Hippoi Athanatoi

Back on Barka

Time to give this another go, without putting any demands on myself to do it every week. But I do miss doing my lesson recaps and for a good while, at least, they did seem to help me improve as well.

Yesterday was the first lesson of the new semester for me (I missed the first week) and I ended up on the lovely Barka. I had a feeling the cold and the snow would make her frisky and that turned out to be the correct assumption. Fortunately, frisky for her goes more up than forward (not up as in on her hind legs or anything, but she gets rather high-stepping and bouncy) so I feel quite confident in handling her anyway. I was a bit bothered by how much she was tossing her head around, however. It was more than when I last rode her, and though the instructor said its common when she’s frisky, I did ask if perhaps her mouth should be looked at since she had been reluctant to take the bit when I bridled her. That was definitely new behaviour, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s got some tooth issue. That said, the head shaking did stop once I got her to think about working and she spent some of that excess energy on more fruitful endeavours.

Other than that, she’s a very positive horse. She’s definitely got her own opinions—hello, mare—but she can certainly be persuaded to give work a good try. The exercises we worked on also suited her quite well; we focused on shortening and lengthening while keeping a steady rhythm and it gave her a lot to think about. The end result was an absolutely divine trot. The walk is still tricky to get good extension in and we only did a little cantering so I didn’t get very far with that. Her right canter is not great to start with and my transitions to canter remain a bit of a weakness (I move too much, especially if the horse goes against the aids like she did), so I am hoping for a bit more time next lesson to work on that. Once you actually get her cantering forward properly, she has a nice, round canter.

I am really hoping to get the opportunity for some private lessons on her during this semester; so far we seem to suit each other quite well.

The End is Here

A Memory of Light, the last Wheel of Time book, is out. It feels really, really strange, and—unfortunately—not in a good way. There’s nothing wrong with endings being bitter sweet, but in this case, I feel a lack of closure.

Before A Song of Ice and Fire took over mine and Elio’s life, the Wheel of Time had a huge place in it. In fact, we would not have met without it. I didn’t actually pick up the series right away when the first book came out in 1990, but I believe I bought the paperback for myself for Christmas 1992 (I know it coincided with the publication of the first book in Swedish, since I actually ended up getting that as a present at the same time) and I was completely hooked right away. When I got on the Internet in 1995, it did not take long for me to find my way to a WoT MUSH called Tales of Ta’veren. From that MUSH, I discovered Elendor, a Tolkien MUSH, and there I met Elio. I got him to start reading WoT in order to join me on Tales. For a number of years, we poured over every word written by RJ, trying to figure out what various prophecies meant, piecing together esoteric details of the One Power and discussing just who was the best Blademaster around. I even wrote a letter with questions to RJ and received a response.

Yes, our interest did soften a bit as the story meandered, but my love for the world stayed strong. In part because we continued to roleplay in it, but the premise of the Wheel of Time is also completely irresistible to me. Myths, legends, time being circular and everything eventually coming back, it was all rather tailor-made for my interests and it was such a thrill every time I caught a reference or had one pointed out to me. That, more than anything else, is at the core of my love for the series. But I do have a weakness for structured magic systems as well and the One Power fascinated me.

Then RJ died. I remember finding out late one night or early one morning and waking up Elio to tell him. It felt very sad and very strange, but I don’t think the real impact actually hit me until the first collaboration with Sanderson came out. I just couldn’t read it. I didn’t know what came from RJ and what came from Sanderson and I simply could not stand constantly feeling “is this the real version?”. So, I have not read any of the books since RJ died. I’ve even had a hard time reading spoilers, because it just constantly brings back what’s been lost.

I do think I will want to read the epilogue of A Memory of Light, since RJ always said he’d had that one written or at least planned out for years. But the rest? I don’t know. Maybe I will try, since RJ did want to see the series completed. But still, I would have preferred to just have his notes published, similar to how Tolkien’s unfinished materials were treated. No matter how big a fan Sanderson is and no matter how much he may have tried to write what RJ would have wanted, he isn’t RJ. He’s not the Creator and his version of the story will always be a certain amount of guess work.

