What separates Martin’s books from the pack is that his made-up world of Westeros feels more “real” than other made-up worlds like Tolkien’s Middle Earth or Brooks’s Shannara. There’s very little magic in the series, and when something supernatural happens, everyone is freaked out and confused. The characters have sex (mostly sex that would be illegal today), get tortured, betray one another, and die incredibly easily and often for very little reason—just like real people involved in a medieval war would have. One of the first plot points is a child getting thrown off a ledge and crippled after he witnesses some nasty-ass incest; one major character gets killed on the toilet and shits all over the place as he dies. So the books are earthy, you might say. More importantly, anyone in Martin’s world who strives for nobility, honor, or any other trait lauded in traditional fantasy novels inevitably ends up impaled on a spike or crippled and humiliated by the amoral crooks who always come out on top. Like I said, this is more realistic than most epic fantasy.
Naturally, a show based on a series of books that’s full of plot twists, reversals of fortune, bloody battles, and scheming villains is gonna be a slam dunk. Throw in HBO’s typically high production values and strong performances (and lots of nudity) and you’ve got a recipe for a pretty fucking sweet franchise, son. You mentioned that you don’t appreciate the “scope, escapism, narrative skill, and subtle humor that fantasy fans eulogize,” but there’s nothing subtle about Game of Thrones’s appeal. It’s all, “OH SHIT HE’S GETTING KILLED WTF” and “AWWWW DAMN THEY’RE CUTTING HIS DICK OFF!!” If you refuse to watch that because—what? It’s set in a vaguely medieval world? There are dragons in some of it?—I don’t know what to say to you.
Tomorrow, a bunch of men in robes will lock themselves in the Vatican, cease all forms of communication with the outside world, and cast ballots until two-thirds of them agree on who should take over as spiritual leader to a billion people. Catholics, church watchers, and fans of big hats have been discussing, via slideshows, who the most-likely candidates for the popehood are ever since Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation a month ago. Everyone agrees that the next pope, like pretty much every pope in history, will be an old guy who is already a high-ranking member of the Church, but it doesn’t have to be. The new head of the Catholic Church technically doesn’t have to be a cardinal or a bishop or even an ordained member of the clergy. So, there’s a chance, however small, that those old men in robes will decide that in order to restore the reputation of a centuries-old institution that has weathered some pretty dire crises in recent years, they’ll need to think outside of the box. Here are some of the unlikely, but still possible, candidates for pope:
Pros: The Boss was born and raised Catholic and continues to identify himself as affiliated with the Church. No one can deny the powerful Catholic themes of sin and redemption present in many of his songs, and he is already used to traveling the world offering benedictions to hundreds of millions of followers.
Cons: Already has a better job than being pope.
Pros: What better way to reach out to a younger generation who’s lost touch with Catholicism than to elect one of the Millennnials’ most beloved icons? Lena Dunham has touched millions, if not billions of lives for the better and taught a generation how to laugh, how to love, and how to live through mistakes. Her image graces dorm rooms, billboards, and magazine covers all over America—in many places, she is already better known and more venerated than the Virgin Mary. Everyone under 30 idolizes her and follows her every utterance as if it were law. If the cardinals had the courage to make her pope, Catholicism would have swarms of new converts who would thrill at the chance to follow Lena on her next adventure of self-discovery.
This week, a Utah state senator named Allen Christensen made news byvoting against a billthat would turn cockfighting from a misdemeanor into a felony (it’s already a felony in most of the US). The reasons he gave included A) The birds “naturally want to do this thing in their lives” and B) Utah allows women to have abortions, so why doesn’t it allow people to strap knives to roosters’ claws and get them to cut each other to pieces for entertainment? Obviously, Christensen is being a troll here, and he’s probably the kind of guy who mentions abortion when you ask him to pass the potatoes (“UNBORN FETUSES MURDERED BY THEIR LIBRUL MOTHERS CAN’T PASS ANYTHING TO ANYONE BECAUSE THEY’RE DEAD!”) but the story got me thinking: What if there’s a sliver of a point here? Why do we want to send people who run cockfighting rings to prison?
Let’s first go to the Humane Society, who have a pretty good definition of what cockfighting is and why you should want it banned if you give a shit about animals at all:
Obviously, yes, cockfighting is a barbaric blood sport and if roosters are capable of conscious thought, they are almost definitely not like, Hell yeah, I want to get cut up by some other rooster with knives on his claws while drunk humans shout at me! But if American lawmakers want to start passing bills that reflect a concern for poultry, maybe they should start with the 9 billion chickens that are killed and turned into food every year in the US. While a few of those birds no doubt live happy lives roaming around farmyards and pecking at the dirt, many more of those chickens have lives like this:
Our host Harry becomes nervous and weird whenever he approaches anything that looks like a woman. To remedy this sad state of affairs, he went to a body language coach for some tips on how to appear more comfortable around females, and then threw himself into a speed-dating event, where he got to disappoint women at five times the rate he normally does.
