Opinion, Podcasts, Politics, TV

The Final Things I Wanted To See In Game of Thrones

After eight years and 73 episodes, the final end credits have played out on Game of Thrones. Today is the first Monday after the end and I’m not entirely sure what to do with myself. I’m not even sure whether or not I’m content with how the whole shebang finished. Certainly, the amount of debate that the ending has brought suggests that while some, like me, are satisifed there will be thousands of avid fans who wanted so much more. For the record, no, I have not signed the petition to remake season eight. As much as I sense that the season was rushed, it’s insulting to so many people involved in the show’s production. If you’re not happy with how something ended, take the effort to create something yourself. Having said that, here’s a list of the things I wanted to see.

  1. Closure. Jon became Queenslayer, the wheel was broken and Bran was crowned the new King. Who’d have thunk it? If those were the bullet points around the show’s ending, there was a nod to John Hughes in how the second half of the finale went of tying up loose ends. Bronn got Highgarden, though it would have been nice to see him lord it up. Tyrion became Hand to The King, more as a penance than a reward. Similarly, Jon returned to The Night’s Watch to spend his life sentence with Tormund and Ghost. His arc now resembles that of Aemon Targaryen; being a potential heir to the throne yet finding himself protecting the realms of men with duty presiding over love. Sansa became Queen of The North, evoking Elisabeth I in ruling alone and forgoing children. Her sister became Arya The Explorer. Brienne joined The Kingsguard, Pod was knighted and Sam became Grand Maester, (though does that mean he’s left Gilly, Lil Sam and even Lil’r Sam in Horn Hill?). It was all a bit… cosy, part of me wanted a truly ambiguous ending to keep me guessing. One suggestion doing the rounds is Drogon landing in Volantis to leave Dany’s body with a Red Priestess with the final shot being her gasping for breath after her resurrection. Would have been… interesting.
  2. A New Power Structure. For all the expectancy around The Mad Queen’s demise, it was Drogon that took the decisive step. Having realised that Jon wasn’t responsible for her death, rather her power crazed quest for The Iron Throne was, he turned his heartbroken fury and fire to the seat that is now a molten puddle. Quite what Drogon appreciates of politics is anyone’s guess yet you’d hope they’d spent some time extrapolating the extent of a dragon’s intelligence. Maybe a bit more time for Dany to explain to Jon her almost telepathic link with her dragons in an effort to add some meat to Jon as Aegon Targaryen so it didn’t look like such a pointless reveal too. In any case, the feudal system is over and rulers will now be chosen in The Dragonpit, which calls into question why so much was made of Cersei’s pregnancy/courting of Euron and Dany’s infertility/courting of Jon as none of it mattered in the end. The King was picked and he couldn’t even bear children. I was close with my prediction of a new council though the show failed to explain how The Dothraki would have taken the news of Dany’s death. Would they have casually returned to Vaes Dothrak? What about how the rest of the Six Kingdoms would have taken it? For all the lolz that Sam’s suggestion of democracy brought, there was a point to be made of how the masses would have taken the news. Aside from some Northern folk and the ashen remains of King’s Landing we only truly saw the main players. We didn’t even find out how followers of the Faith of the Seven took the destruction of The Sept of Baelor. Did they revolt? Did they rejoice? Did King’s Landing become a totalitarian state ruled by fear? The council that did get to decide the fate of Westeros had a mismatch look to it; less who was worthy to sit on it but who, of even minor importance, was left. Even Ser Davos didn’t think himself worthy, Edmure Tully laughably didn’t and we didn’t even see how Gendry would behave as a Lord. At least we got to see the benefits of titty milk to Robin Arryn.
  3. Gendry to land a telling blow with his warhammer.Two battles and not a single warhammer in sight. Disappointing.
  4. Revealed: Tyrion is also a Targaryen.He’s not even important enough to be in the official account so no-one really cared, even if he did get to decide the next ruler, while in chains.
  5. Revealed: The identity and motive of The Night King.Likely to be included in the Bloodmoon prequel which is under development.
  6. The Valonqar prophecy comes true.  Maybe this’ll come out in the books. One of the aspects of the final season that should be noted, and the TV show in general, is how it’s steered away from the eccentric, magical theories in the books to centre on the characters. No Dragonbinder, no ‘Feagon’ and no Lady Stoneheart. If you did want to hear some in-depth discussion of what’s been missed from the books I’d recommend listening to the SpoiLore Editions of the Game of Thrones podcast by Baldmove.com
  7. Arya ticks off her kill list. The theory that she would kill Dany after face-swapping proved to be just that. In any case, her ninja skills would have to get her past Drogon.
  8. Happy Endings.There were certainly some happy endings for many of the supporting cast, perhaps they were too happy for many.
  9. Bran warging.Strangely we didn’t get much warging, or did we? There is a truly staggering theory that suggests that Bran has been planning this from more or less the start. I imagine if you rewatch the show from the beginning knowing he ends up on the throne, every decision works in his favour. Bran always seemed to know where everyone needed to be. Like the ultimate tactician, was he playing the Game of Thrones the entire time? Did he warg into Dany when she laid waste to King’s Landing and did he warg into Jon when he killed her? Did he ensure her closest advisers and one of her children died in front of her to push her to the edge? Did he ensure Sam told Jon at just the right moment to raise the stakes?
  10. Samwell Tarly becomes George R.R. Martin.Talking of Sam, in a truly meta moment we saw him present A Story of Fire and Ice.
  11. The Prince That Was Promised.Another for the books as the show couldn’t be bothered with it.

 

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Lifestyle, Music, Opinion

Seven lessons learned from Fyre Festival

As the title to the Netflix film goes, Fyre Festival really was ‘the greatest party that never happened’. The promotional material depicted supermodels in their natural habitat of sun, sea and… swimming pigs. There was supposed to be Michelin starred chefs, luxury villas and extravagant cocktails. This was supposed to be the festival that only those rich enough to afford it and those shallow enough to enjoy it would attend.

Day tickets were priced from $500 to $1,500 with VIP packages including airfare and luxury tent accommodations for $12,000. The marketing campaign worked a charm as supermodels and Instagram influencers posted a photo of a blood orange square to cries of ‘but what does it all mean!?’ Occasionally they would even hashtag the festival they were being paid to promote. Tickets sold out and that’s when the trouble started.

That the founder, Billy McFarland, is currently serving a sentence of six years behind bars for fraud should tell you that the festival truly went tits up. But what lessons can be learned from the most infamous of festivals?

  1. Prioritise toilets over models

Supermodels and Instagram influencers were paid to sell the dream of icing sugar beaches, cocktails and cute swimming pigs. The harsh reality was that people would still need toilets and one of the few sensible voices on the documentary belonged to a pilot; Keith van der Linde. Having learned how to fly on Microsoft Flight Simulator he understood the concept of failing to plan is planning to fail. The pilot would insist on toilets, argue against tents and was roundly ignored. He and the festival planner were gone with less than eight weeks to go. Panic stations.

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  1. Pay your staff

There was one happy ending thanks to the documentary when a GoFundMe was set up to ensure that festival staff were paid. This included Maryann Rolle who lost her life savings through the fiasco after entertaining revelers out of her own pocket. Things could have gotten a whole lot worse as Bahamian workers threatened to kidnap the well-to-do attendees and even take out hits on the organisers.

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  1. Ensure you have an adequate stock of clean water

A particularly grim anecdote comes from Andy King, a gay New York City event production planner and associate of McFarland’s. With four trucks loaded with Evian held by customs, McFarland ordered King to bribe officials with fellatio. No joke. In the end the extreme measure was unnecessary yet without clean water the festival could have descended into carnage. Thirsty American revelers can soon turn violent as seen with Woodstock ‘99 where inflated charges for a bottle of water became the tipping point for a riot after a toxic concoction of neglected staff, a lack of toilets and inadequate shade spots.

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  1. Confirm the festival site well in advance

Plans to host the shebang on Norman’s Cay were scuppered when promotional material advertised that the innocently named island was formerly owned by one Pablo Escobar. With weeks to go, Roker Point on the island of Great Exuma was being readied by installing swing sets then throwing sand over rocks and hoping no-one noticed. McFarland really should have checked the a calendar as The National Family Island Regatta was held on the same weekend in late April. Not only was the site close to uninhabitable, there were no available hotel rooms on the island.

  1. Disaster relief tents are not ‘luxury accommodation’

Then there was the accommodation. After guests had been plied with free tequila the looming sight of dozens of FEMA tents should have been enough to sober them up. Akin to a scene from Lost, luxury villas they were not and a stampede for tents and sodden mattresses meant this was closer to the Hunger Games than an uber-exclusive music festival.

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  1. Secure your caterer well in advance too

The abiding image for Fyre Festival is not of supermodels frolicking in the sand nor of Ja Rule smoking a cigar. Despite the outlandish promotional material, it was one hastily taken photo of the food on offer that really got the public’s attention. Two slices of brown bread, two sweaty cheese slices accompanied by some meagre lettuce and tomato in a sad polystyrene box. To be fair, to offer no salad dressing is an absolute scandal. That’s what happens when a $6m catering budget is reduced to $1m and that one image went viral. Fyre Festival effectively became a laughing stock within a matter of seconds.

