Monday, April 28, 2014

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: Oathkeeper

Well. That was different. Benioff and Weiss have consistently said that they are adapting the entirety of A Song of Ice and Fire, not just a one to one book to season ratio. They are the creators of a television adaptation, not slavish recreators of a series of novels. Last week, with the alteration of the Jaime-Cersei encounter that became quite obvious. This week there were even more dramatic changes from the book narrative with scenes that were very different from or simply did not exist in the literary version. I have mixed feelings about this but I'll discuss that more after the season. The creators know some of Martin's intended ending so I must hope that they had good reasons for changes. I will say that this episode kept me on my toes more than usual because I honestly had no idea what was going to happen next. And if a show can do that then it's a good show. Anyway enough about the books. I suggest reading them. Let's not discuss them here.* 

When we last left everyone's favorite platinum blonde princess she was shooting barrels of broken shackles over the walls of Meereen. Daenerys interrupts Missandei and Grey Worm, who are bonding over shared stories of loss, to tell Grey Worm that it's time. Grey Worm doesn't look too happy at having his "me" time with Missandei interrupted but hey, it's not like he can do anything with Missandei anyway. Jorah, lame as he is, has a better chance with Daenerys because he has his original equipment. You can't drive a manual without a stick.

Grey Worm leads a group of Unsullied into Meereen via the sewers to a slave meeting. The slaves are considering their chances of uprising, which don't look good. However after an inspiring Grey Worm speech the slaves' fortunes look better when Grey Worm unveils a wonderful assortment of machetes, falchions, short swords and daggers. In an evident stand in for the unseen uprising a particularly stupid slave owner is caught out in the open and stabbed to death by a thousand slaves from the casts of Gladiator, 12 Years a Slave, Django Unchained, Glory and Spartacus. Shortly afterwards Daenerys enters Meereen to adoring cheers. Barristan counsels her to show mercy to some of the surviving slave owners but possibly getting high on her own supply a self-righteous Daenerys has 163 of them crucified in a deliberate payback for the dead children. She also has her family sigil flying from the highest point in Meereen. The Targaryens are back.

Jaime is getting better sparring with his left but still can't beat Bronn, who "cheats". Of course Bronn doesn't recognize the concept of cheating in fighting. Bronn doubts Tyrion killed Joffrey. Poison is not Tyrion's way nor does Bronn think Tyrion a murderer. Jaime visits Tyrion, who as you might suspect is a bit down. We know that Tyrion didn't do it of course. We also know that Peter Dinklage can emote more with his eyes than many actors can do with 10 minutes of dialogue. Tyrion repeats to Jaime that neither he nor Sansa killed Joffrey, his brother's son.
Speaking of Sansa she's on a ship to the Eyrie, where Littlefinger is to marry her aunt Lysa. Proving that despite what some say about her being the slowest Stark, she actually has some brains, Sansa works out that Littlefinger killed or helped kill Joffrey. What she doesn't know is why. She knows Dontos didn't do it on his own. Littlefinger, looking every bit the proud teacher, asks Sansa if she noticed a stone missing from her necklace. Littlefinger points out that it's always best to be the man no one suspects. He found Joffrey unreliable; his new friends were adamant that Joffrey had to go. And who might those new friends be? Well who did Littlefinger meet with to arrange a marriage with Joffrey? Why that would be the Tyrells. And by Tyrells I mean Lady Olenna. While telling her granddaughter that she'll need to move fast to cut Tommen off from Cersei's influence, the Queen of Thorns also flatly states that Tyrion didn't murder Joffrey. Lady Olenna says there was no way she was going to leave Margaery to Joffrey's tender mercies. So there you have it. Littlefinger and Lady Olenna murdered Joffrey.  

Did you notice at the time that Lady Olenna came over to talk to Sansa and fussed with her necklace? Did you see her palm a stone? Did you catch her laughing up her sleeve about how murdering someone at a wedding was horrid? Of course you did because you're smarter than the average bear. Taking her grandmother's advice about men (boys) Margaery sneaks into Tommen's room to talk to him. The new plan is that they will get married to cement the Lannister-Tyrell partnership. Tommen is nothing like Joffrey. He's more malleable. And Margaery won't have to worry about being beaten or used for target practice. Cersei, who's constantly drinking and practicing her screwface, blames Jaime for Joffrey's death. She wants him to increase Tommen's guard. Cersei is suspicious of Jaime's release and wants to know if he would find and kill Sansa. When he demurs and says that Tyrion is innocent, Cersei has her answer and coldly dismisses him. Possibly feeling a bit chagrined, Jaime gives Brienne a new suit of armor as well as one of the swords melted down from Ice. He's charging her (and himself) to honor her oath to Catelyn Stark and find and protect Sansa Stark (Arya is thought dead). You can see that Brienne cares very much about oaths and hopes that Jaime does too. Brienne names the sword Oathkeeper. At Jaime's request she takes Podrick as her new squire.

At the Wall a newly confident Jon Snow is sharing fighting techniques and his knowledge of the Wildlings with an attentive audience. One audience member is Bolton's man Locke, who we know is charged to find and kill Bran, Rickon and Jon. When a jealous Alliser Thorne breaks up the tutoring session, Locke tries to bond with Jon by sharing his bogus story of exile to the Wall. A worried and observant Janos Slynt warns Thorne that Jon Snow is getting too popular. They should let Jon lead the attack on Craster's Keep in the hopes that he'll be killed and be unable to contest the election for Lord Commander. Thorne agrees and allows Jon to go, but with only volunteers. In a speech that is reminiscent of too many other cinematic wartime speeches to list, Snow convinces a handful of his brothers to follow him. He gets more than Thorne or Slynt thought would go. Locke volunteers as well even though he's technically only a recruit.

At Craster's Keep we see that instead of one demented rapist killer we now have several. Their leader is Karl, who after Rast balks at an order to "go feed the beast", gives a soliloquy on why he's so evil and dangerous. The whole thing was very reminiscent of Apocalypse Now. When a boy is born the women moan that the proper thing to do is to give it to the gods (leave it exposed for the White Walkers). Karl agrees. The suitably frightened Rast hurries to obey as he is unwilling to fight Karl. It's probably that Karl is drinking wine from Lord Commander Mormont's skull that does the trick. Rast leaves the baby in the woods and goes to feed the "beast" or rather Ghost, Jon Snow's direwolf. Of course he torments/teases the animal. Bran, Hodor and the Reeds are nearby and hear the baby crying. Against advice Bran wargs into Summer to go see what's going on. Bran/Summer sees Ghost locked up but the bond is broken when Summer is caught in a trap. Getting close the next morning, Bran and his party are captured by the rogue Night Watch members. Hodor is beaten and stabbed. But it's not until Meera and Jojen are threatened with rape and murder that Bran reveals his identity. We also learn that White Walkers apparently reproduce by placing human babies inside a small version of Stonehenge and touching their flesh/cutting them.

