Television: Game of Thrones, “The Iron Throne”

I’m not really going to focus on this episode specifically so much as discuss… Well, anyway, let’s look at why some people were angry with Daenerys’ arc, etc. At least as much as I understand it, though I’d be happy if others would weigh in via the comments. (So long as you remain polite and respectful.)

Dany spent the first few seasons struggling, gathering, strategizing. She became a powerful woman, and she became what many considered a possible savior to free the Seven Kingdoms from Lannister evil. Certainly she felt that way, that it was her destiny to rule, and she persuaded enough people to back her. So when she skewed toward becoming a tyrant herself, many people felt this was out of character for her. Many were upset that this strong female character was being eclipsed by Jon Snow, the “rightful heir.” Jon being painted as a completely good, decidedly uncomplicated guy who “always does what’s right.”

But, truly, Dany showed tyrannical tendencies early on. She’s always been ruthless and focused on her singular goal. So I didn’t find it out of character at all, really. And I can understand the irritation about the way women are portrayed in GoT. The ruling women were invariably autocratic, though their motivations were always different. Cersei wanted power for power’s sake; Dany truly believed she would remake the world as a better place.

What about Sansa and Arya then? The bone of contention there is that both became strong female characters through a certain amount of personal trauma. My understanding of the backlash is that women in GoT are never just strong in their own right. They’ve been beaten into swords by enduring the heat of the fire and the blows of the hammer against the anvil. The underlying messages of: “A woman who wants power is bad” and “a woman cannot be powerful unless she’s been traumatized or disowns her gender” are problematic. The narrative of “this nice [white] boy will save us” is also not great.

Still. I have no real problems with the way the story played out except that it felt rushed in the final couple seasons. A bit more character development could have saved everyone a lot of vexation, so that things like Jamie’s departure from Winterfell wouldn’t have felt so abrupt. The past couple season have barreled through plot points, which I feel is part of what has left some viewers unsatisfied.

I am not one of those viewers. While I can wish differently for some of the characters, realistically this feels fair. (To me, anyway.) It feels true to the nature of the show and to the world as it has been built. This was never a fairy tale. It’s always been a story about how people who want power probably shouldn’t have it, and what happens when they get it and are greedy for more. It’s a story of how any one person (or family) holding that power creates ever more problems. And yet… despite much upheaval, the system remains largely the same. People live and die, wars are fought, and the world goes on. For better or worse. It balances itself.

The wheel doesn’t break. It just turns.

As for petitions to rewrite things, well… I think in the day and age of social media, where there is more contact than ever before between fans and (sometimes) content creators, fans feel entitled to dictate the direction of the shows they enjoy. And that, to me, is unmerited. Fans aren’t in the writers’ room, they don’t get to pitch the story lines they’d like to see. That’s what fan fiction is for. And I’m sure there’s about to be scads of GoT fics.

Movies: Pokémon Detective Pikachu

Starring: [the voice of] Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Bill Nighy, Ken Watanabe
Directed by: Rob Letterman
Screenplay by: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Rob Letterman, Derek Connolly
Legendary, 2019
PG; 144 minutes
4.5 stars (out of 5)

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I was stupid excited for this movie because the previews looked so cute. And it is a cute movie. Also very predictable, but I guess when the chief audience is little kids, I can’t really complain about that.

Justice Smith plays Tim Goodman, estranged son of Ryme City police detective Harry Goodman. When Harry dies in a tragic accident, Tim goes to Ryme City to wrap up his dad’s affairs, only to fall in with Harry’s Pokémon partner, a Pikachu with amnesia and a coffee habit (voice by Ryan Reynolds).

Ryme City has been built by a magnate (Bill Nighy) who has a dream of people and Pokémon living in harmony, which means Pokémon battles are outlawed. Harry seemed to have been tracking the source of a drug given to Pokémon in underground fighting venues to make them aggressive and wild. Tim and Pikachu pick up the thread of the mystery, along with an ambitious news intern named Lucy (Newton) and her Psyduck.

