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.
This Week in Racism: The #CancelColbert Debate Is the Funniest Thing to Ever Happen
-If there’s one thing I believe the human race can totally agree on, it’s that comedy only gets better the more you dissect it. For instance, the classic joke, “Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side,” surprises the recipient of the joke with its literal, non-punchline. It’s a pure form of anti-comedy, the “Nick Cannon in whiteface" of one-liners. Isn’t that joke so much funnier now that I’ve explained it? I thought so.
Last week was a real golden age of comedy, thanks in no small part to the#CancelColbert controversy. Like with all the best art (textbooks, CliffsNotes, the Transformers movie series), the meaning needs to be super clear, or it’s not good. That’s not a suggestion. That’s, like, a rule.
Writer/activist/excellent comedian Suey Park and TV personality/white person Stephen Colbert both learned this powerful lesson through the course of last week’s controversy over Colbert’s joke about the Washington Redskins’ Native American outreach foundation. The Twitter account for The Colbert Report tweeted an out-of-context quote on the subject that contained a racial slur against Asians. That caused Park to create the #CancelColbert hashtag and blow up the internet for a few days. Conservative pundits, often the ones getting accused of racism, jumped at the chance to give their hybrid-driving competition a taste of their own medicine. You go, Michelle Malkin! You’ve really earned it.
Eventually, Colbert went on his show and explained that what everyone was upset about was a joke, specifically a satirical dig at Redskins owner Dan Snyder’s insistence on his football team having a racially insensitive nickname. At that point, the joke took off, growing from a mildly amusing larva of social commentary into a full-blown comedy butterfly. And yet… something was missing. What if there was yet another layer of sarcasm at play here? What if… Suey Park was just kidding the whole time too?
Shit’s about to get real.
In an interview with popular comedy blog Salon.com, Suey Park explained—in agonizingly funny detail—how she’s actually a fan of Colbert and that she was merely trying to point out how white people are allowed the benefit of context, but minorities don’t receive the same privilege. Allow Ms. Park to explain further:
"A lot of white America and so-called liberal people of color, along with conservatives, ask, “Do I understand context?” And that’s part of wanting to completely humanize the oppressor. To see the white man as always reasonable, always pure, always deliberate, always complex and always innocent. And to see the woman of color as literal. Both my intent behind the hashtag and in my [unintelligible] distance, is always about forcing an apology on me for not understanding their context when, in reality, they misunderstood us when they made us a punch line again. So it’s always this logic of how can we understand whiteness better, and that’s never been my politics. I’ve always been about occupying the margins and strengthening the margins and what that means is that, for a long time, whiteness has also occupied the margins. Like, people of color get in circles with no white people in the room and we see that whiteness still operates. So I think it’s kind of a shock for America that whiteness has dominant society already, it also seeps into the margins. What happens the one time when the margins seep into the whiteness and we encroach on their space? It’s like the sky is falling."
I’m not sure who’s being misunderstood, who’s lacking context, or what “margins seep into the whiteness” means (maybe a Sarah McLachlan lyric?) What I do know is that the above block of text is very, very funny. I encourage comedians everywhere to explain themselves more. Based on the media’s fixation with this story, it seems like a sure way to up your Klout score. HILARIOUS
The World’s Largest Christian TV Network Has a Lot to Hide
Trinity Broadcasting Network (or TBN) is the largest Christian TV network in the world. Its shows are currently available in 95 percent of American homes.
TBN has its headquarters in Costa Mesa, California, in the modest building you see above. The network offers free tours to the public, so I headed down to check it out.
This guy (above, right) was the tour guide for my group, which was made up of me and a visiting Boy Scout troop. I’m not sure if he was new or something, but he left A LOT of the company’s history out of his tour, so I’ll be filling in some gaps for him as I go.
Our tour began in the grand entrance hall. As we walked through, the tour guide explained to us that TBN was started in the early 70s by married couple Jan and Paul Crouch in an effort to spread Christianity to as many people as they could.
What he failed to mention is the church’s reliance on what’s known as “prosperity gospel.”
If you’re not familiar, prosperity gospel is a system in which you’re told that the more money you give to the Lord, the more blessings the Lord will give to you in return. In this instance, “the Lord” refers to “Trinity Broadcasting Network.”
They gather these donations by holding telethons in which they promise viewers miracles in exchange for donating money to TBN. And being poor isn’t a problem: The network tells viewers that God especially likes it when people who are poor or in debt donate money they can’t afford. ”He’ll give you thousands, hundreds of thousands; he’ll give millions and billions of dollars,” Paul Crouch once told his viewers, according to the LA Times.