What I liked
  • The reveal of the Littlefinger-Olenna plot was very nicely done. I also liked or rather was impressed with how Littlefinger switches back and forth between a tutor/protector of Sansa Stark and something considerably more sexual/sinister.
  • Ned Stark and Robb Stark were surrounded by traitors and murdered by those they thought they could trust. Jon Snow is also surrounded by people who would like to see him dead and/or people with no honor at all. The difference is that he knows it. He's not aware of Locke (yet???) but he's certainly picked up on Thorne's hostility and knows that Slynt was involved in Ned's death. I am interested to see how the show handles this going forward.
  • I liked the Tyrion:Jaime initial discomfort and acceptance of the sibling incest. Tyrion's attitude is non-judgmental, at least as far as Jaime goes, because he loves his big brother.
  • I liked Bran revealing his identity to protect his bannermen. Again, House Stark may be down but when you have mutual loyalty like that are you out?
  • The constant interplay of the class tension, whether implicit in Bronn taking Jaime's golden hand and beating him with it or Karl slapping Bran and saying that elsewhere he would have lost a hand for that crime was really well done. As has been repeated throughout the series, regardless of who sits upon the Iron Throne, the feudal system is not really one that is fair or decent for peasants. When the best someone can hope for is to have a "good" lord like a Stark or Tully, there might need to be some social changes.
What I didn't like
  • I don't think that Jon Snow would have been uncurious about where his direwolf is. So I didn't like that at all. I'd have to go back and rewatch the show to see exactly when Jon and Ghost parted company but it seems to me that capturing a fullgrown direwolf is not an easy task.
  • Sam realizing that maybe taking a woman away from being surrounded by rapists and thieves and putting her in a whorehouse might not be the best move. Dude, that was like obvious at the time. But you do the best you can. Stop whining.
  • The scenes at Craster's Keep were a bit much, not just on their own but in combination with other unnecessary nudity. We know that the men there are rapists. This menace and the fact that the women's lives have worsened could be shown in a understated way. In the movie Winter's Bone when a wife doesn't obey her husband the man tells her in a cold quiet tone "I told you once already with my mouth". Sometimes less is more.

*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 NO SPOILERS. NO BOOK DERIVED HINTS ABOUT FUTURE EVENTS. Most of my blog partners have not read the books and would take spoilers most unkindly. Heads, spikes, well you get the idea..

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Book Reviews: The 47th Samurai, The Unscratchables

The 47th Samurai
by Stephen Hunter
I like Hunter's Bob Lee Swagger novels. This novel came out a few years ago but I just got around to reading it a few months back. I've read books in the series both before and after this one but generally Hunter's writing style is such that most of the books can be read on their own. Bob Lee Swagger aka Bob The Nailer is a fair minded, prickly, stubborn, direct and unfailingly polite old coot Vietnam War veteran Marine gunny sergeant who has a knack for getting himself wrapped up in trouble. He remains among the world's deadliest snipers, even at his advanced age. Swagger comes from a long line of tough guys, some morally good, some otherwise, all of whom have uncanny speed, scary aptitude with firearms, and an often underestimated intelligence. Although Swagger looks, sounds like and frankly is an Arkansas hick, he's also something more than that. So I was predisposed to like this book and I mostly did. The problem however was that suspension of disbelief was stretched. In his books, Hunter has provided well researched explanations of military and gun culture, gun mechanics and the various traits that allow some men to react immediately in deadly situations while other people are standing around. Hunter has explained that although the Swaggers do have that extra something special in terms of speed, cunning and aggression, NONE of that would mean anything without years of dull repetitive practice and real life experience. This includes weapons practice and the use and internalization of applied physics, chemistry and biology.

A sniper must account for gravity's effects on the bullet. He must know exactly where to place the bullet to achieve a single shot, single kill outcome. He must account for wind, bullet weight, humidity and even the rotation of the earth. He needs an instinctive working knowledge of trigonometry and calculus. He must be able to remain still for long periods of time while waiting for the target. Regardless of a man's natural talent, it takes time to achieve the professional skill level that someone like Bob Lee Swagger possesses. When Bob Lee Swagger picks up a gun, it's just an extension of his will. 

The gun is hardly the only such tool which requires dedication and practice. It requires an investment of time and resources to master any tool or art. In this book, however, Swagger is, in a relatively short period of time, able to become deadly with the quintessential Japanese sword, the katana. This is like The Matrix's Trinity or Neo downloading the information they need to fly helicopters or perform martial arts. It didn't really work for me. In fact it was ridiculous. You might like the guitar and have natural musical ability. But no matter how intense your desire or how skilled your teacher, two weeks of training won't turn you into Jimi Hendrix.

As the title hints, this book references the classic story of the 47 Ronin, recently adapted into a motion picture starring Keanu Reeves. Bob's father Earl Swagger, was a WW2 war hero, who received medals and honors for his actions on Iwo Jima. At Iwo Jima he may have killed an equally honorable Japanese officer, Captain Hideki Yano. Captain Yano's son Phillip has sought out Bob Lee Swagger. He bears no malice. Both he and Bob Lee are ex-military. They commiserate over war's foolishness and their much missed fathers. Phillip Yano is looking for his father's sword. Well, Bob Lee Swagger doesn't remember any sword but then again his father rarely talked about the war. But out of respect as well as interest in having something to do Bob Lee finds the missing Yano sword via his aging network of family and old Marine buddies. Bob Lee insists upon visiting Japan to return the sword personally to Yano and his family. This he does, even though Bob Lee's wife worries that he's getting into something again. Yano is something of a sword expert. He determines that his father's sword is not actually a regular Japanese Army sword but something that is much older and much more valuable. Shortly after Bob Lee has returned the sword however, Yano and his family are slaughtered. The sword is stolen. Inconceivably, the Japanese authorities are dragging their feet. The embassy tells Swagger to go home.

Well sir, nobody does that to Bob Lee Swagger's friends. This kicks off a detective/action/crime/revenge adventure that involves high conspiracies, dangerous Yakuza who are contemptuous of the hairy gaijin, and the aforementioned gaijin trying his best to learn how to kill with the sword as efficiently as he does with the gun. And oh yes in training ,Swagger has to avoid getting badly beaten by a ten yr old girl. You might think that guns would make swords completely superfluous. In close quarters though, especially with the advantage of skill or surprise, a bladed weapon might win more often than one would think. Swagger is occasionally assisted by a Japanese-American woman with her own interests that don't always align with those of Swagger. It's not that kind of relationship though as Swagger is happily married and doesn't cheat. This was a fun read if you enjoy these types of books.