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  1. Don’t invite cameras if you plan on committing fraud

In legal parlance, there is such a term as a ‘slam-dunk’, a case with overwhelming evidence for a conviction. With McFarland out on bail he decided that defrauding hundreds of paying customers once was not enough, he tried to again in a ticket selling scam. Those who had bought tickets to the festival were now receiving emails from ‘NYC VIP Access’ and offered tickets to Coachella and seats at the Met Gala (alas, only those deemed worthy by Anna Wintour are allowed in to the fashion event). To the delight of the prosecution, McFarland had been filmed by an artist named Kindo. Slam. Dunk.

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Travel, TV

Visit Seville and imagine yourself in the exotic locations of Dorne and Meereen from Game of Thrones

With its blissful warm climate, strategic history and regal architecture, Seville looks fit for the big screen. Throw in some real world tribulations having been founded by the Romans, conquered by the Muslims then enduring the Spanish Civil War and it seems reality mirrored fiction when the city was selected to film the more exotic locations in Game of Thrones.

The city still carries an air of pride and importance, in fact Spanish royalty still have a residence at Real Alcázar which is the Royal Palace and Gardens and should be your first stop too. The site has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 and the palace’s walls faithfully depicts its myriad of monarchs and influences. From its Arabic occupancy to late Middle Ages Mudéjar then jumping to the Renaissance, Baroque and the 19th century in it’s very own Game of Thrones. Oh, and have you heard of the executed royal? The alleged brutal murder of Muhammed VI, with his blood told to stain the palace’s marble floor to this day, is the sort of backstabbing that George R.R. Martin could have used for inspiration and makes it perfect to masquerade as the Kingdom of Dorne.

Inside the palaces at Real Alcázar

Inside the palaces at Real Alcázar

Even the climate is a natural fit. With average summer high temperatures of above 35c Seville is considered the hottest city in Europe which makes it ideal for Dorne as the southernmost of the Seven Kingdoms. Granted, the plotlines may have been somewhat tedious but the Kingdom of Dorne always appeared the most opulent in the medieval-era world, Dornish outfits were majestically coloured and the surroundings had a brilliant exotic, indulgent charm. Most of that extravagance has been garnered over centuries and centred on Real Alcázar which played the Water Gardens of Dorne, the private estate of the House of Martell during series five.

The fountain in Real Alcázar Gardens where Myrcella and Trystane are filmed strolling

The fountain in Real Alcázar Gardens where Myrcella and Trystane are filmed strolling

The fountain as depicted in the show

The fountain as depicted in the show

The show first visits the Martells in episode two after Trystane has been betrothed to Myrcella Baratheon. The pair are playing in the gardens below as Prince Doran Martell has a feisty chat with Ellaria Sand on the terrace overlooking Mercury’s Pool. The terrace itself is outside King Pedro’s Palace and out of bounds to the general public though the gardens, including the Italian ‘Grutesco Gallery’, are well worth exploring.

Mercury's Pool in the Real Alcázar Gardens

Mercury’s Pool in the Real Alcázar Gardens

In episode five Jamie Lannister arrives to attempt to retrieve Myrcella from her beloved Trystane and runs into Ellaria Sand’s daughters; the Sand Snakes, in the gardens next to Pavilion of Carlos V before all of them are apprehended by Martell soldiers. Another elaborate location is the beautifully lit domes of Maria de Padilla’s Baths where Ellaria secretly convened with the Sand Snakes to plot revenge for Prince Oberyn’s death. While the Martells were known for their promiscuity, fittingly Maria de Padilla was caught up in her own Thrones-esque plot as King Pedro’s mistress.

Maria De Padilla Baths

Maria De Padilla Baths

The baths as depicted in the show

The baths as depicted in the show

Episode nine featured The Ambassador’s Hall where Prince Doran received Jaime along with Myrcella, Trystane and Ellaria, though the star of the show is the hall’s gorgeous gold ceiling. The palace must have been manna from above for the producers as such glorious elegance would have been impractical to reproduce. From the Arabic three arches to the domed ceiling, ornate furniture, exquisite plasterwork and coloured Moorish ceramic tiles, all they had to was shoot as the backdrop was so sublime. Later on the in the same episode, Ellaria finally swore allegiance to Prince Doran with the paved courtyard of the Patio de las Doncellas in the background.

The Ambassador's Hall at Real Alcázar

The Ambassador’s Hall at Real Alcázar

The Ambassador's Hall as depicted in the show

The Ambassador’s Hall as depicted in the show

For those wanting to venture a bit further, there are two other filming locations outside of the city. Santiponce was once considered one of the most important cities in the Roman age and the ruins themselves are free to visit for EU citizens. The Italica ruins have been an attraction since 1989 when it was declared an Archaeological Site by a decree of the Andalusian Regional Government. Most importantly, the amphitheatre was used as The Dragonpit in the finale to season seven which saw Cersei Lannister face up to Jon Snow and Danaerys Targaryen. The ruins are about a half hour bus ride away on the M170 which is a local bus you can catch from the main bus station at the Plaza D’Armas up to every 15 minutes for €1.60. Keep gazing out of the window as the rolling hills on the approach through the village of Camas can be likened to those in Gladiator and you can see why the Romans took a fancy.

The Amphitheatre at the Italica ruins in Santiponce

The Amphitheatre at the Italica ruins in Santiponce

The amphitheatre as it appeared as The Dragonpit

The amphitheatre as it appeared as The Dragonpit

Danaerys Targaryen as featured in The Dragonpit

Danaerys Targaryen as featured in The Dragonpit

The same spot in the amphitheatre

The same spot in the amphitheatre

The entrance to the amphitheatre was also used to feature The Hound

The entrance to the amphitheatre was also used to feature The Hound

The entrance to the amphitheatre as depicted in the show

The entrance to the amphitheatre as depicted in the show

If large, open-air arenas are your thing then you should also visit the bullring at Plaza de Toros in Osuna which was Danzak’s Fighting Pit in Meereen in episode nine of series five when Daenerys Targaryen escaped on the the back of her dragon, Drogon, after an ambush attack by the Sons of the Harpy. You will have to imagine the dragon but the bullring itself dates from 1904 and is one of the widest and most prestigious in Spain, still seating around 5000 spectators. Osuna is about 85 minutes away on a coach from Plaza de San Sebastian and costs €8 one-way, though you could get the roomy, air conditioned train for €3 more. The train trip is also a far cry from Britain’s equivalent as the ticket price stays consistent and the Renfe train itself even comes with vending machines.

The Bullring at Plaza Del Toros in Osuna

The Bullring at Plaza Del Toros in Osuna

Filming the bullring as Danzak's Fighting Pit

Filming the bullring as Danzak’s Fighting Pit

The sheer variety of historical landmarks combined with it’s easy accessibility and warm climate make Seville a great destination for a mini-break. Given the brutal history that the Andaluscian capital has endured makes it a no-brainer that the city was chosen to masquerade as Dorne and Meereen. Even without your own dragon, there are few better cities to immerse yourself in the show.

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Travel

Safari Bingo at The Maasai Mara

A safari trip to the Maasai Mara must be pretty high up many bucket lists and mine is no different. Kenya’s most famous national park is teeming with wildlife and you have probably already seen it without realising. Those migrating herds of wildebeest charging across river banks, trying desperately to avoid the waiting crocodiles with commentary provided by David Attenborough. That would be the Mara River during The Great Migration as thousands of wildebeest travel from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Mara in Kenya between July and October, I went to see what all the fuss was about.

The first thing that strikes you about the Maasai Mara is its sheer vastness. Ideally this is best seen from above and there are regular flights out from Nairobi to ‘the bush’. I booked with Safarilink which has two daily flights out to Maasai Mara from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport. You COULD drive out for 5-6 hours yet flying in a thirteen seater Cessna Caravan was an experience I was not going to pass up. This remains the closest I am likely to get to a private jet, albeit for an hour long flight so I sat right at the front and gazed at the confusing flight instruments. About as close as you can get to sitting with the pilot.

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Cessna Caravan

From a few hundred feet in the air you can clearly see the herds of zebras, wildebeest and giraffes meander across the plains. Then there is the topography of lush greens, pale browns intersected with ravines. Not a skyscraper or car park in sight, and you can barely make out the runways below.

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Our destination was the third and final stop making the plane the equivalent of a long-distance shuttle bus. As the plane homed in on Mara Keekorok there was clearly no terminal, no duty-free and no café; merely a local market ran by tribes members and a hut which acted as an admission gate to the park itself. Ah yes, the fees. For tourists the cost is $70USD per day which seems excessive but this is far better than your average day at the zoo.

