Friday, August 30, 2013
Saturday, August 24, 2013
Thing is, I'm positively infected by Witherscape's "The Inheritance", it's such a wonderful venture intoace.
|Dan Swanö in concert|
And as a special one-time treat (:p) here I am with Dan the Man himself, back in 2008 when I saw him with his progressive rock project Nightingale. What a night, folks! What a night. If Witherscape is too extreme for you because of the guttural vocals you could try out Nightingale which leans closer to prog rock with no growling involved, but otherwise somewhat similar (check out the song "Revival", it's a gem).
|Seeing this, I realize I don't look as hard-rockin' as I should.|
Wow I know I'm a geek but today I've been working hard hammering a floor for the attic. I thought it would be quick and easy but after seven hours and a lot of sweat and curses, I have only finished 1/6th. But so manly. Using noisy equipment and all that. Still, since it's an attic, it is rather dusty and cramped. And outside the sun has been shining all day. Oh well I'd probably be inside anyway, trying out 'Might & Magic X: Legacy', or reading, or playing 'Skyrim' or 'Neverwinter Nights 2'. Oh man now I realize I have wasted the day. Maybe the evening will provide opportunities. I'm inclined to write a little bit, perhaps finish some rpg stuff, play one game or the other in which swords are wielded and spells are hurled (they really are the most appealing computer games), and perhaps flip a few more pages in the latest literary acquisition, 'Wolf Hall'. Speaking of literary loot, I now officially have no space left in my bookshelves :/
Fortunately I haven't read it all yet but still it is a bit disturbing. I do have ebooks but the real thing can't be beaten since it is so hard to display the glorious collection otherwise. I do so love to peek at the spines, dreaming myself away for a moment when I can.
Friday, August 23, 2013
|Never have I photoshopped so well before.|
|This is bad for you mmmkay?|
All right, we have Davos and Melisandre chit-chatting, with the latter trying to convince the former that Rh'llor is the god to venerate (she already her opinion kind of known when she had Stannis burn the statues of the Seven - lucky they had wooden statues of the gods! On Dragonstone!) -- seat belts fastened? All right, diving back in.
And I'm diving back in by looking at a point Martin seems to make (intended or not, I do not know); Davos"Why cling to these false gods?" The question itself is loaded as it is, and makes me think of the state of the world as it is today. Religion and politics are muddled up in many nations, and adherents of a religion each claim to worship the 'true' god; it shows us how narrow-minded Melisandre is, not able to conceive of any other deity possibly being "the one" (I suspect though that, if the gods indeed do exist within the setting, they are many and R'hlorr could be one of them). Davos' reply to this is equally interesting with regards to the real world: "I have worshiped them all my life." Is Martin trying to point out that your outlook and your religion are inherited from parents or whoever made you look in the same direction as they did? If so, I applaud the subtlety, and hopefully it makes people think, for it is nothing but truth; your religion, absolutely more often than not, decides what you yourself will believe. Born in a Muslim country? You praise Allah. Born in Italy? Most likely a Catholic. And so on and so forth. Born in southern Westeros? Yay for the Seven. Born in the northlands? Go Old Gods. Born on the Iron Islands? Three cheers for the Drowned God. Of course, this being a fantasy, Martin has the opportunity to make these deities both exist metaphorically and/or physically. However: Since magic is on the rise, and there has so far not been any clear connection between magic and the gods (excuse me if I'm wrong here), we could also interpret Melisandre's "evidence" of Rh'llor's powers as Melisandre misinterpreting magic, believing it to be the power of her god, but in actuality being her manipulation of the forces that have grown in the wake of the birth of Daenerys' dragons. In other words, believing something doesn't make it true, and sometimes you alter your perception of reality to accommodate your beliefs. Yup, this is Slynt the Atheist trying to make sense fantasy world religiosity (I have no idea where Martin stands on the faith issue, by the way, he was raised something-something but of course many people abandon their religion if they are not continually being fed a particular religion).
"Open your eyes," Melisandre pleads, and Davos wonders what it is she would have him see - the way the world is made. What she seems to forget is that she's asking, 'Let me show you how I believe the world is made.' To her, it is the one and only truth, and she cannot comprehend seeing life from any other angle. The hallmark of a zealot, then. The only problem I have with this, story-wise, is that it becomes a bit muddled when we, as readers, are not (yet) aware of the realities of Westeros as defined by its author. In, say, The Malazan Book of the Fallen, we know for sure that the gods exist; some of them are even vital to the plot as actual characters. In Abercrombie's worlds, the gods are mostly absent and treated as ideas and concepts for the most part (again, excuse me if I'm wrong in this; been a while since I read The First Law). In A Song of Ice and Fire, the gods are more ambiguous; there are hints of their existence but Martin also throws us hints that they are man-made concepts of worship. I think the "rise of magic" bit is the vital clue here - but then, we have seen some strange things in Bran's POV that suggest the Old Gods may just exist in one form or the other, but perhaps they are not gods in the traditional sense. Beings of greater power mistakenly taken for deities? Reminds me of cargo cults in a way.