The Unscratchables

by Cornelius Kane
I like old noir detective stories, whether they be told in radio, print or television. The bad guys are bad, the dames are playing both sides against the middle and the good guys can handle anything with their trusty .45. This book is both a homage to all those old time detective stories and a parody of them. It can be enjoyed straight but of course the hook is that the characters in the story are dogs or cats. Yes you see the primary character in the story is Crusher McNash, a bull terrier detective who likes nothing more than doing things the old school way and putting fear into criminals or suspects. If you give him any barkback, well that's when you learn why they call him Crusher. When two dead Rottweiler gangsters are pulled out of the river, Crusher wonders if a new syndicate is making a move in The Kennel or if other rival hoodlums (Shepherds? Dobermans?) got the jump on the Rotties.
One thing he's not sniffing for is the involvement of a cat. But when forensics, headed by an old Hound who does not like Crusher tells him that it was a cat who did the killing, Crusher can't believe it. This doesn't fit with the other evidence. Crusher's beagle squad can't find traces of any cat on the scene. But when other dogs start to die including the Doggywood actor Jack Russell Crowe, the police chief has had enough. He and Crusher go way back. But the Chief has no desire to lose his job and wind up sniffing luggage on the airport beat again. It's an election year. President GoodBoy can't afford any heat. The Chief brings in the FBI, over Crusher's vehement objections. The FBI (that is the Feline Bureau of Investigation) sends the prissy, highly intelligent, cultured and much more dangerous than he looks Cassius Lap, a Siamese cat agent, to work with the blue collar and anti-cat bigot Crusher.

Of course the not so dynamic duo will have to get over their mutual dislike for each other to shake the pillars of heaven. They make the fur fly from Kathattan to the Kennels and all places in between in their search for the cat serial killer. This book is packed full of satire, puns and parody. It's an easy read and even pulls in some current personalities that you will recognize. One thing that stood out is that just as our primary sense is sight and many of our metaphors and sayings have to do with eyes or vision, a dog's primary sense is smell so most of the quips or metaphors in the Unscratchables have to do with nose or odors.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Double Standard: Cliven Bundy Standoff and Race

We live in a world in which black men are "accidentally" shot multiple times because police thought that a wallet looked like a gun. We live in a world where black teens climbing trees have guns drawn on them by police who feel threatened or more likely just wanted to put the fear of God into someone they viewed in a negative light, despite their tender age. We live in a world where black people stopped, not arrested but just stopped, by police are more likely to have force used against them. So if some black people who were members of what some people considered to be a fringe religious or political group decided that they weren't going to pay taxes or fees on commercial activity and ignored court orders to do so while continuing to engage in illegal activity and threatening law enforcement officials, well the response would likely be swift and bloody, probably something like this. Most Americans, regardless of where their sympathies lay, would point out that disobeying court orders and drawing down on police officers really isn't very smart unless you're ready to go all out. 

And if you are ready to shed blood well you've either got guts and are quite dedicated or are quite reckless and dumb. If you tell local law enforcement, state police and the United States government to bring it, well don't be surprised or offended when they do indeed bring it. This is obvious to most people, at least when it's black people stirring up a fuss.

But recently in Nevada we saw the spectacle of Cliven Bundy, a rancher, refusing to pay the proper government fees for letting his cattle graze on government land and also refusing to stop his cattle from grazing on government land. He claimed that he and his had been doing it for decades and that he didn't recognize the authority of the Federal government. The proverbial stuff hit the fan after the federal government impounded some of Bundy's cattle.
Flat on his belly in a sniper position, wearing a baseball cap and a flak jacket, a protester aimed his semi-automatic rifle from the edge of an overpass and waited as a crowd below stood its ground against U.S. federal agents in the Nevada desert.
He was part of a 1,000-strong coalition of armed militia-men, cowboys on horseback, gun rights activists and others who rallied to Cliven Bundy's Bunkerville ranch, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, in a stand-off with about a dozen agents from the federal Bureau of Land Management.
The rangers had rounded up hundreds of Bundy's cattle, which had been grazing illegally on federal lands for two decades. Bundy had refused to pay grazing fees, saying he did not recognize the government's authority over the land, a view that attracted vocal support from some right-wing groups.
Citing public safety, the BLM retreated, suspending its operation and even handing back cattle it had already seized. No shots were fired during the stand-off, which Bundy's triumphant supporters swiftly dubbed the "Battle of Bunkerville," but the government's decision to withdraw in the face of armed resistance has alarmed some who worry that it has set a dangerous precedent and emboldened militia groups.

I can often sympathize in theory with people who think that the federal government and law enforcement in general has become too large and too powerful. Whether it's CPS mandarins seizing children because they disagree with the parents' medical or naming decisions, or alphabet agencies descending on a landowner's property to prevent him making some routine changes there is definitely room to fine tune and/or reduce the authority of the federal and local polity over the individual. Unfortunately many of the people on the right who claim to feel that way virtually never show any sympathy for black people who run afoul of federal or state government law enforcement. Then we usually hear a predictable rant about "law and order", "family breakdown", "the need to support the thin blue line" or any other number of oft racialized tropes. Funny. Remember that Fox news and other right wing outlets had the vapors over members of the New Black Panther Party standing near polling stations. This was spun as voter intimidation and black thugs and threats and AG Holder conspiracy and so on. Yet these same media outlets celebrate white men pointing guns at federal agents. Let that sink in a little won't you? If I am stopped by the police and do not have both hands in sight at all times there's a good chance I might be tased, beaten or worse. Yet a white man and his buddies who were ready to shoot at law enforcement walk away clean.

It's also very important to remember that Bundy is not in fact fighting for the right to do something on his land. No. He doesn't own the land in question. It's federal land. So Bundy is no different than someone who enters a federal park, throws a lot of trash all over the place, refuses to clean up after himself and when told to do so has his friends pull guns on the park rangers. This is not political protest. It's thuggery. How can we tell the difference? Well one of the easiest ways is to look to Kant's categorical imperative. Are Bundy and his right wing supporters willing to: Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law

I doubt it. 

If environmentalists showed up with guns to stop fracking, if Native Americans showed up with guns to stop mining, if Black people showed up with guns to stop police brutality, if Latinos showed up with guns to stop deportations, if feminists showed up with guns to ensure that a defendant accused of rape was convicted regardless of the evidence, the right wing would go ballistic. And police would no doubt call that bet of violence and raise it quite a bit. Nobody considers those sorts of "marginalized" groups to be the proper descendants of American revolutionaries. Believe that. We can't have a system where political decisions are made based on who can put more button men in the street at any given point in time. In the same way I'm critical of people trying to physically prevent deportations, I'm just as critical of Bundy and his supporters. If you don't like the law, work to change it. Convince people that it's wrong. Blanket the media with your arguments. But when you reach for your gun and start claiming you don't recognize the federal government, that my friend is a different conversation. 

The BLM made a big mistake backing down to Bundy and his supporters. It may have been done for political reasons in an election year. It may have been done because some government agent somewhere lacks the normal amount of testosterone. I don't know. But I do know that when you submit to a bully, all you're going to get is more bullying. This is going to give certain people more swagger and recklessness, guaranteed.