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We were picked up by our two kindly, knowledgeable guides; Korbin and Benson, and soon enough we were away on our first safari trip. A bright lizard sunning itself on a rock and a lion family lazing under a sausage tree were our immediate highlights. After a couple of hours we arrived at Simba Lodge and were given a hearty welcome. The rooms are mainly constructed out of wood which blends into the surroundings. There are the usual trappings of a hotel room with a kettle, shower room and comfy double bed. Most impressively, the room featured an outside balcony overlooking the stream below. We really were in the middle of the bush as a hippo was enjoying the late afternoon sun on the opposite bank, only an electrified fence separated me from the wildlife. The monkeys were still lolling around the swimming pool though.

DSC05936In order to best see the majesty of the bush it is best to get there early. With my mobile alarm set I woke to the sound of birdsong, surely the best wake-up call on Planet Earth as Attenborough would say. Then watched as the red morning light diffused from sunrise. What became obvious over the next few days was the familiarity of the bush. On the first morning we were greeted with a family of giraffes mingling with zebras. We soon found out that due to the successful policing of the poachers the animals really did not mind us. Giraffes stared at us with a vague interest then continued munching on foliage. Strangely, considering their prevalent role in The Lion King, warthogs and meerkats were easily the shyest of animals we encountered.

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As far as action went we looked to have had narrowly missed a cheetah catching his dinner as a fresh wildebeest corpse soon had its ribs exposed. On another morning all appeared serene as a pack of zebras grazed on one side of the road. On the other side a lion cub slowly crept over the brow scouting for breakfast and suddenly the zebras were on high alert. Likely due to the interests of public decency we vacated the area to let nature play its gory course.

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On several occasions we were late to the action yet even then you could see the inner workings of the bush. When the chase was over and the hunters had had their fill the other predators join in. Before carrion becomes toxic the vultures actually play a responsible role in the bush’s upkeep. Rotting corpses can pollute the land and poison wildlife, before that happens the vultures pick the bones clean. The ecosystem in perfect harmony.

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With the safari trip itself ticked off the bucket list, the next list was The Big Five or, as I like to call it, Safari Bingo. On the first day I had managed to scratch off an African lion, elephant and cape buffalo. Feeling pretty smug with a solid afternoon of safari spotting we soon went off-road. Of course, we were not the only transport on the plains as Korbin and Benson slowed down to excitedly talk to another guide. They could have been discussing the latest boxset or what they were having for dinner such is my lowly grasp of Swahili. Soon enough we edged off-road and thankfully there was a reason to suffer all those bumps. The sun was going down and soon enough we would have to have departed the park and got back for dinner. Yet the reward far outweighed the risk, within a few minutes our guide pointed into the trees and a dark grey silhouette could be seen. At last count there were three rhinos on the Mara, somehow in the 1,510 km² vastness we had managed to spot one. Only when I realised how unlikely our encounter was did I really begin to treasure it. Our return to the lodge was innocuous enough, until we mentioned the rhino. Some workers had been at the lodge for months, maybe years without seeing one, we had only been there for a few hours. The bingo card was nearly complete and the first day had ended with a buffet dinner including dessert, I was on holiday after all.

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The second day was more of the same but I could appreciate how the Mara changes during the day. From mating calls and playfighting Gazelles in the morning to herds of wildebeest minding their own business. On the second day  I took a break from the wildlife to visit the natives. The Maasai tribe inhabit southern Kenya and are resident on the game parks. Indeed, the nearest tribe was pretty much next door to the lodge and for the afternoon we got to know their local customs. We were welcomed with the males bouncing to a rhythm and soon learnt about their cattle and goat herds. Their leader, James, spoke faultless English as my Mother asked about their interaction with the wider world; the internet, education and inoculations. We were then shown their clay huts, means of making fire and a herbal remedy for all ailments which made for an insightful afternoon.

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On our final day we had a full day safari with a picnic and ventured a bit further. A thunderstorm had left mud patches across the terrain which had mainly dried out during the morning. However, by early afternoon some mud remained meaning many transports got stuck and part of the entertainment was cheering them get towed out. As we got closer to the Mara river the sheer volume of wildebeest kept mounting up but we had missing The Great Crossing as the hippos, crocodiles and Egyptian geese looked kinda bored. There was one vacant box on my Safari Bingo card and with a few hours left I managed to tick it off as we spotted a leopard lazing up a tree. I felt like shouting ‘BINGO’ but that would have woken him then scared him off.

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The final morning was also my birthday yet I kept this quiet to enjoy the majesty of the bush waking up. The giraffes and zebras grabbing their breakfast, the wildebeest slowly meandering across the plains and the lions huddling as a family. Well worth a trip, even if it isn’t on your bucket list.

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Politics, Uncategorized

General Election 2017. I Still Believe In This Country, But Not Under This Current Government.

Let me begin with a disclaimer, politics is not really my thing. Yes, I take an interest in how this country is run and how, in general, the world is becoming increasingly ridiculous. I also know people who are a lot more articulate when it comes to understanding and explaining affairs of state. Most of us get our facts from the media but my patience for impartial news is wearing thin to the extent that I do not believe it exists anymore. Since a young age I have have maintained this heavy scepticism, especially when newspapers and television become our primary sources of information when election coverage ramps up.

My main concern lies in an estimated ¾ of the current mainstream media in the UK being privately owned, ergo I don’t believe most of what is being printed being anything close to objective. The Government had an opportunity to investigate the media but dropped the Leveson II Inquiry. I do not believe the media were let off the hook without a compromise, a government able to ignore unwanted facts is a prerogative of unchallenged power. Avoid headlines. Read the manifestos and make up your own mind.

Even then it can be difficult to try to find the common good amongst all the promises. I find it easier to present politics as a fairytale; good v evil, The Force v The Dark Side, government for the few v government for the many. Thomas Jefferson saw it as a battle between aristocrats and democrats. The aristocrats are ‘those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes.’ The democrats ‘identify with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe.’ Once you realise how nepotistic the media is and concentrate on policies the picture becomes a little clearer. Judging by the recently published manifestos, it is not difficult to work out which party fits which description in this general elections and why I still believe in this country, but only if the current government was removed.

I believe in a £9 p/h minimum wage and a tax freeze promise on wages for those earning less than £80,000.

I do not believe in zero hour contracts.

I believe in eradicating rough sleeping and raising corporation tax to £26bn. I also believe in Excessive Pay Leverage, in taxing the top 5% and those earning over £80,000. I also believe in giving HMRC more teeth to go after UK companies who plough their profits into tax havens. The rich must pay their dues before a social crisis.

I believe in renationalising the trains and bringing them back under Government control. I also believe in free wifi on trains and freezing rail fare prices before reducing them gradually while investing in infrastructure. Over £100 to visit London before 9am is for the few, not the many.

I believe in renationalising Royal Mail and the National Grid.

I believe in scrapping university tuition fees, a higher education should be a right and not a privilege. However, the Tories have announced plans to fund new free schools (academies and grammar schools) by raising tuition fees. The Conservative manifesto states; “We will make it a condition for universities hoping to charge maximum tuition fees to become involved in academy sponsorship or the founding of free schools”. Universities themselves are concerned, Pam Tatlow, Chief Executive of MillionPlus, the Association for Modern Universities, said “Universities need higher tuition fees simply because the government has cut their funding by over 80 per cent. If the fees of students are used to get more academies and free schools off the ground, this would be like robbing Peter to pay Paul but it would also side-line local parents and governors who might prefer to work with other sponsors.”

Meanwhile, free school meals for children from lower income families would be scrapped despite thousands spent on kitchens. In effect, our education system is becoming a system of entitlement.  To put figures into perspective, Tories gave a £100k tax cut p/a to 13,000 millionaires while they are removing school meals from the mouths of 900,000 kids. Dickensian.

I do not believe in a new Dementia tax for the elderly. This would mean elderly people who are receiving social care to fund the entire cost until they reached the last £100,000 of assets which the state would allow them to keep. Of course, the Tories have now made a u-turn but their intention was clear; taxing the vulnerable. The u-turn itself is also telling, going back on a repugnant proposal only because going through with it would cost them votes. The Tories even bought up Google advertisements to try and hide the ‘dementia tax’ as if the blunder was all but a figment of our imagination.

I also believe in maintaining the triple lock state pension guarantee and means-testing of winter fuel payments up to £300. I believe in caring for the elderly, not stripping them.

I believe in a properly funded NHS with free car parking, not one involving private consultancies. I also believe in restoring nurses’ training bursaries. I do not believe in dismantling the NHS piece by piece. I do not believe Jeremy Hunt has a conscience.

I do not believe in the loss of Disability Living Allowance. I do not believe in the rise of food banks. I do not believe in starving the poor and the needy.

I believe in a new Minister for Mental Health.

I do not believe in Boris Johnson as a functioning adult, can you imagine him negotiating with the EU as Foreign Secretary? The alternative is Keir Starmer LLB, QC and Barrister who is Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. A man with actual experience of persuasion in a court of law. No-brainer.

I believe in interest-free loans for homeowners to improve property.

I do not believe in unethical arms exports to the likes of Saudi Arabia, not with their human rights record.

I believe in banning the UK ivory trade, the Tories removed that pledge from their manifesto. Horrifying.

I do not believe in borrowing over £700bn over seven years with zero investment.

I do not believe in taking the internet under government control but a toughening up of punishments for online abuse.