"The truth is all around you, plain to behold. The night is dark and full of terrors, the day bright and beautiful and full of hope. One is black, the other white. There is ice and there is fire. Hate and love. Bitter and sweet. Male and female. Pain and pleasure. Winter and summer. Evil and good."
There can be no doubt Melisandre's world-view is pretty black-and-white; a duality with no refinement, yin and yang. Is Martin's world, after all, just as banally divided in two sides as Tolkien's Middle-earth? Good and evil? The statement feels unfitting for the rest of the story, at least at first glance; Martin has spent three novels deconstructing that particular trope. Interestingly, if you dare click that link, you'll find that it is headed by an actual quote from A Clash of Kings by, you guessed it, Melisandre. She is used to exemplify black-and-white morality so I may be on to something here. Is Martin using her as a kind of contrast to the grey morality found in most other chapters of the series? Almost confusing, Martin does his best to make us change our point of view on characters like Jaime Lannister and Sandor Clegane, then with Melisandre he goes the other way and gives us a black/white character.
When there is no room between opposites, you get into trouble. That's when you get the "us versus them" mentality. No nuances. However, when Melisandre continues, she gives us this:
Davos, at first stoically telling her he swears to the Old Gods, finally admits to being "full of doubts"; a sign that Melisandre has begun to convince him (not only is indoctrination an actually effective way of forcing people to think like you do, it probably helps that she can see things in flames and give birth to shadow babies of the assassinating kind), or have her glamours (not that we have seen this word being used yet, but it turns up later) begun to convince him?
After her sermon (complete with blazing eyes, now that's cool), she leaves him in the dim light of a torch to reflect and ruminate and ponder. And also contemplate, cogitate and wonder. He wonders what she meant when she told him he had already served R'hllor and would do so again, and you know, I was wondering just the same thing. Something I missed?
Doubting Melisandre, he still knows what he saw beneath Storm's End crawling out from between Melisandre's legs, and he futilely tries to peer into the torch flames maybe to get a glimpse of something, but nothing happens - another hint that Melisandre's powers are not divine.
Three days later, Alester Florent, the Lord of Brightwater, is thrown into Davos' cell by Axell Florent, his brother. See, that's what religion can do to people - brother against brother, all in the name of ideas. They have a chat in which Davos reverts back to the Seven by means of a silent prayer to the Father and the Mother, and in which they tell each other what they have lost. Alester's loss of valuables pales in comparison to Davos' four sons, obviously. We are reminded of Ser Imry who we saw during the battle, turns out he was Alester's nephew. Apparently, Alester no longer agrees with Stannis' war for the Iron Throne and has therefore been cast down into the darkness of the Dragonstone dungeons.
What we're really getting here is exposition. A prisoner of noble birth is conveniently placed in Davos' cell (as opposed to any other unoccupied cell Dragonstone surely possesses) so that Martin can feed us an update on the status of Stannis' forces. Stannis has lost most of his fleet, most lords have bent their knee to Joffrey or died, and only House Florent's strength still supports House Baratheon (or what remains of it). Alester wants to talk peace with the Lannisters, which is considered treason by iron Stannis. He's basically thinking like Davos does, that their chance has come and gone, except Alester seems to have sworn his allegiance to the Lord of Light as well. Alester did write a letter to Lord Tywin so it's perhaps no surprise that Stannis got a bit riled up about that. In the letter, Alester suggested that if Stannis gives up his claim, maybe he can be accepted back into the king's peace and confirmed a Lord of Dragonstone and Storm's End. Sneakily, he also suggested he might keep Brightwater for himself as before. Obviously. He's trying to salvage what he can. Finally he offered to marry Shireen to Joffrey. And Davos thinks it all good, and Alester begins babbling about dragons (where did they come from all of a sudden into the conversation) and we get the oh-so-annoyingly-cryptical "Did we learn nothing from Aerion Brightfire, from the nine mages, from the alchemists? Did we learn nothing from Summerhall? No good has ever come from these dreams of dragons (there they are!)".
What happened at Summerhall? Some experiment with fire, I suppose. See, R'hlorr and the dragons seem linked. But it's a bit vague, innit. Wait. Summerhall. I have to check out what info we have on it. Ah, what I thought I remembered; some failed experiment with dragon-breeding. But why mention this in the same breath as Melisandre and her fiery god? But what did the Ghost of High Heart mean when she 'gorged on grief at Summerhall'? Apparently she was at Summerhall. What the heck was she doing there? All those questions and more I would very much like to have answered because they are gnawing at me whenever I read a chapter. This, more than entitlement or any other ludicrous suggestion from die-hard defenders of Martin's work ethics, is why I so passionately wish for The Winds of Winter to come out. Yesterday.