The beats are pretty basic, the jokes are not very sophisticated, and all the plot twists are easy to spot early on, but it’s still a cute little film. My kids loved it; my husband fell asleep through part of it. Justice Smith looks like his daddy, and one can very much imagine that the role of Tim would have gone to Will Smith if he’d been young enough. I only wish Ken Watanabe had been given more to do as Ryme City PD’s Lieutenant Yoshida, Harry’s boss. But it’s always good to see him on screen.

By no means a perfect movie, but not a bad way to pass the time.

Books: The Talisman of Set by Sara Hylton

This is, it seems, the time for me to go re-read books I haven’t read in years. First Jack Douglas, now this one, which I first read when I was 14 or 15 years old. I’d found it at the library, quite by accident, but due to a love of gothic romances and Ancient Egypt, this was right up my alley.

The Talisman of Set is about a woman named Kathy who has vivid dreams about a princess in Ancient Egypt and comes to believe she is the reincarnation of that princess. The question becomes whether she can avoid making the same mistakes in this life. Which is set in the 1920s or 30s… She mentions being eight years old when Tutankhamen’s tomb was found (1922), but later in the novel it isn’t clear how old she is when she finally hies off to Egypt to work on a dig. I’ll assume it’s been at least a decade? It’s weirdly unclear.

Still, I remember loving this book. I never forgot it, and years later found a copy for sale online, which is the copy I own and re-read. I can’t say I enjoyed it as much as the first time. Maybe because I’ve grown since then, but this time I found Kathy a bit obnoxious. And though the cover promises “A Novel of Romance and Danger,” I’d say there’s not a ton of either of those things here.

The book itself was published in 1984, and I feel like we know more about Ancient Egypt now, or at least have better access to research about it. For example, Hylton’s princess has her hair brushed by a servant, but we know they wore wigs most of the time. Also, the princess’ name is Tuia, which I suppose might be a variant of Tuya? Because Tuia is not an Egyptian name. And she mentions jewelry made of stones that I’m not sure they had in Egypt at the time, though I’m no expert in that. In any case, I found some of these things distracting.

It’s not a terrible book by any means, and I devoured it in just a couple days. But I suppose it’s often disappointing to revisit something that’s held a special place in your mind and heart for so long. I’d recommend it to those who like this kind of story. I’m just not sure I’ll read it again.

Please Vote for Faebourne!

My novel Faebourne is up for a RONE award. The first round of judging is determined by popular vote. You know how I feel about that, but I’d still love to make it to the round in which readers actually judge the books. In order to do that, however, I need YOU.

  • Go to Indtale.com and sign up for an account if you don’t already have one. It’s quick, free, and they won’t spam you or sell your email. I know because I’ve had an account for 3+ years and get about two emails a month. Plus, their online magazine is really good. Worth getting in your inbox.
  • Once you’re signed up and signed in, vote for Faebourne under the Fantasy category here.
  • Spread the word! Tell friends and family to go vote!

I’m pretty small potatoes compared to some of these authors. But I’d like to see some support for an LGBT historical fantasy romance. Please, please, please vote!

Books: What Do You Hear from Walden Pond? by Jack Douglas

When I was 14 or 15, I developed an interest in Thoreau and Walden Pond, most likely due to organized attempts to save Walden from greedy builders who wanted to make it a resort or apartments or something. Around that same time I also frequented a used-book store. And it was there that I found this old hardback. That I mistakenly thought might actually have something to do with Walden Pond.

Jack Douglas was evidently a comedy writer, and it seems he put out a number of books, though this is the only one I’ve ever found at a used-book store, or any bookstore. He’s kind of like an earlier model of Dave Barry? A lot of the “jokes” here are products of the times (this book came out in 1971), meaning today’s PC crowd would not be pleased. I have somewhat tougher skin, but I still winced once or twice. And a lot of the humor requires, er, timely knowledge of persons in the Hollywood system that I’ve never heard of. I can get the gist of the jokes, but they don’t land quite as on target due to my not having been alive at the time.

