Non-Fiction Book Review – Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones: Seasons 1 & 2

  • Title: Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones: Seasons 1 & 2
  • Author: Bryan Cogman
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/03/2014

Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones is a beautiful coffee table book for the television series, specifically seasons 1 and 2 only. The pictures, especially the full-size ones and the double-page spreads are absolutely gorgeous. Often books like this have nice pictures but are skimpy on content. However, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, as much as I loved the beautiful photography. Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones covers not only the major houses: Stark, Lannister, Baratheon, Targaryen, but all the important but minor characters that appeared in the television series as of Season 2. That is another asset of the book by the way, because it only covers the first two seasons, and it religiously avoids spoilers, if you still have not seen later seasons – it’s a safe read. And since Season Four won’t be released on DVD until February of 2015 – it’s a safe bet some fans of the show have only seen through Season 3 at least. This is a good book to get that avoids spoilers. Also, there are very, very few references to the books and none that are spoilry in nature (a few characters, in terms of casting, were, according to Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones quite different. The interviews on casting explain these choices.)

Besides giving a well-grounded, if brief, history of Westros, Essos, and the major and minor houses – the hardcover coffee-table book is filled with interviews: casting directors, actors, costuming directors, set designers, some information on locations, etc. It’s a thorough coverage of the television series’s first two years. I highly enjoyed it.

If you are a fan of HBO’s Game of Thrones television series this book belongs on your bookshelf.

There are a few things I would have liked to have seen: 1. The Credit Sequence for the show won an Emmy – I would have liked to read more about the development of the 3-D map, with pictures (I love models); and 2. I’d just like to see a map. Even with the map in the credits of the show – I’d like to get a better idea of where everything is. But there is a book due out this Fall for Series 3 and 4, so maybe these additional items will appear.

Highly recommended for fans of the show.


How to Design an Engaging Infographic

This Infographic from Buzzfeed is one of the best I’ve seen, and a perfect example of why and how engaging infographics work.

First, it takes information that, if it was presented in a written article, would simply be a list of easily forgotten statistics and turns it into an image that’s interesting and pleasing to look at. Many people, for example, if they read an article comparing characters on Game of Thrones with the most screen time verses characters with the least screen time, would most certainly find their eyes glazing over from all the numbers. I know I would. Yes, pure statistics have their place – but this infographic presents all the statistics in a way that is engaging, fun to look at, and all in one place – and it doesn’t change the nature of the statistical information – which is vitally important.

Second, as noted in the previous paragraph, the infographic presents the statistics in a non-judgmental way. Going by time on-screen only, Tyrion Lannister is the most popular character, followed by Daenerys, followed by a tie between Robb Stark and Jon Snow. However, the information is presented two ways – the actual screen time in minutes and seconds, and the size of the figures – with characters with more screen time physically bigger and characters with less physically smaller. Thus, the graphic is understandable on any size screen. The numbers are also legible, even on a smartphone screen. However, this graphic, importantly, does not  draw any conclusions whatsoever about Game of Thrones from screen time. This is good.

Too often statistics are reported in error to make a point, especially popular research information. There is a difference between causality (this causes that) and correlation (these two facts come up together often but one doesn’t cause the other). There is also a difference between scientific research including double blind studies, and public opinion polls (which can be easily rigged in several ways – such as writing questions in such a way that a certain response is given the most often and then reporting not the question but the response; or limiting responses to two polar opposite choices; or even only polling people in a certain area – where a specific response is expected.) In addition, public opinion polls often fail to include plus/minus accuracy factors, methodology, full wording of questions, etc. (I actually worked for a public opinion telephone survey company one Summer – the wording of questions would shock you, especially if you have any background in science. And I have two master of science degrees as well. I’ve done empirical research.)

