Monday, May 28, 2012

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: Blackwater

George R.R. Martin wrote this, Season Two's penultimate episode. It stays tightly focused on King's Landing. Stannis is attacking. Tyrion is defending. Quite simple. This episode shone because it didn't jump around to a number of different story lines. It has a number of internal cuts but that's it. I liked this episode a lot. It definitely made up for last week's somewhat desultory program. If this episode had a theme it might have been that in war you find out who your real friends are. Tyrion, Sansa, The Hound and a few others all discover some things about the people close to them.
Blackwater opens up with Stannis' fleet advancing through the night while some of his troops are seasick beneath deck. Stannis is serene. He's made his move and is ready to fight and die for what he believes is his by right. God help you if you're in his way. Davos speaks to his son about the dangers of war and possible things that could go wrong but his son gently chides him for his lack of faith in R'hllor, the Lord of Light and tells Davos that he has faith in God, his king and his father. Tyrion admits to Shae that he is afraid and wants her to make love to him as if it's their last night on earth. Meanwhile Cersei has Maester Pycelle bring her poison and admonishes him not to ask what she needs it for. 

Bronn, cavalier as always, is at an inn/brothel(?) leading guardsmen in a rendition of "The Rains of Castamere"* while possibly preparing to have public sex with a prostitute. The Hound enters, bogarts a table, and just sneers in Bronn's general direction. Bronn wants to know if The Hound has a problem and The Hound asks if the smaller Bronn thinks he's Billy Bada$$. They are about to face off but the bells ring, signalling the imminent approach of Stannis. While Tyrion is being dressed in armor by his squire, Podrick, Varys tells Tyrion he doesn't want anyone associated with magic, like Stannis, to be on the throne.
While everyone prepares for battle, Joffrey shows up and demands that Sansa kiss his sword. Showing that Joffrey's tactics have started to lose their ability to shock or scare her, Sansa deftly turns the tables by asking if Joffrey will lead from the front as that is what her brother Robb, who is only a horrible traitor, always does, and so doubtlessly Joffrey will as well. Sansa, belatedly perhaps, is learning to play the game. Joffrey says of course he will be leading from the front. Left unsaid of course, is Sansa's hope that he will die.
Cersei orders the important highborn ladies to her chambers where Ser Ilyn Payne awaits. Payne is the executioner who killed Ned Stark. Cersei offhandedly orders the execution of people who tried to leave the city. Cersei (and Lena Headey did a magnificent job portraying the capricious and malicious fountain of resentment that is Cersei) becomes increasingly drunk and bitterly cynical as the night moves on. Cersei mocks Sansa's prayers and claims that prayer is useless. She says that should the city fall they will all be raped and that a woman's best weapon is what she has between her legs. Cersei goes into full feminist rant, revealing her anger that she was not born male and her contempt for other women. Cersei just loves the idea of ruining what she sees as Sansa's dumb illusions. Even though Cersei is approaching meltdown she is still sharp enough to notice Shae is an outsider. Cersei picks up on Shae's strong foreign accent. She knows that Shae is lying about having come to Westeros a long time ago both because of the accent and the fact that Shae can't curtsey properly. It says a lot about how paranoid and malicious Cersei is that at a time like this she would investigate such things. Given how Joffrey also found the time to try to agitate Sansa earlier, it shows that a (rotten) apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Before she can bully the truth out of Sansa or Shae a wounded Lancel enters to give news of the battle. Cersei orders Lancel to bring Joffrey back. Cersei also informs Sansa that Ser Ilyn is there to kill them should the city fall. There is a very strong Downfall feel to this. Everything is suitably claustrophobic. Only one Lannister ship comes out to meet the Barratheon fleet. Joffrey wants to know what Tyrion is up to and Davos and Stannis would like to know the same thing. The ship is unmanned but it's crammed full of wildfire and is helpfully leaking same across the harbor. Tyrion gives a signal and Bronn sets it off. There is an INCREDIBLE EXPLOSION. Actually there are several INCREDIBLE EXPLOSIONS! If you didn't see this, you really ought to. And if you did see it watch it again.
Just like that the greater part of Stannis' fleet is wiped out, including it looks like, Davos' son and possibly Davos. The Hound is discomfited by the use of fire. But like Scarface Jones in the Coasters song "Riot in Cell Block #9" , Stannis says it's too late to quit and orders survivors to press on. He says he will lead from the front and does just that. Tyrion grudgingly admits Stannis is serious and orders The Hound and Podrick to get more men. Battle is joined. I enjoyed the editing here. As we saw before when it comes to killing The Hound is in his element. Bronn saves The Hound's life and again we see that The Hound is very nervous about the use of fire. One thing I've often wondered about battles in this (fantastical) time period is once melee is joined, absent different uniforms or different race, how do people tell each other apart? It seems like that could be a problem, especially at night. Anyway The Hound doesn't have that problem. He's off leash and biting. Hard.
Stannis and crew hit the beach. Stannis is first over the wall and the man has got serious skills with the longsword. He came to kick a$$ and chew bubblegum and wouldn't you know he's all out of bubblegum. If you get within his reach, you're going down. It's that simple, partner. The Hound retreats when he shouldn't have, primarily because of the fire. Tyrion and Joffrey ask him what is he doing and The Hound, now wounded and frightened, shows that even the deadliest warriors have a breaking point. He refuses direct orders to rejoin the battle and curses at Joffrey. Lancel comes to bring Joffrey back to safety. Joffrey pretends like he won't leave but being the poopbutt he is, he runs back to Mommy. This is a nice contrast with Stannis' first in, last out approach. Stannis asks no man to do what he won't. Tyrion is shocked, angered and I dare say a bit ashamed of Joffrey's cowardice.
While Stannis is evidently fighting on the battlements, his men have brought up a battering ram. The gate will not hold much longer. Tyrion, of all people, drops the cynical snark . He gives a speech that is very Henry V like and rallies the men to fight. Using the knowledge of the secret tunnels he will lead a counterattack from the rear. Lancel arrives at Cersei's rooms to say the battle is lost. Cersei goes to get her son Tommen. Sansa takes over and tries to get the women not to be afraid by singing hymms.  I want to point out something here. Sansa often gets unfairly and negatively compared to her sister Arya but neither one would have survived five minutes in the other's shoes. Sansa is not a tomboy but she does have a particularly and peculiarly feminine strength and endurance that is on display here tonight. Not every battle is fought directly or with swords. Sansa is fighting with the weapons she has. 
Shae tells Sansa to run to her chambers and lock the door. However the very drunk and wounded Hound is in Sansa's room. He says he's leaving and offers to take Sansa with him. Sansa declines, perhaps thinking that The Hound is only after one thing. The Hound angrily responds that the world is built by killers and Sansa had better get used to it.  She tells The Hound that she knows he wouldn't hurt her and The Hound agrees. As I wrote before there is a very strong Beauty and The Beast vibe here. Over time The Hound has subtly protected Sansa when he could but he is sworn to the Lannisters and did kill Arya's friend. So I don't necessarily think we can blame Sansa for declining to leave with him. Again, no one can see into another's mind.
Although Tyrion's counterattack is initially successful, Stannis still has more soldiers to throw into the fray. Did I mention that Stannis is handling his business. Heads, arms, legs, Stannis is handing out free amputations to any Lannister soldier. In the battle something strange happens, a Kingsguard tries to kill Tyrion but is killed by Tyrion's squire, Podrick. Tyrion is out of it. Now who could want our man Tyrion dead? Hmm....