Douglas writes about how he and his family had lived in a remote cabin in Canada, but he was called up by Hollywood to come out and write a movie for a comedian. Hilarity ensues. Kind of. He moves his family to California and struggles to get this movie written, and the book is really just anecdotes about story meetings and cocktail parties and trying to find a place to live. It’s not an unpleasant read (though I may be giving him more slack since I’ve also worked in “the biz”), but not what I find all that funny. And I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be? Maybe “mildly humorous” is what Douglas was going for all along? Maybe he was saving the good stuff for Jack Parr.

I did tear up when he wrote about all his beloved animals, though. Because I feel the same way about all the pets I’ve had in my life.

I read this book when I was 14 or 15 and have had it ever since. Now, while unpacking after moving and desperate for something to read, I picked it up again. It’s been good poolside fare, and I’d honestly read other of his books… if I ever found any… Guess it’s time for a visit to the used-book store.

Off Topic

My most visited posts on this site are my astrology posts. This blog has never focused on astrology in particular; I usually only post about it when I have something interesting to say (which isn’t often). This is meant to be a writing blog/site, but seeing as my writing doesn’t garner much attention…

I’m currently writing a tarot manual for a friend who wants to learn to read tarot. There are billions of these manuals out in the world, and I considered publishing mine when I’m done, but maybe I’ll just post here as I go along? I don’t know if tarot will be as big a draw as astrology, though.

By the way, if you ever have astrology or tarot questions, feel free to ask. I’m happy to share what I know. (That goes for writing, too.)

Here, by way of example, is the introduction to my tarot manual:

The tarot is divided into two main sets of cards: Major Arcana and Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards and explores the journey of the first card in that set, which is Card 0: The Fool. In this text we’ll travel with the Fool through the Major Arcana, but here I just want to say a few things about what it means to have Major Arcana appear in a tarot reading.

The easiest way to look at it is to say that the Major Arcana are Big Things in life and the Minor Arcana are little things. Some read the Majors as signs of destiny, fate, or karma. Some read them as things that cannot be changed versus things that can (meaning the Minor Arcana). I hesitate to ever say that anything is set in stone and cannot be changed. I simply don’t believe that to be true. But I think, when you see a lot of Major Arcana in a spread, some big life lessons are—if you’ll forgive me—in the cards.

A surfeit of Major Arcana cards turning up means one of two things. (1) This is important so pay attention to what we [the cards] are telling you. (2) You didn’t shuffle very well. Eventually, as you learn the cards and become confident in reading them, you’ll intuit what it means to have many Majors in a spread. What I don’t recommend is reshuffling and asking again. Asking the same question, even rephrased, over and over is a surefire way to irritate the cards and only confuse the issue further. If you feel like you’re not getting the message, set the cards aside. Or if it has been a while since you cleansed and recharged them (more on that later), do that. Then still set them aside for a few hours. The cards, like people, need breaks, and jumping from question to question wears them out.

From there, I introduce The Fool, etc.

I feel bad that it’s taking me a long time to write this manual for my friend, so maybe posting it here will give me impetus to get on with it. I guess we’ll see if these posts get as many hits as the astrology ones (or at least more than my writing ones).

IWSG: May 2019

It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Posts go up the first Wednesday of each month. Read more posts and/or join in here.

Hmm. I don’t recall seeing the monthly email, so I don’t know this month’s question. That alone makes me feel insecure…

We’ve moved into our new house but we’re still unpacking. Plus, there are a number of moderate renovation projects I’ve been helming: fixing the sprinkler system, getting the new kitchen hood, fixing the solar heating on the pool, and eventually also replastering and retiling the pool as well. Between this stack of tasks and managing the kids’ schedules, writing hasn’t been high on my list. And I can’t say I miss it much. I like to think I’m a good writer, but since I can’t seem to succeed at it no matter what I do, I’m now starting to believe maybe I’m not very good after all. Which is a bit of a blow. When you spend your life priding yourself on a skill or talent and (much later in life) discover maybe you don’t have that skill/talent…

I did recently begin tinkering with an old piece. I don’t know where it’s going, if anywhere, whether it will ever amount to anything or be publishable at all. Maybe I’m wasting my time. Maybe all the years I’ve spent writing were a waste of time and energy that I should have been putting elsewhere.

