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Lazy Sundays: Stormborn (Game of Thrones Episode 7.02)

Well, they’re certainly not wasting time on exposition before the action gets going this season.  Yay!  No more travel scenes!  So here are my thoughts about the episode:

1: Daenerys’ council at Dragonstone was an important scene.  On one side, we have the women advocating for an aggressive strategy.  On the other side, we have Tyrion with his much more sensible advice.  I think Daenerys was smart to take the middle route offered later on in the episode: Take Casterly Rock with the foreign army but beseige King’s Landing with a Westerosi army.  It avoids the bad PR that Cersei could use to whip up support for her cause.

2: Randyll Tarly is going to be an interesting dark horse for at least another episode.  I think he may be leaning toward Daenerys at this point but if he hears of the destruction of the Greyjoy and Dornish fleet, he may play things safe and go for Cersei.  However, it’s really hard to tell.  He’s the only one who ever beat Robert Baratheon in battle, which shows he has a real head for strategy and tactics (not so much for parenting!).  Even with the Greyjoy fleet destroyed by Euron Greyjoy, I think Tarly may end up with Daenerys as she still has three dragons, an army of Dothraki and her Unsullied.

3: Now I’m really justified in my most repeated saying in Game of Thrones: Poor Ser Jorah!  I was so glad that Sam decided to help him despite Archmaester Marwyn’s objections.  I really, really hope that all of that pain was worth it and he’s cured like Shireen.  (And that Sam also doesn’t get greyscale in the process.)  For the sake of adding some hope to the penultimate season, please let this work.

4: I told you so!  I knew Arya wasn’t going to end up going to King’s Landing and I’m so glad she’s heading back north.  She needs to be with Jon, Sansa and Bran (who will be arriving shortly I assume).  The few remaining Starks and the secret Targaryen-Stark need to be with family, now more than ever.

5: I’m not sure how I feel about Melisandre’s reappearance.  I knew that after Jon banished her she would of course go to Daenerys but I really do wonder what role she’s going to play in the season.  Will she act as an advisor to Daenerys?  Or is she going to do something else?  My money would be on something else because her character has never really been that simple.

6: Also: yay Nymeria!  Now that we’ve found Nymeria again, all we need is for Arya to run into Gendry, who is presumably somewhere in Westeros.  Unless he rowed all the way to Essos, seeing as he has apparently been rowing for years. /s

7: Shit is going to go down at Winterfell with Jon gone, Sansa in charge and Littlefinger still skulking about.  I’m not sure what’s going to happen with Littlefinger’s storyline, but going off past experience he’s going to counsel Jon to side with Daenerys.  Littlefinger is a survivor most of all.  If Jon doesn’t side with Daenerys, he’ll try to pack up the army of the Vale along with Sansa and side with the Mother of Dragons himself.

8: Speaking of dragons, I knew Qyburn was up to something as soon as Cersei knew that Daenerys was sailing for Westeros.  A weapon that can wound dragons was pretty obviously going to come up sooner or later.  I just hope that for Daenerys’ sake, it doesn’t work quite as efficiently as Qyburn hopes.  Although I do suspect she may lose at least one dragon this season.  Having three dragons and a massive intact army would be way too easy for Daenerys.  Characters in Game of Thrones never just get things handed to them, as we’ve seen over the previous six seasons.

9: Hey, Hot Pie is still around.  Now there’s a survivor!

10: Okay, so we know Ellaria, one of the daughters and Yara have been all captured by Euron.  Lovely.  The other two Dornish women are dead and frankly I can’t bring myself to care.  I wasn’t all that invested in their characters in the books anyway but I really didn’t like them in the show (too much bland acting and B-movie fight scenes).  So on that front, my reaction is kind of ‘meh’.

11: So now we know that Ellaria and Yara are Euron’s wedding present to Cersei.  I think we can all agree that these two women are in for horrific deaths at best.

12: And…brave Sir Theon ran away.  When the fighting was pretty much over and he saw Yara captured, I think it brought out the Reek in him again and he fled.  I really can’t blame him from a psychological standpoint but it still feels like a betrayal of his sister yet again.  But, I suppose he still has a role in the show or he wouldn’t have gotten away alive.  Maybe to tell Daenerys her plan to beseige King’s Landing with a Westerosi army has failed?  And then what?  I’m really not sure where his character is realistically heading.  Maybe for death, like Jaime is.

Well, that’s all for this week.  I can’t wait for next week’s meeting between Daenerys and Jon, Euron’s presentation to Cersei and some Winterfell intrigue.

