What’s Really the Deal with Game of Thrones Season 7

Okay I just finished season 7 of Game of Thrones….. and it’s baaaad. Even the good parts are… not that good.
The main culprits are
Timing: This is a problem at the macro level (different parts of the story were out of whack with each other in normal story arc terms) and the micro level (people moving around Westeros at the speed of plot devices). The earlier seasons were interesting not the least for the leisurely pace. It took a long time to get places and the story could slow down to their pace. In earlier seasons the expidition beyond the wall could have stretched over a few episodes, but now it’s all crammed into one. I liked a lot of the interactions between the men during the expidition but they would have been better if they weren’t all crammed together.
Fan Service: Waaaay too much fourth wall going on here. Gendry’s back! And he makes a joke about rowing! Heh he! Arya makes a joke about making pies! Melisandre mentions Fire and Ice! The Hound and Thormund have a funny conversation about Brienne! Brienne and the Hound have a funny conversation about Arya! Just! Stop! It!
Storytelling: The show runners just don’t know what they’re doing. I kept having the idea that what I was watching was not what was originally intended but the result of massive compromise after earlier plans had gone awry. A lot of it looked stitched together of scenes that were meant to be something else. The worst example of this was the Sansa, Arya and Littlefinger plot which made no sense. That couldn’t be what they wanted, could it?
Suspension of Disbelief: I’m completely okay with accepting ice zombies, dragons, blood magic, resurrection and the rest but it has to make some internal sense. So….. where did the ice zombies find those massive and very long giant chains? On the one hand it made for an arresting visual on the other I couldn’t help but imagine a bunch of ice zombies working in the ice zombie factory making them because how else would they end up there? And if ice zombies can’t swim how could they drag the dead dragon to the surface….? My head hurts.

Life hack #297 Keep a few miles of giant chains around for clearing dead dragons out of frozen lakes

All in all the show no longer feels like it did. It feels like a big dumb 1990s show with better special effects. It’s just big scenes held together by filler with wisecracking characters and wacky hijinx.


This is totally what the show is now like.
This old youtube video about a 1990s Game of Thrones feels much more like the current show than the first few seasons.

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Sexual Abuse in Hollywoo? Let Me Put On My Shock Face

I was not the slightest bit surprised by the contents of the initial disclosure nor the subsequent rolling revelations that an acclaimed Hollywood producer turned out to be a morally corrupt sexual predator. The only thing that slightly surprised me was that the information did finally reach the light of day. Apparently it’s been common knowledge for years and different media were sitting on the story for months before finally letting it through to print.
Oddly I find I mostly don’t really care. One of the very weird things that’s happened since the 1960s or so is the elevation of actors to moral spokespeople. This is a very odd cultural glitch and might finally be fading away now none to soon. Traditionally performers have been morally ambiguous and the historic ties between acting and prostitution (covert or overt) are very strong and the old Morals Clauses in actors’ contracts in old Hollywood were a way to try to keep the public antics of actors out of the public eye.
I’ve known more professional performers than most people have (including a very famous person in Poland) and in my experience they tend toward…. not immorality but rather amorality. They simply don’t understand certain concepts related to morality. Trying to keep my sidewalk psychoanalysis under some kind of control there is someting missing in their psychological makeup which is probably what draws them to performance in the first place or which makes it possible for them to peform.
This is why I don’t care what actors or singers or anyone in show business says about politics. All I care about is can they do their job and deliver the goods when it counts. Beyond that, I don’t care about what goes on in what passes for their minds and the less I know of the details of what they think their beliefs are, the better.
And just as performance tends to attract morally blank people, the prospect of vast financial gain and influence tends to attract the most morally repugnant. How could anyone not realize that money men and decision makers are probably almost all sexual predators just as almost all performers prostitute themselves in various ways?
What bothers me much more than the current scandal are the persistent rumors of systematic child sexual abuse in Hollywood. All the players in the current sordid scandal are adults (young adults in many cases, but adults) who knew exactly what the rules of the game are. But children are an entirely different matter. I look forward for the day when child actors can be replaced by CGI.

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Pulling People’s Chains, Making Them Dance

The simple fact that some moronic people take things written on Twitter seriously fills me with despair.

People, regardless or political orientation, who take twitter or facebook and anything written there as a basis for real world action remind me of an organ grinder’s monkey.

Dance monkey dance!

Twitter is a toy and a technologically advanced civil society cannot be maintained by people who take toys seriously (unless their business is making or selling toys, of course).

Nothing written there (or facebook) needs to be taken seriously or form the basis of policy in the real world.

The whole purpose of digital media has slowly but surely changed from letting smart people connect and learn about things and from each other into actively dumbing down the population and making people more easy to manipulate (across the political spectrum).

 

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Catalonia…. Punts

For decades the independistes have been telling the public that an independent Catalonia would be welcomed into the EU with open arms and, free of the banditos from Madrid, would become an economic powerhouse.

