Rambling Thoughts About the Seven Kingdoms, Part One

Hello everyone, I’m about to share my thoughts regarding a few of the characters fighting to stay alive in the eighth and final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, so, in case you haven’t watched the show yet and you plan to do so, be warned that there are MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD.

I’m going to ramble a bit through text just to put some distance between the SPOILER WARNING and the names of the characters. Maybe I should start by saying that I started reading George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series just a year or two before the show began; or maybe it was just a few months before the show began? I don’t recall exactly when I started reading the books, but I remember that the show was relatively new at the time. I love the detailed descriptions in the books, and the sheer depth of the world and people that George summoned from his imagination. If you watch the show and think it’s tough to remember character names and connections, try reading the books.

Book-snobbishness aside now, the show has moved into territory beyond that of the books. A nice version of me says “Oh, that’s okay, George told the showrunners how he wants things to end so we’re going to get a full story.” And that’s true, we are getting a full story – but it’s not quite the story that George wishes to tell, I think. So the meaner version of me says “Why the fuck can’t you finish writing The Winds of Winter, Mr. Double-R Martin?” I love the deeply complex and imaginative worlds that books can conjure into our heads, all thanks to the magic of creative writers like George R.R. Martin. I get emotional when I read. Sometimes, I grin like a loon, or laugh out loud, or cry like a baby as I read.

George and his books have given me a plethora of emotional payoffs, and he’s set me up for many more, but the show has stolen the thunder from him. All of the wonderful reunions and touching moments that I want to believe George had planned for the books have been happening in the show. I can’t count how many times I cried or got weepy throughout season seven, as Starks and Stark-friends reunited at Winterfell. Whenever Tyrion and Jaime get a chance to see each other again, I get tense and I usually tear up. I have a network of characters in my head that I want to see connect and remain connected in a happy way. Of course, this can’t always be the case. Anyway, I think I can finally talk about the characters I keep thinking of as my “favorites,” despite my love for many more of them – I can’t reduce my list of favorite characters too much, as they are always moving around in my head, but the following three characters have kept me waiting and wondering about their fates with every turn of every page and every fade-in and fade-out on the tv screen.

I’m a Greyjoy man. Not because I particularly enjoy or condone their brutal, viking raider-esque lifestyle, and not because I like insane assholes (fuck Euron Greyjoy and all he stands for), but because I’ve always had a soft spot for Theon.

Theon has gone through some shit. He was a ward of the Starks from a young age, so despite his bloodline, he’s actually spent more of his conscious time growing with and learning from the Stark family than he did with his blood relatives. Still, blood ties tend to define most things in Westeros, so Theon undergoes a rough, regrettable, but ultimately understandable identity crisis. Not quite a Greyjoy and not quite a Stark, Theon turns his back on the Starks and tries to take Winterfell for House Greyjoy.

Neither family is happy about this, of course. The Starks feel betrayed by a man who grew up among them, and the Greyjoys see Theon’s capture of a landlocked castle as folly. Just when Theon is about to join the Night’s Watch and permanently lock himself in a state of perpetual indecisiveness, the Bastard of Bolton comes along just to further fragment Theon’s identity. For a spell, Theon forgets who he is and puts the two influential families of his past aside as he fights to survive horrific torture and mind games at the hands of Ramsay Snow/Bolton. Eventually, however, a person from his past arrives to dispel his fugue and push him toward action. Forced to marry Ramsay, Sansa Stark is in a terrible position, fleeing from monsters in King’s Landing only to find herself surrounded by monsters at Winterfell.

And Theon saves her. Those in the know are well aware that I’ve combined the storylines of the books and the show. The show, as I see it, carries Theon’s story in a way that the books may not. I don’t know, George hasn’t finished book six yet. I love redemption arcs, and in the show, Theon is allowed to move away from his indecision until he finally finds the words he’s wanted to hear all his life.

“You can be a Greyjoy and a Stark.” Jon Snow says these words to Theon, and in time, it seems Theon lives up to them. He rescues his blood sister from his depraved and cruel uncle, using bow techniques taught to him at Winterfell. Once he rescues Asha/Yara, she tells him she can take back their island, and he may head to Winterfell to help Dany and Jon. Theon almost smiles at this. His humanity is being restored, bit by bit, and in the most recent episode of season eight, Theon finally arrives at a hospitable Winterfell. He has come to help in the coming battles, even though they may mean the end of him and everyone else in the place. Sansa smiles and immediately embraces him. They hug and their eyes brim with tears. They’ve both traveled long and treacherous roads, yet they are there at Winterfell before the possible end of the world, working in their own ways to do the right things.