Monday, April 21, 2014

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: Breaker of Chains

One of the sad ugly things about life is that some day it will end. Everyone you love is going to leave this world. You yourself will one day be gone. I hope it doesn't happen for decades but of course it might happen tomorrow. Most people don't spend a lot of time thinking about this. When it happens to someone they love they can be momentarily or even in some cases permanently crippled by grief. But Tywin Lannister is evidently a person who has spent some time thinking about such things. If he is touched by anything so pedestrian as grief he does an excellent job hiding it. Someone has to do the hard things. In Westeros in general and the Lannister clan in particular that someone is Tywin Lannister. This episode was transitional after last week's bombshell but there were important clues dropped about past and future events. I loved Charles Dance this week. He showed yet again why the show is so fortunate to have him in the Tywin Lannister role. As Tywin, Cersei and Tommen perform the Westerosi equivalent of sitting shiva over Joffrey's corpse we see that Tommen is confused, Cersei is heartbroken but Tywin is coolly pragmatic. Tywin informs Tommen that he is the new king. 
Using the Socratic method, Tywin starts teaching Tommen what characteristics a man needs to be a good king. Some of this dialogue is taken from GRRM's comments that morality doesn't necessarily make an effective leader. Tywin is a bit Machiavellian as he gives Tommen real life examples that holiness, strength and justice aren't as important as other things like wisdom. Tywin intends to see to it that Tommen is wise enough to listen to him as assuredly Joffrey was not. Tywin thought Joffrey was a bad king. Cersei is not thrilled by her father starting his tutoring lessons before Joffrey is even buried but of course Tywin ignores her.

One Lannister who doesn't ignore Cersei is her brother Jaime. Jaime is entering as Tywin and Tommen are leaving. Jaimes orders out everyone else so he can be alone with his sister. Cersei is convinced that Tyrion murdered Joffrey and wants Jaime to kill him. She doesn't want Tyrion to make it to trial. Jaime is outraged by this and in a shout back to his first season line "The things I do for love" uttered just before he shoved Bran out of a window calls Cersei hateful while bemoaning he loves her so. Of course his love is hardly platonic. In what could be seen as a rape by some lights, Jaime decides to have his sister right there next to their dead son's body. I was reminded of the scene in the original Straw Dogs. Cersei initially fights and says no but gives in. Is she enjoying herself? It's up to the viewer to make that call. The concept of spousal rape doesn't exist in Westeros of course but brother-rape probably does. Or does it? Cersei can hardly go to the authorities. It would be useful to know what, in particular, women thought of this scene.
Of course the big question is who killed Joffrey? That may or may not become evident. Sansa has escaped the city with Dontos who helpfully had a boat stashed nearby. He rows her out to an anchored ship where Sansa discovers that her rescuer is none other than that pimp of pimps, Littlefinger. When Dontos asks for his reward, Littlefinger has him killed and informs the angered Sansa that 1) Dontos could not be trusted and 2) the "family heirloom" which Dontos gave to Sansa to wear was a cheap fake recently procured by Littlefinger. Ominously Littlefinger also reminds Sansa that people probably think she killed Joffrey. In a brief tete-a-tete between Margaery and her grandmother, Lady Olenna reminds the not all that disconsolate Margaery that she's better off not staying married to the abusive Joffrey and though technically she's not the Queen, the Lannisters still need the Tyrell money, food and other resources.
We see that the Hound is not actually above some robbery, much to Arya's dismay. The Hound has contempt for weakness. At Castle Black, Sam is worried about Gilly being raped or molested by the Night's Watch men and makes arrangements to get her to Mole's Town. Gilly takes this the wrong way. She thinks he's trying to get rid of her. It's an echo of the Shae:Tyrion relationship. At Dragonstone Stannis is excited to learn of Joffrey's death but upset that he doesn't have the resources to do anything about. Well s*** always runs downhill and in typical boss fashion Stannis blames Davos for this. Harried, Davos comes up with the bright idea to write something in Stannis' name (well have Shireen write something in Stannis' name) to the Iron Bank, infamous for lending to great lords and kings and for always getting their money back.

It wouldn't be Game of Thrones without some entirely unnecessary sexposition. Like the infamous scene with Littlefinger laying out his nature in front of Ros and another prostitute, I thought the set piece with Prince Oberyn and Ellaria Sand engaged in an orgy with both sexes to be unnecessary and too graphic. We already know that Oberyn is a sybarite. Do we need to see this spelled out yet again with full frontal nudity? I didn't think so. If you want porn there are tons of it available elsewhere. Thankfully this is cut short when a business minded Tywin enters and asks to talk to Oberyn in private. Twyin is suspicious that the famously vengeful Oberyn, known to use poison, may have murdered Joffrey. Oberyn confirms that it was poison but claims he had nothing to do with Joffrey's death as unlike Tywin he doesn't hold children responsible for the actions of adults. Showing something close to amusement, Tywin asks Oberyn why doesn't Oberyn just attack the unarmed Tywin right then and there. Oberyn responds that he wouldn't be able to escape but would be drawn and quartered the next day. Oberyn also says that he and Tyrion talked of Elia Martell's rape and murder, not of poisons. 
Seemingly satisfied, Tywin comes out of left field with a pragmatic offer for Oberyn. He wants Oberyn to be the third judge at Tyrion's trial. He also wants to give Oberyn a seat on the Small Council. Tywin, perhaps through Varys, perhaps via other networks, is aware of Daenerys' dragons and her intentions towards Westeros. He knows that only Dorne resisted a dragon armed invader. And if the price to fully bring Dorne back into the fold is a "meeting" between Oberyn and the Mountain, well Tywin might be willing to arrange that. Tywin denies ordering the Mountain to rape and murder Oberyn's sister. Left unstated is the expectation that Oberyn will vote to convict Tyrion.

Tyrion, as you might expect, is a bit depressed in jail. He's cheered when his former squire Podrick brings him food but upset when he learns his trial judges will be his father, Mace Tyrell, and Oberyn Martell. Tyrion has always been one of the smarter players. He points out to Podrick that if he were going to murder the king, deservedly or not, he'd make sure he was far far away from the scene. Tyrion muses that the murder might have been Tywin's work to get a more pliant relative in charge but most definitely wasn't Cersei. He knows that Sansa, despite her flight, is no killer. Someone has gone to great lengths to set Tyrion up. Tyrion also learns that his would be witnesses are already being pressured not to testify for him or worse yet, lie and testify for the other side. This includes Podrick. Worried, Tyrion dismisses Podrick, urging him to leave town, as the people asking him to lie are not likely to take no for an answer.

