Considering the Unknown – GoT Season 6

game-of-thrones-season-6I’ll pre-preface this by stating that it is only a few days since the airing of the GoT Season 6 finale, so if you haven’t yet seen that episode, you probably do not want to continue reading…

I’ll also (regular) preface this by stating that, as far as GoT vs. A Song of Ice and Fire goes (that is, the TV show vs. the books), I lean more toward the book side of the divide.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the show. I think it is quite good…bordering on amazing. But it doesn’t live up to the books. If HBO had decided to not be wedded to 10 hour seasons, then maybe the show would rival the books. Sure, 10 hours sounds like a lot of screen time to faithfully replicate the books on screen. But after the first book, the showrunners had to start making choices because they simply could not fit everything from the books into the series.

Maybe you are of the opinion that not everything in the books needs to be in the show…or that some of what is in the books should expressly not be in the show. After all, the two mediums do imply different storytelling decisions. And, it’s not as if such decisions can’t go well. Consider, for instance, the stark difference between the book and film versions of The Lord of the Rings. Both are exceptional but in decidedly different ways. The films, in particular, play to the strengths of a visual, larger than life, medium and still capture some of the quiet contemplation of the books. The books, on the other hand, aren’t all that interested in large, massive battle scenes that play real well on a massive screen but require a certain amount of narrative dexterity that Tolkien wasn’t really interested in.

I’ve always seen the show Game of Thrones as a separate entity from the book series A Song of Ice and Fire. The two are connected, for sure, in many foundational ways, but they are also distinct. Maybe that isn’t a a particularly interesting revelation. But it seems to me that when one is considering a work that resides in multiple media forms simultaneously, one is almost required to state one’s preference (books or tv series, comics or movies, whiskey or gin, etc.). But this declaration really has more to do with some hypothetical “desert island” situation…

If I were stranded on a desert island, which would I prefer to have, the collected books series (in some distant future when George RR Martin has finished it) or the complete box set of the show (also in a distant future where I also have a television, blu-ray player, and electrical outlets, but no way to contact other humans)…and I would go with the books. Again, not because I am taking anything away from the show. I nearly love it. In fact, on further reflection I may one day say I completely love it. But part of what tempers my love for the show is the fact that I unequivocally love the books.

Which brings us to Season 6, which concluded this past Sunday…

OK, so now I’m gong to spoil the shit out of this…you’ve been warned.

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An Open Letter to This American Life: Can you help me find some friends?

587I will preface this by saying that, strictly speaking, this is not open letter. I actually sent the following email to This American Life because…

I want someone to feel sorry for me…

I have a bad habit writing of inappropriate things…also writing inappropriate things and emailing them

I need attention…

I’m not good at prioritizing my time…

The reasons could be endless, really.

In any event, what follows is the email I sent in total because, honestly, I have no shame..

 

Dear This American Life,

I felt compelled to write to the show after recently listening to Episode 587: The Perils of Intimacy. While nearly every episode of the show impacts me in some way, I was particularly affected by Act Two (“Why Can’t We Be Friends”) of this episode.

I am not unlike both Chris and Evan. I am a late 30’s male, with three kids, who is separated from his closest friends by 1500 miles. I currently live just outside of Seattle while my four closest friends all still live in Southern California. They are

  1. The best man from my wedding whom I met, literally, in Kindergarten
  2. 1’s cousin whom I have known since elementary school.
  3. Another friend whom I met in elementary school, this time in the 5th
  4. My last friend was my college roommate (although, so was friend 1). So, though I met him “late” in life, we’ve been friends for 20 years.

Since moving to Washington I have not really made any “friends.” There is one person I have known for a long time in the area (we met 15 years ago worked together for several years). Unfortunately, he, his wife, and small child live on the other side of the Sound and we don’t see each other much. But other than that, there really aren’t people I would say are my friends.

So, needless to say, I felt a kinship with Chris and Evan (even Neil admission, that he’s let the relationships with many friends lag, rings extremely true for me…despite the vast number of readily available communication channels, I do not routinely connect with any of my 4 friends mentioned above, let alone anyone else).

I will also admit that I felt no small amount of panic when Neil started to consider the “odd-couple” like nature of Chris and Evan’s personalities.

“Evan is a deep-dive pop culture junkie. Chris is an English professor who is into sports. They were opposite sides of an eggheaded coin.”

I was actively rooting for these two to make a connection. These two HAD to make a connection. Not only would such an outcome satisfy Neil’s professed Rom-Com leanings, but it would give me hope. So, I was, of course, happy to hear that both Chris and Evan seem to be building their fledgling friendship.

But…

The more I thought about it, the more I got depressed. Not because I don’t believe they won’t hang out again…hey, I’m not the best at following up with people, so I can accept that a few weeks might go by before they meet-up again.

No, what depressed me is that I realized what these two actually need is a third friend. Or, more specifically, they need me as their third friend.

I know, this sounds extremely arrogant…but hear me out on this.

