HBO’s Game of Thrones and the Purple Wedding

** Game of Thrones spoilers follow. If you’re caught up on the HBO series then you’re safe.

Olenna Tyrell, the Queen of Thorns

I watched Game of Thrones on Sunday night with a mix of delight and disappointment. Delight because since the debut of the HBO series I’d awaited the Purple Wedding almost as eagerly as I’d dreaded the Red Wedding; disappointment because, as the episode drew to a close, I was sure they show had cut out the most interesting part of the Purple Wedding. Specifically, the clues as to who really murdered the Mad Mini-King, Joffrey Baratheon.

In the books, you see (and this is not a spoiler because, well… keep reading) considerable time is given to the Queen of Thorns, Olenna Tyrell (one of my favorite characters, incidentally) and a jeweled hair-net she gives Sansa Stark to wear. After the wedding, Sansa notices one of the black stones missing, and it’s heavily implied–if not outright stated–that the jewel was in fact a fake, containing a deadly poison called The Strangler that someone snuck into Joffrey’s mug.

The book never outright says whose hand places the jewel in Joff’s wine; the plan may include one or more other Tyrells, or perhaps all of them. Olenna, however, is certainly the architect.

As Liz and I went to bed Sunday night, I laid out the whole scenario for her so she’d know what she was missing. I felt a little resentful, betrayed even, that the show runners had decided to present such a flat and unsubtle version of the Purple Wedding.

Then, on Monday, the Internet showed me the error of my ways.  [Read more...]

A Quick Note About Advertising

If you’re a long-time reader [ie, my mom or my girlfriend] you may have noticed some changes around the site recently. The site has a new overall look, owing partly to the advance of technology, partly to the desire to look good on mobile devices (on which nearly half of my visitors see the site) and partly to a periodic desire to freshen things up. I spent a little money and a lot of time on the new look, and I hope you like it.

You may also notice there are ads on this site for the first time. This is a change I’m not sure about, and your comments are welcome. [Read more...]

New York City, April 2014

It’s been beautiful here in the Big Apple the past few days, which means I seize every chance to get outside and get some fresh air. Once in a while I even remember to take photos.

As a rule when I explore a city I try to get photos of elements people don’t see all the time, or (even better) elements locals tend to overlook. And, yes, occasionally I stop along Fifth Avenue and take a touristy photo of the Empire State Building. I can’t help it, it’s a damn impressive building.

Anyway, here are a few shots I got on a recent walk through Chelsea, including an anonymous industrial building near the Highline and a mural I’ve never seen before, even in photos.

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

Babies Guns Cartoon by Christopher KeeltyContext: That first sign is an actual slogan*.

On Friday, Texas Republican Congressman Steve Stockman tweeted the latest slogan in his reelection campaign: “If Babies Had Guns, They Wouldn’t Be Aborted.” Yes, really. Maybe he was inspired by recent headlines from Pakistan?

I’m sure the unborn are excited to discover their newest opportunity to serve as political rhetoric. Almost as excited as they must be about Steve Stockman’s obviously viable new “pro-life” strategy.

*Paraphrased very slightly.

Civic Personnae

South Philly ChristmasSomething Liz and I got thinking about this past weekend:

After attending a particularly drunk and rowdy brunch at a bar in downtown Arlington, Virginia (nice town, by the way) Liz remarked how different it was from the more subdued brunch in New York City. I remarked, off-the-cuff, that “New Yorkers have a certain expectation of how New Yorkers are supposed to behave.”

This got me thinking about how people change to fit the city they live in–or the city they might be visiting. We all know humans unconsciously change their behavior according to the role they are assigned, but in many cities there’s also the question of self-selection. New York City is full of aspiring Carrie Bradshaws, Gordon Gekkos, and Patti Smyths. People don’t just behave based on their city’s reputation; they move to the city they think suits their ambitions.

We got talking about examples that came to mind: The way Philadelphia sports fans worked to maintain their reputation for anarchy, half a century after the infamous Santa incident; the young beautiful Angelinos who adopt every new diet fad and obsess over physical beauty; the bikini-clad beach bodies in Miami, back-country liberalism of Austin, and ardent anti-corporatism of Portland or Seattle. Yes, these are stereotypes, but that’s the whole idea: some stereotypes are reinforced because people unconsciously work to conform to them.

In late 2005 when I moved back to Pittsburgh after five years away, I discovered how much Queer as Folk had influenced the gay culture. QAF, actually filmed in Toronto’s thriving gay village, was set in a fictional Pittsburgh that greatly exaggerated the city’s gay presence. I met numerous young gay men who had moved to Pittsburgh because of the show, and bemoaned the gap between television and reality. I often wondered why they hadn’t bothered to visit first–Pittsburgh has no shortage of hotels. Notable, however, was how the gay landscape in Pittsburgh flourished, in part thanks to QAF, as the locals and newcomers created a world that resembled their fantasy.

Liz and I got talking, too, about cities that don’t necessarily have as strong a sense of identity. I didn’t find that there was much of a “stereotypical Philadelphian,” for example–at least outside the sports arena. I think I might prefer this kind of setting, because people feel less restricted to type and more free to be themselves.

I have heard murmurs recently about discontent among Portland residents who say fans of the show Portlandia arrive expecting a certain kind of experience, and that an influx of Portlandia fans has begun altering their community in a way they don’t necessarily like. Maybe in five to ten years, Portland will become more like the show. I wonder if South Philadelphia is being reshaped by fans of It’s Always Sunny, though I can’t say I’m familiar enough with either program to say what they represent. I did occasionally meet tourists, when I lived in South Philadelphia, helplessly searching for a bar called Paddy’s that didn’t actually exist.

I wonder about cities like Columbus, Denver, and San Diego, where I’m not aware of any stereotypes beyond broad generalizations about their respective regions. I’d guess there must be a shared sense of identity, but nothing as strong as the caricature of the frazzled sophisticate adhered to by so many New Yorkers. I wonder if these people feel more freedom to be themselves, rather than following a cultural archetype.

More Kitty Hijinx

As I said yesterday, I’m working to remedy the lack of kitty content on this blog–particularly my cats. So here’s Mozart, one of our two boys, catching treats and playing his favorite game knocking things off a shelf.

I am working on getting some new videos uploaded, now that I’ve finished the book draft. In general they’ll be the usual substantive material I’ve uploaded in the past, but for now just enjoy the kitty.

The Jersey Devil Press Sampler III

JerseyDevilPressSampler3These arrived in the mail today. They look awesome–great work by the folks at Jersey Devil Press.

As a reminder, you can get your own copy of this very limited edition only at the Asbury Park Comic Con this weekend. The guys from Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash / Comic Book Men will be giving them out FREE on a first-come, first-serve basis.

As a second reminder, if you come into possession of one of these bad-boys and send me a photo with it (via Twitter, perhaps?) I will try to think of some cool way to reward you–beyond just a simple retweet.

Also, if you can’t get to the Con (and alas, I don’t think I’m going to make it myself) you can read The Watchers in the Dark in its Lovecraftian entirety free at Jersey Devil Press.