How I Prepared for Game of Thrones Season 4

I find myself in a strange position on the eve of HBO’s mega-hit fantasy series Game of Thrones’ fourth season. I tried as long as humanly possible to not jump feet first into the world of Westeros… Sure I liked the show and watched it every week without fail, and yeah I might’ve picked up a t-shirt or two along the way, but all-in-all I’ve fought the urge to pick up the books or play any games or spend hours looking into the early history of the First Men and how they lived in harmony with the Children of the Forest until the Andals came and conquered the seven kingdoms… Oops…Game-of-Thrones-Mondo-poster-1

Shit, there I go. I lay all blame on the broad shoulders of George R R Martin.

So yes, in the dark hours of this last winter, I picked up Game of Thrones, the first book in the series. It was just sitting there waiting for me to pick it up… And then I couldn’t put it down. Of course. I don’t know what I was expecting, I don’t think I had any expectations, but now I see why the show is what it is to so many people. You see, I didn’t WANT to read the books. I have a complicated relationship with adaptations thanks to my undying love for Stephen King. I realize that some things are just better left on the page.

Well, I couldn’t wait any longer… And now I’m paying the price… Story of my life. Now I’m well into A Clash of Kings, and ready to start watching the second half of Storm of Swords… The part of the books that season 4 is based. I don’t mind. I’ve resigned myself to my fate as quickly as I could.

What can I say? I’m hooked…

882475_497649860299011_407630296_oThe books are amazing, his writing is brilliant, and I don’t care if I’m on a runaway train headed for a head-on collision at the end of the line. You see, I’m not a fan of waiting. Patience is a virtue, that sometimes just eludes me… Plus like I said, I’ve been through this once before, and I used to feel a little burned by the way The Dark Tower wrapped up. I remember waiting, wondering, lamenting every story that came out instead of… It was horrible. I stopped reading King for years because he just wouldn’t sit down and write the damn ending. Then when it came I was overjoyed at the prospect of an ending, until it was over. I love the ending of The Dark Tower. It wasn’t at all what I imagined, and that’s the point.

I’m a writer, while not necessarily a big-shot published so-and-so, I still understand the pain of writer’s block. Just ask the novels I’ve been letting collect dust for well over a year now… Inspiration is a tricky thing, and nothing feels more wrong than forcing writing… But in the end, if it’s a person’s job, and there are millions of people out there waiting with bated breath, hanging on every Google News alert for misinterpreted signs of your next book, I might be a little more motivated to lock myself away in my mansion and force myself to wrap shit up.

Martin has been writing The Winds of Winter for awhile now, and still has one more book to go before the series is over- A Dream of Spring. The internet is flooded with reports of the show ending before the books do, what will happen if the show catches up to the books, if Martin doesn’t publish fast enough… All the speculation, all the pressure… It’s got to be rough.

At the same time, it’s the best part of the series. The End. How much fun is it to write all the stuff you’ve been building up to? THE BEST! Maybe that’s just wishful thinking though.kings_landing

**SPOILERISH**

As HBO’s visual version of Westeros prepares to return in a few weeks, many are wondering how last season’s Red Wedding can possibly be topped? I myself, have never had my heart and stomach wrenched by a television show more than when Walder Frey’s men viciously stabbed Robb Stark’s pregnant bride in the stomach over and over again as arrows rained down from above, washing away any hope of a Stark family reunion with a tidal wave of blood. When Michelle Fairley screamed at the end of that episode… That sound will echo in my memory forever…stark-household-game-of-thrones-19599011-1280-720

Anyone who has read the books or has succumb to the pull of the internet knows that there are some MAJOR deaths coming up this season as well… I don’t want to say anything, mainly because I don’t know details, but I do know that the North will never forget, and the Lannister family is about to get a little smaller…

Now that the oldest, most noble house in Westeros has been brought to its knees by the usurping Lannister clan, the political climate in the capital is about to get even muddier. John Snow is back at Castle Black, destined for leadership, and Stannis Baratheon is headed North to help defend against the coming tide of Wildlings. Arya Stark is on the run with The Hound, headed for the Eastern shore and a trip across the Narrow Sea, while her sister Sansa has been married off to Tyrion Lannister- possibly the only man in Westeros who can still save the “kingdom” if his freaky family would just step aside and let him. The psychoboy King Joffery is set to go toe-to-toe with grandpappy Lannister as the powerful Tyrell family cements itself to a doomed house.