Chris is “an English professor who is into sports.” I’m an English professor who is into sports! Seriously, I teach English as a community college. Perhaps more importantly, each year of my life is equally divided between the MLB and English Premier League seasons. Even though I don’t watch them much anymore, (three kids is really a drain on my time, damn kids) I’m still a big basketball and hockey fan. Look, I’d even watch American Football (which I mildly despise) if I had a friend who was really into the NFL. Also, Chris started a “men’s only book club”?! That’s a genius idea, and I may steal it!

Evan” is a deep-dive pop culture junkie” whose description of his understanding of himself could have been written by me. “The parts of identity that, like, make me who I am, being a nerd, like, reading or writing my comic books and video games and movies, I need somebody to share that with because we don’t have similar interests in that regard for similar tastes. So like, there’s a part of me that feels important to me. And I want someone to care about it and to share that with. And traditionally, that’s where I’ve gone to my friends for.” See, I may be into sports, but I am also a massive comic book/sci-fi/fantasy nerd. My wife is nice enough to attend Emerald City Comic Con with me every year, but it’s not exactly her idea of a romantic date with her husband. In fact, most of my time with my friends in California was spent engaged in RPG and table top war games. I even worked for a video game company after college, damnit! I think I could even give Evan a run for his money in any geek centric trivia game.

Here’s the really odd part. My wife and I seriously considered moving to Austin last year. I won’t bore you with the inane details, but we tend to move every five years or so. From 2000-2005 we lived in San Francisco (another thing I have in common with Chris) and left when I got into grad school. We moved back to Southern California, where we are both from, but left in 2010 when my wife received a job offer she could not refuse. But in the last year or two we’ve both gotten a bit restless here in the Puget Sound. When we were considering where we might want to go next, Austin seemed the best fit for our family. I even applied to a PhD program at the University of Texas. I did not get in, but we are still semi-seriously considering that move.

I’m pretty sure (hey, I have fondness for romantic comedies too…Neil, if you’re ever in Seattle we should hang out) that if I lived in Austin, then Chris, Evan, and I would form the most unstoppable trivia trio of all time….

“kilian”

 

OK, so I obviously didn’t sign it “kilian” but, you know, internet handles and all.

kilian01Nerf Herder

“Jacket” via Spotify

I now sell aids for erectile dysfunction…apparently.

The-science-of-discworld-1(close-up)

This could be how our universe came into existence…it makes as much sense as many other books that claim to have “the truth” regarding the beginnings of our world

In what I can only describe as the universe sending a clear, though highly annoying, sign about straightening out my priorities, I was recently alerted to the presence of malware on the ol’ NR. And when I say “alerted” what I actually mean is that I received an email from my site host that informed me, not altogether pleasantly, that NR had been taken down and I had 15 days to “clear up my shit” (that might not be an exact quote) before the entire site, including my backups, would be permanently deleted.

Let it not be said that Bluehost (the host in question) is not without some benevolence. While they did inform me that it is my damn problem if the site is infected and, in fact, that said infection was a breach of the “Terms of Service,” they were more than happy to put me in touch with another company that could help me rectify the problem. So I called up said other company to inquire what kind of blood sacrifice or dark eldritch magics were going to be required to, ahem, “clear up my shit.”

I consider it a mark of the mature state of adulthood I now occupy (I mean, husband, father of three, two master’s degrees, experienced college instructor…) that I did not greet the quote of $90 a month for “service” with 10 minutes of sustained laughter. That’s just how god damn mature I am. I especially liked the hard sell from the customer service woman when she asked me “don’t you care about your website?!”

Well, faceless sales woman, let me think. I suppose, you know, putting it together, posting to it for a decade (I mean, overall, not much lately, I’ll admit), etc. means I care at least a little. But I’m sure as hell not paying for “site protection” for one month what I pay for hosting for a whole year. Eventually, she admitted that there was a $15 dollar a month option, but that basically just covers scanning and minimal removal. Would I like to pay $90 a month and not do any work, of course. But, did I mention, the kids…and damn it, they are expensive. And, you know, I say I’m a college instructor, but that description leaves out one crucial adjective…adjunct. Which means, in reality, I’m a half step removed from indentured servitude.

So I’ve been able to identify said malware but I’ve also had to remove it on my own…

To be honest, it wasn’t actually malware.

It was erectile dysfunction ads…a shit ton of them.

Somehow, a bunch of links/ads to various sites where one might purchase “cheap viagra,” and other such items, were embedded into a bunch of random pages across the site. Annoyingly, many of them weren’t even visible on the site proper. I had to look at the actual markup on many pages to find and delete them. As of writing this, though, it seems I have found and duly deleted them all.

As I said above, it seems the universe is sending me a sign. Or, perhaps I’m just deciding to see it as a sign that I’ve too long neglected the ol’ NR and, in fact, writing in general. It is possible, after all, that our universe was accidentally created inside the High Energy Magic building at Unseen University, and the wizards have decided they need to nudge me into writing more. So, I take this as an opportunity to come back to my home on the cyberwebz more than once a year.

kilian01

Simultaneously Exhilarating and Depressing, or The Most Influential Book in My Life

The_Hitchhiker's_Guide_to_the_GalaxyThis is, not to put too fine a point on it, a bit overdue. Can we all just accept that and move on? OK, good…thank you.