I don’t want his guesses, I just want the “truth”, and today I am feeling really sad that reality cruelly got in the way of the story and kept RJ from finishing his work the way he intended to. There’s closure to the story, as I do imagine it ended much like RJ intended it to end, but on a purely personal level there’s no real closure to my experience of reading the books. Even so, I am very grateful that I did, because my life would look completely different today if it wasn’t for the Wheel of Time.

Something else that struck me when thinking about this was that since 1992, I’ve been engrossed in epic fantasy. Now the Wheel of Time is over and eventually A Song of Ice and Fire will be over. I am not sure there will be anything to take their place; given the complications that both RJ and GRRM have run into, I am not sure epic of this particular scale will be attempted by anyone else. And if it is, I might not be as lucky in it being so very much to my tastes. There’s more to life than reading fantasy, of course, but it will leave a big hole behind.

The Secret World

In December my 10+ years old computer was put out to pasture after a very long and impressive run. Elio and I had been planning new computers for ourselves for a year or two, but just not found the right time (or the right build) before then. Now I am finally using a system that doesn’t require me to switch to my laptop on the side to be able to run Second Life or do any graphics work. In fact, it can do quite a bit more as well, since Elio did want a setup that could be used for gaming. For my own part, I wasn’t expecting any beyond Second Life, seeing as the last games I played were The Longest Journey and Dreamfall. Good-old adventure games have always been my only real interest and those are rather far and few between these days. MMOs have never really been on my radar at all. Except, of course, I had read a few things about The Secret World given the connection to TLJ and Dreamfall. And then it just happened to go buy-to-play very shortly after our new computers had arrived…

Cut to a few weeks later and both Elio and I are running around with Rank 10 Templars, slaughtering assorted creatures all over the world and making steady progress with the very exciting main storyline.

Now, it wasn’t entirely smooth sailing to start with. As I noted, I’ve never played an MMO. I’ve barely played any vaguely action-oriented games at all, actually. In fact, I can only think of one, good old Betrayal at Krondor. Given this, the combat element of The Secret World turned out to be a pretty considerable obstacle at first. In fact, it still isn’t easy for me, as I don’t do well under pressure and I’ve found myself pretty sucky at firing at things and moving at the same time. However, playing as a pair has definitely made all the difference, and for the solo instances, I can always call in actual physical help from Elio. I am actually finding most of the combat pretty fun now, whereas at first I saw it as something I had to get through to get to the story. And the story does remain the highlight for me, the thing that keeps my interest firmly hooked and makes me a lot less likely to hit the “what’s the point of all the levelling up?” stage that I hit after about a month of playing MUDs back in 1995. I can’t compare with other MMOs or RPGs since I haven’t played any, but looking at something like TLJ and Dreamfall I think the story is every bit as good. Its epic, its engaging and its smart. If you know myths and legends, you will uncover additional layers to the story, and that sort of intertextual puzzle is always extremely rewarding for me. I was so thrilled when I figured out who the main antagonist during the first story mission actually is that it made me giddy for several days just thinking about it. I was even more thrilled when, during the final confrontation with said antagonist, the game stayed smart and didn’t spell it out for you.

In terms of other aspects of the game, I have no basis for comparison at all, but I am finding the skill and ability system quite interesting. The flexibility can be daunting at first, but then it feels like a lot of fun and not as artificial as having pre-set classes. The combat, fortunately, isn’t too complex, but the variety of weapons and abilities still seems to offer room for quite a few different play styles. For my own part, I like the “hang at the back and lob magic at the enemy from a safe-ish distance” style; it gives more room to deal with my adrenaline. Graphically, I think the world looks pretty awesome, especially Egypt and Transylvania; you get to kill monsters in some stunning vistas there. Coming from Second Life, I do wish I could customize my avatar a lot more—I wouldn’t mind a bit more meat on my virtual bones and hair that brushes the shoulders is NOT long hair on a woman or a man—but obviously some aspects of SLs flexibility are completely impossible in an MMO in order to keep it loading fast enough. Still, I do miss being able to make my avatar look exactly like I want her to. As a result,  I feel I relate less to my avatar than I do to my SL avatar or my purely text-based MUSH characters.