I do not believe in fox hunting, Theresa May does.

I believe in renewable energy and clean air, not fracking. Germany has it right, not wholesale nationalisation but letting councils decide how to supply their energy and not relying on a few providers.

Strong and stable? What about the weak and vulnerable? I believe in fairness, I shall be voting Labour.

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Lifestyle, Opinion

Katie Hopkins – The High School Bully Given The Airtime She Desperately Craves

Let it be known that this has proven to be one of the hardest things I have ever committed to page. Put bluntly, there are certain people that should never be given the oxygen of publicity, the banteriffic Dapper Laughs as a recent example. Katie Hopkins also falls into this category and I am reminded of that luminous pink slime in Ghostbusters 2 which gets stronger the more hate it receives. I really do not want her to be an inspiration for anything, let alone my own writing, yet the poisonous witch is on her own personal crusade to inspire people to lose weight. Or so she thinks.

Any publicity is good publicity but I really do not want to help promote her dangerous new show, ‘Katie Hopkins: My Fat Story’. This is a woman who craves attention like The Daily Mail designs hate-fuelled headlines. A brief synopsis then; woman goes from 8st 12lb to 11st 13lb and back again to prove how easy it is to lose weight. No surprises that this is due to air in the first week of January when many are ruing those extra treats during the festive period. To have Hopkins choose to pile on the pounds to then smugly declare how easy it is to lose the weight is close to insulting yet she has history here.

Alarm bells should be ringing that her initial claim to fame came from The Apprentice, a show that rewards selfish, egotistical behaviour with a bumper business deal. This is a woman who really does not care what people think of her and seems to revel in the hatred that her poisonous views provoke. Anyone that can anger Holly Willoughby has to be a special case.

Let’s just check out some quotes from the show shall we –
Re: putting the weight on she said, “After I put on my first stone, I stopped having sex with my husband. As a fat bird, I stuck to my pyjamas and getting naked in the dark. A fat belly is not an attractive thing, fat people aren’t sexy”. This is to paint a poisonous picture of what the ‘universally perfect body’ is (hint, it doesn’t exist). There is a significant proportion of men who fail to find skinny girls sexy, are you going to try and persuade them otherwise Katie?

Later on she said, “It is just ridiculous what people do to themselves. Fat people, I mean I really I don’t know how they look at themselves in the mirror.” So ‘fat-shaming is in and beauty is not in the eye of the beholder then apparently. What this also spectacularly fails to note is that despite what Hopkins may hope, a significant amount of obese people are actually comfortable in their own skins, presumably by the support of their loved ones who actually do like seeing them naked.

According to Hopkins; “Being fat is hard work. You can’t be that fat and happy. If you’re too lazy to make a change then you’re going to be fat.” This is a mercilessly naïve statement which fails to address those that really do want to lose weight but for various reasons struggle. Some suffer from low metabolism rates as well as low self-esteem after trying various diets and not losing much weight. Some are suffering from crippling bouts of depression and find it hard to face the world, let alone go out for a run. Some lack the skills and time to cook healthy, nutritious meals for themselves.

If Hopkins really wanted to encourage obese people to lose weight she would, hopefully, be displaying a modicum of compassion. She would at least be trying to be helpful and sympathetic to obese people, maybe come up with a few healthy eating recipes of her own. Presumably we have seen this before and gotten bored of such noble behaviour from the likes of Jamie Oliver. Yet however disturbing her views on obese people are her methods are worryingly flawed, rapid fluctuations in weight have been proven as dangerous on the body, particularly the heart. Following Hopkins’ example is certainly not encouraged by any health practitioner.

Hopkins has the assumption that obesity is caused by apathy. In 2012 she told an obese woman that she wouldn’t employ her because fat people are lazy. This documentary is her chance to prove the misguided view that obese people are unwilling to lose weight. That is disputable, it can be incredibly difficult for a lot of people, it was for me.

Back in 2005 I was forced off alcohol and decided to go on a diet to lose some much needed weight. I had the time and know-how to cook my own meals but the most important thing was that I had the moral support of friends and family. The last thing I would have wanted was to see some smug TV personality tell me it’s easy. This isn’t an attack on freedom of speech, rather an attack on the editors and TV executives that allow her to be heard. Everyone is entitled to their view yet Hopkins is the high-school bully gifted a dangerous amount of publicity. The real contempt should not be aimed directly at her but at the media that continues to give her airtime.

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Opinion, TV

The Final, Final Things I Want To See In Game of Thrones

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We are in the endgame now and after one of the most divisive episodes yet the rush to the finish enters its final chapter. While we may not agree with how the storytelling has developed, the conclusion could set all that right. King’s Landing has been destroyed and Dany has what she always wanted, are there any more twists left?

  1. Closure. With so many loose ends to tie up, the final ever episode has to bring about the end. What that now looks like and represents is up in the air following ‘The Bells’. Coming into the final season, many fans would have thought Dany would be the ideal candidate to end on the Iron Throne. She seemed like a just queen yet that all changed when she went full Dracarys on the innocent civilians of the capital. This may have always been an outlined bullet point of her story yet the rush to the end negated to include that one final trigger to push her over the edge that the moment really needed. The tension towards the Lannister army’s surrender was superbly crafted, all that remained was a final shot at Dany to set her off, a rogue scorpion bolt after the bells had rung. Having said that, the moment Dany snapped did not look to be a spontaneous decision, rather years of suffering being bottled up and released after even more betrayals. Having lost her trusted advisors she’s now alone and a Targaryen alone is something to be truly feared. She wasn’t always like this but having lost Jon’s love and the best claim to the throne, having lost Jorah, Rhaegal, Viserion, Missandei, Drogo and Barristan Selmy you can see where her sharp, villainous turn originated and developed. Amidst the fire and blood soaked carnage there was a moment when Jon realised his Northern troops had wrested from his command to bludgeon, rape and pillage. Jon was now fighting for the bad guys, Dany was the tyrant and even Cersei garnered some sympathy. Even the most honourable characters like Jon Snow remain good until the end; you either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. Subversion has been the story’s trump card and though this flip to the dark side has been foreshadowed, few wanted to believe that Dany could fulfil her father’s final wishes and burn them all. Similarly, her father truly descended into madness when he realised his Hand had betrayed him, one Tywin Lannister. The story has now come full circle with a Mad Queen and the thought of Dany ending on the throne has a typically bittersweet, ashen taste to it. Perhaps this is George R.R. Martin telling us that humans were the true threat all along and not the White Walkers. Power corrupts after all and Dany now rules through fear. How the story ends will tell us a lot about what we were supposed to learn.
  2. Someone on the Iron Throne. Further subversion would be that no-one ends up on the Iron Throne, even if it remains intact. If Dany was to ‘break the wheel’, Drogon could be ordered to melt the throne and end the whole feudal system that it represents. There are echoes to this in British history with the formation of Parliament to sate the changing desire of the Royal Family. Thrones could follow a similar path with the end of one overarching ruler in favour of kingdoms being self-governed and overseen by a council. Should the bittersweet ending be someone becoming a Queenslayer then Jon would naturally assume the throne. He’s said repeatedly that he doesn’t want it so there is the thought that he could decree a new order, a new power structure and a new way forward for The Realm. Bran could become Prime Minister, Sansa Queen of The North, Sam Grand Maester etc. Yet with Dany gone, you have to wonder what would become of The Unsullied and The Dothraki, would they meekly return home? Also, how would you deal with Drogon?
  3. Gendry to land a telling blow with his warhammer. Still waiting.
  4. Jon Snow rides Rhaegon. 
  5. Revealed: Tyrion is also a Targaryen.
  6. Revealed: The identity and motive of The Night King. Likely to be included in the prequel which is under development.
  7. The Valonqar prophecy comes true. Cersei did die with Jaime’s hands around her throat but he wasn’t wresting the life from her.
  8. CLEGANEBOWLLLLLLL. And it was glorious.
  9. Arya ticks off her kill list. And that’s everyone, she could still add The Mad Queen. She is also yet to use her face-swapping talents in this season.
  10. Theon’s redemption against Euron
  11. Happy endings. As Ramsay said, “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention”
  12. Bran warging into ViserionBran has barely used his warging capabilities this season and if he is to truly fly perhaps his destiny is to warg into Drogon and placate the dragon while someone else kills Dany. He also has form in calming potentially volatile characters as we saw with his warging into Hodor.
  13. Samwell Tarly becomes George R.R. Martin. In the final scene I can now envisage him penning the Story of Ice and Fire then reading it to even littler Sam as if he was George R.R. Martin. He kinda looks like him too, maybe that was the plan all along.
  14. The Prince That Was Promised. While I did think this was Arya for ending The Night King I now think this could be Jon for killing Dany. If so, it would confirm Rhaegar’s lineage as being responsible for the prophecy.
  15. Jon somehow manages to either keep the secret that he’s True King of The Seven Kingdoms under wraps or tells the relevant people and still gets to keep everyone onside. Even though Dany has claimed the throne by brute force and flame, the secret of Jon’s lineage has been unleashed. Whether Jon wants it or not, few can truly stomach Dany’s claim now they’ve seen how corrupted by power and bloodlust she has become. However, now she has shown her true hand it’s doubtful anyone could perform treason without being burned, that’s the effect of ruling through fear. How the remaining characters deal with her tyranny should bring this whole story to a close.
  16. Cersei denies that the Battle of Winterfell ever actually happened and claims fake news. 