Now then, this is meant to be a discussion of the reasons why The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has been the most influential book in my life. There are many reasons though, and to be honest, a complete and total evaluation of this topic is probably better attempted in a book. So, understand that this is, at best, a summation. Also consider that, in a way, this is me cheating…well, myself I suppose. But hey, what do you care, after all, what book I put at the top of this list? On a related note, why don’t we recap where we’ve gone on this voyage…

So back to the idea of cheating. You may be well aware that THHGTTG, or HHGTTG, or H2G2 was, in its very first incarnation, a BBC radio drama that originally aired in 1978. That first radio drama was then turned into a novel. Over the years, literally decades, the first story (the one actually called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) was variously turned into more radio dramas, a “trilogy” of five novels (er…six novels), stage plays, a video game, a TV mini-series, a Hollywood film, a series of comic books, and a line of official towels (among other merchandise). The point is that this story (universe, really) is much more than just a book. I mean, on some level, all of the books on the above list are “more than just books.” But, H2G2 is literally more than a book. Each of the incarnations of story are different. They all tell the basic same story, but there are differences to each entrant in the H2G2 cannon. Douglas Adams, the author of the radio dramas/books, talked many times about the necessity of change when taking a story from one medium to another. One might choose, I certainly do, to see each iteration of the H2G2 story as a parallel universe in a larger H2G2 multiverse. In this way, no one version of the story is preferable/better than the others. Of course, as a person who, you know, has opinions there are certain versions of the story I do prefer. I mean, look, I enjoy them all. I think, though, that the film version (which, admittedly, I have watched in excess of 50, maybe 100, times) isn’t nearly as impactful as the books. In a way, I’d say the film somewhat misses in one crucial area as concerns the character of Arthur Dent…not the most appealing character trait. In fact, you could say it changes the least appealing trait and makes Arthur (in no small part thanks to Martin Freeman) rather likeable by the end. But the thing is, Arthur (the defacto protagonist) is never meant to be likable. He’s a simply man who has seen his planet blown up and is adrift in a limitless, weird, unfeeling, universe with only a towel for comfort. He is not happy about this…

But I’m getting off track here…

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An Open Letter to Gimlet Media

thGreetings Alex, Matt, PJ, Alex, et al (Hi Naz!),

How are you guys?

Well, I hope.

I want to start this off by saying that I’m a dedicated enthusiast for all things Gimlet Media. I’ve been a fan of Alex’s (Blumberg) for years. I’ve been listening to This American Life longer than I can remember (seriously, this is either a compliment or a very concerning statement on my diminishing brain capacity), and I started listening to Planet Money around episode 10 (give or take a few). So, I’d say that I have a fairly good appreciation of Alex (Blumberg’s) personality, or at least, his on air persona and have experienced a large part of his media career.

Sidenote, one of my favorite pieces of radio (ever) was one uniformly disparaged by Alex’s (Blumberg) fellow radio professionals. Alex’s interview with his father about the notion of corporate personhood (even though the consensus from This American Life was to not air that story in its entirety) is something I listen to periodically because I love it so much…I may, or may not, be slowly turning into a version of Alex’s father (albeit one who does watch baseball).

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The Center of the American Canon, or the 2nd Most Influential Book in My Life

huck-cover2Last night while I was watching one of the great pitching performances of the last few decades (or possibly, ever…at least in the live ball era) it occurred to me that we (by that I mean the entirety of baseball fans, but also Dodger fans specifically) are likely watching history unfold. And today, there is no shortage of words being written about Kershaw’s game last night specifically, or his career in general. The overriding theme, though, seems to be that what separates him from every other person on the planet who has ever tried to throw a baseball is not his natural talent (of which he has an over abundance…but so do many other major league pitchers) so much as his work ethic.

Inspired by Kershaw, I’ve set some goals for myself in the coming (i.e. summer) months. Mostly a list of milestones to reach as regards writing, in addition to finalizing the presentation I will give at the WCCHA conference in October. Long time readers of NR might be slightly (or, more probably, loudly) laughing at the thought of me sticking to any kind of deadline, let alone self-imposed ones. I have, however, been quite successful this year at actually accomplishing goals. Not really sure why that is and, honestly, said accomplishments have been achieved in non-writing areas, but still…I’m optimistic the trend will continue.

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Indie Publishing: Considerations for Writers and Readers

A very unscientific search of images using the phrase "death of publishing" brought me this...

A very unscientific search for images using the phrase “death of publishing” brought me this…

While in graduate school, (2005-2009) I was in the regular habit of asking both Tim Powers and James Blaylock for advice. On one such occasion (circa 2007) I asked Powers what he thought about publishing in general, and whether or not an unpublished author (like, say, a guy in graduate school) even had a shot at when submitting to a large publisher.

His response, in typically entertaining, Powerisian fashion was something along the lines of “Hell yes! Look, do you realize how much crap they get sent? Half of it is in crayon. And you know how to write, so yeah, they’re [editors] practically foaming at the mouth waiting to get their hands on something good.”

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