Previously Tormund told Ygritte that given her skill with the bow, that if Jon Snow is alive, it's because she wanted him to be. We see the truth of that statement when Ygritte leads a wildling attack on a settlement south of the Wall, putting an arrow through a father's head as he talks with his son. It's critical here to step back and show that despite what we might think of any of the primary characters and their relations with one another, war is not a good thing. It's questionable as to whether the wildling attack here is even war and not a war crime. The people they attack and kill are not warriors and include plenty of women and children. It's no different than what the Mountain and his men did in the Riverlands. Well maybe it's a little different. I don't think the Mountain is a cannibal. At Castle Black the Night's Watch argues over next steps. Everyone is spread out. There are little more than a hundred men at Castle Black. 

The surviving rangers return bringing more news of the mutiny and Karl's murder of the Lord Commander and Craster. Captain Obvious Jon Snow says that come hell or high water they must remove Karl as he knows of their true numbers and can't be allowed to give that information to Mance Rayder. Daenerys marches on Meereen. Here, both the slaves and the masters are of various races. A Meereenese horsed champion comes out to meet Daenerys and her army. He urinates on the ground in contempt of Danerys' status as a woman who leads an army of ex-slaves and eunuchs. Grey Worm, Jorah, and Ser Barristan, all ask to meet this man in single combat but Daenerys gives that honor to Daario. With style and intelligence, similar to that of Bronn, Daario does the unexpected and kills the Meereenese rider. Daenerys has a great speech reminding the slaves within the city of the freedom that she brings. She bombards the city with barrels of broken shackles. Her confidence and authority is near a zenith.

What I liked
  • Charles Dance really is a boss. As I've said before his Tywin Lannister is not someone I'd want as a father or a supervisor, but he is someone I'd want on my side. He's one of the more competent and intelligent administrators around. And if he has fear he certainly doesn't show it. He works at what is best for his family. He's not losing himself in grief or lust. He either has a plan or will work one out pretty quickly. The man exudes authority. He's a monster of course but he's an intelligent, rational, cultured one.
  • Being reminded that the Hound, despite his protectiveness towards the Stark girls, is a bully, thief, thug and not a man with any real moral rules. He has contempt for weakness, probably as a result of his long ago abuse at the hands of his brother, Gregor aka The Mountain.
  • Davos' sense of humor with Shireen.
  • With the examples of both the gentle man and his daughter who are robbed and assaulted by the Hound and the son who sees his mother and father killed by wildlings we learn again that there is little honor to be found in war. Unarmed people just trying to get by are the ones who suffer the most.
What I didn't like
  • Not really into seeing more nudity, especially male nudity. I think that's just the lazy way out. The scene with Jaime and Cersei getting busy had no nudity but was far more emotionally involving that that with Ellaria, Oberyn and their whores.
  • Gilly not understanding that being the only woman around a bunch of desperately horny men, many of whom are rapists, is not a safe or stable environment for her. I know your sister is your mother girl but can you really be that stupid?
*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 NO SPOILERS. NO BOOK DERIVED HINTS ABOUT FUTURE EVENTS. Most of my blog partners have not read the books and would take spoilers most unkindly. Heads, spikes, well you get the idea..

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Movie Reviews: Afflicted, Riddick

directed by Derek Lee and Cliff Prowse
This horror movie is like a meeting of the minds between The Blair Witch Project and A Werewolf in London. It combines seemingly low production values based on found or in a nod to the internet, blog and facebook streamed camera footage, with a roadtrip across Europe as experienced by two best friends. They run into something which shouldn't really exist but does. By the time that they have figured out exactly what's going on it's probably really too late to do much about it. The special effects were adequate but didn't really impress. This film gets most of its scares from old fashioned camera angles and movement, a general sense of unease as exemplified by the lighting and shooting in darkness, and of course the acting. What a concept. So this wasn't a great film but it's a good addition to the horror genre. I probably would have been a bit less impressed had I seen this in the theater. As a directorial debut Afflicted is a welcome step away from the visual or narrative styles of the Twilight or Underworld movies. Some things remain unexplained in the film. There is no convenient clergyman, avuncular anthropologist or brilliant bookdealer to let the protagonists and viewers know what's going on in a suitably charming Old Word accent. Cliff (Cliff Prowse) and Derek (Derek Lee) are friends that go way back together. They're like peanut butter and jelly or thunder and lightning. You see one, you see the other. Apparently the two men are in their early twenties, technically adults but still young enough to do wild and crazy things without being ridiculed or worrying about mortgage payments, nagging wives or officious bosses. So there's still good times ahead or so they think.

Cliff and Derek decide to go on a trip across the world and document their journey in photos and videos on their blog and facebook feeds. In fact they will also let their friends and viewers decide where they should travel next. This long planned trip is especially important to the dynamic duo as Derek suffers from a chronic and possibly deadly brain condition. There's no telling how much time he has left in this world. So despite the worries of their families or rather the worries of Derek's stick up the behind older brother, the two pack up and head out to see the world in all its glory, glamor and grit. As they are also somewhat on the nerdy side of the scale there is of course some hope that by being the cool foreign guy in another country they will be able to become quick friends with the local humans blessed with XX chromosomes.
They touch down in Barcelona and later meet up with some college friends who are in an indie band in Paris. Well, like their more successful commercial brethren, indie bands have fans. Derek, despite being notoriously inept with the ladies, has met a beautiful but camera shy woman named Audrey (Baya Rehaz) in a club after the show. The two hit it off. To the astonishment of his friends and the millions of others (well maybe a few hundred more) watching on the webcam, Derek shows that he knows what goes where and why. He successfully invites Audrey back to his hotel room, telling his friends to stay away for at least a few hours. After all some things are best done in private. Bemused, Cliff decides after a relatively short time that it would be hilarious to break into their hotel room and either catch his buddy doing the do or prevent his buddy from doing the do. But when Cliff and company burst into the room they find Derek unconscious and bleeding from wounds in his neck and shoulder. The room window is open and Audrey is gone. Derek doesn't remember anything and is adamant that he and Cliff continue their road trip. 
Well you can see where this is going, yes? Derek starts to show a sensitivity to the sun, apparently inhuman strength, speed and leaping abilities, a more irritable nature and a growing inability to eat any sort of food. The duo document these changes assiduously but Derek refuses to go to the hospital or return home. Their friends and family are getting more worried. Later Derek decides he needs to retrace his steps and find Audrey. This was different. I'll say that. It probably could have been an even shorter film though it only runs 85 minutes. I'd be interested to see what these directors could do with a larger budget and more fleshed out story. Cliff occasionally comes across as both whiny and stupid. To be fair, anyone who has ever dealt with a stubborn and sickly family member or friend may sympathize with some of Cliff's choices. I liked the concept of Cliff sending increasingly worried responses home and eventually becoming nervous about Derek seeing him do that.

directed by David Twohy
There's a saying that you can't go home again. Well this movie is an example of someone who tries and mostly fails in doing that. It's a virtual remake of the first movie. It's not really shot for shot but it has just about everything that the first movie had. The hero is abandoned on a harsh planet with inexplicably deadly wildlife and is being hunted by vicious bounty hunters, some of whom nonetheless either have a soft spot for the hero or come to respect him during or after their ordeal. And the hero is not really a good guy but an extremely violent murderer who will stab you in the back to take revenge or if it means his survival. He may have a soft spot for kids, women he's trying to sleep with or pets but that's it. So if you liked the first movie you may like this one. I liked the first two movies. I was really looking forward to seeing how Riddick (Vin Diesel) dealt with his new role as leader of the Necromongers, a fanatic group of superhuman or subhuman death dealers who claim to have exterminated all life on Riddick's lost home planet Furya.