And some bonuses –

    • Starks coming back as wights in the crypts. 
    • Ghost somehow getting through the battle alive.
    • Cersei lets people believe that the baby is Euron’s and not Jaime’s. Just to mess with people. 
    • No Lannister troops are heading up North. They never were. 
    • Sansa comes to realise that she has to back Dany or risk losing the Last War before it’s even begun. 
    • Jaime fights for the living then teams up with Tyrion to defeat Cersei, both of them know her and King’s Landing far too well to let this opportunity slip.  And in the latest installment of how character development doesn’t matter anymore, Jaime is truly a fuckboy.
    • Bronn has a crisis of conscience when faced with aiming a crossbow at either Jaime or Tyrion.  If he does want Highgarden he needs to aim at Drogon.
    • Daario persuades The Golden Company to fight against Cersei.  Ha, the Golden Company. What good they were.
    • Danaery’s fulfils her father’s intent and burns down King’s Landing. 
    • Drogon has given birth to triplets.
    • Tyrion finally redeems himself with some wise decisions. He’s proven ineffectual at persuading his Queen. When she finds out he betrayed her to free his brother he’ll have to work very hard just to avoid becoming toast.
    • No cavalry to the rescue. There are few armies left yet there’s still a chance for someone to become a hero.
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The Final Things I Want To See In Game of Thrones (8.4 update)

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With this being the final season, every scene in Game of Thrones seems to have something riding on it. Whether it be a long-awaited reunion, a brutal battle scene or the most earth-shattering news, things are HAPPENING. Now that The Night King and his Army of Dead have been defeated, focus turns to King’s Landing and the Last War.

For the timebeing I can knock a few names off my Death Pool and still wonder who’ll survive. Of those remaining there are character arcs left to be completed and the Last War is still to come.

  1. Someone on the Iron Throne. Anyone! However, I’m now warming to the possibility of the throne being destroyed at the end of all this. When you consider what Daenerys has lost to get to this point you can see why. Khal Drogo, her unborn son, Jorah, most of the Dothraki and Unsullied, Rhaegal, Viserion, Missandei and now arguably Jon with her claim to the throne. She has threatened to break the wheel and if she has her way I can see the throne being melted and the feudal system abolished. Given how strained her relationship with Jon could become and the way he recoiled from her now he knows they’re related hints that the fairytale finish of them ruling side by side looks to be just that. Doubtful too whether Jon WANTS to be the True King given all that Daenerys has lost to get to this point while he would have it on a technicality. As the final season reaches its climax expect three suitors for the crown (Dany, Jon and Cersei) to be reduced to two then one. Incidentally it’s Mother’s Day in America meaning that in typically cruel fashion either the Mother of Dragons or Cersei could meet their end. A bittersweet ending is to be expected, could it be that Dany and Jon defeat Cersei only to argue over who gets to rule? With Jon being the True King as the remaining male Targaryen heir and Dany starting to lose her mind it would be a shame if the show ended with a tyrant whose reign could spark another war as there’s a suitor with a greater claim who doesn’t even want the throne. Then again, one of the show’s great markers is to subvert the expected.
  2. Gendry to land a telling blow with his warhammer (not a euphemism). There’s still time for this in King’s Landing on his home turf.
  3. Jon Snow rides RhaegonHe’s got some practice in now too. And that’s all the practice he’s ever going to get.
  4. Revealed: Tyrion is also a Targaryen. Pfft, little chance of that now considering the palaver that Jon has caused telling Dany.
  5. Revealed: The identity and motive of The Night King. Was he truly after Bran? Did he want an heir in the form of another baby? Who was he before he became The Night King?
  6. The Valonqar prophecy comes true. Now that Arya has killed The Night King it’s doubtful she’d also claim Cersei, even wearing Jaime’s face. Now he’s left Brienne to head to King’s Landing, maybe it’ll be left to Jaime himself to kill his sister or perhaps Bronn will turn on her. You get the impression this isn’t the last we’ll see of the sellsword and he’ll have a final kill left in him. Considering the prophecy, one line now sticks out. ‘Queen you shall be… until there comes another, younger and more beautiful’. I’ve always interpreted that as being someone female yet Jaime has always been considered handsome and the prettier of the two siblings. Jaime looks to be turning away from his sister and her evil ways and going closer to her throat.
  7. CLEGANEBOWLLLLLLL. It’s so on. Especially if it’s the one thing that’ll make The Hound happy.
  8. Arya ticks off her kill list. The Hound (though Arya did confirm he was no longer on the list), Meryn Trant, Cersei Lannister, Joffrey, Ilyn Payne, Polliver, The Mountain (debatable whether you can still count that monstrosity as him), RorgeWalder FreyTywin Lannister, Melisandre, Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr. She’s killed The Night King, could she really claim Cersei too?
  9. Theon’s redemption against Euron. At least he redeemed himself as a good man in the eyes of Bran, sorry, the Three Eyed Raven.
  10. Happy endings. Brienne rejected Tormund, then he was cockblocked then Jaime left her for his sister then Arya turned down Gendry’s proposal to be the Lady of Storm’s End then Missandei lost her head and Jon has turned away from Dany and WON’T THERE BE ANY HAPPY COUPLES ON THIS SHOW!?
  11. Bran warging into ViserionWhat was Bran doing during the Battle of Winterfell if he wasn’t even trying to do this?
  12. Samwell Tarly becomes George R.R. Martin. In the final scene of the final episode I can now envisage him penning the history of Game of Thrones then reading it to even littler Sam as if he was George R.R. Martin. He kinda looks like him too, maybe that was the plan all along.
  13. The Prince That Was Promised. This could have been fulfilled. According to the prophecy, Lightbringer is a sword of legend that’s wielded by Azor Ahai, chosen by the Lord of Light to fight the darkness. Melisandre, as a disciple of the Lord of Light, gave the pep talk to Arya to shut ‘Ol Blue Eyes so that makes sense with Arya being Azor Ahai. That would mean that Lightbringer could be the dagger. Hear me out as this is no ordinary blade. Many believe that Jon would be Azor Ahai, indeed Kit Harrington was ‘pissed’ that it wasn’t him killing the Night King and ending The Long Night though the writers have known for three years. The book hints that The Prince That Was Promised was meant to be his father, Rhaegar. However, this reasoning doesn’t necessarily rule out Rhaegar’s role as the sword is meant to radiate heat; given he’s a Targaryen and the dagger’s hilt is made of dragonbone there’s still a heavy dragon influence there. Rhaegar is also said to be the original owner of the dagger and when Bran asked Littlefinger who the dagger belonged to, Littlefinger assumed it’s previous owner when perhaps Bran meant Rhaegar. There’s also history behind the blade itself as it likely came into the possession of Robert Baratheon after he killed Rhaegar at The Trident and of course it was then used in the Bran assassination attempt that kicked this whole thing off. That’s one legendary blade right there, fitting for the prophecy. There’s also the fact that Arya has been trained to become the most feared assassin and would have earned legendary status.
  14. Jon somehow manages to either keep the secret that he’s True King of The Seven Kingdoms under wraps or tells the relevant people and still gets to keep everyone onside. While Ned kept the secret for 18 years now practically everyone knows who Jon really is (nice one, Sansa). This means Dany’s claim is even more undermined and soon enough the entire kingdom will know. However much Jon sounded like a True King in his opening speech he doesn’t want the throne. Likely, his own sense of duty will be the end of him, as it was for Ned. ‘Even if the truth destroys us’, because that’s what happens in Westeros.
  15. Cersei denies that the Battle of Winterfell ever actually happened and claims fake news. No photos, no videos so she can put her fingers in her ears and deny there ever was a battle. Hell, most of us watching didn’t see all of it anyway.