The naming system also stumped me a bit; I love being able to choose both a first name and a last name for your avatar, but then you also have to pick a unique nickname and that one doesn’t allow spaces. I would much rather have seen avatars identified by their first name and last name—you have so many more combinations available that don’t require weird spellings or numbers then—with the option of also adding a unique nickname. I knew right away what first name and last name to use, but I am not a nickname person, so that one had me scrambling. In the end, I just made my avatar “Saga Lind” with the nickname of “SagaLind” and I am not really happy about it. I may actually consider paying to change the nickname if I can come up with something better, though unfortunately you’re stuck with your first name and last name (even though they don’t seem to be used internally to reference your avatar), so I won’t be able to make a full switch if I find another combination of names that I like better with a certain nickname. That’s a bit of nit-picking, but I know I am not the only one who is picky about names.

On the whole, though, we’re having a lot of fun. A bit too much, in fact, but that comes with the territory. These things are made to be addictive.

(As a final aside, this post might have been better suited to Virtually. However, MU*sings was never intended for anything but MUSHing and Otherworldly is all about Second Life. I may have to consider expanding the scope of Otherworldly or, more likely, adding another blog if indeed this particular addiction turns out to be long-term.)

MUSHing and Fanfiction

There have been questions raised now and then how it is that we can run a roleplaying game set in Westeros when we strongly condemn fanfiction set in Westeros. The latest iteration of this question coming up made me decide to write something more in-depth about the matter. It may have something to do with procrastination from other work, but hey, that’s always a good reason, right?

First of all, let us establish what we mean by roleplaying in this case. We are talking specifically about on-line, text-based roleplaying in real-time using a MUSH or MUX server and we are talking about the logs of such roleplay sessions. We are not talking about table-top roleplaying or forum roleplaying.

Vulture.com Profile

A touch immodest, perhaps, but when you get profiled by Vulture for your fandom involvement, I suppose a post is in order. Overall, it is pretty accurate too, which one shouldn’t take for granted when being interviewed and quoted.

Picture, btw, taken with our lovely new Canon T4i. It is kind of addictive to have a good camera.

Mynta the Fjordhorse

So far, the new semester has gone well. It was off to a really good start on lovely Barka (alas, she’s now resting, having strained herself coming off the summer grazing with a bit much extra weight), and then I had some great dressage lesson on Nelson and Blacky and a very good round of jumping on Nelson. He’s really become very co-operative and fun to ride.

Which brings me to my last lesson, on Mynta the Fjordhorse. She is very much a Fjordhorse and a mare, which means she isn’t terribly interested in co-operating with anyone. In particular, she tends to try and avoid any and all work by just steaming on like a little locomotive. With a short, square neck, she ends up putting a lot of strain on my arms if I end up in a tug-of-war with her. And, of course, a tug-of-war with a horse is a pretty pointless activity.

When I’ve ridden her in the past, for various instructors, I’ve had different suggestions. Some want her packaged together, to get her to accept that she can’t just go at her own speed. Some have suggested lots of circling and over-bending to try and get through to her incredibly stiff right side and her somewhat less stiff left side.

None of this has really worked well for me so far. She clearly gets stressed if you ask too much, which isn’t strange given that physically speaking, she must choke herself a bit if she brings her head in. So, trying to pack her together isn’t going to work, except possibly at a walk, where she does wait and listen a bit more.

But there’s also the just plain stubborn side of her to consider. She is a Fjordhorse and she is a mare. That’s a combination that leads to a pretty darn independent horse. So far, I am not getting through to her with either polite requests or firm demands, so the lessons do end up being rather more confrontational than I like. I don’t mind a stubborn pony that cleverly tries to get out of work in all sorts of ways, that’s just stimulating, but “run-run-run” gets tedious.

A Big Deal

I took most of the summer off from even glancing at the various blogs on the site, but since the new semester at the riding school started this week it might be time to get back to some posting. Especially since this week’s lesson was a big deal, to follow up on the big deal that ended last semester.

You see, on the whole last semester was a bit of a wash. We had a new instructor lined up and I do like her, but she was absent for quite a few lessons due to illness (she has young children) and we ended up with substitutes of varying quality. As a result, there really wasn’t much cohesive training or any particular progress. In fact, I was quite close to deciding that I would quit and look at some other stable (as two of my friends ultimately ended up doing).

But then we came to the last lesson before the summer break. We were going to jump in the paddock and I was a bit nervous about riding Digression; he jumps fine indoors but gets just a bit frisky and he’s large enough (aka not a pony or close to it) that it makes me a little jittery. Then one of the other riders didn’t show up and Barka, one of the new horses, ended up without a rider.