If Theon Greyjoy dies in the upcoming battle with the Night King and the Army of the Dead (what a badass band name that would make), I will be incredibly sad, yet I won’t be particularly surprised. The whole series has made itself (in)famous for depriving many characters of plot armor. Valar morghulis, right? Theon has redeemed himself several times over, in my opinion. He has corrected his indecisive and rash actions to walk a more honorable path, and I’ve come to love him along the way. He is one of my favorite characters, and whatever happens, I’m glad I got to see his journey.

I originally planned for this post to cover three of my favorite characters, but I rambled on so long about Theon that I don’t think I should continue right now. There are two more characters I really want to discuss, but I’ll get to them later. Besides, I got to write a bit about other characters in this process, so I don’t feel like I’ve neglected anyone.

Keep on fighting the long night, everybody. Valar dohaeris.


Just One More, Please

I have sort of a problem with money. Okay, I have several problems with money. One, I don’t have a ton of extra money. I make enough to pay my bills and buy the food I need and I usually have a small chunk left over at the end of the month. So that’s rough.

Two, I usually throw my small chunk of leftover money at purchases I should think about before I make them. In my introverted, self-centered world, this usually means I buy a new book or a new game to fill my lonesome nighttime hours. Sometimes, I’ll buy several new books or several new games at a time. As a man with a limited amount of free time, this tendency to buy new entertainments leads to an ever-growing backlog of games and books I intend to eventually wade through.

Three, um, lists usually look better when there are at least three items on them, so … I really just need to make more money? That statement leads me down a rabbit hole of self-doubt and confidence issues whereby I realize that I’m not being paid enough, rather, I’m not being paid what I’m worth, and I need to learn to ask for what I’m worth but damn it’s hard to ask for that because I convince myself that I’m lucky to have a job and wait a second isn’t this the mindset they (the ubiquitous authorities) have brainwashed me into adopting so I become complacent and neglect to push for the money I deserve? Shit, that’s how corporations pocket all the profits that individuals like myself have more than earned through our toils and troubles.

Anyway, this post is intended to address the first two money problems I have, so let’s get to it.

I’m going to stop extending my backlog. That’s all there is to it, but it may be easier for me to stick to my word(s) if I outline a plan, so here I go.

I will not buy any more video games or books until I finish all the ones I currently possess. Huh, that outline is a bit simpler than I thought it would be … maybe the solutions to all of our problems are as simple as this, and they only require decisive action with deliberate intent to succeed? I can dream, can’t I?

This plan sounds simple, of course, but there are factors which complicate matters. I’ve been trained, as many of us have, to enjoy coupons. I’ve also been trained to view memberships with particular companies as worth the money I spend to join said memberships, and in this case, my Barnes & Noble membership is the one giving me trouble.

I know, I should stop shopping at big stores and I should only shop local. Barnes & Noble holds some nostalgia for me, as it’s a place I went to with my mom a lot when I was a child and a teenager. Later, when I could drive myself around, I went there with at least one or two of my significant exes. Since I’ve been single, Barnes & Noble has transformed into a place I can go to by myself and enjoy on my own terms. It’s comforting whether I’m alone or with (an)other(s), and I like it.

I’m a card-carrying Barnes & Noble member. As such, I receive four coupons from them (the B&N authorities) every month. Usually, at least one of these coupons is worthless to me, as it covers items I don’t typically buy. Still, there are always two coupons that allow me to knock 20% off the price of one book. In my head, that translates to “You can probably buy two books a month and be happy.”

Well, yeah. That sounds like a great life. Ideally, I’d read even more than two books a month, but I’m also trying to divide my time among books, video games, board games, D&D, and so on. Two books a month should be plenty. And they are. Because, as I mentioned, I have a backlog of books.

My problem now is that there is one book I really want to purchase, and I don’t want to start my “No More Books or Video Games” pledge until I get that book in my hands. So that’s my caveat: I will use April’s 20% off coupon to purchase one last book before I swear off new purchases. I plan to do this tomorrow, after I get home from work. I’ll head to Barnes & Noble, use one of my coupons, buy the book I want, and then start from there.

After that, I’m not buying any new books until I’ve read all the books on my shelf. This includes books I’m borrowing, and the sizable collection of weird tales I started reading, oh, five or six years ago, and put down for far too long.

Games are a whole other monster entirely. I’ve downloaded more games than I care to remember, and this means my gaming backlog is huge. Some of those games, I’m halfway through. Some of them, I haven’t even begun. So this will be interesting.