Some basics for putting together Infographics

1. Decide what information you want to convey. Make it simple but also useful.

2. When designing your infographic – make it legible. If your audience can’t read it, it doesn’t do any good.

3. Make sure your Infographic says what you meant and it isn’t misleading by graphics or content.

4. Don’t have content that conflicts with images or vice versa.

5. Save your Infographic as a .jpg but make it the centerpiece of an article or blog post with additional information. Think of the graphic as a quick “cheat sheet” but the article as the lesson.

6. Use good pictures or graphics. If you are a company or business, be wary of copyright issues.

7. Have fun! Who said statistics and learning have to be boring?

Game of Thrones Season 4 Review (Spoilers)

  • Game of Thrones
  • Season 4
  • Episodes: 10
  • Discs:  5
  • Network:  HBO

Game of Thrones is a series I actually found on DVD – I have never really seen the worth of paying for extra “movie” cable/satellite stations like HBO, Showtime, etc. My cousin had recommended the show to me, as had a few friends. But what convinced me to give the show a try was I happened to be on Twitter on a Sunday night and my feed filled up with all sorts of tweets about Game of Thrones. And this was from people like Marc Guggenheim the executive producer of CW’s Arrow, and Elijah Wood. Now, I know it’s common for television networks to require actors to keep up a Twitter feed for their show as part of the advertising and customer relations of the show. USA Network did that, and CW does that, and it’s fairly common. I’m sure there’s even specific requirements in the actor’s contract for Twitter and other Social Media activity while the show airs new episodes.

But Marc Guggenheim has no connection with Game of Thrones – he’s a producer on his own show. Likewise, Elijah Wood isn’t in Game of Thrones. And the tweets were of the “Can you believe what just happened?” variety. So, I figured, that if other television producers were, excuse the expression, “going all fanboy” about the show – it might just be good. And I’d seen a lot of media buzz about the show too, plus it was already winning Emmys, so I just figured – OK, I’ll give it a try.

I bought Season 1 on DVD and started watching it, by about halfway through – I ordered Season 2. Two episodes in to watching the second Season – I was ready to order Season 3. I checked on-line, and went, “February!!!” (I watched the show last Summer.)

Needless to say when  February rolled around I finally ordered and received it. And I was still hooked, so I ordered HBO – just to watch Game of Thrones.

So, yes, I’ve seen Season 4 before. And I do really love this series. It looks fantastic – very much like a movie. And the writing is excellent. There’s a lot of character growth, surprising moments, shocks, etc.

Spoilers below this point

Two episodes in – Joffrey is finally killed. Hazzah! The psychopathic king is gone. I expected, “Who killed Joffrey?” to be the season’s theme – but within a few episodes, we learned Littlefinger planned it – getting the poison, putting it into a necklace, getting someone to wear the necklace, etc. and Margery’s mother, Olenna Tyrell, also arranged for Joffrey’s death – and may have even been the one to put the poison in the king’s cup.

Of course, no one else in King’s Landing realizes this. Cersei and Tywin immediately blame Tyrion for King Joffrey’s death and have him arrested. Tyrion discovers those he thought his friends – aren’t, as he is betrayed over and over again. The few he thinks he can trust and whom he wants to protect he sends off. Eventually though, someone – somewhat unexpected, does help Tyrion – and Tyrion gets some revenge as well for the events of the season.

Meanwhile, Littlefinger gets Sansa to the Eyrie. There, Lysa finally gets Petr to marry her. We also discover that it was Lysa, not the Lannisters, who arranged for the death of Jon Arryn (Remember him? – the former Hand of the King, who’s death starts Ned Stark on his journey to King’s Landing, where he dies – and the War of the Five Kings begins.) Anyway, Lysa is directly responsible for pretty much every death so far. And all of this because she was jealous of Cat, her sister, and hated her – and she pined for Littlefinger, and wanted to marry him not Jon Arryn. Lysa’s jealousy erupts and she attacks Sansa. Littlefinger then kills her – to protect Sansa, and no doubt as part of his own power games. In turn, Sansa lies before a tribunal to protect Littlefinger.

