on game of thrones season 2 episode 6

I had hoped to write a mid-second season review of Game of Thrones last week, but the world outside the one-meter radius of my laptop somehow managed to get in the way, and now I find myself left with only the sixth episode to blog about and a sadness that might rival Tywin Lannister’s disappointment upon the birth of his son Tyrion the Imp.

But then again the Lord of Casterly Rock had no idea the Halfman would “grow up” to become such a fascinating creature and my regrets are nothing really more than just a lame attempt at an introduction. In other words, here’s a rundown of some of the most interesting stuff in Episode 6, listed by chronological order:

1. Joffrey Baratheon may have been a character designed primarily to elicit pure contempt. Theon Greyjoy, on the other hand, seems destined to be someone you couldn’t thoroughly hate only because he’s such a sad little person. In this scene where the turncloak tearfully beheads one of the Dwarflords of Middle-Earth Ser Rodrik Cassel, one can’t help but feel sorry for this poor boy who had to suffer so much from so many personal issues.

“Darn it. I was held hostage by a nice family for years and then my own squid of a father calls me a ‘doll’ in front of my little sis. If there were any shrinks in Westeros, I wouldn’t have to let this all out on you, you know.”
“Darn it. I was held hostage by a nice family for years and then my own squid of a father calls me a ‘doll’ in front of my little sis. If there were any shrinks in Westeros, I wouldn’t have to let this all out on you, you know.”

2. Many people have said it already and I will say it again with utter disregard for redundancy: this Arya Stark girl actress is beyond awesome. Where in the Seven Kingdoms did they get her? In this scene where Petyr Baelish arrives suddenly to Harrenhal to see Tywin Lannister, Arya does her best to make sure Littlefinger does not recognize her as the the other wolf pup who got away.

“Oh my gods. Petyr Baelish. Shit shit shit shit shit.”
“Oh my gods. Petyr Baelish. Shit shit shit shit shit.”

3. And then someone threw a lump of cow feces at Joffrey’s face. And Tyrion “kingslaps” him. I never knew I was capable of such gleeful laughter.

“OH NO YOU DIDN’T.”
“OH NO YOU DIDN’T.”

4. In the book series, Robb Stark falls in love with some girl he knocked up after some battle in the south—the Lady Jeyne Westerling, with her “chest-nut curls” and “heart-shaped face.” But the TV show’s writers apparently had a better idea and invented this mysterious Talisa of Volantis who works for the Red Cross. HBO thinks it’s a superior match for the King in the North, but Lady Catelyn Stark doesn’t seem to agree.

“Robb, my dear? I will hit your head if you do not stop ogling the young Mother Teresa.”
“Robb, my dear? I will hit your head if you do not stop ogling the young Mother Teresa.”

5. As for Ygritte the Wildling woman’s first appearance in the show, Jon Snow did look positively enchanted, which is just as well. I mean, who wouldn’t?

“You know nothing, Jon Snow. As for me, I know how to move my hips and I have this sort of sexy, breathy voice.”
“You know nothing, Jon Snow. As for me, I know how to move my hips and I have this sort of sexy, breathy voice.”

6. Now the only disappointment from the episode, I guess, comes toward the end, when the show’s writers made Osha buy her escape from besieged Winterfell by sleeping with Theon Greyjoy. That was a terrible, terrible thing to do, because in the books, Osha freed herself and the two Stark boys through sheer cunning and courage.

“They made Margaery Tyrell appear as if her feminine qualities were her only means for success. Why should I be any different?”
“They made Margaery Tyrell appear as if her feminine qualities were her only means for success. Why should I be any different?”

7. And then finally—and this isn’t part of the sixth episode—but listen to this little something and tell me that these kids are simply adorable. I will kill anyone who would say otherwise.

PS.  Don’t have a torrent of Game of Thrones Season 2 Episode 6 yet? Download it here.

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on game of thrones season 2 episode 1

When I was a kid, we did not have cable and our television was an old machine with two rusty metal sticks for an antenna; we were lucky if the useless junk worked miraculously after a few friendly thumps. As a result, I had never grown fond of television shows as a child and I harboured the pretentious claim that nothing can be better than reading novels.

Of course, I wasn’t entirely right. I know now, because I have since discovered a combination of three things: the Internet, torrents, and the trusty VLC player. This week, I have done almost nothing but replay my pirated copy of the pilot episode of the second season of the Game of Thrones series (courtesy of MSF who gave me a link for the torrent), and I realize once more how, with today’s technology, you could replay the scenes in a story, in a way you could never do with books.

1. Consider this scene with the newly crowned King Joffrey Baratheon celebrating his “name day” by staging a fight tournament. When a contestant gets hammered to a bloody pulp and falls down from the sentries, Joffrey shouts, “Well struck!” And that smirk—it just helps you decide that he is surely the most evil of brats on screen since Tom Felton’s Draco Malfoy, doesn’t it? I must have replayed the scene a thousand times, nursing my hatred for this blonde spawn of Satan. I mean, just look at that face.