Cersei has the poison and is sitting on the Iron Throne telling stories to her son Tommen, whom she intends to murder. However on the battlefield the tide has turned yet again, Tywin Lannister and Loras Tyrell have arrived and their numbers are enough to win the battle. Tywin enters the throne room and Cersei drops the poison. Again, we see Cersei's essentially selfish nature in full effect. As far as she is concerned her children are just an extension of her and she doesn't think they need to survive if she doesn't.
*Another reason that Catelyn Stark should have known better than to kidnap Tyrion Lannister while her husband and daughters were surrounded by Lannisters in King's Landing is that Tywin Lannister is an insanely vengeful man who believes in immediate and disproportionate responses to any insult to his family. The Rains of Castamere is a song written about two families who revolted against Tywin's father. But it was Tywin who put down the rebellion. He did so by eliminating the two families in toto-men, women, children, homes, castles, everything. This was so notorious that years afterwards Tywin could bring rebellious lords to heel just by sending bards to sing this song to them. Everyone knows this story. Tywin made sure of that.

*This post is written for discussion of this episode and previous episodes. If you have book based knowledge of future events please be kind enough not to discuss that here. Most of my blog partners have not read the books and would take spoilers most unkindly. Heads, spikes, well you get the idea

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Movie Reviews-Hustle: Season One, The Tortured, Chronicle

Hustle Season One
This is something I had briefly seen a few excerpts from probably on BBC America a long time back. I ordered the DVD but not gotten around to watching it for whatever reason. But I finally sat down and watched it and I'm glad I did. This is an intelligent little comedic drama set in England, mostly London from what I can tell, about a group of con artists, white collar criminals and grifters who despite being almost thoroughly amoral, eschew violence and usually do not practice their trade on everyday people.

Their first rule is "You can't cheat an honest man". This is somewhat less of a moral commandment-though their leader likes to live by it-than it is a description of the con artist's lifestyle. An honest man is not greedy or looking to hurt people. But a dishonest man is and is thus vulnerable to the group's manipulations and diversionary tactics. As the group's sole woman explains to a new member , "We find people who are looking for something for nothing. And we give them nothing for something". So they especially enjoy sticking it to the high and mighty, the greedy, corporations, those who hurt other people, the violent, etc. However in truly desperate times they don't mind occasionally taking advantage of the honest sheep, though a few of them may feel some guilt about it later on. The show's lead writer, Tony Jordan, said that he saw this group as a five member pseudo-family (husband, wife, grandfather, uncle and child) and this is why in the first season he limited any sense of outside connections.
These hustlers like to play the "long con". This is a con job that may end up with the mark not even knowing he's been ripped off but also requires quite a bit of set up and trust to be gained over a period of time. It's high risk and high stakes-like deliberately mispricing an IPO, selling all your stock at the inflated price and high tailing it out of the country.

Nobody is better at the long con than Michael Stone (Adrian Lester) aka "Mickey Bricks", a legendary con man who just exudes confidence, coolness and charisma. He just completed a prison term for throwing a beating to his (soon to be ex) wife's lover. This was highly atypical for Mickey, who always preaches patience and playing the odds. Now that he's out Mickey is putting his old crew back together. This includes Ash Morgan (Robert Glenister), a technical whiz who also specializes in getting "hit" by cars, Albert Stroller (Robert Vaughn), an older American and smooth inside man of the group who is Mickey's mentor, and Stacie Monroe (Jaime Murray) the lure, a fast talking smart beautiful woman who is great at research, better at distraction and disguise, and despite telling another character that she does not become intimate with co-workers, shares a room with Mickey and is rumored to be among the reasons Mickey's marriage disintegrated. Albert recruits a brash new addition to the crew, a much younger man named Danny Blue (Marc Warren), who claims to be ready to move from small time grifting to the big leagues. Occasionally Danny's confidence outruns his competence, as Mickey is quick to point out.

This season has a definite Ocean's Eleven or Mission Impossible feel to it as the group does various takedowns of marks, gets extorted into helping perform a bank robbery, takes revenge on a mobster who hurt Albert, scams big time art dealers and even finds the time to make things right with a honest factory owner they inadvertently harmed. The show is odd in that it doesn't mind occasionally breaking the Fourth Wall and freezing time to explain what's going on. You may find this ridiculously fun or just ridiculous. One such occurrence had a full on Broadway song and dance show as Mickey coached Danny on the proper way to appeal to a mark's need. Interestingly enough Lester's appearance in this series was an example of colorblind casting. The producers' original concept was that Mickey was Caucasian but when the producers saw Lester's work they wanted him. Although this is an ensemble cast with everyone getting a chance to shine, it's Lester and to a lesser extent Vaughn, that really make this show work. Bricks has the strongest backstory, one which explains his adamant refusal to live by the rules of society. He's also usually the smartest man in the room and knows it.

You will root for them to win as their marks and opponents are generally pretty horrible people.
If you like movies like The Sting or Contraband you might enjoy this show. They are literally rogues, criminals with hearts of gold. All the same if one of them were to ask you to hold some money for a while, I'd advise against it. Fun stuff and you can learn about a lot of classic scams that are no doubt being run on someone right this instant.

The Tortured
How far would you go in seeking revenge for the murder of a loved one? A husband, wife, or parent is bad enough but what if it was your child that died? This movie purports to answer that question but is kind of uneven. It zips back and forth between a righteous revenge flick and a movie that asks if the torture being inflicted is indeed justified, since at various times the perpetrators themselves ask that question. It gets to some quite graphic events but the worst stuff is the stuff that is implied. The ending takes you some places you may not have seen coming. Or you may have seen it coming and be really angry about it. I can't call it. YMMV and Caveat Emptor and all that.