And some bonus things I want to see –

    • Starks coming back as wights in the crypts. Called it.
    • Ghost somehow getting through the battle alive. He definitely deserved at least a farewell pat and a hug though the CGI budget denied it.
    • Cersei lets people believe that the baby is Euron’s and not Jaime’s. Just to mess with people. Called it.
    • No Lannister troops are heading up North. They never were. Yup
    • Sansa comes to realise that she has to back Dany or risk losing the Last War before it’s even begun. Then again, she’s also playing the long game in ensuring the future of the North even if it does strain their relationship. Her letting people know of Jon’s rightful claim will only piss Dany off more.
    • Jaime fights for the living then teams up with Tyrion to defeat Cersei, both of them know her and King’s Landing far too well to let this opportunity slip. Still a goer.
    • Bronn has a crisis of conscience when faced with aiming a crossbow at either Jaime or Tyrion. Less a crisis of conscience and more a declaration of intent.
    • Daario persuades The Golden Company to fight against Cersei. They’re mercenaries, plus there is some mention in the book of a long-ago Targaryen link having been founded by Ser Aegor Rivers, a legitimized bastard of King Aegon IV Targaryen. Also, Danaerys could really do with some help.
    • Danaery’s fulfils her father’s intent and burns down King’s Landing. She’s certainly starting to lose her shit.
    • Drogon has given birth to triplets. There’s also a weird rumour going around that explains Drogon’s absence in season five can be explained that he (she?) was away giving birth to triplets. Part of the rumour is based on the new opening credits featuring what appears to be a dragon and three smaller dragons. Let’s see how Euron would deal with that!
    • Tyrion finally redeems himself with some wise decisions. Either he’s a terrible Hand or he’s betraying Danaerys with some sizably questionable decisions. There’s also the thought of whether Euron was tipped off. If there’s a chance to prove his worth and condemn his sister, will he take it?
    • No cavalry to the rescue. This is the endgame and while it would be classic TV storytelling to have a hero return and ride to the rescue I’d much prefer to see these remaining characters play it to the end. That does mean it’s the last we’ll see of Yara, Tormund, Daario, and Ja’qen.
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Opinion, TV

The Final Things I Want To See In Game of Thrones (8.3 update)

With this being the final season, every scene in Game of Thrones seems to have something riding on it. Whether it be a long-awaiting reunion, a brutal battle scene or the most earth-shattering news, things are HAPPENING. Now that the Night King and his Army of Dead have been defeated, focus turns to King’s Landing and the Last War.

For the timebeing I can knock a few names off my Death Pool and still wonder who’ll survive while there are so many character arcs seemingly left to be completed.

  1. Someone on the Iron Throne. Anyone! However, I’m now warming to the possibility of the throne being destroyed at the end of all this. Danaerys has threatened to break the wheel and if she has her way I can see the throne being melted and the feudal system abolished. Given how strained her relationship with Jon could become hints that the fairytale finish of them ruling side by side looks to be just that. Doubtful too whether Jon WANTS to be the True King given all that Danaerys has sacrificed to get to this point while he would have it on a technicality. Perhaps neither of them will rule, maybe ‘no one’ will *winking emoji*
  2. Gendry to land a telling blow with his warhammer (not a euphemism). There’s still time for this in King’s Landing on his home turf
  3. Jon Snow rides RhaegonHe’s got some practice in now too.
  4. Revealed: Tyrion is also a Targaryen. Pfft, little chance of that now considering the palaver that Jon has caused telling Dany.
  5. Revealed: The identity and motive of The Night King. And we still don’t bloody know!
  6. The Valonqar prophecy comes true. Now that Arya has killed the Night King it’s doubtful she’d also claim Cersei, even wearing Jaime’s face. Maybe it’ll be left to Jaime himself to kill his sister or perhaps Bronn will turn on her. Considering the prophecy, one line now sticks out. ‘Queen you shall be… until there comes another, younger and more beautiful’. I’ve always interpreted that as being someone female yet Jaime has always been considered handsome and the prettier of the two siblings.
  7. CLEGANEBOWLLLLLLL. It’s so on.
  8. Arya ticks off her kill list. The Hound (though Arya did confirm he was no longer on the list), Meryn Trant, Cersei Lannister, Joffrey, Ilyn Payne, Polliver, The Mountain (debatable whether you can still count that monstrosity as him), RorgeWalder FreyTywin Lannister, Melisandre, Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr.
  9. Theon’s redemption against Euron. At least he redeemed himself as a good man in the eyes of Bran, sorry, the Three Eyed Raven.
  10. Happy endings. While Tormund’s best lines still fail to convince Brienne (no matter how hilarious they are), she did get her own potentially happy ending when Jaime made her into a Ser. I still want to see some couples departing into the distance. Sam and Gilly, Grey Worm and Missandei, Arya and Gendry…
  11. Bran warging into ViserionWhat was Bran doing for that entire episode if he wasn’t even trying to do this?
  12. Samwell Tarly becomes George R.R. Martin. In the final scene of the final episode I can now envisage him penning the history of Game of Thrones as if he was George R.R. Martin. He kinda looks like him too, maybe that was the plan all along.
  13. The Prince That Was Promised. This could have been fulfilled. According to the prophecy, Lightbringer is a sword of legend that’s wielded by Azor Ahai, chosen by the Lord of Light to fight the darkness. Melisandre, as a disciple of the Lord of Light, gave the pep talk to Arya to shut ‘Ol Blue Eyes so that makes sense with Arya being Azor Ahai. That would mean that Lightbringer would be the dagger. Hear me out as this is no ordinary dagger. Many believe that Jon would be Azor Ahai, indeed Kit Harrington was ‘pissed’ that it wasn’t him killing the Night King and ending The Long Night though the writers have known for three years. The book hints that The Prince That Was Promised was meant to be his father, Rhaegar. However, this reasoning doesn’t necessarily rule out Rhaegar’s role as the sword is meant to radiate heat; given he’s a Targaryen and the dagger’s hilt is made of dragonbone there’s still a heavy dragon influence there. Rhaegar is also said to be the original owner of the dagger and when Bran asked Littlefinger who the dagger belonged to, Littlefinger assumed it’s previous owner when perhaps Bran meant Rhaegar. There’s also history behind the blade itself as it likely came into the possession of Robert Baratheon after he killed Rhaegar at The Trident and of course it was then used in the Bran assassination attempt that kicked this whole thing off. That’s one legendary blade right there, fitting for the prophecy. There’s also the fact that Arya has been trained to become the most feared assassin and would have earned legendary status.
  14. Jon somehow manages to either keep the secret that he’s True King of The Seven Kingdoms under wraps or tells the relevant people and still gets to keep everyone onside. He’s now a very real threat to Dany’s claim to the throne and he might have to choose who he sides with.
  15. Cersei denies that the Battle of Winterfell ever actually happened and claims fake news. No photo’s, no videos so she can put her fingers in her ears and deny there ever was a fight. Hell, most of us watching didn’t see all of it anyway.

And some bonus things I want to see –

  • Starks coming back as wights in the crypts. Called it.
  • Ghost somehow getting through the battle alive. Good lad.
  • Cersei let’s people believe that the baby is Euron’s and not Jaime’s. Just to mess with people. There’s still time for this.
  • No Lannister troops are heading up North. They never were. Yup
  • Sansa comes to realise that she has to back Dany or risk losing the Last War before it’s even begun. Then again, she’s also playing the long game in ensuring the future of the North even if it does strain their relationship.
  • Jaime fights for the living then teams up with Tyrion to defeat Cersei, both of them know her and King’s Landing far too well to let this opportunity slip. Still a goer.
  • Bronn has a crisis of conscience when faced with aiming a crossbow at either Jaime or Tyrion. Yes, he’s a sellsword yet he’s also a friend, maybe he’ll turn it on Cersei. Also hoping Tyrion manages to outsmart his sister, he’s been pretty useless recently.
  • Daario persuades The Golden Company to fight against Cersei. They’re mercenaries, plus there is some mention in the book of a long-ago Targaryen link having been founded by Ser Aegor Rivers, a legitimized bastard of King Aegon IV Targaryen.
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Opinion, TV

The Final Things I Want To See In Game of Thrones (updated after 8.2)

With this being the final season, every scene in Game of Thrones seems to have something riding on it. Whether it be a long-awaiting reunion or the most earth-shattering news, things are HAPPENING. There is also the prospect of the upcoming Apocalypse via the Army of the Dead so episode 2 felt like the night before the very end for several characters.

Brienne became a Ser, Jon told Dany he’s actually the true Targaryen heir to the throne then Arya and Gendry got down. The Battle of Winterfell should see me finally ticking some names off my Death Pool but for now there’s still several things I want to see, and some that have already happened.