Lazy Sundays: Dragonstone (Game of Thrones Episode 7.01)

Yay, Game of Thrones is back!  Finally!  I’ve been ridiculously excited for the new season so let’s get to it.  Here are my thoughts about this episode, in no particular order:

1: Okay, so much for the Freys.  I was suspicious when I saw the scene start with a feast but as ‘Walder’ kept talking I figured out who it was.  That scene was just the perfect revenge for Arya.  Go Arya!

2: Samwell, you’re awesome.  Finally, the boy who desperately didn’t want to break the rules or do anything to cause a stir has found some steel in him.  It started when Sam rescued Gilly and killed a white walker (and stole his father’s sword last season) but now I think we’re nearing the end of his sort of coming-of-age character arc.  He used to be a boy, but experience and love have made him into a man.  A man who has to empty bedpans and eat soup that looks like it came out of a bedpan, sure.  But a man nevertheless.

3: NO!!! Poor Ser Jorah.  sigh  I know he’s going to die so I really, really hope he waits until Daenerys gets there.  The writers are keeping him alive and putting him in Oldtown for a reason.  But at the same time, I’m still holding out hope beyond hope that Sam will somehow find him a cure and he goes back to Daenerys.  What can I say?  Maybe I’m a hopeless romantic after all.

4: The Sansa and Jon tension will only heat up this season.  With Littlefinger plotting as usual and Jon being an honourable Stark (despite actually being a Targaryen) I think she may become frustrated with both of them and forge her own path.  Whether that’s alongside Jon or Littlefinger remains to be seen.  Not only did she learn a lot from Cersei, she also learned what not to do when playing the game of thrones by watching what happened to her father and older brother.

5: So I hope Bran and Meera finally get to Winterfell.  I want Jon to finally know his actual origin story.  Preferably before he meets with Daenerys, his aunt.

6: Hmm…you guys, I think Jaime is going to die this season.  His children are dead and his lover/twin is distant and drowning herself in wine.  I honestly just don’t see much of a future for his character.  Perhaps he’ll die fighting in the Reach, trying to claim Highgarden?  I’m not sure, but I really do think he’s going to die this season.  He’s lost all motivation to live.

7: On a side note, can I just commend Euron Greyjoy’s actor for finding the perfect blend of smart alec and crazy?  He’s got the crazy eyes like Theon when he was Reek but you still get the feeling he’s more clever than he’s letting on.  I wonder what present he’s going to give Cersei (besides his two working hands)?

8: And Arya’s travelling along the road and happens across a band of Lannister men with an apparently famous singer doing a cameo.  Huh.  She says she’s going to kill the Queen but I really think she won’t.  Not because Arya doesn’t want to but because I just can’t see Cersei dying that easily.  That would be a real cop-out.

9: After six seasons, Daenerys is finally in Westeros!  And Dragonstone, where she was born.  And it’s completely empty despite the fact that I’m pretty sure Stannis would have left some force behind to guard his home castle.  Oh well, as far as plot holes go this one isn’t bad.

10: Tyrion needs to shave.  Badly.

11: So now that, thanks to Sam, Jon knows there’s dragonglass (obsidian) on Dragonstone, I’m pretty sure he’s going to meet with Daenerys somehow to try to forge an alliance.  He needs to if he’s going to fight the White Walkers.

12: I thought the part with the Hound was going to be boring, but man was I wrong.  I think that whole part where he stumbles on the hut he robbed, sees a vision in the fire and then buries the bodies is a real turning point for him.  Maybe the Lord of Light isn’t so bad after all.  Maybe the Hound is alive for a purpose, just like Beric Dondarrion.

13: Where’s Gendry?  Is he still rowing that damn boat?  Or is Arya going to stumble upon him in or on her way to King’s Landing?  Who knows?  I guess we’ll eventually find out.

And now I can’t wait for next Sunday!  Like Daenerys, I’m definitely ready to begin.  This season is going to be great!!!

Lazy Sundays: The Benefits of City Life

So I’ve lived in the city for almost eight months now and I’m really just starting to get used to it.  Obviously it has its drawbacks but so does living in a rural area.  What are some of the benefits I’m appreciating right now?

  1. If I want to go to a concert, I can just hop on the bus and go that night.  I don’t have to plan two days so I can travel to the city (what used to be a four hour drive), watch the concert in the evening, stay in a hotel and drive home the next day.  It’s actually amazing.  So far this year I’ve seen both Handel’s Messiah and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony live.  For a classical music lover like myself, seeing pieces I’ve listened to over and over on CDs being performed live has been exhilarating.
  2. You can get food pretty much any time you feel like it.  Feel like eating Subway at 11:00pm?  Well, there’s one down the street from my apartment.  Want to watch a movie at 1:00am because of your insomnia and you don’t have any snack foods?  There are 24/7 convenience stores located close by.  In my hometown everything closes down at 6:00pm but in the city, you can pretty much guarantee something is going to be open at all hours of the night.
  3. Not having to travel for everything.  If I wanted to go clothes shopping back home, I’d have to drive an hour to the nearest large town.  In the city, I just ride the bus for 10 minutes and stop at one of the four main malls.  Of course this has been a big temptation when it comes to book shopping since there’s an enormous Indigo store right next to one of the malls.  As if I didn’t have enough books already.
  4. Racism, misogyny and homophobia are far less commmon.  Of course, wherever there are human beings there will always be discrimination but I find that it’s a little less common here in the city because of the more diverse population.  And it helps that the city is large enough that when you do find a horribly prejudiced person you can easily avoid them (unless you work with them).  In a small town, you’d encounter that person constantly.  It’s a really nice change.