Anyway Elise Landry (Erika Christensen-who has evidently grown up since her role in Traffic) and Craig Landry (Jesse Metcalfe) are a Vermont upper middle class couple with a six year old son Benjamin (Thomas Greenwood). Elise is a realtor and Landry is a doctor. One day Elise goes off to work while Craig (evidently his shift doesn't start until much later) stays home to play with Ben. Ben is playing outside. Craig does not notice an idling pickup truck just 20 feet away from his home. He goes inside to get a tool he needs to fix one of Benjamin's toys and just that quick he hears his son screaming. He runs back out to see John Kozlowski (Bill Moseley from The Devil's Rejects) grab Ben and throw him in the truck. Craig is this close to getting his son back but the truck takes off. Craig runs back to get his SUV and follows after the truck but loses it in traffic. This is pretty powerful. Some events are shown in flashback as we see Kozlowski in makeup taunting and threatening the frightened Benjamin. Acting on a tip from someone who heard screams the police knock on Kozlowski's door and enter without warrant when they see bloody clothes but it's too late. Benjamin was possibly molested and already murdered.

The film's best acting comes shortly after this event as the Landrys deal with guilt, fear and anger. Erika can't stop asking her husband why he left their son alone and why he didn't jump on the truck or break the window or DO something, even as she knows Craig has already asked himself all of those questions and repeating them daily is on the verge of destroying the marriage. At the trial it's revealed that Kozlowski is a serial killer. In order to find out where other bodies are buried the prosecutor allows Kozlowski to avoid a life sentence. He gets 25 to life and will be eligible for parole in a little over a decade. The Landrys decide that this is unacceptable and that Kozolowski owes a debt in blood to their son that must be paid. And this is where the movie went off the rails a bit. I could buy that middle class people would feel that way and want to take the law into their own hands.  I could not buy that evidently all by themselves they could arrange split second surveillance and timing that allows them to know when Kozlowski will be transported from jail to prison, follow the truck, hijack it, kidnap their target, take him to a deserted cabin for torture,and do all of this without being spotted, identified by any witnesses or apprehended by law enforcement. There are no hidden reveals when one spouse finds out the other used to do hits for the mob or has friends in nasty government agencies or was trained in Japan by murderous Ninja. Nothing. Just two relatively boring people decide on a plan of action.

Anyway the second act of the film is bloody torture and some surprises. The look of the film is deliberately(?) dark and murky just like the moral lessons. When a child is killed many people like to claim that they would want to make the perpetrator's life hell. This film asks if you could really do that.

What would you do and how would you live if you had powers and abilities beyond those of other humans? Would you still be the same moral person you are today? Or would you start to find morality somewhat constraining? Would you live and let live or would you make a list and start settling scores? This film investigates this. It signals intelligence by name dropping the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, but ultimately it doesn't really live up to what it could have been, perhaps because it's set in a high school. Also the black guy dies first. Again.

Three high school friends, well actually more associates, are in their senior year. Matthew Garetty (Alex Russell) is somewhat popular with his female classmates. Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan) is even more popular with everyone as he is running for class president. He's also on the football team. But the last member of the trio isn't popular with anyone. Matt's cousin, Andrew Detmer( Dane DeHaan) is painfully shy and withdrawn. His mother is dying of cancer. Andrew is routinely physically and verbally abused by his alcoholic father (Michael Kelly) who drinks up the money that should be used for his wife's medicine. And when Andrew goes to school he's bullied by other classmates and mocked by the cheerleaders. On the way home the local hoodlums like to mess with him. And his constant carrying around of his camera makes people nervous. Macho types invariably think he's trying to record their girlfriends and beat him up. So he's not having a good life.

But one night at a party that his cousin Matt has dragged him to, Andrew, Matt and Steve find an entrance to a cave. It looks more like a crater but the inside appears too regular. They enter and at the bottom find some sort of massive crystal device. Of course they get too close to the device and get nosebleeds, headaches and get nauseous. They leave but over the next few days they discover they're changing. Each of the boys start to show telekinetic powers and some form of immunity to blunt force trauma. At first they use these powers for obvious pranks such as using leaf blowers to look up women's skirts, making teddy bears scare little girls or hitting each other in the head with baseballs, Three Stooges style.

But their powers continue to grow as they test them. One day Steve shows that they can fly. Steve and Matt are content with their powers and decide not to show them off in public. But Andrew has other ideas, especially since he's tired of getting beatings at home and wild with grief over his mother's approaching death. Andrew starts to wonder if this just isn't a new element of evolution and he is thus no longer accountable to humans. His morality should only be his will. Andrew has a lot of bad feelings to work thru and when a Steve arranged tryst with a hot girl goes bad, ending up in further humiliation for the hapless Andrew, his links to Steve and Matt are much reduced.

This was a very entertaining film BUT it would have been so much better I think were it placed in an adult setting. The special effects are superb. They're really good, particularly when one of the trio isn't paying attention while they're flying and almost gets hit by a 747. The SFX are not  Avengers level special effects but they're close enough. The camera work makes you think you're flying. This is not a horror movie but it does make use of a few good horror tropes-ie. someone thought to be dead or unconscious opening their eyes before their opponent is aware. If you really didn't enjoy high school and/or are the sort of person who lies in bed thinking about how you're going to have retribution on all your enemies you might sympathize with Andrew. But the rest of us will just enjoy a fun flick.  TRAILER

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Naomi Schaefer Riley: Arrogance and Ignorance

I can outline but do not fully understand such scientific concepts as Schrodinger wave equation, general and special relativity, Olbers' paradox, Planck's law, the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics, study of fluid mechanics, Bernoulli equation, or several other ideas that are basic building blocks of modern physics and engineering. I've got the big picture on some of those ideas but definitely can't go into the nitty gritty details or the mathematical equations. Why? Well I took a few classes some decades ago and enjoy reading about them but I'm not a physicist or an engineer. So I'm not the man to speak with authority about any of those topics in either an applied or theoretical sense.
Imagine if I didn't let that little lack of knowledge or any basic credentials in physics stop me. Suppose I sauntered into a convention of physicists discussing string theory and smugly informed them that not only were their equations and calculations all wrong but also their entire field was balderdash, completely worthless. I declared the only reason they were involved in the field was because of a Eurocentric bias against non-Western modes of understanding the Universe. So to me, they were all, by definition, losers and racists with a special hatred of black people.