With the possible exception of the more numerous Necromongers, Furyans are the most dangerous warriors in the universe. In the previous installment of this trilogy Riddick killed the Necromonger commander and thus by Necromonger law became their leader. Although they hated him they were bound to follow least publicly. They weren't above various assassination attempts, including one failed try by one of Riddick's harem women. Keep a close eye on your harem women I always say. A man in Riddick's position can't afford to be careless, something Riddick reminds himself of once his position has changed. Unfortunately this film spends almost no time on what I thought could have been a very interesting storyline with the non-believer Riddick leading the nutty Necromongers, most of whom downright despise him. It also didn't have Thandie Newton in it which was another loss. No, rather than focus on the intrigues and whether or not there really is a supernatural reality underlying the Necromonger beliefs this film has the Necromongers, at Riddick's direction, take him to what he thinks is Furya. When he determines it's not Furya, they leave him for dead and skedaddle. After that, Riddick finds a waystation for mercenaries and bounty hunters, sends out a beacon and well after that you can basically just reread the first paragraph.
Diesel is a better actor than what's on display here. This movie lacks a strong second for him to play against though the despicable and sadistic Santana (Jordi Molla) comes closest. You hurt a man's dog or the closest thing that passes for it on this planet, you're just begging to get handled, Riddick style. Eye candy is provided by Dahl (Katee Sackhoff) who claims to be lesbian but obviously is the target of Santana's lecheries. Dahl can handle Santana with ease but she might be willing to switch for our sharp dressed hero. Some of the disposable mopes in this film include B-movie stars like Bokeem Woodbine and Dave Bautista. This was an OK movie to watch if for whatever reason you don't feel like going out. There are a few, well quite a few setpieces, that make you cheer at what a bada$$ Riddick is. But ultimately I didn't think this movie was as good or as interesting as either of the first two films. There is a short story by Robert E. Howard titled "By This Axe I Rule". He originally wrote it with Kull as the put upon outsider king but later rewrote it for his Conan character. In both instances an outsider becomes king and is tied down by laws and stupid customs before facing an assassination attempt and reverting back to his barbaric nature to survive. I was expecting a little more of that vibe here. No biggie I guess. Matthew Nable is Boss Johns, Dahl's leader and a mercenary who's a tad more professional than Santana. Karl Urban has a virtual cameo as Vaako, the Necromonger second-in-command. Keri Hilson also has a blink and you'll miss her spot.

Monday, April 14, 2014

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: The Lion and the Rose

GRRM wrote this week's episode. It primarily takes place in King's Landing and may make some people quite happy. If it wasn't already painfully clear to you from last season, Ramsay Snow is a sadistic, twisted psychopath with poor impulse control. His idea of fun is to take his apparent girlfriend Myranda and Theon (Reek) to hunt a woman in the woods. Apparently this woman's crime was to make Myranda jealous. That's what Ramsay says anyway but the reality is he couldn't care less. He's just happy to have someone to torment. The woman is shot and crippled by Myranda before Ramsay orders his hounds to rip the woman apart. Believe it or not GRRM actually toned this down for television from his original source material. Torment of both the psychological and physical variety is extremely important and pleasurable to Ramsay although he may not necessarily have an eye for strategy. Roose Bolton has returned to the Dreadfort to retake command. He has brought along his new plus sized wife Walda Frey and his bounty hunter Locke. While Locke and Ramsay bond over Locke's mutilation of Jaime Lannister, Roose Bolton is less than pleased with Ramsay's actions in his absence. Roose points out that he needed Theon whole in order to trade with Balon Greyjoy. 
Ramsay snarkily points out that it's too late for that while Roose coldly replies that as far as he's concerned Ramsay is still a Snow and not a Bolton. The only thing that Ramsay may want more than hurting people is his father's love and trust. Annoyed that his father questioned his actions Ramsay, in what seems like a nod to similar scenes in Django Unchained, has Theon shave him with a straight razor to prove that Theon is completely and utterly broken. Ramsay even mocks Theon with news of Robb Stark's death and the fact that Roose killed him. Ramsay reveals via Theon that Bran and Rickon Stark are still alive. Slightly mollified and perhaps amused Roose orders Locke to find the Stark boys and for Ramsay to take Moat Callin. The success of this mission will determine whether Roose will legitimize Ramsay. The fact that Roose easily dominates someone as scary and as vicious as Ramsay gives you more insight into just how dangerous Roose is. Of course you knew that already if you attended the Red Wedding.

In King's Landing Tyrion is happy to have his big brother back. Bronn and Jaime start to spar together to get Jaime able to fight with his left hand. Varys, unusually a bit publicly unsettled, tells Tyrion that the jig is up as far as Shae goes. Cersei knows and has told Tywin. When Tyrion casually suggests that Varys attempt to deceive or misdirect Tywin about Shae's true status Varys promptly refuses. He reminds Tyrion that Tywin threatened to kill the very next prostitute he caught Tyrion with. And Tywin makes no idle threats. At the pre-wedding ceremonies Cersei points out Shae to Tywin while the churlish Joffrey uses Tywin's gift of a Valyrian sword (melted down from Ice last episode) to destroy Tyrion's gift of a history book. As usual Joffrey also jokes about Ned being executed on his orders. Tyrion calls in Shae to his private room. She's happy to see him because she thinks he finally wants her real good thing again but Tyrion is calling the whole thing off. She doesn't think he's serious until Tyrion, trying to be cruel to be kind, calls her a whore and says they can never be married or have children together and that she is to leave immediately. She breaks down. This was pretty good acting here. Tyrion is walking a tightrope. It's important that the viewer is uncertain, for at least a while, whether Tyrion is telling the truth of his feelings. Shae certainly thinks he is.