As I said, city life isn’t perfect (the air quality leaves something to be desired) but I’m so much happier than I ever was in my hometown.  Getting away from rural life has been the best decision I’ve ever made.

My Chronic Pain Story: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance…and more Anger?

I’m so angry right now I don’t know whether I want to scream or cry.

The anger seems to rise up in my throat as my hands shake and my heart races.  I am not the sort of person that experiences blinding rage very often so it’s almost terrifying to experience it now.  But what I’m feeling at the moment is more than just anger.  It’s the five stages of grief all at once.

I’ve discussed my chronic back pain at length in the past.  One thing I never metioned was how sometimes I get a shooting pain down my right leg that makes it go quite stiff, giving me a visible (and painful) limp.  I never mentioned it because it only happened once or twice a year.  But slowly, as the years have gone by, it became more and more frequent to the point where this January it began happening once or twice a week.  So although I had accepted my chronic back pain, I went through the five stages of grief once again as I mourned the possible loss of my mobility.  This time the depression stage was much shorter but the anger lasted almost twice as long as it had when I realized my back pain was only getting worse.

I was so angry that not only was my back pain still a problem but that I was also experiencing pain in my leg that limited my life even more.  While we as a society have made quite a bit of progress when it comes to physical disabilities we’re still not perfect and my occasional limping has made that painfully clear.  Not only did the pain make me angry, people’s reactions to me did as well.  It’s hard to go out to the mall and get stared at by almost everyone because you’re an otherwise physically normal young woman with an obvious limp.  It’s hard to go from nearly having to fight salespeople off in every store you enter to being left alone (and sometimes actively avoided) by everyone.  But I digress.

So why am I angry now?  I’ve gone through the five stages of grief for my back and my leg.  Well, two days ago I had an appointment with a physiatrist (physicians who “treat a wide variety of medical conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons“).  Instead of acting like all of the specialists I’ve seen to date (i.e. immediately dismissing me as “too young to be in pain without any obvious physical defects”) he took the time to examine me and ask me questions about my medical and family history.  And because of this physical examination, the questions he asked and the MRI I had done three years ago he was able to diagnose me within fifteen minutes.

Fifteen minutes.

I have been in constant pain for nearly five years.  I’ve seen specialist after specialist, sometimes waiting for up to a year to book an appointment that lasted ten minutes and ended with the specialist accusing me of lying or seeking drugs.  And the worst part?  At least half of those specialists should have come to the same conclusion as my physiatrist given my medical and family history.

Essentially I, like 10% of the population, have hypermobile joints.  I have naturally loose ligaments and so my joints extend beyond the normal range of motion.  For a lot of hypermobile people this isn’t really a problem.  However, in my case I seem to have extended my back too far and caused stress on a vertebra in my lower spine.  This caused the muscles in my lower back to tense up to compensate for the stress on this vertebra, which in turn caused the muscles in my upper back to tense up to compensate for that.  And as I had to give up the sports I loved due to the pain, the pain got worse as I lost core strength and my muscles had to work even harder to hold things together.  The stress seems to be worse on one side of the vertebra, which caused the intense shooting pain that runs down my right leg.

The cure for this?  Targeted physiotherapy.  The physiotherapy I had before, shortly after the pain started, only exacerbated my problems as the physiotherapist had me doing exercises that forced me to move my joints beyond the normal range of motion and put additional stress on them instead of stabilizing them.  Basically, I need to go see a physiotherapist with experience treating hypermobile people who will determine what exercises I should be doing on my own time and that’s it.  It won’t happen overnight and I’ll always need to do them, but the exercises should essentially cure me of my chronic pain.  And as I get older, my ligaments will naturally tighten up so my joints won’t be so prone to moving in ways they shouldn’t.

