Wednesday, May 15, 2019

I wrote: Being Meaning

I wrote a poem the other day. I'm usually not big into poetry, but for some reason, this seemed to fit a need of mine. It is titled Being Meaning.

The universe is cold
A void devoid of meaning
It is thoughtless chaos
Raging about us as we hold on to something
This brings me
Because my charge is now to do my part
to bring meaning
to this existence 

Monday, May 13, 2019

Why I hated last night's Game of Thrones

At the beginning of this current season, George R.R. Martin was quoted as saying that he thought the show could go for a few more seasons. I interpreted this as him wishing he had finished the books and that maybe he could finish at least the next one in that time span. Perhaps Martin thought he could complete his series in that time, but that’s optimistic. I thought it was Martin being a little sour grapes about the whole thing. And then, last night happened, and suddenly, Martin’s request looks pretty much like, "They don’t have enough time to finish this properly." And he was right.

Game of Thrones ignored its own writing, own character arcs, and own mythology in favor of a dragon roasting a city for literally no reason. Some people say that this shows how Daenerys has turned into the Mad Queen, completing foreshadowing that has been a long time coming. I say that they missed several steps along the way. I also would argue that Dany’s is not the only character arc that was entirely thrown out the window in the name of making whatever that nonsense was last night.

Daenerys Targaryen, First of Her Name, yadda yadda, has been, above all, a defender of the innocent. Within the Dothraki, she ended the practice of raping women after defeating a city. She liberated slaves. She earned the moniker of ‘Mother’. She has come to cities before that have not shown her love, that have scorned her for being foreign, and she fought for what was right. In King’s Landing, in the city and kingdom she wants to rule, she throws all that away. It reeks of lazy writing. It seems like the show writers needed Dany to be evil, so they showed her roasting innocents. She clearly hears the bells signaling that the city has surrendered, and she burns the city to the ground anyways. All she needed to do was fly to the Red Keep, kill Cersei, and take the throne. She chose destruction.

There have been, not so much hints, but huge red flags that Dany’s homecoming isn’t as sweet as she would like. The Northerners clearly don’t trust her. Sansa says as much. After the Battle of Winterfell, people clearly rally around Jon. Combined with knowing exactly who Jon really is, Dany feels uneasy. All of this is understandable, but it doesn’t add up to burning all of King’s Landing. After the march down south, Dany is ambushed by the Iron Fleet through some sort of plot magic. There’s no way that the fleet of ships should have remained undetected from above, and there’s no way the scorpions should have been as effective as they are (more on this in a moment). In a moment, a second dragon is killed, her fleet destroyed, and her best friend, Missandei, is captured. Later, she is killed. (Side note: the writers of the show did Missandei no favors either. She could have jumped to her death, choosing death, not dying a slave. I think it may have had the same effect, but the writers chose to rob one of the few women of color on the show a good death.)

In some sense, Dany’s paranoia matches the paranoia of her father, the Mad King. Varys is telling everyone who Jon really is. Her allies are falling (a continuation from Dorne’s falling and House Tyrell’s extinction). She doesn’t really know who to trust. But, this has literally always been the case for her. She’s always been outnumbered, always been a foreign ruler. She’s relied on advisers, like Tyrion (who has been holding the idiot ball for some reason this season). But, despite all this, Dany doesn’t do anything irrational until she unleashes dragon fire on countless innocents. The only hints to her madness are a close up after her friend is killed, slightly loose hair, and talk that she isn’t eating. A far cry from unhinged lunacy that was the trademark of her father.

In Episode 4, Daenerys shows up to the gates of King’s Landing with a small army. She looks pathetic, really. And she expects Cersei to surrender. For...reasons? Why would Cersei do that? The army before her is small. She has killed one of the two remaining dragons. Cersei has the Golden Company. There is no reason for her to surrender. Tyrion tells Dany that the small folk hate Cersei, but is that true? We’ve seen no evidence of it. Dany and Tyrion expect the citizens of King’s Landing to rebel, much like the slaves of Mereen did, but it fair to ask, what are they rebelling against? So, Dany, fresh off of executing Varys, attacks King’s Landing. And all of a sudden, the scorpions that deftly took down one dragon can’t work. Drogon makes quick work of the Iron Fleet. The Lannister men on the castle walls apparently don’t know how to operate the scorpions, because Drogon literally comes from inside the castle walls and destroys them all. The devices that were deftly maneuvered are suddenly cumbersome. All in the name of plot.

And then, Dany wins. The dothraki (who I thought died?) storm through. The Golden Company proves no match for weary northerners. And the bells ring. And then, she snaps. She turns on the innocent, the people she has sworn to protect. She burns women and children, groups she has sought to protect. She becomes the tyrant that she despised, the father she loathed, the Targaryen she swore she would not become. Dany has had cities at her mercy before, and she has chosen just that: mercy. She has given into fiery desires before (it's kind of her thing) but in most cases, you can argue that the receiving end deserved it. Even Randall and Dickon Tarly got what was coming to them. She gave them the chance to bend the knee and retain land and titles. They refused. Much like how she gave slavers and masters a chance to change their ways, when Randall stood defiant, he got dragon fire. The people of King’s Landing, did not stand defiant. They have not shown her any ill will. She burned them.