  1. Someone on the Iron Throne. Anyone!
  2. Gendry to land a telling blow with his warhammer (not a euphemism). At least he showed Arya the pointy end of his weapon. Her weapon I mean, the one he gave her.
  3. Jon Snow rides Rhaegon.
  4. Revealed: Tyrion is also a Targaryen. Pfft, little chance of that now considering the palaver that Jon has caused telling Dany.
  5. Revealed: The identity and motive of The Night King. The chilling end to the first episode looked horribly familiar didn’t it. The spiral of body parts first appeared in the show’s opening episode when the White Walkers killed a group of wildlings. The pattern then appears in ‘The Door’ as created by the Children of the Forest just before they create The Night King. We last saw the pattern in the cave walls under Dragonstone so it goes back some way. To me the spiral looks eerily similar to the Targaryen sigil and considering The Night King can ride a dragon looks to indicate that. Thrones is great at symbolism and if you were to look really hard, apparently the path that the Army of the Dead takes after breaking through the wall kinda looks like the Stark sigil of a wolf’s head which leads me to think it’s got something to do with a union of those two houses. Finally, there is something to be said about the victim in the previous episode being Ned Umber, particularly his youth. Put bluntly, The Night King has a thing for kids. While he can turn fallen enemies into wights, he craves newborns. Maybe that’s key to his motive, not only has he come for Gilly’s baby but he also wants an heir; one born of ice and fire. Maybe he’s after Dany’s unborn baby.
  6. The Valonqar prophecy comes true. Considering that Jaime didn’t get executed at the start of episode 2, the theory that he dies in battle only for Arya to take his face and kill Cersei is gathering speed.
  7. CLEGANEBOWLLLLLLL. Again, depending on if The Hound survives
  8. Arya ticks off her kill list. The Hound, Meryn Trant, Cersei Lannister, Joffrey, Ilyn Payne, Polliver, The Mountain (debatable), RorgeWalder FreyTywin Lannister, Melisandre, Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr. Judging by their brief scene together, it looks like The Hound and Beric have been scrubbed off the list.
  9. Theon’s redemption against Euron. Now he’s back at Winterfell his chances of getting out alive look slim, let alone killing Euron, but you never know.
  10. Happy endings. While Tormund’s best lines still failed to convince Brienne (no matter how hilarious they were), she did get her own potentially happy ending when Jaime made her into a Ser.
  11. Bran warging into Viserion. Increasingly unlikely now Bran is being used to bait The Night King out of position to the Godswood.
  12. Samwell Tarly as the Bookworm Saviour. Should he also avoid an early death I’m hoping he has some revelation that helps them win the Battle of Winterfell.
  13. The Prince That Was Promised. Given that now Dany knows, perhaps Rhaegar himself believed that his son was to be the chosen one. If Jon is, perhaps that means he’s meant to survive all this.
  14. Arya and Gendry become a couple, did you see how they were looking at each other? YASSSSSSSSSSSSSSS, and how wonderfully played that scene was too.
  15. Jon somehow manages to either keep the secret that he’s King of The Seven Kingdoms under wraps or tells the relevant people and still gets to keep everyone onside. At least Dany knows before he goes into battle yet should he surive he’s now a very real threat to Dany’s claim to the throne. Bit of a dick move considering she has a pair of dragons at her disposal (is Jon also flameproof?)

And some bonus things I want to see –

  • Starks coming back as wights in the crypts. A lot of talk about the crypts being the safest place in Winterfell yet a graveyard is the worst place to play when you have an enemy that can raise the dead. Arya isn’t scared of much yet if Catelyn comes back as Lady Stoneheart that would scare the beejesus out of her
  • Ghost somehow getting through the battle alive. They brought him back just to remind us they can kill him off
  • Cersei let’s people believe that the baby is Euron’s and not Jaime’s. Just to mess with people. There’s still time for this.
  • No Lannister troops are heading up North. They never were. And now both Lannister boys look like fools.
  • Sansa comes to realise that she has to back Dany or risk losing the Great War before it’s even begun. Then again, she’s also playing the long game in ensuring the future of the North should anyone survive the battle, even if it does strain their relationship.
  • Jaime fights for the living then teams up with Tyrion to defeat Cersei, both of them know her and King’s Landing far too well to let this opportunity slip. Whether either of them will kill their sister is debatable.
  • Bronn has a crisis of conscience when faced with aiming a crossbow at either Jaime or Tyrion. Yes, he’s a sellsword yet he’s also a friend.
  • Daario persuades The Golden Company to fight against Cersei. They’re mercenaries, plus there is some mention in the book of a long-ago Targaryen link having been founded by Ser Aegor Rivers, a legitimized bastard of King Aegon IV Targaryen.
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Opinion, TV

The Final Things I Want To See in Game of Thrones (8.1 update)

After eighteen long months, Game of Thrones has finally returned to our screens. Amongst dragon rides, awkward reunions and shade being liberally thrown around, this was a great reminder of how the show has become such essential viewing. Namely brilliant writing and characters worth investing in. Lord, how I’m going to miss it when it’s over.

If I’m nervous, lord knows what it’s felt like for those involved in the production. For the best part of eight years this TV show has rolled on to a climax and every episode, nay every scene, has to mean something. The pay-off should be huge which is why I’ve compiled an updated list after the first episode of all the things I want to see before the show climaxes.

  1. Someone on the Iron Throne. Yes, I know it’s an obvious one. The triumphant end shot to the whole thing should be someone sat on the throne as the camera slowly, thoughtfully zooms out. And they all lived happily ever after. Of course, Ramsey Bolton said it best when he said that, “”If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention”. Knowing how the show has gone, actually having someone end up on the throne would be an achievement in itself. Westeros is heading to Hell in a handcart so the throne itself managing to remain intact would be something of a triumph. Who actually sits on it will say a lot about how people remember the show. If the Night King then the war was lost, if Jon and Dany then romance and alliance has won. Me? I’d like to see someone unexpected at the end to prove that anyone can climb the ladder and reign supreme. Wouldn’t Arya and Gendry make a beautiful ruling dynasty? Now having thought about it, the throne in its current form represents Targaryen triumph and bloodshed. Wouldn’t it be great if after all the fighting is over, the throne was forged into something more fitting? If The Night King is to be defeated it’ll be through an alliance of houses coming together to fight for the living. Maybe a throne which commemorated all of the houses who made it possible would a fitting end.
  2. Gendry to land a telling blow with his warhammer. Having become a rowing meme, the return of Gendry seems telling. Not only will his weaponry expertise come in handy in creating a dragonglass arsenal, his royal blood gives him a worthy character arc. At some point, he’ll swing that warhammer to end a battle. My money is on Visierion as two dragons teaming up on their turned brother seems a bit lame. Or he designs that weapon.
  3. Jon Snow rides Rhaegon. Talking of dragons, the world will soon know that Rhaegar+Lyanna=Jon Snow and Dany will soon realise she fucked her own nephew. Eww. Whether he now takes on the name Aegon is up for debate but his Targaryen blood has been known to Dany since he was allowed to pet Drogon and not become chargrilled. What has to happen now is Jon taking on the mantle of his father and riding Rhaegon to victory alongside her. They didn’t waste any time with this one did they? Perhaps it would have felt more of an event had it happened after he’d known he was Targaryen but hey ho.
  4. Revealed: Tyrion is also a Targaryen. Talking of Targeryens, one other main character has petted a dragon and lived to tell the tale; Tyrion. At one point I thought he’d join Dany and Jon atop a dragon yet he now looks more Lannister than loyal to the Lady of Dragonstone. His dubious parentage could also be revealed as I still see some truth in the theory that Tywin hated him, not because he saw him as an embarrassment but because he himself was mortified that he wasn’t his real father. The theory is that The Mad King, Aerys Targaryen, raped Joanna Lannister and Tyrion is the so-called monster that resulted. Not that it matters so much now. Too big of a revelation and too late in the day.
  5. Revealed: The identity and motive of The Night King. C’mon, for the big baddie to be just a man turned into the leader of a zombie army, able to resurrect the dead and bring in another Long Night is a bit far-fetched isn’t it? He has to be revealed as someone aligned. Someone with a past. Someone important. The theory that Bran warged into him in one of his ill-fated trips back to the past is a little… complex. Yet if it was revealed he was Bran The Builder or another member of the Stark house then that’s something to get behind. The final season should reveal more of his past as so far there’s little substance to his march other than causing absolute destruction. Rarely do you get a villain who just wants to see the world burn. Usually there’s a motive that even the most fearful can see. Maybe he does simply want to rule all before him. Or maybe his reasoning is that a promise was broken and this is his vengeance. Maybe the North was always meant to be his yet since his land has been invaded he’s going to take it all. Or something. Still time for this one.
  6. The Valonqar prophecy comes true. The show loves a good prophecy and the Maggy has haunted Cersei since she was a child. Her prophecy is all but complete; she married King Robert Baratheon and not Prince Rhaegar. She did bear three children who are all dead. The younger, more beautiful queen could well have been Lyanna if you count all Cersei held dear as the proposed Rhaegar and the fact that Jaime has headed off to fight the good fight with Lyanna’s son, Jon Snow. All that remains now is the final part which the Maggy concluded as, “And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.” Valonqar means ‘little brother’ in High Valyrian which assumes the role will be taken by Tyrion. However, technically Jaime was born seconds after her but due to his golden hand that seems unlikely. Here’s when it becomes open to interpretation. If Jaime is the father then Cersei’s demise through childbirth would be at the hands of her little brother. Some of the best moments in the show’s history are when reviled characters finally get what was coming to them. Joffrey’s choking, Ramsay being devoured by his own dogs and the snide Littlefinger having his throat slit being just three. To see her tears of joy turn to choking would be poetic justice. Still time for this one and as Jaime has arrived in Winterfell, it looks likely that he’ll side with the Northern houses and bring about the downfall of his sister, as long as he gets a pardon for pushing Bran out of the window. If he gets executed and Cersei doesn’t find out, this does draw up the possibility of Arya taking his face and executing Cersei down at King’s Landing and the theory would still remain.
  7. CLEGANEBOWLLLLLLL. I swear, if this doesn’t happen we should all just turn off the TV and go to bed. The Hound v The Mountain. It’s the scrap we’ve all been waiting for. A fight to the death to end the most fraught of sibling rivalries. Allegedly, if anyone survives The Battle of Winterfell they’ll head south to fight at King’s Landing thus setting up the fight we all want to see.
  8. Arya ticks off her kill list. We all love ticking things off lists, it is what I’m doing right now after all. Arya has stealthily become the Seven Kingdom’s greatest assassin, able to don the mask of whoever she chooses to dispose of another target. Here’s the list in it’s entirety; The Hound, Meryn Trant, Cersei Lannister, Joffrey, Ilyn Payne, Polliver, The Mountain (debatable), Rorge, Walder Frey, Tywin Lannister, Melisandre, Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr. Should 6 and 7 go ahead, Arya would be best placed putting her efforts into Melisandra and Beric Dondarrion, both of whom look to be busy at the moment. Ilyn Payne may be difficult to get a hold of too seeing as he hasn’t featured since Episode 9 of Season 2 and the actor that plays him, Wilko Johnson, has been recovering from cancer. Looks like The Hound is back in her good books but Cersei is still a prime target.
  9. Theon’s redemption against Euron. As far as character arcs go, Theon’s resembles the lithe rippling of a dragon. Since ditching Reek he’s saved Sansa only to jump ship instead of saving his sister, Yara. When we last saw him he was smiling at getting kicked where his appendage should hang. All that remains now is for him to swoop in, rescue his sister and dispose of Euron to become ruler of the Iron Islands. Wouldn’t his dad be proud of him then? So he’s already saved Yara and headed to fight with Jon Snow, who’s to say he can’t finish off Euron after?
  10. Happy endings. Wildly optimistic I know. Should anyone get a happy ending would be somewhat surprising but wouldn’t it be grand to see Varys take his seat on the small council as a final fuck-you to Littlefinger from the schemer to rule them all? How about Grey Worm returning from battle into the warm embrace of his beloved Missandei? Finally, what we all want to see is Brienne fall for the playful gaze of Tormund.
  11. Bran warging into Viserion. We’ve seen Bran warg into Hodor and his direwolf, Lady. What if he could wrench control of Viserion back from The Night King and turn the dragon against the army of the dead? Surely his role can’t just be to sit there like a human version of Big Brother, ready to reveal all?
  12. Samwell Tarly as the Bookworm Saviour. Knowledge is Power and while Bran can see the past as easily as most of us can use Youtube, Sam realises that salvation can come from a book. Jon Snow’s claim to the throne, Jorah’s greyscale cure and Dragonstone’s hidden stash of wight conquering dragonglass. When all seems lost, expect Sam to run in clutching a book to save the day. Or giving Jon the biggest truthbomb of his life. There’s still more to come from Samwell I imagine.
  13. The Prince That Was Promised. The prince is supposed to have a song which many believe to be the song of ice and fire. Should that be true, the prince is surely Jon Snow as the melding of Targaryen fire and Stark ice. The prophecy is said to come from Melisandre who is surely due to return to Westeros with a final revelation. ‘When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt.’ With Jon being half Targaryen that should foretell that he can withstand fire. Indeed, even Rhaegar believed that his son was the promised one as a comet was seen above King’s Landing when the boy was born. Having said that, she truly believed it was Stannis Baratheon…