With Bran Stark and his gang of merry Wargsters headed into the white beyond the wall in search of the Children of the Forest, can the parapalegic boy find the three-eyed raven and save the world? Meanwhile the recently eunuch’ed Theon Greyjoy, aka Reek, is held captive by the traitor Roose Bolton’s bastard son Ramsey… And let’s not forget our favorite Mother of Dragons across the sea. Daenerys builds her armies as her ancestors did before her, all the while her three dragons grow bigger and bigger, and far less easy to control…

GOT1Never turn your back on a Targaryen with a dragon.

This season is the build-up to Martin’s Dance with Dragons/Feast of Crows experiment, in which he originally set out to skip the story ahead five years, but quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen and instead basically cut one giant book in two. Dance and Crows take place at the same time, and each one covers the events on different sides of the narrow sea. It will be interesting to see how the writers on HBO’s show choose to blend the books together over the coming seasons.

That on top of Martin’s hints that the series might wrap up with a big-screen finale due to the effects-heavy needs of the climax- and fans are champing at the bit for both new episodes and the new book that “should” be out late this year or early next. Either way, as long as HBO takes its time, there’s still a lot of story left to cover before the show catches up… And if he can get Winds of Winter out soon, or even better, write them both at the same time, then fans of Game of Thrones should have nothing to fear.

Winter is no longer coming, Winter is here…

 

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Cutting the Cable Cord: Day 1

cable_cord_byAlyson_Hurt_flickrccHow much is your cable bill? How about when you let it slide for a few weeks? Ever pick it apart and read the fine print? Now let me ask you this: Do you know what Stockholm Syndrome is?

You know, the one where the hostages lose their minds and start to feel a bond with the kidnappers? It’s like the story of the frog in the pot. The water’s warm, it keeps getting warmer, it feels great and relaxing, and then it’s frog soup.

Well this analogy can be used for anything in our society today, from the inability of our government to function on even the basest levels, to the Doritos Cool Ranch Taco at Taco Bell, the water is boiling… and we’re too relaxed to notice we’re about to be soup… But I’m talking about cable television.

infographic-cutting-the-cableWho knows this game? Your bill is too high so you call up Comcast and say you need to cut back some services and possibly switch to Dish… The representative pretends he or she hasn’t played this game every 5 minutes for the last 5 years  and gives you free HBO for six months and a boost on your internet speed… and maybe if you’re lucky will cut your bill down enough to make you feel like you’re empowered, like Comcast really cares about your business and wants to keep you as a customer.

I played this game for over 10 years and I can’t do it anymore. So as of today, as painful as it might be, my family has “cut the cord.” I turned in all of our cable boxes and gave up the charade of cable television. After literally months of back and forth, pros and cons, and swearing “this’ll be the week…”, tonight we are free. We can watch whatever we want without the constraints of “the guide.”

Let’s face it Comcast, “the guide” is the same crappy blue boxes you implemented 20 years ago. I’ve been staring at the same unresponsive menus and horrible interface for the better part of my adult life. Well, all of it actually… And yes I know that says something about my lifestyle, but I assure you, I do all things in moderation… ESPECIALLY moderation. While they might have added HDTV programming and On Demand (which now completely sucks because there and commercials and you can’t fast forward) to the mix, it’s still the same 25-year-old technology they’re selling us as next year’s model.

the-cable-guy-tbi-1Our last bill from Comcast was $601.00. That’s six hundred dollars, and that’s not a typo. That was also the last straw. Yes, it is three months worth of bills cause of their stupid bill-in-advance system, but still… $600??!! We had an HD-DVR in the living room, an HD box collecting dust, and an old black Motorola doing the same… Plus HBO (half price) and Showtime (half price) and a myriad of shit channels we don’t EVER watch. So I packed them in the trunk, went down and took a number in line, and stood there watching Netflix on my iPhone just to say “F you Comcast.” It would have been a much more satisfying experience if the dude at the counter hadn’t been so damn cool. So that plus internet works out to $200 a month. That’s $2400 a year. Are you beginning to see the water bubbling?