Since the ‘referendum’ it’s been made clear (sometimes painfully clear) that the EU does not want Catalonia (except as part of Spain) and businesses that want access to the common market have made it clear they’ll relocate en masse to Spanish territory.

So rather than a grand and glorious declaration of independence there was a kind of measely “We are like soooo independent, but we’re putting it off until those lame people in Madrid and EU make sure that indpendence won’t actually change anything, seee ya!”

Hey! Insufferable Catalan nationalists…. It sure sucks to be you!

Reading between the lines from here and there Rajoy has been given free hand to deal with this by the EU and it ends up meaning arrests, a few riots and some violent skirmishes then they’ll cluck and look the other way and carry on as usual. Puigdemont must know this by now which is behind the increasingly desperate calls for mediation.

Puigemont (or Pudgeydemon as I like to call him) has been backed up against a wall and there are no good options for him. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving fellow. The biggest fear is that he’d think he has nothing left to lose and declare independence unilaterally and make things worse.

At present he’s making a play for some type of face-saving device in the form of autonomy. But the thing with more autonomy is that there really isn’t any more to give, the only things they don’t have control of are things a state cannot delegate locally like defense and border control. If anything I see a dial back on autonomy because it’s been badly abused by Catalonia which has become a textbook case on why a central government should not hand autonomy out too easily.

I would like to imagine that the collective respons to realizing that their leaders have been lying to them for decades would be a bit of humility, but that’s not the Catalan way in my experience, the Catalan is to self-righteously blame Madrid until they’ve alienated everyone around them. Being irritating is probably a tactic by now, so they think if they become insufferable enough then the rest of Spain will exile them.

But for now….  Catalunya encara és Espanya!

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Kneeling and Free Speech for Entertainers

I feel about the NFL kneeling kerfuffle much the same way I did about the Dixie Chicks kerfuffle about 10-12 years ago (waaaay too lazy to look up dates).

For those without my obsessive detail to pop culture memory, the Dixie Chicks were a very popular three woman Country music group with an attitude that kind of bordered on rock. They’d had a bunch of hits and had a lot of fans.

In happier days, they sung the most upbeat and happy songs about spousal abuse and revenge murder the world has ever known…..

In the early days of the Iraq war (W edition) while performing abroad (I want to say London but again…. too lazy to look it up!) the lead singer said something to the crowd about being ’embarrassed’ by President George W Bush. This did not set well with their fans, the ones who bought their records and bought tickets to their concerts.

The basic idea wasn’t so much what she said (from what I remember) but the conditions she said it in. Country music stars have said controversial things at odds with their audience and recovered but this was different. She was insulting the president while in a foreign country while the US was at war (sort of). That was deeply disturbing to country fans (I don’t fully understand the logic but that’s irrelevant). Had they said that in more peaceable times or in the US it wouldn’t have been as big a deal.

Their career never really recovered. Lots of radio stations stopped playing their music and record and ticket sales did not do well. Despite the mainstream press doing its best to portray them as heroines of free speech they’d essentially alienated their core audience. Their big comeback song after a couple of years was a giant Fuck You! aimed directly at the people they’d alienated so that didn’t help matters either.

How not to win back fans: Tell them they’re wrong and terrible and that you hate them.

My opinion was that they have every right to say anything they want, but they are not free to compell people to buy their product. And alienating your core audience is never a good business plan. Which they continued to do by saying they liked their new rock fans much better than their old country fants  (it didn’t last their music wasn’t the kind to keep rock listeners listening).

So yeah, NFL players have every right to sit during the national anthem or to ‘take a knee’. But they have no right to force people to watch them play afterward. Again, alienating your core audience is never a good business plan. Owners ostentatiously siding with the kneeling players is also terrible business.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania cowboys take a knee

The message fans take away: Hey fans, you’re terrible! Buy more tickets!

Not many people want to watch performers that make it obvious they think they’re more moral than them and want to make a big deal out of what a terrible person they are? (that’s the message given by the kneeling) and as George Miller (famous psycholinguist) once said (paraphrasing) the only practical meaning any utterance or action has is that understood by the recipient because that is what their response will be based on. If fans of performers understand (whether it was meant or not) that the performer doesn’t like them, then they’re liable to not remain fans very long.

In the final analysis, entertainers (a category that includes professional athletes) work at the pleasure of their audience and when they displease their audience they either need to revise their act or find a job outside of show business.

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Catalonia Catatonia

Back in 1978 there was a referendum on whether to accept a constitution that would replace rule by dictator with the rule of law. In Catalonia, it won about 95 %, plus such a large majority of voters turned out it appears that something like 60 % of all eligible voters actively approved the constitution. This is an impressive result and showed the commitment of people in Spain for changing course from the Franco years.

Of course the constitution says things about the indivisible nature of Spain and disallows things like referendums on independence without central government approval. But of course, it’s always possible to change a constitution. It’s never easy (a very easily changed constitution is probably worse than no constitution).