Let's say that, once challenged to share my credentials and experience in the field, provide some evidence of my claims, or even simply show that I had even read some of the sources which I was categorically dismissing, I arrogantly responded that I hadn't read any of their simple-minded twaddle and had not the slightest intention of doing so. If I were asked to leave it wouldn't be censorship. It would be an incident of experts involved in grown folks' discussion realizing that I was neither expert nor grown and had nothing of value to add.
Former Wall Street Journal writer Naomi Schaefer Riley did what I just described above, only being a conservative, she substituted black studies (history, sociology, everything) for physics. She was invited to give her opinion on the field by the Chronicle of Higher Education. When you're writing critically for something which is read by actual educators and scholars you need to come correct but Riley did not. You can read what she wrote here. Her essay shows that she has such incredible contempt for anything investigating the history, culture, or sociology of black people that she not only thinks such academic endeavors are not worth her time, she doesn't think they're worth anyone's time.  For example:

You’ll have to forgive the lateness but I just got around to reading The Chronicle’s recent piece on the young guns of black studies. If ever there were a case for eliminating the discipline, the sidebar explaining some of the dissertations being offered by the best and the brightest of black-studies graduate students has made it. What a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap. The best that can be said of these topics is that they’re so irrelevant no one will ever look at them....
Seriously, folks, there are legitimate debates about the problems that plague the black community from high incarceration rates to low graduation rates to high out-of-wedlock birth rates. But it’s clear that they’re not happening in black-studies departments. If these young scholars are the future of the discipline, I think they can just as well leave their calendars at 1963 and let some legitimate scholars find solutions to the problems of blacks in America. Solutions that don’t begin and end with blame the white man

OK. By all means please read the entire piece yourself. Riley had more to say, much of it nonsensical in my view but make up your own mind. The biggest problem with what she wrote is that she freely admits she didn't even read the dissertations she was mocking. Because to her it's just not worth her time. In some aspects her know-nothing attitude is akin to what Dubois had to deal with at the turn of the century.
Now I do not believe that social sciences are quite as rigorous as the disciplines of physics or mathematics (personal bias) but I do believe that before you dismiss something you need to at the very least know something about it. That's true in every discipline, soft or hard science, music, sport, art, whatever. It's an academic and logical crime to jump to a conclusion without even evaluating the evidence. Clearly Riley was not willing to engage in fair criticism; her mind was already made up beforehand. So the Chronicle of Higher Education(CHE) decided maybe it would be for the best that she blogged and critiqued elsewhere. On cue, the usual suspects started screaming and crying about academic freedom and political correctness and censorship.
This all misses the point. Riley's puerile and viciously lazy condemnation of an entire academic body of knowledge is really quite breathtaking in what it reveals about the thinking of SOME right-wing, mostly white conservatives.
  • There is nothing that black people have done, are doing or will do in America that is worthy of rigorous study.
  • The only reason anyone would study black history, sociology, anthropology, etc is because they hate white people.
  • Black studies are only of worth to the extent that they agree with a conservative ideology around race.
  • Even if some black person somewhere did something worth studying, black studies departments lack the ability to produce such study.
That pretty much sums it up. Never mind that there are such esoteric fields as Judaic studies, seminars on Ottoman economics, scholarly books about music printing in Leipzig during the 30 Years War, or a myriad of other popular or obscure topics in which some number of people study, become expert, teach and obtain doctorates. Only the study of Black people , and especially the study of Black people by Black people seems to call forth such putrid bile by the right wing. 
Riley ignores the fact that there is of course no reason that you could not be both right-wing and an expert on Harlem Renaissance poets or Negro Baseball league economics. You could be damn near fascist and know more than any living soul about sharecropper political economy in the Mississippi Delta of the late thirties or musical sharing between 1920's Cuba, Jamaica and New Orleans. So you can make your own judgments on why Riley is so fearful and contemptuous of Black studies. You can also read what Black Ivy League scholars had to say about their field here.

1) Was the CHE right to part company with Mrs. Riley?
2) Do you think black studies is a worthwhile field of endeavor?
3) Is it fair to condemn something without examining it?
4) Can you explain special relativity in ways that I could get it?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Desmond Hatchett-30 children and counting

You have probably heard about this Knoxville, Tennessee man of profound potency and vast virility, Desmond Hatchett, who at the time of this writing has acknowledged 30 children by 11 different women. This may be a county or even state record. Just three years ago he only had 21 children so obviously Mr. Hatchett is something of a crosscut saw that some women like to have buried in their wood. Unfortunately for Mr. Hatchett, unlike other noted men such as Clint Eastwood (seven children by five different women) or Ted Nugent (eight children by four different women) Mr. Hatchett has apparently no marketable skills other than his good good loving. He makes minimum wage. He's 33 years old and only earning minimum wage which is $7.25/hr.

There's a saying that you can't get blood from a stone, though you can apparently get some other bodily fluids. So Hatchett recently went to court to try to get the state to reduce the child support payments. State law allows the state to take up to 50% of a non-custodial parent's income for child support but since Hatchett doesn't earn much money in the first place his children don't receive very much assistance-one child's mother is paid just $1.49/month.
Just where is Octodad? That's perhaps the most pressing question -- among the many -- pertaining to Desmond Hatchett, a Knoxville, Tenn., man who reportedly has so many children that he's struggling to keep up with child-support payments.
Hatchett, nicknamed Octodad by various media outlets, gained considerable notoriety last week after WREG in Memphis posted a story and video describing his struggles to keep up with child-support payments for his 30 children.
To say the story went viral would be an understatement. It was republished, reposted, tweeted, shared and commented on thousands and thousands of times. We wrote about it as well on Friday. That story alone was shared more than 26,000 times.
One of the most common questions among readers who have called, e-mailed and commented on the story is this: If Hatchett is having trouble paying child support for these children, who is paying for them? Tennessee taxpayers?
Now in my opinion he is a sad excuse for a man. And of course most of the media or blog coverage of this situation also promoted that opinion. Some people even called for castration or vasectomy.  That's good for a chuckle and allows people to vent their frustrations with this situation. That's fine. I did the same above. But if we can be serious for just a moment we should realize that unless Hatchett forcibly raped a woman or slept with an underage girl (which is rape of a different sort) it takes two, or in Hatchett's case, 12 to tango. The women's names, photos and situations have not been released but I'm sure that they're all upstanding citizens with great jobs who are not on any sort of public assistance. In any event they are just as responsible as Hatchett for their children. If he's a reprobate and a clown, then so are they. We can't demand that Hatchett be more responsible than the women he's running around with. Can we?  But neither Hatchett nor the mothers of his children have broken any laws. One would wonder why a man would want to impregnate so many different women that he can't support or why so many women would want to be impregnated by such a man but I wonder about a lot of things that I'll never figure out.
The moral of this story is that you can't fix stupid. You can't take more than 50% of someone's income. You can't prevent someone from having children they can't afford. You can't stop someone from valuing short term pleasures more highly than the long term costs of bringing another human being into this world. All you can do is show people the costs of stupid behavior and try to change their incentives. That's what freedom means.
1) Should the state be able to take more than 50% of your income for child support?
2) What would happen if we just got rid of all assistance to unmarried women or children born out of wedlock?
3) Should the state be able to force sterilization on irresponsible men or women? 
4) How did people's lives become so empty that someone like Hatchett is considered a good catch by so many women? Why wasn't anyone using protection?