We’ve got 2 PS3s, 1 Sony BluRay, a Wii, a half dozen i-devices, and an HDTV antennae. We’ve also ordered the Boxee, which will be here Tuesday. It uses an internal HDTV antennae to record live TV, DVR-style, and stores it on a server without a limit to how much you store. Did you say no-limit cloud storage? We’ve got Amazon Prime, we’ve got Netflix, and we’ve got resourcefulness.

photo_610x357I’ll admit, it was a little overwhelming. Simply because cable has been such a part of my life, especially HBO and lately AMC, but now I can just BUY those episodes when the day they air anyway. Then I’ll own it! In the next month, two of my favorite shows return, and even if I have to pay $40 for an HD season of Game of Thrones, $40 for Mad Men, $40 for True Blood, etc… That’s still less than one goddamn Comcast payment! And it’s a cost that’s spread out over a few months, and lets me add my favorite shows to my video library!

cord-cutting-cableIt’s time to change the channel from cable television… To boldly go where no one has gone before and all that… Huzzah!

To be continued…

HBO’s Foray into Fantasy Off to a Solid Start With ‘Game of Thrones’

When you think of good adult fantasy, well… (I probably just lost half the readers) In all seriousness, what is there? Name a truly epic adult fantasy (on either film or television) that has tried to take itself seriously, and succeeded? Even the Lord of the Rings movies aren’t “cool” to like anymore, and they made more money than Avatar. There are plenty of good fantasy stories, but when it comes to adapting them and making them work, Hollywood has been gun-shy.

So when i first heard of HBO’s plans to adapt a multiple-book epic that takes place in a medieval-type world where swords and barbarians fight in ancient kingdoms… I knew it would be good. I heard of it three or four years ago, and have been an avid HBO fan. I began watching back when shows like the Sopranos and The Wire were just getting started… Oz had been changing the face of television for years, and HBO on it’s own ushered in a new age of serious, dramatic, adult entertainment on television. So a medieval fantasy epic? Oh hell yes.

Four years or so later, and Sunday night was the premiere episode of Game of Thrones. ‘Winter is Coming’ begins the story of what has been jokingly called, The Sopranos in Middle Earth. Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring), Lena Headey (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), and Mark Addy (The Full Monty) are just a few of the HUGE cast of characters that populate this world.

Let me stress the importance of that word in this context… world. The world is set in the fictional, large, South America–sized continent, with an ancient history stretching back twelve thousand years. The seasons last for years in this strange place, and as the title of the pilot episode would have us now, ‘Winter is Coming.’

The product value of this saga is feature-film worthy, the effects amazing. I haven’t seen anything this large since HBOs Rome… One of the best things ever put to film. The first episode picks up in the middle of a crisis. The king of the land is under threat from many sides, and the main character, Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark must leave his wintery home land for the capital city. Meanwhile trouble brews to the north, where an ancient ice wall guards a terrible secret. There is swordplay, feasts, elegant costumes, and superb special effects. There is also a level of class that HBO brings to all of it’s productions, and they haven’t missed a beat. This series is bound to be one the greatest achievements for fantasy fans.

Plus the recent news that Ron Howard is making Stephen Kings epic The Dark Tower series over a span of three movies and three seasons of a television show… Well it’s just proof that special effects have caught up to the level where studios can make quality, adult entertainment for enough to still turn a profit. I can’t expressed the level of excitement I have for The Dark Tower… (It is the greatest epic fantasy story written in the past 50 years.) Bravo to HBO, to Ron Howard, and to those of us who’ve known these stories are out there… And the special effects guys.. Game of Thrones‘ first episode is brilliant, I can’t wait to see more.

Oh and check out one of the greatest opening sequences ever made. Everything about this series is extremely well done so far.