Game of Thrones Quote #5 & Robert Sapolsky

The following post contains spoilers from the book series A Song of Ice and Fire.

It is not me she wants her son to marry, it is my claim. No one will ever marry me for love (A Storm of Swords, 776).

Sansa grew up singing the songs of her grandmother and believing that a beautiful prince would sweep her off her feet and marry her. Now, through death and a failed marriage, she has come to realize that in this world, no one will want her for who she is. This is a bitter pill to watch her swallow, and her character arc makes it all the more moving.

Throughout the first book A Game of Thrones, it was really hard to care about Sansa’s complaints. Her constant pettiness and ignorance was frustrating to read, and each time she complained I found it to be insufferable. However, her experiences have caused her to grow immensely, and in many ways she is one of the strongest characters in the story. She refused to let the horrible men in her life take away what mattered to her, and she remained dignified throughout.

Now it is depressing to read her realization of what she is and how she is viewed by others. She will never be as happy as those songs, but in a sense she is a better person because of it. Sansa was a character in desperate need of a wake up call, but this feels to harsh to for anyone to deal with.

We have been alluding away at the ideal of the self with recent scientific discoveries.

While I must admit I have not read a book by Robert Sapolsky, his arguments made on a few podcasts about why free will is an illusion are incredibly intriguing. My favorite of these was on an episode of Radiolab, in which the crew reexamined a case of someone who changed after a brain surgery. It is a genuinely shocking story and I highly encourage everyone to listen to it.

Most recently, he had an interview with Ezra Klein, in which he discusses stress and how it should be seen as a fault in machinery not as in a fault of the user. It is seriously fascinating stuff.

I guess it intrigues me because the narrative seems to be subject to so much abuse. Why do my actions matter if they are all pre-determined or not controlled by me? It is certainly reasonable to believe people would use this narrative to run amok, claiming that none of this is in fact their fault. However, I think this explanation could help in a lot of ways as well. I was born with a language learning disorder, and I blamed myself for my faults. It took me time to figure out that my handwriting was bad not because of a fault of my own, but because I had an impairment, that my interactions could feel awkward because of my ability to comprehend.

How then can we attempt to make a balanced explanation while also valuing the sanctity of humans themselves? It is a tough task, but I tend to think we should try to explain why we have certain behaviors and not act as though we are sole contributors to our own faults. Anyway, I hope to read his books at some point and have more to say on the subject!

My Guide to 2018

I am a bit late on this but I thought it would still be a good idea to go over my year in smaller tidbits. It was a year of personal growth and change, and while many seem to despise 2018 I could not have asked for a more incredible year. Here are some highlights.

Favorite Movie: Minding the Gap – Bing Liu’s masterful documentary struck a cord with me I could never quite shake, as its chronicles of skateboarders transitioning into adulthood are joyous and heartbreaking. I used to skateboard when I was little, and so I understood the motivation these three people felt. It was a way to break rules and to rebel from what was expected of you, or to challenge yourself in new ways. The underlying motivations for skateboarding turn to their home situations and also towards domestic abuse, creating a powerful portrait of life in America. A must watch. I gave it a 9.7 and I think that is modest if anything.

Runner-up: First Reformed – Paul Schrader’s haunting tale of a Reverend having a crisis of faith is the most topical and relevant film to come out in 2018. It is slow and intentionally still, creating an austere sense until it breaks its own rules. Amanda Seyfried is most impressive, as she plays the woman who can most understand the two men who are at the focal point of this story. Please do me a favor and see it. It is truly special.

Favorite Book: When Breath Becomes Air – A book I picked up off of my uncle’s shelf quickly turned into one of the most searing and poignant books that I read this year, as the pain, trauma, and delight of a neurosurgeon in his final days was a beautifully rendered story. It is tough and heartbreaking, but it finds a way through sheer determination to find its voice, and for Paul to get the auto-biography he always deserved. A book I loved and I think others will as well.

Runner-Up: A Storm of Swords – While I am still not finished with this book, George R.R. Martin continues to amaze me with his deep and empathetic take on characters most of us would have looked away from. This was the first in the series to dig deep into many of the villains of this story, and it makes for incredible reading and deep emotional thought. Certain scenes killed me, and the major deaths in this story keep the incredible shock-value, but what I was consistently amazed by was Martin’s care for everyone in the story.

Favorite Moment: NIRCA National Championship Meet – It is hard to overstate how incredible my experience was running in freezing cold Shelbeyville, Indiana with my club track team. All of our hard work came to fruition, and we had a blast while doing it. I can not thank my team enough for all they have given me and I hope to get to go to more incredible meets in the future.

Defining Change in Character: Openness – So much of my time before 2018 I spent my time in a bubble, resulting in stereotypes about people who live outside of my own. After spending a year away from home and traveling the midwest as well as meeting people from all over, I had the incredible opportunity to meet people from the furthest corners and reaches of the midwest and beyond. This has allowed me to be much more open to new experiences and new people, and my slight fear of breaking my bubble has turned into exuberance to discover others.

What will define 2019: Resolve – 2019 looks to be a year that will be hard, with a lot of goals set and plenty of things to achieve. My hope is that by the end of 2019 I can be in an even better spot than I am now, and that will take strength and resolve to get through it. I know I, as well as you can, but it will take time. To an amazing 2018 and an even better 2019.

Shirkers, The Hunt For Red October, and Game of Thrones Quote #4

Some of us are movers, some of us are shakers, and some of us are Shirkers.