So I’m trying to figure some stuff out. About myself, my writing, my “career” (if it can be called as such). Faebourne is up for a RONE award, and voting begins next week, but given that I’ve never been able to mobilize enough people to support me, I don’t have much hope in that quarter either. Feels like a nail in my coffin.

Unpopular Opinion: Game of Thrones, “The Long Night”

Last night the much awaited Battle of Winterfell occurred on HBO’s Game of Thrones. It was 90 minutes of, well, battle. By all accounts it took a long time to film, too, and as someone who has worked in film, I’m often impressed by the production values of this series. I watch and think, Someone had to time that just right…

But while all my friends and all the people on Facebook and Twitter seem to be in love with this episode, I just… Didn’t find it all that interesting. For one thing, a lot of it was hard to see, so it was difficult to tell what was going on. And the episode felt so long, so interminable. I get the sense that this was done on purpose, to make viewers feel the uncertainty and endlessness of being on the battlefield, but I guess I’m not invested enough in the show overall to have been so absorbed.

Also, I don’t like zombie movies. And this really amounted to a zombie movie.

Were there great moments? Absolutely. I’m not saying the entire episode was a washout, and there was some definite emotional impact. I just don’t seem to be as enthralled as so many other viewers. I liked “Battle of the Bastards” waaaaay more and found it far more impressive. Maybe GoT has made me jaded and given me unreasonable expectations that even it can’t always meet. ::shrug::

Movies: Avengers: Endgame

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd
Directed by: Anthony & Joe Russo
Screenplay by: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Marvel/Disney, 2019
PG-13; 181 minutes
4 stars (out of 5)

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Last time on The Avengers: Thanos did, in fact, get all the Infinity Stones, put on the gauntlet, snapped his fingers, and reduced the population of the universe by 50%.

In today’s episode, the remaining Avengers seek a way to undo it all.

Mild plot spoilers follow, though I will NOT reveal any major deaths in this review.

First they hunt down Thanos himself because, hey, he has the Stones and maybe they can get them back and use them to fix everything. But Thanos used the Stones to, er, get rid of the Stones? So that’s a no-go.

But then Scott Lang comes back from the quantum whatever and gives them a new idea: time travel! So for a chunk of the movie, we’re on a caper to retrieve the Stones from places they were known to be in the past.

Yada yada yada, past Thanos finds out about it, big battle, the end.

Okay, so I enjoyed the first, oh, two thirds of this movie? All of the character moments are on point, and since I’m a character writer, that makes me super happy. I will say that I was able to predict lines of dialogue a good 65% of the time, which either tells me it’s become rote or that I should be writing these movies. Probably both.

There’s a good amount of humor in this movie, too, which I also enjoy. Some of it felt forced or shoehorned in, however—very conscious of its job as a mood lightener. Which makes it a little clumsy and less funny.

The action scenes suffer from the rapid cuts that most of these movies have come to rely on. They make me a little nauseous, actually, and give me a bit of a headache. I mean, film is a visual medium, and if you can’t actually see what’s going on, what’s the point?

In particular, the final battle is a blender concoction of Marvel’s Greatest Moments + the Super Bowl. It’s not terrible, but it is gratuitous, and it’s very obvious they’re striving to give every character a slice of screen time.

Then we get the Return-of-the-King ending, where we need to see where everyone ends up so we can set up the next cycle of films, I guess. Well, and write off anyone whose cycle is finished.

All that said, on the whole I did enjoy it. And there are upcoming Marvel films I’m actually anticipating: the next Spider-Man, the next Guardians of the Galaxy… Maybe they’ll do another Ant-Man? I guess I lean toward the franchises that have the most humor and don’t take themselves too seriously. For me, that’s entertainment.

Avengers: Endgame ticks most of my boxes. I liked it more than Infinity War anyway. That’s gotta be worth something.