Monday, May 21, 2012

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: The Prince of Winterfell

This episode was transitional. It's setting up things for the battle at King's Landing and the rapidly approaching season finale. This wasn't a great episode but I didn't think it would be. There were a lot of loose ends to tie up. 
We open up with the mass killing of ravens at Winterfell. This is so there can be no requests for assistance. It's the low tech equivalent of bank robbers demanding all the cell phones from the hostages. For some reason this impacted me a bit. I mean here are some pretty helpless animals that have been trained to trust men and they are all slaughtered. It's a small thing but again shows Theon's viciousness. Ned Stark is dead and his firstborn son is away. No one is there to protect his people or his ravens. Yara Greyjoy arrives at Winterfell with a much smaller group of men than Theon had requested. She makes fun of Theon and calls him stupid. When he blusters and dares her to do so again she does so again with profanity. Through her body language and tone of voice it's very clear that Yara is not physically afraid of Theon. Heck I believe she could take him. Yara says that killing the Stark children was cowardly and dumb and that their father wants a word with Theon. Yara will not stay at Winterfell. Theon refuses to leave Winterfell. Yara says that the entire North will be coming for Theon and that he won't be able to hold Winterfell. She reminds Theon of a time when he was a bawling baby and she didn't kill him which I guess is as close as you can get to familial love among the Greyjoys.

Among the Wildlings, Rattleshirt has captured Qhorin Halfhand and doesn't think he needs Jon Snow alive. Ygritte argues for Jon's life and points out that Mance Rayder will certainly want to interrogate a son of Ned Stark. This makes Rattleshirt change his mind. Ygritte tells Jon Snow that they're even. As they're being marched back to Rayder's camp, Halfhand tells Jon that his job is to stay alive. He decides to make it look like he hates Jon Snow and loudly blames Jon's infatuation with Ygritte for being the reason that they were captured. Snow in part blames himself as it was by waiting for Snow that Halfhand was captured and the other members of the party killed. Ygritte doesn't know if she believes Halfhand's insults and assault on Jon or not. Meanwhile as Sam and the rest of the Night Watch are digging latrines, they come across some graves made by the First Men which contain obsidian spearheads and a horn, atypically wrapped in a modern Night Watch cloak. This will be important later so take notes. Well I'm just kidding about the notes but not about the other stuff.
At the Crag, Robb and Talisa speak of Robb's upcoming marriage and his father's lessons about life, fear and the responsibilities of leadership. Robb is sharing a lot of vulnerability with Talisa as well as his hopes that this war is not about revenge or glory but justice. He gets word that Jaime Lannister has been released by Catelyn Stark.* Back at camp Robb wants to know why and Catelyn said it was to trade for her daughters. Lord Karstark is furious and points out that her daughters are still alive while two of his sons are dead. Robb is not happy with his mother's undermining of his authority and has her confined to camp. Down river Brienne ignores Jaime's jibes and challenges and gets him in a boat. They're headed for King's Landing. 

At Harrenhal, Tywin and Kevan Lannister (his brother, which is why he is free to argue with Tywin without being sent to bed with no supper)  argue over the proper move. They can't decide whether they should continue to try to fight Robb Stark who hasn't lost to them yet or retreat to protect Joffrey from Stannis' approaching armies. Tywin is angry and frustrated with the whole situation but decides that saving Joffrey and more importantly the Lannister hold on the Iron Throne is paramount, especially since Robb will hopefully be busy sending forces back to re-take Winterfell. Tywin decides to withdraw the bulk of his forces to King's Landing leaving The Mountain at Harrenhal. Arya tries to find Jaqen but can't do so before Tywin departs. 

In King's Landing Bronn and Tyrion are starting to get on each other's nerves. These two have a nice little comedic riff going. It's almost like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in Westeros. Tyrion is speedreading "Surviving Sieges for Dummies" while Bronn doesn't think books will be of any use. Bronn also doesn't like Tyrion telling him to dress more appropriately as leader of the City Guard. Varys enters and congratulates Tyrion on the drop in crime. Bronn nonchalantly explains that thieves cause major problems in sieges so he rounded up all the thieves he could find and well..what do you think he did. Bronn is a very practical man and smugly goes back to cleaning his nails which is what irritated Tyrion in the first place.
At Harrenhal Arya finds Jaqen and rebukes him for not being around. She loves her brother very much. Jaqen is like look kid you get one more name and it's too bad for you it can't be Tywin. She gives Jaqen his own name and refuses to change her request unless he helps her and her friends to escape. Rather irritated, he tells them to walk through the gate at midnight. I am so reminded in a weird way of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale. At midnight Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie are waiting to walk thru the gate but the guards are all still there. Gendry and Hot Pie are too afraid to walk out. But Arya is unafraid. She trusts Jaqen and does what he told her. As it turns out the guards-all of them-are impaled on their own spears. Just who or what is this Jaqen guy anyway???? And if he could do that then why was he hanging around? The children escape. At King's Landing Tyrion and Cersei have dinner. Cersei has the biggest smirk on her face. Joffrey plans to fight in the battle, something which doesn't bother Tyrion in the least. He thinks it might be good for morale and is unconcerned, Cersei thinks a little too unconcerned, about the possibility of Joffrey's capture, wounding or death. Unable to keep the bitterness and smugness out of her voice, Cersei tells Tyrion that the reason Varys is so dangerous is because he doesn't have a penis and thus can't be controlled the way so many men are by theirs.** 
Cersei Lannister, King's Landing feminist. Right. Obviously making a comparison to herself and her supposed intelligence, Cersei reveals she has Tyrion's companion and that whatever happens to Joffrey will happen to the whore, only double. Tyrion tries to pretend he doesn't care but Cersei knows he does. In order to prove to her brother she's not bluffing, she has her guards bring in "my brother's whore", but as it turns out she has the already beaten Roz, not Shae. Tyrion doesn't let Cersei know this of course and pretends to be hurt and shocked. He also grimly and calmly tells his sister that some day no matter how long it takes he will get her back for this. When she least expects it, he'll be there. Afterwards he runs off to ensure that Shae is okay and reveals that he really does love her. This is a nice reference to Cersei's statement the previous week that love makes people weak. Falling in love with a woman that you pay, well it happens I guess.
At Robb's camp, Roose Bolton convinces Robb to send Roose's bastard son to retake Winterfell. Roose leaves. Talisa enters and after an interesting origin story of how she came to be a nurse, Robb admits that he does not want to marry the Frey girl and Talisa shows him how to make a lady smile. Vigorously. With enthusiasm.

