game's DLC I purchased (as much as I dislike DLC, it isn't ALL bad). But, I have played the version of Augusta National carried on that version. To say that course is hard, well, I couldn't even win there with the game on the easy mode. Bobby Jones was either a master of the game or a diabolical genius. And while the rise of Tiger in his youth didn't get me interested in golf (The neighborhood I grew up in was golf course adjacent and there was this Sega PGA game in early nineties) it did bring my attention back to this headache of game.

If all goes well, my new Saturday mornings will happen at this driving range not too far from the house and include a big bucket of balls. But that's been a plan. 

I can honestly say I was one of those who did not think that Tiger could get back to this level. Retirement as suggested by many seemed a bit extreme, but the idea of his once vaunted domination returning seemed a low probability idea. Even after the surgeries he could still play - much better than me - an so I was of the opinion that if he could play average golf for four days and then be able to pull off four or five old school Tiger moments he would be competitive. At his prime he was so much better than everyone else that even at 75% he was dangerous. No domination, but able to make people sweat a bit. This I did not expect. 

The mark of true champion is finding new ways to win when the old ways are no longer available. Like a quarterback who no longer has a deep threat arm or a great scramble and turns into fantastic game manager, so too did Tiger have to figure out a new path to victory. Since the incident that lead to his downfall, the subsequent depression and the injuries from what he had been putting his body through to get his peak, he hadn't been the same. And now the raw power isn't there any more after the spinal fusion surgery to fix his ailing back. So many suggested that he just retire with dignity - head to the booth, design some courses. But playing is what drives him. So he had to "figure out his angles." Which he did, which is extremely impressive in as unforgiving a game as golf. Going from winning by 21 to winning by 1 matters only to the bettors, a win is still a win. And to do it at Augusta, on one of the hardest of courses against some of the best in the game? Remarkable.

Sport is funny. We love winners and great comeback stories. We let things go for the feeling of triumph.

Barkeep, get that man a beer. And since he's a member of the club and I'm not, put it on his tab.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Play because your heart is young....

Ramblings Post #365
I'm on that Old Country Road. Well, not really, but that Yeehaw Agenda is popping. I'm out here trying to get me a little game going but you know what? I got this thing called a life. And friends. And a career. And dreams. And meetings. But if I could just get a solid evening with my PS4...well, not really. I mean, I'm gamer, but real life is real life. 
Red Dead Redemption 2 is huge. How huge? I got the game opening day. I'm still less than 20% done. 

You can actually ride to everywhere you can see, and then some.
Okay, I actually stopped playing for a while because I have like, a job and a life, then restarted but still. It's been a month or two since I picked it back up again (maybe a few hours a week really) and yet I'm still just in the beginning stages - chapter two of six. There is just so much extra to do. I've gotten caught up in exploring the map, bounty hunting, gambling, looking for dinosaur bones and stone carvings, treasure hunting, searching for old legends, playing dominoes and just marveling at the intricate detailed structure of the whole thing. It is quite simply amazing. 

My first time in the swamp around Legras sounded a little too real. I haven't even scratched the surface on locating all the animals. A trip up into the West Grizzlies through the thigh deep snow is just amazing. I am paranoid about ambushes. I'm trying to see how long Arthur's beard will grow. I want to see what's in the mines in Anneburg and up in mountains. I want to go catch and break a wild horse. I want to ride out into the wilderness, fight a bear and live. There are times I have forgotten completely about the main story. The game is fantastic. 

But alas I have to move on. Partly because at some point you just have to. Partly because there are scenes they show in the commercials that I haven't gotten to yet that I want to see. And partly because I can only avoid the spoilers for so much longer. 

One of the really cool things about new video games is that there is an online community that when you reach a point where you get stuck you can get some help, as I did in GTA IV where I couldn't figure out why a mission wouldn't start and then I found out it was because I was wearing shades. Seriously. But alas, that online community is also one of the terrible things about the new video games as well. Usually a week after it comes out, someone who obviously doesn't sleep or finds outside spaces too "peoplely" has already finished the game and posted online every single thing imaginable about it - all the tricks, tips, sidequests, shortcuts, and secrets. Now to me, part of the fun of a game is discovering what's in it. I ran across one of the rock carvings some Non-player character asked me to find the other day because I just wanted to see something totally unrelated, and it was neat little feeling of discovery. I could have used the online map and found it (and completed every other side-quest and all the rest in an afternoon)...but where is the fun in that? 

Hey, I'll be honest, if I had found all the cigarette cards but one and had already searched the map for week? Like a real seven days week. Yes, I would probably consult one of the online maps, why be that frustrated? But as I said, I'm less than 20% in, and I have stumbled upon some cool stuff. I would like to stumble upon so more cool stuff. It's part of what I paid for. 

I kind of guess the ending. I mean, although this called Red Dead Redemption 2 this is a prequel. It's what happened before the original. And you don't see our protagonist Arthur in the original, now do you? But let me get there in my own time. Well, not really my own time - let me get there are at my own pace. Or at least by myself. 
Barkeep. I'm looking for dinosaur bone. And a cold beer. Really, have you seen any bones?   