Arya and the Hound get the Eyrie, but after Lysa has died – so they leave without ever going inside. Arya also runs into Brienne but doesn’t believe the woman she doesn’t know took a vow to protect Cat – which failed.  Brienne and the Hound fight – the Hound dies. The last shot of the season is Arya on a boat – going somewhere.

Jon, well, OK – let’s me perfectly honest, here. I always get bored when Game of Thrones goes to Castle Black or North of The Wall, or shows anything of the Wildlings. It’s the one storyline on the show I just can’t get in to and I really don’t care.  There’s been way too much build-up and teasing and not nearly enough actual story. After all, we’ve been told, “Winter is Coming” since the very beginning of Season 1. Episode 9 takes place entirely at the Battle for the Wall.

Dani makes it to Meereen, frees the slaves, then discovers ruling a country, especially ruling it fairly, is harder than conquering it.

I absolutely love Daenarys – and I always wish to see more of her. There were two things, possibly three, that happened in Season Four that I really hope are reversed for Season 5.

  1. One of the former slaves comes to Dani and asks for permission to sell himself back to his master so he can be a teacher again. Dani grants this on a “one year contract only”. Why didn’t she just suggest that the Master PAY his former slave? Obviously the man was skilled – his skills deserve compensation.
  2. Daenarys is told that her advisor, Ser Jorah Mormont, had – when they first met , four years ago, been selling information about her to the Baratheons and Lannisters. However, she never even gives him a chance to defend himself, then she exiles him. Now, fortunately, she didn’t kill him outright, but still, I liked Ser Jorah – and he was probably her best adviser. And, as he tried to point out, that the information came to light at this point, four years later, was suspicious at least. I mean, I realize that Dani thought she couldn’t trust him, but come on…
  3. The Dragons. Last we see, Daenarys chains and locked up her dragons. I was unsure if this meant they’d die as well. I mean, seriously – was there air in that cave? Does she plan on feeding them? Giving them water? The dragons bleating for their Mom was so sad.

I really hope Daenarys’ dragons aren’t dead. I want to see her riding astride one and taking over Westros! Likewise, I hope that Ser Jorah comes back. I’d love it if Dani discovers one of her other advisers set him up.

And then there’s the Starks. OK, the living Starks are driving me nuts! Arya finally, finally, after three seasons of wandering around gets to the Eyrie, and she doesn’t even go inside – thus she totally misses Sansa. And she rejects Brienne – and I thought Arya and Brienne would be a great combination – they’d make for a great alliance. Jon Snow and Bran Stark also keep missing each other. I mean, seriously, how many times is one of them going to be in a building and the other one outside, and they never connect? And then there’s poor Rickon Stark – Bran sends Osha, Rickon, and Rickon’s direwolf, Shaggy Dog, off to “find a strong hold”, or whatever – and we never see him again. (Sort of like Arya’s direwolf from the first season.) I actually think it’s a bit of a plot hole to leave Rickon’s fate dangling for so long!

But yes – it goes without saying. Season 4 of Game of Thrones is awesome. I think it’s more awesome on first viewing, but I still enjoyed it a lot and I can definitely recommend the series. It’s not a show for young children though.

Game of Thrones Music Vid – Original Lyrics and Acting

I love this vid.  The parody lyrics are perfect.  The fan actors are good to OK, but the creativity involved at all levels are just stunning.  The lyrics are perfect, the editing is awesome, and the acting is good.  And I like the originality.  Go support these guys – this certainly took some work!

Usual Disclaimer:  Didn’t make it, just found it!


Game of Thrones – Roar – Music Vid

As always with vids – didn’t make it just found it.

This is an awesome vid that celebrates the Women of Game of Thrones.  I’m a fan of traditional history-based fantasy.  Well, of most fantasy actually, even the more fantastic and urban fantasy, but one drawback of the genre is the few women in the genre are often boring or weak.  Or they are merely there to be won as a prize by the man.  Even in books written more recently, there’s often only one or two token “strong” women, and the rest of the characters are male.