I won’t buy new entertainment until I’ve finished the stuff I’ve accumulated up to now. I’m trying to get better control of myself, my free time, and my buying habits. There are only two ways to get around my new limits: one, someone buys a book or a game for me as a gift. I won’t look that gift horse in the mouth, I’ll just say “thank you” and add it to my collection. (A collection of horses? Who are you, a horse breeder?) Two, a big release that I simply can’t resist happens. This won’t be some piddly downloadable game that’s on sale for ten or fifteen bucks. This’ll be, like, a new Metroid or Zelda or Mario title … just kidding, I know that a new Animal Crossing game is supposed to release for the Switch sometime before the end of this year and I’m preparing for that. I don’t know if I’ll have my game backlog under control by then, so I’m allowing myself room to enjoy my happy life simulator. (Besides, one never completes an Animal Crossing game, it goes on as long as one wants it to.)

I guess I should also clarify that if I finish all my books before I finish all my games, well, books are back on the table. Er, the shelf. The checkout counter? I’ll be able to buy more books at that point. I get the feeling it’ll be way easier for me to finish reading books than it’ll be to finish playing games.

So, yep, that’s a whole lot of me rambling on about my entertainment addiction. I have other projects I’d like to work on, projects that require more active creativity than passive enjoyment, but today is all about my overzealous love of passive enjoyment.

I really love to read. I really love to play video games. I’m gonna keep doing these things, until I’ve exhausted my backlogs. I’ll keep you all posted, and when I finally get around to making something, I’ll let you all know.

Keep on learning and loving, everybody.



The Never-ending Time Conundrum

Ah, time. What do we do with it? How much of it do we have? What does it mean to waste time? If you’re like me, you spend all kinds of time thinking about, well, how you spend your time.

I like to imagine that my natural state of being is one of prolonged and deliberate relaxation, a calm and collected existence that allows time to flow unobstructed from moment to moment. I hate rushing around. I hate counting minutes. Yet, for all this lackadaisical desire to push time out of my mind, I can’t escape the constructed shackles of the clock.

Time passes. People age. I am, therefore I age. I’m 30, and that just seems absurd sometimes. Sometimes, I stop and realize that I may want to do something important with my time.

Do something important, that is, until I get caught in an entertainment loop. I was playing a shitload of Sekiro for the past few weeks, but I got stopped by a handful of difficult bosses and put the game down. So I read some books to fill in that new block of unused time. I spent time with a good friend earlier today.

We are, in no uncertain terms, consumer machines. We devour entertainment. Rather than spend our energy on useful and creative endeavors that may enrich our lives, we consume the creations of others and get restless when that game is finished. When that season is over. When that YouTube channel is on hiatus.

This might explain why we’re so dissatisfied. I keep saying “we” and I want you all to know, I don’t mean the royal “we” – I mean the peasant “we” comprised of me and my friend. Whenever we get together, we talk about the entertainment(s) we enjoy. Then I get really into mindless consuming for a while.

That’s why I decided to finally catch up on Game of Thrones.

Except, when I tried to watch the show, my computer slowed down to a glacial pace and wouldn’t load the damn episode. So I decided to jump back on the Hearthstone train (new set of cards, woot) and hone my gameplay.

As soon as I tried to redownload Hearthstone, my phone crapped out and flat out wouldn’t cooperate.

Sometimes, I wonder if the universe is trying to tell me something. You know, like, “Stop filling your time with other people’s stuff.” Other times, I just think my habits, mixed with my tiny budget, prevent me from enjoying all the creature comforts that many other people easily afford.

I have a Chromebook that’s something like five years old now. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t play video as well as it used to. My iPhone is also a dinosaur. Not like, a super powerful dinosaur, but an old and decrepit dinosaur that can hardly chew moss. It can’t even handle one game.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m strangely proud of making ends meet with the limited technology and funds I have. Compared to many people, I have a lot of cool shit. I can go online if I so choose. I can watch videos on my phone.

But the rampant consumer in me says that I can have more and better things. I can find more and better ways to waste time.

Some days, I really want to let the consumer consume me. Just give in to the mindless compulsion to watch and to play and to never think for myself at all.

I don’t want to be a mindless consumer though. I want to be more mindful of the way I consume. I’m not perfect. I still waste time consuming all kinds of entertainment that doesn’t really do much for me on a personal growth level. But, maybe with effort, I can use my time and money to support creators I respect and admire. Watch shows and read books by people who deserve my attention. Play games by companies and development teams who deserve my time.

I don’t always think about the ways I use my time. But I’m trying to be better about these things.