Monday, April 1, 2019

And so we continue with this madness. Nipsy Hussle.

I'm not gonna sit here and tell you that I was a big fan of Nipsy Hussle. A lot of the artists as of late are just wasting beats to me, with flow that seems to have been done completely independent of the music, repeated phrasings or rhymes for rhymes sake. And this critique is coming from a guy who grew up on Craig Mack and Nice & Smooth. I just don't listen to a lot of the new stuff. Maybe it's because I'm old, and that what old people do. Or maybe it's because most of it's trash. Either or.

But since I heard that Nipsy met a tragic end and more than few friends of mine indicated that he was pretty tight,  I went to see what was up. Aside from the fact that he looks like what I imagine Snoop's kids should look like (or like my cousin who does heating & air), it turns out he was actually pretty damn good. I actually had heard and liked his "Last time that I Check'ed" just out and about, but parsing through the rest of his cuts I could see the talent.

But the talent was the tip of the iceberg. On the same corner where he used to hustle and sell mix tapes on he'd literally bought up and opened stores and shops employing local people to help change the community. He was for all intents and purposes the person I had long wondered why every other rapper wasn't - the guy who did more than spend his money flexing. The short I watched, where he had his own store selling his own brand, next to a second store selling basic staples to his community, next to a barber was just fascinating to watch. He was a young man with vision, his latest big venture a co-working space and STEM center in the Crenshaw area that with the use of his celebrity could add a bit of melanin to the Silicon Valley area. Here was an entrepreneur who understood the basic premise of a rising tide lifts all boats.

I'm not going speculate on the reason for his death. Maybe it was because of his work on a documentary involving a controversial doctor. Maybe it was just some old gang shit. Maybe it was something else in between. In either case this man, who dreamt and worked towards elevating others is gone. And that's a pure tragedy. And that's the long and short of it, last time that I checked.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Mueller Report -- or -- How to Look Shady as Hell Without Trying

This is a political post. 

After two long years of waiting, the weekend that March Madness started and Duke nearly got knocked out before the sweet sixteen, the investigation into if the sitting President of the United States colluded with foreign agents was completed. The conclusion? We don't know yet. We don't know because the Justice Department won't release the completed document. The newly appointed Attorney General has produced a four page summary of the three hundred page report suspiciously fast, and said report in his opinion indicates there was no collusion. Honestly, 99.9% of us still don't know what the report actually says.

Now, a number of indignant conservative pundits and legislators want to believe we do, although at this point we have what at best might be considered the Cliffs Notes version, more likely a Wikipedia stub entry or at worst a confederate version of the history of the war between the states. That the Attorney General then indicated that the person who was the object of the investigation will get to see it - and edit it - before any of the rest of us just keeps making the whole thing look less and less legitimate.

And the powers that be, those powers that we are investigating, just don't care what we think. 

The law, for those who don't know, is a funny thing. Open to vast interpretation. You know what I mean. Think about how you can watch on video an officer clearly be seen doing X or Y action that obviously shows that they broke the law, but that same video when viewed by a friendly prosecutor the action somehow fails to rise to the level of prosecutable offense. This is one of those moments, only on a national scale. We have all sat here, listened and learned of meetings with foreign agents not reported and then lied about, clear and convincing conflicts of interest, and of business dealings with foreign agents not disclosed. Yet we're supposed to believe the report yields nothing even of intrinsic value? The police have investigated themselves and found they did nothing wrong, and no you can't see the evidence. Here we just substitute the word 'government' for 'police.'

Barr's interpretation of the evidence and if it rises to the level of collusion is plainly suspect. And now that we know the summary he produced now looks more like a 30 second synopsis of a 26 hour Ken Burns documentary only raises more questions. And if the pool of people who can see the raw evidence is limited to those who feel that the investigation was a waste of time, this begins to look like even more collusion. That Cheeto was okay with releasing it, but his hand picked people want it edited first gives rise to the idea that the truth only those pages may get more than a few more folks locked up. And the inane assertion that Congress can't see the raw evidence when there are sitting members of Congress with top secret clearance is pure 'shuck and jive.' A government of checks and balances under this administration is no more.

We need to do better. The treatment of this investigation is part of, and maybe the culmination of a continuing degradation of the truth via the assertion that opinion outweighs facts, a theme that began day one when Cheeto swore his inaugural audience was the largest ever and has gone on to become this administration's stock and trade. That they expect half the country to believe whatever they say despite their long track record of half truths, deception, deflection and out right falsehoods is laughable. That the other half this country is happy to go along with this farce as long as that they get to impose their beliefs on the first half is just frightening. 

This is why voting is important, and why everyday the Democratic establishment appears to pin it's hopes on reason and common sense winning out seems more and more like a pipe dream.

We live interesting times. I really wish we did not.