Barka is a Polish import, eight years old, and I had been eyeing her since she arrived since she’s probably just an inch or two from being a pony and with that sort of nice, square build that I like. We think there’s some Spanish blood in her, she’s got a nice back-end, a curly mane and a pretty high-stepping action.

So, despite never having ridden her, I asked if I could jump her in the paddock instead of Digression. I got the okay and I was determined to make this work.

It did work. Superbly, in fact. She was a little fidgety, but not tense. I could feel I was sitting into her rather than on top of her. She also turned out to be incredibly sensitive and a very honest jumper; we wobbled a bit coming into some jumps and she went over them anyway. She clearly hasn’t jumped much before since the first time she jumped at the stables, she jumped about twice as high as she had to. It wasn’t as extreme this time, but she’s clearly still learning. I was in heaven, pretty much.

Fast forward to this Tuesday, when I showed up for the first lesson this semester. I had been assigned Mynta, the very stubborn Fjordhorse, but once again Barka ended up without a rider. I asked again, could I change? Yes, I could. Then, the other news; we were going to be riding on a nearby field. Not out on a trek, but still, we’d have to trek along the road to get there. My nerves set in again, but I didn’t want to miss the chance to ride Barka again.

So, I decided to give it a go. She was very calm riding to the field, but once there she suddenly found a lot of energy and people with cameras and people running past on the road became reasons to jump this way and that.

But I didn’t give up. In fact, I had a thoroughly enjoyable lesson, not a sick-to-the-stomach-with-nerves lesson. Some of it was the fact that the grass was quite tall and seemed soft—I figured a fall wouldn’t be that bad—but I also felt that she really listened to me. Yes, she’d jump away from this and yes, she’d canter instead of trot, but she has a wonderful mouth and she really listens when you ask her to come back. I felt as if I could handle her.

I don’t think I want to trek out on her just yet, but other than that, I feel absolutely great about how much I’ve dared to do on her already. Sadly, she’s very unlike Murphy in one way; she’s a very popular horse at the stables. I still miss my grumpy and misunderstood Irish boy very much, but even if Barka doesn’t need any extra help to be happy at the stables, she’s quite irresistible.

Shifting Gears

From GRRM’s latest blog post:

“THE WORLD OF ICE AND FIRE. The concordance. Elio and Linda are my partners on this one, a compendium of the history and legends of the world of Westeros. A coffee table book, lots of gorgeous art from such talents as Ted Nasmith, Justin Sweet, and others. Making good progress on this one of late, lots of great historical stuff that I think my readers will enjoy. Never before revealed details of Aegon’s Conquest, the War With the Faith, The Dance of the Dragons, the Paramours of Aegon the Unworthy, etc.”

That’s one of the things that have been keeping us crazy busy from time to time over the last few years. Somehow it seems like every new draft and every new revision has ended up coming right in the middle of other things. I think it will feel a little odd once it is done, because it has been a bit of a constant companion for quite some time now. Actually, I know it will feel odd; I tend to get this weird feeling of being slightly lost whenever I finish some large project. Instead of being able to enjoy my new freedom to do whatever I want to do, I have a habit of sitting around thinking “now what” for much longer than I should. I guess it is just how the rest/recovery period works for me but it is always quite frustrating.

I am, in fact, having one of those periods right now. The intense workload of the show coverage ended for Elio once the last episode aired, but then I had a few more episodes to translate so that kept me going. But now I’ve delivered the last one so I am definitely at the slightly lost stage. I do have plenty of projects I could tackle, but so far I haven’t been able to dig into any one of them. We do plan to do a lot of work on the website during July when we’re likely going to be off at our summer house for some three weeks, but I do need to use the roughly two weeks until we leave for something productive as well.

So, while I am in the middle of such indecision, it is nice to see a reminder of something that is progressing nicely. The pieces of new material from GRRM that we have seen so far have been amazing, so of course we’re eagerly awaiting more of that. Like GRRM said, I do think readers will enjoy this kind of material quite a bit. Certainly, we’ve seen a lot of reactions to the videos we’ve done discussing various background details, and that isn’t even new material like it will be in the book.

Game of Thrones, an Adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire? Not Any More.