And some bonus things I want to see

  • Arya and Gendry become a couple, did you see how they were looking at each other?
  • Jon somehow manages to either keep the secret that he’s King of The Seven Kingdoms under wraps or tells the relevant people and still gets to keep everyone onside. Tough call but he’s done it before, he’s had to choose between his love (Ygritte) and his duty (The Night’s Watch), his ethics (saving the Wildlings) and his duty (The Night’s Watch, again). He’s a man that can keep the moral high ground but now that Dany has to bend the knee suddenly changes their whole dynamic. The Northern houses also have to bow down to the True King, a few days after lambasting him for bending the knee to Dany. There’ll be a time and place to reveal all, I’m just not sure it’ll be soon. There’s also the point that once this is revealed most people will likely realise he’s fucked his aunt. Awkward, Bran likely knows though.
  • Cersei let’s people believe that the baby is Euron’s and not Jaime’s. Just to mess with people.
  • No Lannister troops are heading up North. They never were. Her plan looks to be to wait until the fighting with The Night King is over and then finish off the remnants with The Golden Company. Evil bitch. There’s a healthy moral strait that suggests mercenaries cannot triumph against loyal troops and The Golden Company cannot prevail against Dothraki and The Unsullied, or whoever’s left.
  • Sansa comes to realise that she has to back Dany or risk losing the Great War before it’s even begun. Jon’s job now is to ensure everyone puts aside their squabbles, harder now that he knows he’s less a Stark and his father is a Targaryen.
  • Jaime fights for the living then teams up with Tyrion to defeat Cersei, both of them know her and King’s Landing far too well to let this opportunity slip. Whether either of them will kill their sister is debatable.
  • Bronn has a crisis of conscience when faced with aiming a crossbow at either Jaime or Tyrion. Yes, he’s a sellsword yet he’s also a friend.

 

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Film, Opinion

Captain Marvel’s Greatest Challenge: Toxic White Men

You don’t need to have seen a superhero origin film to appreciate the rather generic formula that they follow. There’s a certain fascination in revealing how someone can deal then excel with abilities that set them apart from everyone else. Maybe they can fly, perform magic or shrink to minuscule proportions. You could even delve deeper than the latest Marvel or DC blockbuster as the path a hero follows can be seen in the likes of E.T., Luke Skywalker and even the most well-known of them all; Jesus. The formula is pretty simple;

. Character starts out as a normal, unassuming individual

. Character is endowed with a unique and special gift that set them apart from the general public

. Character learns how to deal with said abilities

. Character is threatened by an individual or situation they have to overcome

. Character overcomes threat and saves the day, thus the superhero is born

Thus the premise of Captain Marvel is a familiar one, so why has it seemingly offended so many people? Even before the film was released, the review aggregating website Rotten Tomatoes had changed its rules. Why? Because two weeks before the film had been released, the film had been ‘review bombed’ to drag the user rating down to 34%.

Review bombing isn’t new, different groups organise campaigns to drag down the audience rating of a film or video game as a protest. In this case, thousands of toxic white men are protesting against Captain Marvel’s feminist agenda. Woe betide a *deep breath* powerful woman. OH NO. A comic book superhero with breasts!

Alas, female specific review bombing isn’t new either. The 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters with an all-female team was targeted as was Ocean’s 8. Both were decent 3/5 films and both were targeted for having the temerity of being fronted by women performing roles that had previously been done by men.

On The Basis Of Sex is another hero film that came out this month, albeit a dry biopic rather than a swish CGI-dripping blockbuster. The hero in question doesn’t have a sword nor a rubber spacesuit yet Ruth Baden Ginsburg was another woman doing a man’s role which invited criticism from white men who said it couldn’t be done. Her arguments before the US Supreme Court shattered glass ceilings when she campaigned for gender diversity in the 1970s. Back then the thought of a woman arguing a case before the US Supreme Court was far-fetched, let alone a woman being appointed to it.

There is still work to be done as the campaigns against Captain Marvel indicate. Thousands of men still feel threatened by the idea of a woman being able to kowtow a man, even if it’s clearly make-believe. Simply the portrayal of such an act in a fantasy world is seen as challenging their very being. Geeze.

There’s a scene towards the end of Captain Marvel when Carol Danvers realises the extent of her powers. She realises that she has suppressed her abilities after being told to by the men in her life. Her mentor, Yon-Rogg played by Jude Law, tells her at the very start to control her emotions. So she does. Throughout the film you see her being knocked down and told by the men in her life like her father and fellow male Air Force recruits that she should stay down. Hell, even a stranger tells her to smile more. She keeps going and soon realises the truth which has held her back.

Like Captain Marvel, Ginsburg understood her power once she realised the extent of it. She kept facing the same sexist challenges of unequal pay and wolf whistles. She knew she could overcome them one by one then reach her full potential as an inspiration to so many other women. Once Danvers finds out the truth, that the Kree suppressed her power rather than bestowed it, she literally flies. She realises that she doesn’t need to destroy all the men that stand before her, she’s intimidating enough for the men to think twice about challenging her. Like the best superheroes, she knows she could twist necks and blast holes through anyone that comes before her and she shows restraint. She could burst in and rip Ronan The Accuser’s head off, she could snap Yon-Rogg in two but she humiliates both instead of killing them.

She’s now a weapon that the most powerful men are afraid of. She can fly past them then photon-blast them out of the sky yet her story is what makes her. Like Wonder Woman leading the way out of the trenches, she leads by example and lets the men follow. She has emotional intelligence; she’s empathetic and brave like the best superheroes then  reaches the best outcomes.

In the case of Captain Marvel, many online commenters seemed upset by Larson’s forthright remarks in interviews about how she hopes to increase diversity in the blockbuster world. She’s a vocal feminist and a brilliant actress, perfectly cast as Carol Danvers against a sea of misogyny. James Woods has ‘sat this one out’ and thankfully his campaign looks to have fallen on deaf ears as the film is about to cross $900m. She may even lead The Avengers to victory in Endgame which would really piss off the toxic white men.

 

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