Shirkers (Netflix)This is from the most recent Netflix documentary; A brilliant, lush and beautiful film that also unfolds into a compelling mystery. Sandi Tan filmed a road movie in 1992, and watched her mentor Georges Cardona steal it from her. She called the film Shirkers, referring to those who avoid or neglect responsibilities. Her quest to find the film becomes part of a story to settle her demons and those of her friends who lost everything as well. Bold, audacious, and thoughtful, Shirkers is brilliant and a fascinating tour of Singaporean film. Terrific and a must for film buffs. 9/10

The Hunt For Red October – Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin are at their best in the a great remake of a classic Tom Clancy novel. Connery plays Captain Ramius, head of the Red October Submarine, heading straight for the US Coastline. Baldwin as Jack Ryan believes that there is more to his motives than their appears. While it is missing some critical parts from the novel itself it is still pulse-pounding, and the story opts for a more realistic spy thriller that stands the test of time. While by no means a perfect film, it is great entertainment nonetheless. 8.3/10

Some part of him blames me… though he knows it was good counsel (515).

Catelyn continues to struggle, and her pain begins to seep into every interaction she has. She believes she has lost her sons, which create a feeling of undying attachment to Robb. She also feels she must be stronger for him, as the fragility of his life in war is higher than ever. So, everything, feels in some sense pained. How do I please my son and protect him all the same? How can I give him good counsel without losing his trust? Catelyn is walking on a tight-rope, and her lack of omnipresent knowledge of the wellbeing of her children makes things that much more painful for the reader.

Catelyn is by no means perfect, and her consist rejection of Jon Snow is understandable but harsh for Jon. He is not at fault for her fathers adultery, and yet she feels he is somehow part of the wrong. Yet her pain toward her children is palpable and understandable, as it would be a tough dilemma for any of us to work with. All we can do is hope for the Starks, and hope that everything will be okay. Something tells me it will not be.

Game of Thrones Quote #3

*The following contains spoilers from A Song of Ice and Fire/A Storm of Swords*

“How can it be treason to kill Lannisters, when it is not treason to free them?” asked Karstark harshly. “Has your Grace forgotten that we are at war with Casterly Rock? In war you kill your enemies. Didn’t your father teach you that boy?”

Is all truly fair in love and war? How do we decide what is too far in war and what is fair game? War is humans at their worst, choosing to kill each other in sake of defending a name, a purpose, an idea. When do we go to far and where do we draw the line?

Robb is faced with an incredibly tough decision here after seeing one of his lords brutally murdering two of their captives, Tion Frey and Willem Lannister, both of whom are enemies. Lord Karstark took their in response to his children’s lives being taken from him. An eye for an eye seems maybe reasonable, but Robb argues that they died in honorably on the battlefield and that this was pure murder. This was treason and therefore the message needed to be sent that this was not allowed.

This is painful as Catelyn made the decision to release Jaime Lannister in order to on the off chance he maybe able to retrieve her daughters. This caused Karstark to do this and send out a hunting party for Jaime with the promise that whoever captured him would be given his daughter Alys; and with that a claim to Karhold. This was disobeying a direct order, and yet it in some sense feels slightly reasonable on both sides. Both Catelyn and Rickard are dealing with the death of their children in similar ways. Catelyn believes her sons to be dead causing her to act irrationally in order to retrieve her daughters. Rickard Karstark views this release as a horrible affront to his children’s legacy, and decides to take vengeance in a horrific way.

Is this treason or vengeance? I can understand the trap this put Robb in, and while I am not sure I would have had the guts to execute him, it is a brilliantly executed chapter dealing with the consequences of love and war. What makes this series terrific, is its ability to bring out the pain in seemingly heartless decisions, and this chapter is absolutely terrific showcase of conflict and pain.

Game of Thrones Quote #2

*The following post contains spoilers for the A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones Series*

‘And did you see where I was seated, Mance?’ He leaned forward. ‘Did you see where they put the bastard?’

Jon Snow is someone who is full of conflict, whether that be because of how he was treated or what he represents. As a bastard child, he is evidence the worst part of Ned’s character, and is a painful scar for the family. No one more painfully recognizes this than Catelyn, who treats him as a scar, one to be ignored in order to prevent bringing out what it represents. Ned had flaws, and her refusal at times to understand that leads her to treat her bastard son with contempt.

None of this however is Jon Snow’s fault, and so he has constantly lived knowing the pain he represents to his family but cannot do anything to change it. He decided to go to the wall, to make something of himself, to not live as destructive reminder but a positive influence. He took an oath, swore allegiance, and promised to live by the decree of The Night’s Watch, only for it to be taken from him once again.

In this moment it is hard to know if he means every part of what he is saying or if he is trying to win over the free folk. I think he believes a good portion of it though, and it seems fitting for all that he has been through. Did you see what happened to me? Every time I try to do something whether it be honorable or not I get thrown away. And for what? I am a bastard child but that was not my choice. 

Now Jon Snow sits across from Wildlings who are an enemy of the one organization that gave him purpose. This once again was not necessarily a choice of his own, and now the one thing that meant anything to him is now seemingly gone. Maybe he is pretending and trying to play double agent, but that must be upsetting. It remains to be seem (AGAIN I HAVE NOT WATCHED THE SHOW!) whether he will eventually believe in the cause of the free folk, but for now there seems to be some foreshadowing in that direction.