Stannis and Davos are sailing to King's Landing and hope to be there in a day. Davos speaks of how he doesn't care that Stannis' other bannermen still despise him because of his low birth. Stannis thinks Davos is mistaken to let go of grudges but admires his strength in not caring what others think of him. Stannis shares the second characteristic. Stannis has not forgotten that Davos saved his life in the war against the Mad King. Stannis has also not forgotten that even though he held Storm's End as directed, his brother Robert gave it to Renly. Stannis says that once he's duly recognized as king, Davos will be his Hand. For the first time we get to see why Stannis is able to inspire loyalty in Davos and the story is better for it. In Stannis' retelling of his stubborn holding of Storm's End because those were the orders he had, we get a glimpse of just how much law, order and doing the right thing matter to Stannis. If he gets an order he's gonna follow it no matter what. His brother said fight, so Stannis fought. But now that he's the one giving orders he expects the same obedience from others. Ned Stark relieved the siege but if he hadn't I imagine Stannis would still be holding out. This man is committed.

Jorah tells Danerys he's found a ship and they should leave. Danerys insults his bravery and repeats that she wants her dragons back-they are all the children she will ever have. At King's landing Joffrey is talking smack about how he's going to lead the battle from the front. Tyrion sarcastically tells him to rock on with his bad self. Tyrion is overseeing the reinforcing of a weak point in the defensive wall and runs across Varys. Curious as to why Varys didn't rat out Shae to Cersei Tyrion asks him what he wants. Varys evades the question and shares that he heard Danerys is still alive and has dragons. This shows that Varys is very much a game player as he was just seconds ago claiming not to know what was going on in the North, which upset Joffrey, but now he has accurate information about what's going on a continent away? This was nicely and subtly done.
In Winterfell Theon thinks it's time the burned bodies of the two boys came down. Dagmar says why not leave them up longer. Theon also gives some gold for Dagmar to give to the farmer and Dagmar says why bother. Maester Luwin sees Osha and realizes what my blog partners Fed_Up and Godson figured out last week, Bran and Rickon Stark are still alive. Osha has them hidden in the Winterfell crypts. Osha and Maester Luwin agree to hide the death of the other boys from Bran and Rickon but Bran overhears them.

*This does point out the silliness of expecting that full grown adults will obey children-especially THEIR children. As we've seen in the show this season both the Starks and the Lannisters are hamstrung by this expectation, based in "kingship". I strongly urge people to read the books. And that's all I have to say about that
**It is also important to mention here that although Cersei was somewhat humanized last week, she remains a highly unpleasant and frankly evil person. That said she does have a fair resentment over patriarchal rules that prevent her from holding power in her own name. She is after all the eldest of Tywin's children. The stereotypical way in which she manipulates men only adds to her frustration with her role and to her contempt with men in general.

*This post is written for discussion of this episode and previous episodes. If you have book based knowledge of future events please be kind enough not to discuss that here. Most of my blog partners have not read the books and would take spoilers most unkindly. Heads, spikes, well you get the idea

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Book Reviews-The Art of A Song of Ice and Fire, Why dogs are better than cats, The House with a Clock in its walls, Mad Kings and Queens

The Art of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire Volume One
Mad King Aerys
As you know I am a A Song of Ice and Fire fanatic so when I received this collection of artwork based on events, people and places in Martin's invented world I was very happy to peruse it. This isn't quite coffee table sized but would make a great conversation piece in your living room or den all the same. It opens with a foreword by Martin himself who explains that the collected art is work commissioned by Fantasy Flight Games for a board game and collectible card series based on Martin's works. Martin is of course a comic book and gaming fan but says that despite that it wasn't without some trepidation that he gave the rights for this project to continue. In part his fears were caused by his proprietary interest in his creations. Martin was also worried that the illustrators wouldn't capture what he saw in his head and perhaps most importantly what the readers imagined. As Martin wrote in the foreword:

Jon and Arya
"The artist must fill in all those missing details and the odds are good that he or she is not going to fill them in the same way you did inside your head when you were giving birth to these characters . You are trusting your children to a stranger, hoping he will treat them gently. Would I know Ned when I saw him? Would Jaime have the same arrogant smile he has in the books? Would the King's Landing on the card match the King's Landing inside my head? All I could do was hope..."
Obviously Martin liked most of the art created for the board game and collectible cards and this book contains the best of it. This was obviously created before the HBO series so if you are familiar with the HBO vision it is fun to see different interpretations of various characters. This contains depictions of characters from all seven kingdoms and beyond as well as events through book 4. If you haven't read all of the books this collection doesn't beat you over the head with spoilers but there might be a few if you look obsessively for them. Basically if you see a character you don't recognize, just enjoy the art. But the majority of the artwork is from the first two books.
Cersei Lannister
One thing which I didn't show here is that Brienne of Tarth, who was Renly's bodyguard and becomes Catelyn Stark's champion, is described in the books as so incredibly homely that EVERYONE who meets her either feels sorry for her or wants to make fun of her. The depictions of Brienne in this collection are closer to what I had in my mind's eye though I do confess to being impressed with HBO's Gwendolyn Christie's interpretation.  

Why Dogs Are Better than Cats
by Bradley Trevor Greive
I picked this up in the bargain section of my local bookstore. This book is exactly what it sounds like. It is a photographic essay giving a multitude of reasons as to why our canine friends are more worthy in every way than our feline companions. I am a dog person and I didn't need any convincing. I can't abide with a pet that won't come when called, jumps on the kitchen counters whenever it damn well feels like it and goes to the bathroom inside the house. So give me a dog over a cat any day of the week.

This is really a fun book that makes its humorous points with appropriate (or wildly inappropriate) pics of dogs and cats at work, play and rest.
Some of the points made include such observations as
  • Far be it from me to suggest that a great number of cat lovers are simply people whom dogs do not like.
  • Not all cat lovers are pudgy masochistic loners who lack the energy and self-respect to have a dog. Some are simply evil.
  • Dogs are social. Cats are sociopaths.
  • If you care for dogs long enough they become members of the family. Cats become destructive housemates with bad breath.
  • Owning a cat is akin to taking a hostage and hoping that sooner or later Stockholm syndrome will kick in.
  • If your cat deposits a bloodied sparrow on your doorstep, he's not giving you a gift-he's sending you a message.
  • People train dogs. Cats train their owners.
I liked this book a lot. I bet that most pet owners -whether they be dog people or cat people-will as will. The author obviously has a lot of love for dogs. He lives with three Great Danes. And it will come as no surprise to you to learn that he is allergic to most cats. The photographer, Rachael Hale, has authored a great many cat and dog portrait books. Ultimately the author reluctantly admits that there may be some good things about cats, but that only a dog would ever find it.