The company is reported to bring in tens of millions of dollars in tax-free donations annually. It is unclear if God held up his end of the bargain to those who donated.
Next, we were taken around a small museum area that featured various old copies of the Bible, some of which were more than 100 years old.
What You Can Learn from the LA’s Abandoned Street Couches
Archaeologists have long known you can learn heaps about a culture from its trash, and the Los Angeles street couch is no exception. These artifacts say more about us than just laziness. They tell stories of butts and passion and bad television, maybe even birth and death.
Pay enough attention, and you’ll start to realize these couches fit into certain categories, even though they won’t fit into your compact car. Pay enough attention, and a taxonomy appears.
The Cushionless Couch
This is the most common species of Los Angeles street couch, and all sofas without attached cushions meet this fate within a few hours. Those cushions might as well be currency for the homeless, and once they’re stripped, the couch is guaranteed a long life on the curb without any takers.
The Whole Living Room on the Curb
Nothing quite says “forceful eviction” like an entire living room chucked onto the sidewalk. Unlike your regular street-couch sightings, which tend to happen toward the end of the month, the whole living room on the curb can be seen almost any time.
Are you one of those people who tweets us every weekend asking why we don’t post our HBO show online for free? If you are, you do realize that HBO is the best television network in the world, right? And, as such, can demand a premium for a lineup that may be the only reason to still have a subscription to cable, correct?
How fucking awesome is that? It’s awesome, and you’re welcome, but all of this is only happening for a limited time so you better get cracking before we have to take them off the internet. Which reminds us, just subscribe to HBO already. It’s worth it, we swear.
Recently, I’ve been hearing a whole lot about David Lynch, and not from the Lynch camp or concerning any new projects (what’s it been, eight or so years since Inland Empire?). Rather, I’ve been hearing about Lynch from people who have been re-watching Lynch’s work, especially Twin Peaks. I was in junior high when the series came on, and I was more interested in watchingBeverly Hills, 90210 (the first incarnation, with my man Luke Perry as D-McKay).
But even my young, culturally stilted self couldn’t help being aware of the phenomenon that wasTwin Peaks when it hit prime time. The first season was a juggernaut of creative innovation that television had been waiting for, as the response from critics and viewers clearly showed.
The lethal combination of gangs and guns has turned Chicago into a war zone. To see why the Windy City, now dubbed “Chiraq,” had the country’s highest homicide rate in 2012, VICE visits Chicago’s most dangerous areas, where handguns are plentiful and the police and community leaders are fighting a losing battle against gang violence. In the neighborhood of Englewood, we patrol with police, visit with religious leaders, and hang out with members of gangs — soldiers in a turf war that has spread into new communities as projects are destroyed and residents are forced to move elsewhere.
Segment 2: Nigeria’s Oil Pirates
High unemployment, political corruption, and the unequal sharing of oil resources have turned today’s Niger Delta into a hell on earth. Oil theft has become big business in Nigeria, costing oil companies more than $7 billion per year while polluting coastal farmlands and fisheries — and wrecking the lives and livelihoods of local residents. VICE travels to Africa’s oil-producing region to meet with oil thieves who refine and sell oil in West Africa, and follows one farmer’s attempt to sue a foreign oil company for poisoning his family’s land.
In today’s Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) Church, many young men have been thrown out of their homes because of an edict allowing polygamist church elders to monopolize all the eligible young girls. These “lost boys,” few of whom have even an 8th-grade education, must adjust to a drastically different America than the one they grew up in. We travel to Utah to meet some of these young men and listen to their harrowing stories.
Segment 2: The Fat Farms if Mauritania
Ironically, in one of the world’s poorest countries, obesity is a sign of beauty and wealth. In the West African country of Mauritania, parents send their daughters to rural fattening camps, where they are force-fed over 15,000 calories a day in camel milk, figs, oiled breadcrumbs and couscous. VICE sends its skinniest correspondent to one of these camps to examine the impact of force-feeding on young women in a society that loves them so plump.
Segment 3: Mumbai Slumscraper
Nowhere in the world is the collision of caste and future more apparent than in Mumbai, where more than half its residents live in slums sprawled in the shadow of billion-dollar, single-family skyscrapers. VICE travels to Mumbai’s Dharavi slum, where over a million people live in abject poverty while billion-dollar single-family skyscrapers are being built on top of them.
To celebrate Season 2 of VICE on HBO (premieres March 14 at 11!), VICE News is putting all of Season 1 online.