Of all the atrocious decisions taken in the adaptation of the second season—having Joffrey and not Cersei be the one to order the killing of the bastards, having Robb fall for a spunky and socially progressive chick from Volantis, cutting out virtually all of the poignant material between Jon and Qhorin, leaving out virtually all the dark character development from Arya’s arc, to name but a few—the utter travesty that is the show’s version of the House of the Undying takes the cake. In fact, it takes the whole dessert table.

I/we will be writing a longer piece on how poorly handled both Dany and Dany’s whole storyline have been in the second season, contrasting it with the very clear purpose of Qarth in the books, so right now I am just concentrating on the House of the Undying.

Instead of a single one of the visions that Dany actually sees, we get a vision of Khal Drogo. Talk about a cheap-ass publicity stunt to squeeze Jason Momoa back in. Now, it is true that perhaps some of the visions she sees would be too spoilery on TV as opposed to when read, but why not just compensate for that by toning down what is shown? Or going entirely to Dany hearing but not seeing things? I expect that there would be cuts and changes, in particular I expected some of the visuals to disappear. I did not expect them to just throw everything out.

We have, as of yet, not had a single mention of either the Song of Ice and Fire or the Prince that was Promised in the series. What more, not only did they cut out the visions, they cut the whole prophecy. So far, all we have gotten for Dany is an abbreviated version of Mirri Maz Duur’s prophecy.

So, they continue to cut out the past from the story and in addition to that they also cut out most of the prophecies. Both these are very significant elements of the story. Whatever the producers and writers might think, A Song of Ice and Fire isn’t just about battles and boobs.

The past still matters, it enriches and makes the present more poignant. We’ll likely never see Rhaegar now, not to mention Elia. What viewers will care about them? What viewers will care about Rhaegar and Lyanna when they ultimately have to become more important to the story? What viewers will care particularly about the Martells without any establishing of Elia?

The prophecies…well, who can deny their importance? As we see in A Dance with Dragons, even the most obscure ones do come true, just not in ways one might have expected. Magic isn’t just dragons and Others.

A Song of Ice and Fire is a multi-layered and multi-faceted story. That also means that people do read it for different reasons. Some may take in all aspects of the story with near equal enjoyment, others may favour some aspects and dislike others. The mysteries of the past and the prophecies fuel a large amount of the discussion on the forums. They are clearly important aspects for many, many fans. And the show has just ripped them out of the story almost wholesale.

Furious doesn’t come close to describing what I am today. Nor does disappointed.

I had said before the season started that for this season, the only thing I really hoped for was that they would get the House of the Undying right. If not, I would find it hard to continue watching. Since they didn’t even try to get it right, they just threw it in the trash, I have absolutely no interest in watching any more. Unfortunately, we have a lot tied up in the coverage of the show, so I’ll probably have to keep watching to some degree anyway. But I no longer look forward to new episodes because the story has been gutted of what matters the most to me and because I do not expect any of the scenes I truly care about to make it in, at least not without being butchered beyond recognition.

As far as I am concerned, it is no longer an adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, it is an mainly an original story in the A Song of Ice and Fire setting. And it isn’t particularly good.

The Nail in the Coffin?

(I had a longer article on this planned and mostly written, but it fell by the wayside due to my increasing annoyance with season 2. But maybe I’ll have to resurrect it given this latest development.)

When the issue of sexposition came up during the first season, I largely defended the show’s usage of sex, except for Littlefinger’s speech while Ros and Aremca were moaning away. It felt as if it could be a fairly reasonable representation of the level of sexual content in the books, if not its precise nature.

With season two, it became more and more obvious that it just doesn’t match up. The only explicit sex is non-romantic sex and it focuses almost exclusively on naked women. In the books, the sex can be messy, awkward, gritty and in other ways explicit even between couples and not just between customers and whores. The books also do not shy away from male nudity, far from it.

On the show, romance seems to put a stop to anything more “dirty” going on; just look at Renly and Loras, for example. Or Shae and Tyrion.

And now we have the Empire Magazine interview with Neil Marshall where he says he was encouraged to go with full-frontal nudity by one of the executive producers. Who also added that he represented the “perv” part of the audience…

I guess that sort of puts the nail in the coffin?

Just one more reason to be deeply disappointed with D & D’s handling of the material.