“They said I can become anything, so I became a brat.”

2. And then comes the Imp, Tyrion Lannister, and his charming one-liners. He offers his condolences to Lady Sansa Stark, whose father’s head was chopped off by orders of his fiancé, the evil child Joffrey. When Joffrey retorts that Sansa has nothing to mourn for a traitor dad, Tyrion rebukes him and defends Sansa so tenderly. Aww. Let’s have that again, shall we.

“Hello there, pretty girl. I’ll save you from Draco Malfoy. Just be patient, okay?”

3. There are a lot of crazy women on television. But none as deliciously annoying as this seemingly mad Wildling woman who was taken hostage by the Starks and into the service of Winterfell. She smiles ever so darkly even when there is not much to be mysterious about, mutters, rolls her eyes, and cocks her head to the side all the time while talking to a major character. Her name is Osha and in terms of possible relatives, you could choose between Bellatrix Lestrange and Sisa. Here is she, giving a dissertation about comets.

“The comet means only one thing: the Dark Lord has returned.”

4. The important thing with medieval courts on television is the talking. There’s the sex, too, of course, and the fighting, and the vast amounts of clothes and drapery. But the talking is a big deal—the subtleties laced with poison, the inane pleasantries, the weird sentence structure. In this scene with Lord Petyr Baelish and the Queen Cersei Lannister exchanging some very meaningful words, the venomous smiles provide perfect backdrop to their charming conversation.

“And how did you two manage to get yourselves hoisted up there in that old watchtower, Your Grace?”

5. Last, who seriously didn’t enjoy that part where Jaime Lannister is tied to a post, scared to death with the prospect of being eaten alive by Robb Stark’s oversized dog. I replayed and replayed the scene until the screen dissolved in greenish pixels. Take that, you little pansy.

“Such big teeth you have, grandmother!”

on wage hikes and ‘math wizardry’

Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte was of course only doing her job when she once boldly dared lawmakers to pass a bill that would effectively scrap the 12-percent value-added tax on oil products. When informed that such a measure has already been filed by Bayan Muna party-list representative Teodoro Casiño in 2010, she promptly apologized the following day. “Good for you, Congressman Casiño,” she says in an interview over the radio.

One can only admire Valte’s humility and her devotion to her job description as the palace’s mouthpiece. Indeed, in her own words, Malacañang “cannot speak for Congress.” In other words, if the VAT is such an annoyance, legislators have the duty to junk it and save everyone else’s time. Why should President Aquino himself meddle with laws when there are so many other things that require his attention?

Just yesterday, in a press conference, as Valte employed basic math operations to explain why the Palace does not support the P125 wage hike proposed by Congress, we once again witnessed the lady’s astonishing capacity to effectively deliver a familiar message from the President: “My hands are tied. I cannot do anything about it.”

The P125 increase is simply not “practicable” and that employers may not be able to afford it, Valte said. According to Malacañang’s computations, the proposed wage hike would translate to a P42,250 annual increase  in salaries. Multiplied by 38 million workers in the country, the hike would result to about P1.26 trillion  in additional cost for businesses—quite a hefty chunk of the country’s economy valued currently at P8.5 to P9 trillion.

“Instead of being able to help the majority, some people may lose their jobs if the legislated wage increase will be this high,” she said, almost threateningly.

It would be easy to buy this explanation—if one ignores a few errors.

In his column at the Manila Times, Dr. Giovanni Tapang of Agham pointed out that only 54.8 percent of the country’s labor force of 38 million are wage and salary workers. Out of this percentile, 8.2 percent are government workers, 4.6 percent are private household workers, and 41.6 percent (or only 15.56 million) are workers hired by private establishments.

This means that the P125 wage hike, which shall be limited to those who work in private firms, translates, not to P1.26 trillion, but to only around P0.657 trillion.

This slight mistake is enough to make one suspicious, but doesn’t the fact remain that  businesses are hardly making any profit to afford such an increase in wages? Independent thinktank IBON says Philippine employers can handle it—but only if they would agree to a cut in their profits.

In 2009, all private firms in the country had a combined profit of P1.63 billion and 3.94 million employees, according to the 2009 Annual Survey of Philippine Business and Industry of the National Statistics Office. Using these figures, IBON estimates that the total cost of the proposed wage hike will only be P194.9 billion, which translates in turn to only a 12 percent cut in profits.

Beyond these oversights, though, one might forgive Valte for neglecting to do her homework more thoroughly. It must be a very taxing job, speaking for a president perceived by many as… laidback. Look at Elena Bautista-Horn who works for a former president who is currently under arrest and witness some really unfortunate things she has to say to the public.

If anything, the consistency of Malacañang’s press releases amid brewing protests against his economic policies proves something: Aquino might be cautious about bothering businessmen and their take-home money, but he certainly does not get too worked-up about what his real “bosses” want. Neither does he fear the brewing protests of angry people on the streets.