Oh. Yeah. The talk of "stone dragons"; there's your link to dragons. Waking a stone dragon. Still. Weak? The chapter kind of ends on a downer with Alester weeping and Davos suggesting that Stannis will rather go down in flames (aha) than yield to the Lannisters. In that regard Stannis and Melisandre are a good match. Do or die. Black and white.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
The first time I visited Prague (that would be in the Czech Republic), I spent most of my time exploring and investigating the city's abundance of medieval towers and cathedrals and churches and other buildings, diving into the city's history with glee, and it inspired me to write a role-playing campaign that is still running (I was there in 2005); a real cultural treat, then.
This time I was barely aware of it all as I traveled with a lot of fun people whose main interest lay in clock tower; considering my fear of heights and generally unstable condition due to tasting the many and varied - and delectable - brews available in the city, I am quite proud to have stood (albeit with shaking knees) and looked out over my favorite city; I am sure if George RR Martin has been there, he loves it too. It feels a little bit westerosi kind of, with murals depicting banners and knights, statues of much epicness, grand facades and, you know, narrow streets, dwarfs performing on the streets (well at least one that I saw), horses pulling carriages around to transport tourists around...all very stimulating. I felt so relaxed being there, just enjoying the parties, shopping a little bit (gifts for the family; at no point did I buy anything remotely geeky, sadly, unless you count the novel Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel as a geeky book - another one for the great pile).
And then it was back to everyday life and work. Suddenly I am not relaxed, but stressed; once again I face a mountain of things to do (while I secretly daydream of being around a table playing RPGs or writing a novel or playing computer games or the guitar, or playing on the floor with minislynt # 2); once again I feel overwhelmed and wonder what the heck am I doing? Why do we spend our lives working? I know the answer, of course. And once I'm in the groove it will all be nice. But boy, do I hate that transition from summer holiday to autumn pressure. And I miss Prague already. If you haven't been there before, I heartily recommend it. It's - for a Norwegian at least - dirt cheap, beautiful, inspiring and offers more than you can handle. Fantastic place.
On a more Ice & Fire - related note, Leigh Butler of TOR has reached a rather brilliant chapter in A Storm of Swords, the one in which a certain boy king bites a certain pie. Another one bites the pie. It's a fun read, her reactions and way of writing is, if short, thoroughly entertaining. Note that she is reading it for the first time, which is half the fun of course for a jaded fellow fan of the series.
- Amazon exclusive blu-ray/DVD set of Game of Thrones season three. Where would I put that ugly thing? Sorry, but that box just doesn't feel right to me. Looks like a tombstone. Daenerys' perhaps? I'll go with a normal box I can put beneath the hologram projector thank you very much. Nice to be reminded that it is a LIMITED edition. So limited you can only buy two.
- George's cinema. What can I say? He's got a cinema where he can show people Forbidden Planet. Can't say I blame Martin for blogging about it, he must be pretty excited about it and all. I mean, I would be if I bought a cinema so I could watch The Empire Strikes Back and Fellowship of the Ring and Raiders of the Lost Ark in an infinite loop while chewing popcorn. But I am looking for news on The Winds of Winter so...
- Another post on the cinema. Long weekend. Something something.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
August is a month I consider a "summer month", but so far it's been feeling more like a slightly warmer autumn. Bah. The rain keeps falling down; but ooh-la-la rain is also considered (by some) gaming weather, and as such there's been some sky-rimming, fantasy rpg book reading, but mostly changing diapers. Heeeheeh. And nary a thought for Ice and Fire, I have to admit. Not that I expect massive news, we're in a dry spell again aren't we? I'll get back to Davos and Melisandre next week when I return from a holiday involving medieval architecture and art and a whole lot of ale.. Yay!!!1
Friday, August 2, 2013
Thursday, August 1, 2013
I looked at my armor and my weapons, and decided it was time to sharpen the steel and hammer out the kinks, and get back on the path of the Dragonborn.
With dragon blood in my veins, I cannot sit idly by, can I?
And so I went to Riften, finding myself in the underground tavern where I finally found Esben who could helpmy story is beautiful, magnificent. My horse died, slain by two winter wolves, but I persevered, finding myself in a variety of adventures over the last couple of days, reacquanting myself with the cumbersome inventory, re-learning how the Shouts worked, I have picked up again my hobby of blacksmithing, and I have rearranged the bookshelves in Breezehome to accomodate for more volumes of lore.
Many a foe have fallen before my bow and arrows, my ebony sword and my recently acquired Dragonbane sword. And more will have to fall ere I can defeat the mighty Alduin. I am back in Skyrim, and they shall tremble.
I am still supporting the Imperial legions, but unbeknownst to them I have decided to slit the throats of their leaders for what they did so long ago when the first dragon attacked. For now, I will comply to their commands, but one day, Shadows will execute them all. But first, catching butterflies for some potions.
Also, I have tested out my Elven Bow which I have made 'exquisite' at the forge, and now I am running through the Draugr like never before, arrows flying like I was Legolas' evil brother. What a game, folks, what a game! So addictive once you're "back in". Dangerous, and interesting, how a game can be so compelling. Right now all I'd like to do is go back and finish exploring the dungeon I'm in, but real life calls. Ack.