The House With A Clock In Its Walls
by John Bellairs
This book was written in 1973 and was directed towards children. I remember reading it growing up and recently ordered it online to reread and see if it was as good as I remember it. I think it was as good. Although it's a "children's book" it's really sort of not. There are some adult themes lurking about that only become apparent upon re-reading with insight gained over time.

It's set in mid 20th century Michigan in the fictional town of New Zebedee. This town is very closely modeled after Bellairs' hometown of Marshall, Michigan. Marshall has one of the state's largest historic districts. Reading the thinly veiled descriptions in the book makes you want to go visit. I've only been through the town once but I would like to go back for a proper visit one day. The hero of the story, a chubby, fretful boy named Lewis Barnavelt is suddenly orphaned and comes to live with his eccentric Uncle Jonathan. Jonathan Barnavelt is the quintessential absent-minded professor type. He is up at all hours of the night. He seems to have a dread of and fascination with clocks. And he's always seemingly searching for something in his own house: knocking on walls and looking in closets and so on. And that's not the only weird thing Lewis notices. Windows appear and disappear in the house and sometimes windows or mirrors show things that are distant in space or time.
When Lewis does a little spying of his own his uncle catches him and explains to him that magic is real and Jonathan is indeed a warlock. He's not a very good one though as he only has a bachelor's degree from Michigan Agricultural College (Michigan State). Snicker...

His next door neighbor and good friend Mrs. Zimmerman is also a magician and a far more powerful and skilled one than Jonathan. She has a Ph.D in the field. Anyway Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman spend a lot of time together but that's not why Jonathan is nervous. The house Jonathan is living in formerly belonged to Issac and Selenna Izzard, a husband and wife pair of wizards who were much more powerful than either Mrs. Zimmerman or Jonathan, and apparently of decidedly malign intent. They had a plan that involved bringing about doomsday and this among other things required the hidden titular clock which Jonathan is trying to find. But they both died in mysterious circumstances before they could complete their plan.

When Lewis foolishly dabbles in magic to try to impress one of the "cool kids", he inadvertently resurrects Selenna Izzard, who starts to finish the work that she and her husband started. His uncle and Mrs. Zimmerman must test their strength against Selenna's and try to stave off the end of the world. This book was illustrated by Edward Gorey and is almost worth reading for the art alone. Fun stuff. I love the descriptions of the stained glass windows, staircases and hidden rooms. This is great gothic writing and brings back fun memories.

Mad Kings and Queens
by Allison Rattle and Allison Vale
The major problem with absolute power concentrated in one person is that if that person proves to be a raging lunatic paranoid with daddy or mommy issues who delights in causing harm to others just because, the state can't properly function. Or even if the state does still function, a lot of people end up dead for no other reason than pure caprice. This is bad for business and ultimately bad for the health of the state. Over time most countries gradually realized that perhaps there should be some limits on the power of the monarchy. From there it was a short leap to start codifying law that applied to everyone and of course once that was done people started to ask well who made you king or queen anyway? And for the most part countries got rid of hereditary monarchies or just kept them around for tourist attractions.

But not so long ago of course many people really did believe in the divine right of kings and had no understanding of or belief in the doctrine that political power comes from the assent of the people. Political power came from the fact that the ruling king or queen was descended from the hardest of the hard men and tended to surround themselves with many other killers who would, on command, execute anyone that started talking about the rights of labor,  free speech, social democracy or that all men were created equal. 

This kind of attitude tended not to lend itself to the concept of sharing and whether through the practice of inbreeding (cousins marrying cousins, uncles marrying nieces) or pure bloody practicality (it's a tough neighborhood out there) a great many royals were downright malicious, savage, insane or sometimes all three. This book looks at 40 of the craziest or most evil of the rulers or nobles in Europe -from the 13th century to the 19th. It's fun reading if you're into that sort of historical walk through the park. I am so I greatly enjoyed this book. Truth really is stranger than fiction. Queen Isabella, called the She-Wolf of France, was so angered and humiliated by her husband King Edward's gay affairs and other insults, (King Edward chose to save his male lover instead of his wife when a Scottish Army approached) that she returned to France, raised an army to invade England and upon success, had the king's male lovers publicly disemboweled and castrated. And then she really went to work on them. Isabella arrested and imprisoned the king. When he took too long to die by starvation she sent men to his prison to execute him by jamming a red-hot spit up his back passage. You probably didn't want to get on Queen Isabella's bad side. Then there was Henry VIII, who made sodomy a capital offense, executed his wives when he got tired of them, if they didn't bear male heirs or if he caught them running around.
King Charles II
Ivan The Terrible murdered his own son and oversaw the depredations of the Oprichniki, who raped, tortured and murdered thousands, by their Tsar's command. Charles II of Spain proved to be a example of what happens when family trees don't fork. Via a long line of previously mentioned cousin to cousin and uncle to niece marriages, Charles was actually more inbred than a child born of sibling incest. He had a massive misshapen head, was unable to chew, had a tongue so thick that speech was virtually impossible and was discouraged from walking until he was an adult. And those were his lesser infirmities. Before he died he asked for his first wife and parents to be exhumed from their graves so he could look upon their faces one more time. Nice. This is not a super detailed book. It just gives you a rough sketch on the important qualities of each ruler or noble it investigates. Again, some of these people did live in very nasty areas and playing nice probably would have gotten them dead with a quickness. So it goes.

Monday, May 14, 2012

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: A Man Without Honor

What is honor? How is it defined? For Ned Stark it meant doing the right thing even if if hurt or no one else was around. It meant not taking unfair advantage. It meant not harming women or children. It meant not asking your followers to do anything you weren't prepared to do. But Ned's gone and his teachings may or may not apply to the choices his children and wife must face. In this episode we see Theon Greyjoy and Jaime Lannister, two men who knew Ned Stark, make choices that reject Ned's idea of honor and even the entire concept of honor. A lot happened in this episode-maybe too much. I really didn't like this episode's pacing. Some very important events got short shrift because the location changed every two minutes. The pacing hurt the storyline. Each season really needs an extra two episodes. It would help tremendously. This episode felt rushed.

Anyway this episode started with Theon waking up to discover the Stark children are gone, along with Osha and Hodor. Theon beats a man who points out that Theon slept with Osha. Theon leads a search party and takes Maester Luwin with him. Luwin begs for the boys' lives. Theon seems to really enjoy his turn to the Dark Side. Bran and Rickon see a farm where some orphan boys lived and debate as to whether to go there. Bran thinks they shouldn't because they'll bring trouble to the settlement. Osha points out they need to be moving as they are losing their head start.