All Around Losing host Harry Cheadle normally evades conflict by running away or nervously laughing, but now it’s time to face his fears and become a man. First, he endures a physically draining work out with a Krav Maga expert who teaches Harry how to punch dudes with balls the size of beets. Then Harry heads to a gun range where an NRA-certified Israeli teaches him about shotguns.
Dozens of men separate into two teams, muscled and angry and armored in pads and helmets and uniforms, gather inside an arena under an empty sky in Oakland. The groups stare at each other, stomping the ground and beating their chests, while tens of thousands of people who have come to the arena to watch roar in anticipation. Men in striped shirts bring the leaders of the teams to the center of the field. There is a pause, pregnant with violence, as the anticipation builds. Then…
“Why are we doing this?” one of the captains asks his counterpart.
“What do you mean?” the other captain replies.
“Why is football happening?”
“It always happens this way. Every week. Again and again and again. You know this.”
“But today…” He is confused. “Today there is no reason for football. We have no playoffs to strive for. Our fans expect no victories from either of us. We are the Chiefs and the Raiders—strong-sounding names which we do not deserve, for our teams together have more than a score of defeats and only a handful a triumphs. We shame our ancestors every time we attempt to play. No one is watching us on television. No one, save the hopelessly addicted, is wagering on this outcome. For what do we risk life and limb on this field?”
There is a pause as the men on the field consider this. The crowd goes silent. What’s happening? they wonder.Is there going to be football after all?
In this episode of All Around Losing, Harry attempts to follow in the footsteps of Louis CK and other schmucks-turned-comedy-idols by trying to become a stand-up comic. He starts at the very, very bottom, subjecting himself to New York City’s brutal open-mic scene, and quickly discovers that 1) making people laugh is nightmarishly difficult and 2) he is not good at it. It’s funny to watch him fail, but not ha-ha funny.
If you are the kind of person who believes that Barack Obama is a radical socialist president who wants to fundamentally change America and turn us into a European-style nanny state, it couldn’t have been easy on you when he won reelection as easily as he did. Some conservatives have spent the last couple weeks making unhinged accusations about the vote being rigged—the most clearly racist of these was the GOP chairman in Maine who complained about dozens of unfamiliar black people voting in rural precincts. Others acknowledge that their side lost, but have moved on to petitioning the federal government to let their individual states secede from the union. It’s just like the Civil War, only instead of brother killing brother, tens of thousands of angry white people are typing at their computers.
Obviously, this is just a way to blow off steam. As Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said, “It’s silly.” No one should think for a second that all these people actually want to leave the US. (Maybe some Texans do, but Texans always want to secede.) I imagine a lot of the folks signing these things aren’t carefully considering every economic, social, and political ramification of a state separating from the country—they’re just angry internet people typing things in boxes. And internet people are pure id, disconnected from reality or common decency; that’s why 95 percent of YouTube comments are some variation of, “THE JEWS GOT ME FIRED FRM BEST BUY FOLLOW ON TWITTER @WETSOCKSSSS69.” Unlike paper petitions, which force signature gatherers to discuss the issues face-to-face with actual humans, the petitions on the government site can be set up in seconds, which can lead to silliness: Currently, over 1,000 people are demanding that a statue of the guy from Halobe built on the White House lawn.
So yeah, haha, let’s lookit the craaaAAaazy conservatives who are making the comparisons between Russia and the US because they got arrested for running a topless car wash. (That’s exactly what Derrick Belcher, who started the Alabama secession petition, has said.) But crypto-racist motivations aside, what’s so wrong with letting some states go?
There have been plenty of secession movements in the past that weren’t based on the hatred of a single president. Texas has had a long-running independent streak, of course, and there have been Alaskan and Hawaiian independence movements as well. The Second Vermont Republic is a kind of left-wing counterpart to the Republic of Texas. And my personal favorite secession movement, Cascadia (now apparently defunct), wanted to separate the western bits of British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon from both the US and Canada. None of those causes has been nearly popular enough to actually succeed in seceding—plus, of course, the federal government’s massive military wouldn’t let any state leave—but making the states a little less united isn’t a terrible idea. Think about the problems it would solve:
1. If the red states left, liberals could finally have the country of their dreams. Imagine that Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi, and Nebraska all followed the wishes of their wingnuts and left the US. All of a sudden, the House of Representatives would be controlled by Democrats, who would also get a further eight-seat edge in the Senate. As an added bonus, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, one of the most conservative Democrats and a guy who caused all kinds of trouble during the fight over the health care bill, would be Duke of Lincoln or whatever and couldn’t infuriate the left anymore. All of the politically impossible policies that liberals from California to New Hampshire have discussed for years would suddenly become feasible, from single-payer healthcare to stricter handgun laws. And those rural red-state ingrates who denounce the federal government even while suckling on its money teat would be gone. Let’s see how those conservatives like it when they don’t get subsidized by the Northeast and California.