Not to detract from those books, as I said, I often love them.  JRR Tolkien, and Jim Butcher are two of my favorite authors.  However, something that has really drawn me in to the televised version of Game of Thrones, has been the strong women.  And they aren’t super-women, either, endowed with magical powers.  The women of Game of Thrones often start in very traditional roles:  wife, mother, princess, tomboy, victim, but they grow, they mature, and they become these incredible characters.

Cat Tully Stark – Her arranged marriage to Ned Stark produced five children.  And she starts as wife and mother.  She’s also by no means perfect (no Mary Sue here) – watch her continual criticism and hatred of Jon Snow – Ned’s illegitimate son.  Or her occasional bad advice to Robb Stark.  Yet she is very strong as well.  She does become Robb’s second-in-command, and although she doesn’t know everything – neither does Robb.  And actually, there are times when if Robb had listened to his mother, she would have saved him a lot of grief (not to mention other things I’m trying to avoid spoiling).

Arya – She’s Ned’s tomboy daughter, and usually a character like Arya would have to “grow up and learn to act like a girl”.  Arya becomes an expert fencer, learns when to keep her mouth shut but also learns when to speak up.  She’s fiercely loyal to her friends, and capable of defending those who can’t defend themselves.

Brienne – Brienne actually starts as a strong character.  She’s a female knight.  Though she starts in the service of Renly Baratheon, and seem to have a crush on him – Renly is gay.  He’s never slept with his wife of two years much less Brienne.  When – SPOILER –  Renly dies, Brienne becomes a wandering knight.  No one takes her seriously, despite her skills, and it wasn’t her fault Renly died.  Brienne reminds me of every woman who’s a pioneer in a field dominated by men – she’s belittled, her skills are made fun of, she’s put down, people don’t believe in her, and even other women insult her for choosing a “male career”.   Brienne has to have confidence in herself, the ability to ignore what everyone is saying to her about her career choice, and, when necessary, she has to prove herself over and over, just like every woman who chooses a male-dominated career.  I hope we see more of Brienne in the future.

Cersei – Mother of the current king, wife of the dead king, another “victim” of arranged marriage.  She’s been having a long-term affair with her brother, even right under her husband’s nose.  Thus her three surviving children are all from the affair.  When introduced, Cersei seems almost like pure evil:  spiteful, unfair, the type of mother who sees one child as “perfect”, and not a very good wife.  But over the first three years of Game of Thrones – we see more of Cersei and at least get to understand where she comes from.  It is Cersei who gives the program it’s title, when she says, “In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die.”

Daenerys – When we meet her, her brother literally sells her into marriage with Khal Drago, the leader of a troop of wild people, something like the Mongols.  Her brother watches as Daenerys is raped over and over again by her “husband”.  But Daenerys perseveres.  She learns to enjoy sex and to take control in her husband’s tent.  She becomes “Khaleesi” – his queen.  She has a child, but the child dies and then her husband dies as well.  But it is once she is on her own that we really begin to see Daenerys shine. She leads her dead husband’s people, she becomes Queen in actions as well as name. When she is victimized – she fights back.  And before long she’s conquered three city-states, and freed the slaves within them.  Daenerys hates slavery – because she once was one.  It helps that she owns three growing dragons.

Other women of Game of Thrones:  Sansa – who starts as the “perfect princess” but learns to stand on her own feet – the hard way; Ygritte – who grew up North of the wall, and has an entirely different world view; etc.

And that isn’t to say that Game of Thrones is some inverse world where women have all the power and men are weak and boring.  Tyrion Lannister is easily one of the most complex and fascinating characters of the show.  Jamie Lannister, like his sister, is someone one can despise and love in equal measure, depending on what he’s doing that week.  Jon Snow is a popular character, and it’s not simply because of Kit Harrison’s looks.  There are many more.

So watch the vid – because THAT’s what I’m talking about! – JM, Bitch with Wi-Fi (didn’t make the vid, did write this post).