Which brings me back to the anger.  I’m feeling so many things right now: a weird combination of denial, acceptance, depression, despair, etc.  But the prevailing feeling is definitely anger.  I’m angry that for years doctors dismissed me because they couldn’t find an easy answer.  I’m angry that all they saw was a hysterical young woman instead of a patient experiencing pain.  Had they looked—actually looked at me instead of relying on a stereotype—maybe I would have had a diagnosis sooner.  Maybe I could have already been doing proper physiotherapy for months, years even.  Maybe I didn’t need to be in constant pain for so long.

I’m angry that I missed out on so many things because I was in pain.  It’s infuriating to think that I gave up things I loved like volleyball and swimming because of a treatable, easily diagnosable problem.  And it’s especially aggravating that I gave these up because of pain that could have been managed shortly after my symptoms began.  Every single doctor that bothered to examine me remarked upon how flexible I was despite the pain.  They didn’t think this was a clue, one that might lead them to conclude there was something wrong with my connective tissues.  No, they just took it as proof I was a drug and/or attention seeker who was wasting their time.  After all, someone who is in so much pain shouldn’t be able to move better in certain ways than a normal person, should they?

It’s only been two days since my diagnosis but already the anger is subsiding.  It’s still here but it’s fading, making way for something I haven’t felt in a long time when it comes to my health: hope.  The hope that with a lot of hard work and a little luck I can go back to something resembling normal.  That maybe I can sit or stand for more than half an hour without being in excruciating pain. That maybe I can walk around the mall without everyone’s eyes on me because my appearance doesn’t match their idea of how a disabled person should look.

After all these years of pain and suffering, things are finally starting to look up.

Lazy Sundays: Looking Ahead

I’m not one to get sentimental very often but looking at back at where I was in the beginning of 2015, I can’t believe how much has changed.  I’ve moved to a city hours away from the only place I’ve ever lived.  I’ve made friends my own age that share some of my interests for the first time in over a decade.  And I’ve realized that no matter how bad things get, there is always a silver lining even if that silver lining is that the bad thing will (usually) eventually go away.  It’s been an nteresting year and I can’t believe the optimism with which I’m looking at 2016.

I’ve made some blogging New Year’s resolutions but I have also made some personal ones.  One of the things I want to do is go to the gym at least twice a week.  It’s not that I necessarily want to lose weight but right now my back pain is being managed better than it has been since it began five years ago.  If I build up my muscles again while I’m feeling good I can stabilize some of the vertebrae in my back and thus provide a lasting solution to my pain (hopefully).  And even if that doesn’t happen, at least I’ll be exercising, which comes with its own separate health benefits.

Another thing I want to do is date.  Back home my options were comically limited but now I feel like I have so many more opportunities on the romantic front.  It’s been years since I’ve dated so things should be interesting but fun as well.  We’ll see how things go, I guess!

I think these are both fairly achievable goals and I hope they’ll make 2016 a much better year than 2015, 2014 and the last ten or so years.

The 2015 Annual WordPress Report

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 62,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

My 2016 Blogging Goals

I’m not a big fan of the whole New Year’s resolution tradition but I feel like setting measurable, achievable goals here on The Mad Reviewer is actually a productive exercise.  So I’m going to do it yet again this year.

1. Migrate over to WordPress.org.

Yes, this is the year I finally transition from a free blog to a paid blog where I have more control over my content and WordPress won’t arbitrarily take down my site again.  It will mean becoming a lot more tech-savvy but I think I can handle that if I keep up some regular maintenance.  I’ve already purchased a domain name and a hosting package with Bluehost so I’m just about ready to get moving.  But don’t worry!  I’m going to migrate all of my followers over to my new address and I’ll put a link redirect here under the old domain name so you guys have plenty of time to switch over if you so wish.  I’m hoping to fully switch over by my 4th blog anniversary on January 13th.

2. Get a total of 1,500 followers.

Last year my goal of 2,000 followers was a little too ambitious so this year I’m aiming for 1,500 in total after I migrate over to WordPress.org.  I’m currently sitting at 1,300 and I’ll be posting much more regularly so this should not be too terribly difficult.  I just need to get back on the self-promotion bandwagon again.

3.  Write more in-depth analysis articles.

After I write that Jon Snow article I’ve been promising for months, something I want to work on in 2016 is writing more in-depth articles about specific books or series.  I’d love to do a better analysis of the similarities between the entire Hunger Games trilogy and the Roman Empire.  Or try to compare some of the events in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire Series to their various historical inspirations, particularly the Wars of the Roses.  I love history and I absolutely love books so this is the best of both worlds.


You know what?  Instead of five goals this year I’m going to keep it down to a manageable 3 goals.  Of course I’m going to strive to post every day and clear my review backlog but those are things I should be doing anyway.  My official goals are a little something more to strive for and will require going a little above what I consider regular blog maintenance.  And still, I think they’re achievable.

So what are your blogging goals for 2016?  What do you think of these goals?