Despite the big flashy rallies that get a lot of media attention (because of their visual value as spectacle) independence has never once reached over the high 40s in anonymous surveys. So the independistes know that even if they did go through the hard work of changing the constitution and/or getting permission from the central government, they would almost certainly lose, especially since Catalonians claim to want to belong to the EU and independence would mean exiting the EU which would be made very clear in the run up to a real referendum.

So instead, lacking the popular support they would need the independistes changed tack and have decided to try to get independence by doing an end run around the constitution and appealing to the emotional reactions of the Catalonian public and the ‘international community’. Catalan language education and media is more or less 24/7 propaganda for independence and opponents are marginalized and/or threated to abondoning the publid sphere. They went ahead with an illegal referendum hoping for a violent response from the central government authorities. The idea here is that internationally people would see police beating up people and make the connection “violent and nasty Spanish police mean that Catalonia should be independent”.

Not a very viable country (especially outside the EU)

And…. it might have worked, international public opinion was clearly against Madrid and on the independisteside. But, if you’re going to rely on public opinion you have to realize that public opinion is fickle and has a very short attention span. The same day as the referendum (less than 12 hours after polls closed?). A maniac in a hotel room in Las Vegas drives Catalonia from the headlines (or forces it to share headlines) and the push they got from police being mean was strongly diluted.

And while the independistes may have ‘won’ the phony referendum but they’re losing against reality. The EU is so far not budging that an independent Catalonia is out of the EU and the Spanish government is facilitating the exit of businesses (including banks) from Catalonia which would be a huge blow, no matter what happens. Job number one of most governments now is attracting capital and it’s being made clear that an independent Catalonia would not be able to attract much.

Now this is a viable country!

So….. we’ll see what happens today. The independistes are determined to make some kind of declaration in the regional parliament. The reaction of the central government will be key, Rajoy will have been consulting with the EU and might even have received the go ahead for extreme measures like arresting local government figures or suspending the regional parliament. Or, it might signal massive captial flight in order to starve the regional government (which is so used to blaming Madrid for anything going wrong that the public might not… pay too much attention).

Personally, I’m against independence and would never willingly set foot in an independent Catalonia anymore than I’d go to Russian occupied Crimea (though I’d been making tenative plans to go there before the Russian invasion).

I’m not hostile to Catalan culture, and if I lived in the area I would try to learn Catalan which does have some interesting stuff going on. A trivial example would be my favorite zarzuela (a type of Spanish operetta) which is the Catalan language Cançó d’Amor i de Guerra (Song of Love and War) with some world class music.

But I’m in favor of rule of law over cultural considerations. So…. say it loud and say it proud…..

Catalunya és Espanya!

 

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Bojack Horseman: Chasing after Happiness

I’ve recently started watching Bojack Horseman, and it’s quickly become one of my favorite things and I’m wondering why I haven’t heard of it before. For those who aren’t familiar, it’s about a B-list celebrity named Bojack Horseman who had been the star of a popular sitcom as a bachelor raising three orphans in the late 1980s through the mid-1990s. Since the show finished he hadn’t been doing much besides a daily round of drinking, drugs, sex and wanting his stardom back.

As the show starts he’s finally realized that he can’t deliver on a long-promised book deal and reluctantly begins to work with a ghostwriter. And the show follows the production of the book and later developments in his career. And……… he’s a horse. Did I mention he’s a horse? The sitcom was called ‘Horsin’ Around’ (get it? because he’s a horse, and the title is ‘horsin’ around’ get it?).

The show takes place in a funny animal universe where humans are only one of very many bipedal sentient species. It’s a little like the very underrated Grimm, but with all the Wesen in full woge all the time. His ex-girlfriend agent, Princess Carolyn is a cat and his foil is a Golden Retriever and rival former sitcom star named Mr. Peanutbutter. The two human principles are Diane Nguyen, the ghostwriter and Todd Chavez who showed up at a party and never left and sleeps on his couch (apparently this happens and a lot of stars have this kind of hanger on).

While the show takes full advantage of the humor of the animal-humans and there’s plenty of ridicule leveled at entertainment and celebrity culture and there’s a lot of sitcom wackiness (verging into insanity at times) that’s all secondary as to what makes it so great.

His existential angst is funny…. because he’s a horse!

The basic theme of the show the elusive nature of happiness and the extremes people go to try to be happy. This affects all of the main characters but it’s Bojack’s show.

Bojack’s ultimate problem is that he thinks of happiness as a goal rather than a process and part of the irony of the show is that he pretty consistently gets what he says he wants…. and nothing, he’s still not happy and he still doesn’t get it and thinks the next relationship or drug or movie or award or adoring fan will be what finally makes a difference, and it never is. And along the way Bojack delivers some of the rawest, most intense emotional scenes I’ve witnessed on TV. At one point Bojack publicly begs Diane to tell him he’s a good person and she doesn’t answer… and the silence just goes on and on and it’s like a kick to the gut. If it weren’t animated it would probably be too painful to watch at all.

I’m only on season 2 (of 4 so far) but this seemingly silly animated sitcom is probably the best thing on TV now….

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