On Dragonstone, Stannis allows Melisandre to burn heretics, including his brother-in-law. This outrages Davos, but Selyse is not at all bothered by her brother's death. Stannis' wife Selyse is a true believer who, concerned that her daughter Shireen is insufficiently pious, sends Melisandre to talk to her. Stannis forbade Selyse from disciplining (i.e. beating) Shireen. In the ensuing talk between the child and the priestess we discover what we already knew. Melisandre is a fanatic who sees the world in starkly Manichean terms. She also wears the hell out of low cut gowns. Beyond the wall Bran is warging into Summer, who has just killed a deer. He is snapped out of this by Meera and Jojen Reed who soberly warn the sullen Bran that warging too long or often into an animal may cause him to lose his humanity. They find a weirwood tree. Bran connects with the tree and has visions of the recent past, as well as possibly the distant past and future. He also hears a voice calling him north. I hope that they don't have to recast as the actor playing Bran is going through puberty and its associated growth spurts.

The royal wedding takes place. Joffrey claims both of "his" houses , Baratheon and Lannister, though it looks like the cloak he places on Margaery is a Lannister one. We were previously introduced to Mace Tyrell, Margaery's father and putative House head. But we see who's actually running things when he tries to join his mother and Tywin as they bicker about the wedding cost and the Iron Bank. Lady Olenna tartly tells her son that this is an A and B conversation so he should C his way out. At the reception Bronn confirms to Tyrion that Shae is gone. Lady Olenna comforts and fusses over Sansa, adjusting her hair and necklace. She offers Sansa condolences over the murders of her brother and mother. Lady Olenna says it's horrid to kill someone at a wedding. Neither Jaime nor Cersei are happy about Cersei's upcoming wedding to Loras. Jaime warns Loras that Cersei would kill him and therefore he can't marry her. Loras scoffs that Jaime can't marry Cersei either. This was important because it shows that not only are the rumors about the incest widely discussed, many people believe them. 
For her part the increasingly paranoid Cersei won't take Brienne's wedding congratulations at face value. She insults Brienne's loyalty and honor. She accuses her of being in love with Jaime. Folks, this is what we call projection. Cersei also interrupts Pycelle, who was trying to run some game on a random serving girl. She countermands Margaery's order that leftover food should be given to the poor and instead orders Pycelle to give it to the dogs. Interesting bunch, those Lannisters. Prince Oberyn and Ellaria Sand run into Tywin and Cersei. The passive aggressive insults fly back and forth but end when Prince Oberyn reminds the Lannisters that in his realm of Dorne the rape and murder of a woman and her children is not considered a proper thing to do. As Oberyn sees it the Lannisters are indeed fortunate that Cersei's daughter Myrcella is in Dorne.

Joffrey has evidently tired of listening to "The Rains of Castamere" or having people throw things at his fool, Ser Dontos. He brings in a troupe of dwarfs to reenact the War of the Five Kings. This is meant in part as an insult both to Sansa and Tyrion. The dwarf playing Robb Stark has his head chopped off. The troupe makes very crude insults to both Robb Stark and Renly. Sansa gets a lot of disdain for different reasons. But imagine sitting at a table with your family's murderers. Imagine being forcibly married into that family and having to smile as people mock your loved ones' deaths. Sansa is close to having a breakdown but holds it together. That's a different kind of strength than Arya or Bran is developing but it's useful all the same. Joffrey orders Tyrion to fight in the reenactment and insults him. When Tyrion diplomatically declines, Joffrey insults him again and pours wine on his head. He then orders Tyrion to be his cupbearer, a grave insult. It's important to note that Tyrion's father appears completely bored or uninterested by his grandson's antics while Cersei LOVES them. She's smirking at every insult. Joffrey orders Tyrion to kneel while serving him, which Tyrion silently refuses to do. I thought that this was a great reveal and reminder of the essential nature of the two characters. The loathsome Joffrey simply isn't happy unless he's causing pain to someone. The closer they are to him the more enjoyment he gets from it. Tyrion can only defend himself via his intelligence and his speech. He's no warrior and can't count on anyone in his family to defend him from Joffrey.

The confrontation is interrupted when the pie is brought in. Margaery feeds Joffrey some of her pie (that sounds kinda dirty doesn't it); Sansa and Tyrion try to leave. But they are prevented from doing so by Joffrey who orders more wine. Joffrey has some more announcements to make, doubtless something about impaling first born infants or such.
However he has a coughing fit. This changes into a choking fit. And after that a vomiting fit. Ser Dontos suddenly appears by Sansa's side and tells her to come with him if she wants to live. Cersei rushes to Joffrey but it's too late. Joffrey's skin and eyes have turned various different colors and his face is swollen. He's incapable of speech but is bleeding from eyes and nose. He tries to speak and raise his hand but that's all folks. Crazy incest-boy is dead. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Cersei thinks that Joffrey was trying to blame Tyrion. She certainly does. In a bit of remarkable bad timing, Tyrion has picked up Joffrey's goblet and is examining it curiously when the hysterical Cersei accuses him of murder and orders his arrest. I guess you have to be careful what you wish for. Joffrey "won" the war but what did it profit him? Not very much in the end, I think. There are other powers in the world besides the Lannisters. Joffrey was a bad king and would have been worse had he lived. The question remains open. Who is the best man or woman to sit on the Iron Throne? And based on what we've seen beyond the Wall, does it really matter in the end. Also, everyone is a hero in their own story. Both Catelyn Stark and Cersei Lannister saw their first born sons die in front of them. One I had sympathy for and one I did not but that doesn't change the essential horror of the event. Or does it?

*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 NO SPOILERS. NO BOOK DERIVED HINTS ABOUT FUTURE EVENTS. Most of my blog partners have not read the books and would take spoilers most unkindly. Heads, spikes, well you get the idea....

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Music Reviews: Little Richard, King Floyd

Little Richard
Little Richard (born Richard Penniman) likes to refer to himself as "The Architect" of rock-n-roll. He certainly is one of the founding fathers. He was and is a flamboyant larger than life personality who had massive influence on a wide range of disparate peer and subsequent musicians such as Otis Redding (who worked in his band), Elton John, Bon Scott and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, Prince, Tina Turner, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix (who also briefly worked in his band), Jerry Lee Lewis, Queen, David Bowie, James Brown, Bruno Mars, Wilson Pickett (who copied and extended his hard screaming style of singing), Bob Seger, Billy Preston and many many more. Like fellow 50s stars Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Ike Turner, Little Richard transformed up tempo blues and R&B shuffles into rock-n-roll. For his part Little Richard was himself heavily and primarily influenced by gospel performers such as Marion Williams, Mahalia Jackson and Rosetta Tharpe (who gave the teenaged Little Richard his first big break in show business) and also pop or blues performers such as drag queen pianist and singer Esquerita and jump blues singer Billy Wright. More than any of his contemporaries, Little Richard brought an expressive performance style to his live shows, something that would and did drive both men and women to frenzies. He may have been among the first performers to inspire women to throw their underwear at him. As he was often performing in the segregated south this wasn't always the safest thing to have happen. 