North of the wall, Jon Snow wakes up in the normal state for a healthy young man who just had a good night's sleep. Tied next to him as she is Ygritte can't help but notice this and teases him. Upon realizing that Jon Snow is a virgin she teases him even more and wonders aloud if he spends all of his time with the company of other men, sheep or in self-abuse. She's a raunchy little lady. They start to argue about the disputes between the Free Folk and the Northerners. Jon Snow points out that they share many of the same ancestors and Ygritte wants to know then why are they fighting. I really like her accent. Snow doesn't have a good answer to her questions. All he knows is that she's his prisoner and that is that.
In Harrenhal we get to see the duality that is Tywin Lannister. He calmly oversees the hangings of some of his men who presumably failed at security and casually orders The Mountain to go forth and commit some atrocities upon peasants who may be giving support to the Brotherhood Without Banners.*  Evidently he is blaming the Brotherhood for the murder of Ser Amory Lorch. There's no mention of the missing letter which Arya took.
In the very next breath Tywin gives his meal to Arya. While Arya eats and thinks of killing Tywin, Tywin gives a monologue about the history of Harrenhal and how there are different ways to win wars. Tywin intends to leave a legacy for his family and will stop at nothing to do so. When Arya unwisely reveals a rather profound knowledge of Targaryen dynasties and military history, Tywin asks where she learned all of this. She gives some sass and Tywin firmly warns her that he likes having her around but that could quickly and easily change. He also reveals that he's long since seen through her ruse as a lowborn girl and that she needs to do a better acting job. I was happy about this because once again it shows that Tywin is no dummy. 
In King's Landing Sansa encounters The Hound and attempts to thank him but The Hound angrily responds that he just likes killing people and that Sansa may need his hate some day. He also speaks dismissively of Ned Stark and his honor. There is a rather strong "Beauty and The Beast" vibe here.  North of the Wall, Ygritte continues to point out what she sees as the benefits of wilding culture and lifestyle (mainly obligations that are freely entered into-NOT obligations externally imposed by kings or "honor") She offers to remedy Jon's virginal condition and when he declines, scornfully tells him "You know nothing, Jon Snow". (This is an important phrase which is from the book and will be repeated). It should be pointed out that the Night Watch is sworn to father no children and to take no wives. As his father's son, Jon Snow takes oaths and honor very seriously indeed.
At Robb Stark's camp the influx of enemy prisoners and wounded is causing a logistical problem. Roose Bolton says there are too many prisoners and looks meaningfully at Robb. Talisa wants more medical supplies and flirts with Robb in order to get him to take her with him to accept an enemy surrender so that she can get more supplies. 
Near the settlement where the Stark boys passed by the dogs have lost the scent. But some of Theon's men find some walnut shells (evidently Rickon's habit of eating walnuts is known to pirates across Westeros????) and Theon sends Luwin back to Winterfell.

In Qarth Xaro claims to want to help Danerys but she is distrustful. Jorah returns and offers to help. After a great deal of whining and venting Danerys says she doesn't trust Jorah either and also doesn't like that he's trying to get close but tells him to find those dragons.  Poor Jorah. He's stuck in the friend zone and he knows it. It won't be long before Danerys is telling Jorah about all the wild monkey sex she's having with some other man. She'll be complaining to Jorah how this other man won't commit and does Jorah have any ideas about how to help. Sad, just sad.
Ygritte won't stop teasing Jon Snow and wonders if he even knows where he's going. She tells him yet again how good her sugar bowl is but he (reluctantly?) refuses the offer. Ygritte escapes. Jon goes to capture her but realizes that he's the one who's captured as he is now surrounded by wildlings. Evidently Ygritte knew where she was going.
Sansa has a nightmare of rape and wakes up to discover she's had her first cycle. This is considered as proof of being old enough to legally wed so she, with Shae's help, frantically tries to hide the evidence. Shae even threatens another handmaiden who intends to squeal but it's all for nought as The Hound has evidently wandered by and seen the bloody sheets. The Hound is evidently on the track. If you remember the book Carrie, the title character's religiously insane mother warned her daughter that once she started to bleed the boys would smell it and come sniffing after it just like hounds. Coincidence? Cersei has a surprisingly gentle woman to woman talk with Sansa and advises Sansa to only love whatever children she may have with Joffrey. In Cersei's view excess affection is a weakness.
At Robb Starks's camp Alton Lannister is imprisoned with his cousin Jaime. Alton worships his cousin and they swap stories of former tournaments until Jaime beats his cousin to death to attempt an escape by killing the guard who came to investigate. So much for family ties.
There is a meeting of The Thirteen in Qarth.  Pyat Pree and Xaro reveal they stole the dragons. They also murder the other leaders. Pree tells Danerys that her dragons are at the House of The Undying. Jaime Lannister is re-captured. Lord Karstark, (who is a distant relative of the Starks) wants to kill Jaime because Jaime killed his son (the guard). With great difficulty, Catelyn gets the Karstark to back down, temporarily. He promises (really more threatens) to demand an accounting from Robb Stark upon his return. Again, I have to give special mention to Michelle Fairley as Catelyn Stark here. She is just consistently bringing it in her role.
In King's Landing Cersei and Tyrion discuss the coming of Stannis. The siblings share stories about what a horrible king Joffrey is. Even Cersei admits this. She also effectively admits the incest to Tyrion, who does not , atypically, stick the knife in. Both seem to be rather pensive, somewhat regretful and share a, if not quite friendly, at least sympathetic moment together.
At the Stark camp, Brienne and Catelyn notice the drunk violent nature of the Stark soldiers and the increasing talk of killing Jaime. They wonder if Jaime will last until Robb's return. Catelyn goes to see Jaime and accuses him of having no honor. Jaime points out that there are many conflicting requirements of honor and who can say what is right. He remains in full deadpan snarker mode, insults Brienne and says that whatever else he was he was faithful to his woman, something that wasn't true for Ned Stark. Catelyn asks for Brienne's sword.
At Winterfell, Theon gleefully reveals the hanged burned bodies of Rickon and Bran.
There may not be the honor in war that we think there is. Robb Stark started to fight for honor and freedom. He has ended up betrayed by a man he considered a brother and is relying on another man who urges torture and prisoner execution. We attacked Afghanistan in a righteous fury over 9-11. We were the good guys. We ended up posing with corpses and urinating on them. This show is going to go to some very dark places. Don't say you weren't warned.
*If you recall, back in season one Ned Stark sent the better part of his force, under Beric Dondarrion, to defend his wife's lands from the marauding of The Mountain. The remnants of this military group have combined with other soldiers, refugees and a few peasants to become an irregular force that harasses the Lannisters and fights for justice. This is the Brotherhood Without Banners-a sort of Robin Hood analogue.
*This post is written for discussion of this episode and previous episodes. If you have book based knowledge of future events please be kind enough not to discuss that here. Most of my blog partners have not read the books and would take spoilers most unkindly. Heads, spikes, well you get the idea..