Such coolness under pressure must be admirable in a leader. ▣

best consumer picks this month

Daily we are flooded with products designed to make our lives easier, art and literature that would raise our intelligence quotient, and novel ideas on how the world can be a better place.

Which one would be worth our time and money the most? Every month, I feature three things that might just push the boundaries of human existence.

1. The Royal Wedding: The Official Westminster Abbey Souvenir. Was there ever a more romantic event this century? Witness how history unfolded in the comfort of your home by getting a copy of this 40-page volume on the beautiful wedding of a handsome, balding prince and a former British Airways flight attendant with a hotter sister. Tag price: P495.

2. Pacman: Kwento ng Pag-asa Tiyaga, at Determinasyon, by Manny Pacquiao. If you thoroughly enjoyed the original English version, you would definitely want to read this translation as well. Forget about hundreds of other biographies on the world’s best pound-for-pound boxer. This one is in Filipino. And since Manny wrote it himself, it promises anecdotes about celebrity mom and socialite Dionisia Pacquiao. Plus, it’s only P295.

3. Miles to Go, by Miley Cyrus, co-written by Hilary Liftin. Critics say this is yet another strong testament to the fact that not all young girls in Hollywood are dumb. Though it is unclear how much Liftin is involved in the creative process, this autobiography breeds the suspicion that Hannah Montana might just have a promising career in writing. Tag Price: P469.

BEST PICK: Miles to Go, by Miley Cyrus, co-written by Hilary Liftin.

You see, Miley was born and raised in a farm in Tennessee. Now she is a famous actress, musician, and fashion designer, who earns about $25 million dollars a year. This lends hope to all the farm girls around the world by showing them how stardom is one sure ticket to a better and happier life.

* Quoted Prices are from National Bookstore

lit picks: fun reads for under the sun

There are many ways to enjoy a trip to the beach. The most thrilling The most exciting The most obvious of which is to give in to the consensus that it is perfectly fine to (1) be half-naked in broad daylight and (2) bathe communally in saltwater. Among other things, of course.

Barring that, there is always … there is always the comfort of a good book, read under the solitary shade, far from the madding crowd. In which case I recommend these lightweight tomes:

1. Kiss Kiss, Roald Dahl

In these stories, desires are thwarted, revenge is exacted, and the deceitful are punished severely. If you thoroughly delight in stories of epic failures, read this. My personal favourites are Parson’s Pleasure and Mrs Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat.

2. Shakespeare Wrote for Money, Nick Hornby

I almost decided to recommend How To Be Good, but this one is a slim volume of just 131 pages and can be wolfed down in an hour. A collection of Hornby’s essays in his column for the British magazine Believer, this book is another proof that it is impossible to read too much. As Hornby himself notes, “Once you pop, you cannot stop” “Reading begets reading.”

3. Cyrano de Bergerac, Edmond Rostand

For those who are so inclined, I recommend this classic play involving this witty guy with a monstrous nose, a cute but dumb soldier, and a very beautiful girl. Unfortunately this was written in 1897.

4. Going Rouge–The Sarah Palin Rogue Colouring and Activity Book, Julie Sigwart and Michael Stinson

Thanks largely to Tina Fey, Sarah Palin is now a legend. This very same legend can now be handed down to kids as our legacy–in the form of this riot of a parody book, which claims to feature puzzles, word games, and mazes like, “Help Sarah find her way to the White House.”

This book is published right after Sarah Palin’s own memoir, Going Rogue: An American Life. Yep, Palin can write just fine. And she can see Russia from her house.

5. When You Are Engulfed in Flames, David Sedaris

Sedaris’s essays often make me ask myself how he never runs out of bizarre experiences that he could so easily polish into endlessly funny anecdotes.

In this latest collection of his essays, he starts by recounting this story about a lozenge which fell from his mouth into the lap of his fellow passenger on a plane, and he ends by telling about how he quit smoking… in Tokyo, Japan.

There is however a mental note to be made if one is to ever bring a book to the beach: also bring a book cover. Speaking by experience, it is always a danger to read in public. People are bound to notice the title on the naked cover and one of them is bound to ask you a question about the book–or worse, offer his own unsolicited review. We do not want that to happen. Or do we?

*photo is from the acclaimed Julian Schnabel film “The Diving Bell and The Butterfly” (Le scaphandre et le papillon)

last post (or rip "below the dotted line")

Four years of blogging is a long time: long enough to have realised that I shall always, always write no matter what. My blogs have been my own Rivendell, my own Numenor away from Middle-Earth, my Lothlorien right across Dol-Guldur. But like these fictional havens, the blogosphere has ceased being a safe place.

And when you don’t feel safe anymore, you scat. Which is exactly what I just decided to do. Good bye, folks.

And by the way, Happy April Fools’!

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