Where Elvis Presley might swivel his hips and Chuck Berry would do his trademark duckwalk (originally designed to hide a problem with one of his pants legs) Little Richard raised the bar exponentially on what people could expect to see at a rock-n-roll show. Along with his EXTREMELY loud tenor voice, Little Richard also would play the piano with a foot on top, hump and bang the piano, jump on top of the piano, scream (in key of course), strip off his top and occasionally more, use light shows, and just generally put on a physically demanding show that would always leave him totally exhausted and the audience begging for more. He would do all this in heels, sequins and capes, a six inch pompadour, plucked eyebrows and caked on makeup. 

Although Little Richard's shows in the South started out segregated by the end of the show often blacks and whites would be dancing in the same place or worse yet, together, something which scandalized the authorities. The famous powerhouse New Orleans based session drummer Earl Palmer, who played on most of Little Richard's 50s hits, said that he helped invent rock and roll just by dropping shuffle rhythms and moving to straight-eighths out of desperation to try to keep up with Little Richard's frantic right hand. Little Richard was quite capable of playing various slow blues and gospel shuffles but it's on the fast numbers that he really shines. His voice is so loud I almost imagine it making the speakers and microphones jump in the studio. It's often overlooked as to how much rock-n-roll grew out of New Orleans music. You can hear a little of what Palmer was talking about by listening to "Directly From my Heart" and "Lucille". "Lucille" is a sped up rewritten version of the first song. As you might notice some of Little Richard's 50s hits sound quite similar to each other. From Earl Palmer's pov this is because rock-n-roll was nothing more than really fast blues. He's said that much of Little Richard's music was quite simple but extremely exciting.
Little Richard rarely spoke publicly about his sexuality, maybe in part because it was so obvious to everyone who knew him. His band members were mostly straight and occasionally joked about flying under the radar with groupies who wrongly assumed they were all like Little Richard in terms of their preferences before discovering that they weren't. Little Richard has also said an effeminate image also helped him become something of a crossover success with white audiences. So although his style was not entirely an act it's certainly something that he may have deliberately exaggerated. There were few quicker ways for a black man in the 1950s South to get in serious, criminal or even deadly trouble than to be seen as interested in a white woman. Little Richard avoided that by confounding people who didn't know what to make of him. Ironically though, songs like "Miss Ann" appear to be about a romantic dalliance with a white woman. Although his biographies, a few of his statements, and stories by some of the aforementioned band members tell of Little Richard's same sex interests and escapades, he was also married for a short time and allegedly also had relations with women. Perhaps definitions just don't apply to Little Richard. In his first big hit "Tutti-Frutti" , he had written these lyrics:
"Tutti Frutti, good booty / If it don't fit, don't force it / You can grease it, make it easy"
Unsurprisingly the record company determined those lyrics might be a bit hard to sell in segregated decidedly gay-unfriendly 50s America. Another writer was bought in to help Little Richard reshape and rework the song. Because Little Richard is strongly religious, like many other similar gospel and pop performers down through the years he has occasionally struggled with what he saw as his sinful secular lifestyle and has repeatedly withdrawn from and returned to performance, at times even becoming a preacher.  Check out "The Rill Thing", "The King of Rock-n-Roll", "Freedom Blues" and "The Midnight Special" for examples of his seventies sound. He made three albums on Reprise that were of a piece with then current rock, soul and funk stylings. Little Richard has made various comebacks over the years but of course now age and health concerns have strictly limited his public appearances and performances. Still, if you don't know Little Richard, you don't know rock-n-roll. Not really. He's one of the last people still alive who actually started rock-n-roll. WOOOOOOOOOOOOO! SHUT UP!!!

Good Golly Miss Molly  Jenny Jenny Tutti Frutti Keep a knockin  Directly from my heart

Lucille Long Tall Sally I don't know what you've got (w/Jimi Hendrix) Rip it Up
Send Me Some Loving Slipping and Sliding  Miss Ann  Ooh My Soul  Wondering
The King of Rock-n-Roll  The Midnight Special  Freedom Blues Heeby-Jeebies
Shake a Hand  Ready Teddy  She's Got It  The Rill Thing By The Light of The SIlvery Moon

King Floyd
King Floyd was a New Orleans funk/soul singer who attained some brief fame in the early to mid seventies. His first hit , "Groove Me" became a hit by accident. No one wanted to distribute his first single so Floyd and his record company were reduced to trying to break it themselves by handing out free copies to DJ's or other trend setters. "Groove Me" was the B-Side with "What Our Love Needs" as the A-Side. Floyd and his management thought that "What Our Love Needs" would be the hit. One radio DJ who received the record played the A-Side for about a month with not much interest coming in from listeners. A different DJ took the single to a party where as it turned out everyone wanted to hear "Groove Me" for the entire duration of the party. That's how the song broke in New Orleans. It soon rose to national prominence. It stayed on the R&B charts for 20 weeks. It reached as high as #6. Floyd's next release was the lyrically innocent but sonically downright naaasssty "Baby Let Me Kiss You". The way Floyd groaned and moaned the song it sounded to some people as if "to kiss" wasn't the only transitive verb that Floyd intended to perform upon the young lady. The song was pulled from some radio stations for being risque but perhaps because of the controversy it did even better than "Groove Me", reaching #5 on the R&B charts. Even today that song is still less profane and more erotic than a million modern songs full of profanities.

King Floyd had a very down home New Orleans/southern sound to his music which made sense as his early hits were overseen by New Orleans legend Wardell Quezergue, a pianist, arranger, producer and bandleader who was one of the godfathers of the New Orleans music scene. Quezergue had worked with everyone from Fats Domino to Jean Knight and Dave Bartholomew among others. King Floyd also recorded with the Memphis Horns and the Muscle Shoals group.
King Floyd was not a great singer or one who was going to blow people off the stage with volume. But I liked his work. He was smooth without being syrupy. Check out his ode to monogamy "So True". On most of his early work the bass is VERY prominent, and often even carries the melody, something you hear often in some funk music. There's also a fair amount of space in the arrangements. I LOVE LOVE LOVE his song "Handle With Care". It's so simple and yet so intense. "Think about it" is an Otis Redding song which Floyd sings in Redding's style. "Don't Leave Me Lonely" is a string laden tearjerker ballad. I like the guitar fills but find the song a bit saccharine. But everyone has different tastes, no?
All good things come to an end. As happened with many soul or funk musicians of Floyd's generation the advent of disco brought a swift and premature end to his commercial music career. Floyd tried to adapt by recording the disco tune "Body English" but after that he found himself without a record company and never again had any sort of hit. He passed away in 2006.  His work was consistent. If you are curious about early seventies funk or simply are tired of overproduced simplistic modern R&B you could do worse than to listen to some of Floyd's work. Music like this is why I love live bands.

Groove Me  What Our Love Needs  So True I Feel Like Dynamite  Handle With Care
Baby Let Me Kiss You  Hard to Handle Body English  Think about it  Can't Give It Up
Don't Leave Me Lonely Woman Don't Go Astray