If this is where Dany’s arc was headed, that’s fine. But, there needs to be set up. Scenes of the smallfolk outwardly fearing her. Her offering food or shelter to those outside the walls and being scorned. There were some massive steps that were skipped. Dany has won the support of three of the most trustworthy and honorable men in the series: Tyrion, Jon, and Ser Davos. It’s quite possible that they will abandon her next week, but Tyrion and Jon are there when Varys faces dragon fire, and Davos is part of the attack. Dany clearly has allies, but she chooses to ignore them in favor of something that looks cool. Sidenote: Dany could have ruled after taking out the armies. She could have shown mercy. She could have flown to the Red Keep and taken the throne. The smallfolk would probably still be fearful, because, well dragons, but she would have shown mercy and maybe they begrudgingly accept her. If she’s afraid of Jon taking the throne, he has repeatedly said he doesn’t want it, and there is in show precedence for rightful heirs not taking the Iron Throne (his name was Aemon Targaryen). Jon has repeatedly stressed this. If anything, she could have won the war, realized people didn’t like her and it wasn’t going to work, and then go back to Essos where the population does admire her. It was not as if Dany didn’t have options. She chose the dumbest one because the writers want it to be a moment of triumph when the Dragon Queen falls.

At least Dany’s arc may have ended where it was headed. Unlike Jamie Lannister, whose character development was thrown out the window harder than he pushed Bran. Jamie starts off the series as an arrogant knight, but then becomes the model knight, fighting for what is right, protecting the innocent. Then, after the Battle of Winterfell, he goes to King’s Landing, not to kill Cersei (as prophesied by Maggy the Frog, which way to ignore one of the biggest prophecies in the entire show or book there writers), not to kill another Mad Targaryen, but to get in a fight with one of the worst characters on the show, and die in a collapsed tunnel with Cersei? What oath is he fulfilling? He reverts back to his old self. He callously leaves behind Brienne in order to, do what exactly? At least they give him a moment with Tyrion.

There are still a number of unknowns in all of this, with one episode to go. Chief among them is how does Daenarys rule? What happens after she dies (which will happen). What becomes of Sansa? What does Arya do? What about Brienne? Is Sam really done? Is Tormund? What of the Vale, the Riverlands, Dorne? Countless others. Game of Thrones was great because of the nuance, the maneuvering, and the well rounded characters. Instead, the final season has opted for giant set pieces that are amazing visually, but lack the substance of the show’s finer moments.

One last thing, it may be that the books are headed this way. In the books, Dany may well burn King’s Landing. After all, George R.R. Martin did give a rough outline of his ending to the show’s head writers. But, Martin’s ending will earn it. It will show Dany’s slow descent into madness, it will show the smallfolk resisting her. It will show the things that the show took for granted, and that will make all the difference.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Into 2019

Here we are, almost done with February, and I'm talking about entering the new year. So it goes.

A few things: I did indeed finish the H.P. Lovecraft Anthology. I mailed it to a friend so he could enjoy the works as I did. I found Lovecraft to be a good writer, though cringe worthy with his racism. The Shadow of Innsmouth in particular was just....gross, I think is the best way to put it.

To sort of cleanse the palate, I read Lovecraft County by Matt Ruff. The novel posits that Jim Crow and racism are just as horrible of monsters as anything Lovecraft could dream up. I highly recommend it.

As this is primarily a blog about reading and writing, I'll talk about my goals on that front. For reading, I want to read 70 books this year. I read 7 in January, so I believe I am off to a good start. My February load stands at two at the moment, but I feel like I'm about to finish a few books in the next few days.

A series that I started to tackle is The Expanse. I am currently about halfway through the third novel of that series, Abbadon's Gate. Leviathan's Wake and Caliban's War were terrific books. Though, fearing a burnout on what is an enjoyable series, after Abbadon's Gate, I will take a break from The Expanse. I'm planning on reading Black Leopard, Red Wolf I would say "next", but I am reading, no joke, five books at the moment. It's not so much next as it is, it'll join the rotation.

As far as reading goals for the year, I also want to read In Search of Lost Time. I have started the first volume and am enjoying Proust's prose.

I have begun grad school, which comes with a reading load of its own. I am also hoping to do more reading on rural education, which will be the focus of my professional paper.

As far as writing goes, I want to do more of it. I made a goal of journaling more at the beginning of the year, and have done none of that. I hope to rectify that situation. I also hope to work on a novel, and also work on my professional paper.

I also want to update more here. I want to do more book reviews, talk about writing, talk about my research. I assume that since it is my blog, I don't have to ask your permission.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Thirty-one Days of Lovecraft: Day 25

Image result for the dream-quest of unknown kadath
I have been busy the past two weeks. I've made two round-trips to Billings (three hours, each leg), flown out to Oregon, spent a few days on the coast, presented at a conference in Billings (second trip) and then, of course, have my regular teaching duties. As a result, I have fallen behind in Lovecraft. My goal is to still finish the anthology this month, although at this point, that will necessitate 100 page days. And yet, as busy as I've been and the task that I've laid before me, it pails in comparison to what was done by Randolph Carter and The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Thirty-one Days of Lovecraft: Day 10

Related imageThat is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die....

In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.

Ah yes, boys and girls, it's Cthulhu day.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Thirty-one Days of Lovecraft: Day Nine

Image result for he lovecraftI did a lot of reading to get back on track and learned that Lovecraft did NOT like New York. Like, at all. He did like twisted tales of horror though, so perchance it evens out? Read on for some Lovecraft analysis and a poem of my own!

Thirty-One Days of Lovecraft: Day Eight

Image result for what the moon bringsAs we move into Day Eight, the Mythos gets set up a little more and there's just some general creepiness. After the jump!