Purist and Proud

It appears that during the airing of the second season of Game of Thrones, “purist” has become a dirty word. Obviously, since I consider myself to be a purist—and since I am proud to be one—I am not an unbiased observer, but I still find this quite baffling.

Let’s start with the word itself. I think we can probably agree that “purist” describes someone who prefers the adaptation of, for example, a book into a TV show to be as faithful as possible. Of course, each purist out there probably has a different definition of what “as faithful as possible” means. Some purists may feel that “as faithful as possible” comes with the caveat of “budget allowing”, whereas others may insist on “perfection or nothing at all”. Similarly, those using the term in a derogatory fashion probably have different standards for when they apply it. Some may reserve the label for those who are particularly insistent on the show matching the books completely whereas some may label anyone who complains at all about the show as a purist.

For my own part, I consider myself to be a purist within reason. I lamented the size of the tourney in the first season, but I accepted that there are budget constraints. I lamented the lack of purple eyes for the Targaryens, but I accepted that coloured contacts were not a good solution for various reasons. I could give many, many examples of similar changes, cuts, etc that I accept as a necessary part of a TV adaptation. On the other hand, when changes are made that make characters or the story as a whole less challenging and less unique, I am not particularly inclined to accept explanations such as “we wanted to show more of this actor” or “we felt this sequence needed more action”. Cutting and compressing the material that is already there is one thing, adding new things because the existing storylines aren’t deemed commercial enough is something else entirely.

No doubt, this sort of purism is what some people are complaining about. But on what grounds? I see arguments put forward that its ungrateful towards the people involved in the production, as if fans are somehow so indebted to those working on the show that criticism is unacceptable. For me, that is not a point of view I can at all sympathize with.  This show would not have been made at all if it wasn’t for the fans of the books. If the books had not been a success, it would never have gone into development at all. The producers have certainly recognized this in the past and thanked the fans of the books for their support.

They—or anyone else—have no right to expect that support to be unconditional. They have stated in the past that they are aiming for a faithful adaptation and that is the claim that secured the support of many fans. It is absolutely true that some fans may not care much at all about how faithful the show is to the story in the books—indeed, they may even welcome changes as “cool surprises”—but those who feel that way have no right to deny that there’s undoubtedly a significant portion of fans out there who gave their support to the show because the producers said it was going to be faithful.

Faithful is, of course, a subjective term. The producers may still feel that they are being faithful. Many fans may still feel that they are being faithful. But many other fans do feel that at this stage the show is no longer living up to the claim of being a faithful adaptation. Some of them have unreasonable demands, some entirely reasonable. Either way, for other fans to label them “purists” in a derogatory fashion is definitely quite unreasonable. Without the fans, and that certainly includes all the “purist” fans, there likely would never have been a show at all. I am not saying the team behind the show owes fans anything in particular, but this is an undeniable fact: the following of the books is what made the show a possibility. But I prefer to avoid talking in terms of debts. However, since I have seen some argue that the fans are indebted to the team behind the show for giving them the show to watch, I do think that if you insist on talking about debts you have to say that it goes both ways. The fans are certainly no more indebted to the producers or actors or anyone else working on the show than those involved in the show are indebted to those fans.

Now, I expect that even with my stated reservations about talking about debts in the first place, the above paragraph in particular might catch the attention of those trolls out there who have been attacking GRRM for years for the wait between the later books since they have tried to argue in terms of debts. My answer to this is that I am not in any way supporting or considering it reasonable for fans of the show, no matter how purist, to harass any of those involved in the show. If all that the trolls attacking GRRM had been doing was to rip the books apart, that would have been entirely within their rights. But instead they have made and continue to make personal attacks on GRRM. That is unacceptable and the same goes for anyone who is upset about the show. I expect to make a very, very unhappy post when the final episode has aired as I feel that some elements of the second season are a complete and utter travesty that has nothing to do with A Song of Ice and Fire, but I am not going to drag the personal lives or appearance of the producers and writers into the matter. Attack the product all you want, but leave the person or persons behind the product out of it.

There are certainly “purists” out there who have behaved badly by taking their grievances directly to those involved and doing so in a rude fashion, and that is unreasonable. But I am not going to apologise for—and neither should anyone else—simply posting negative opinions—even very harsh negative opinions, as long as they focus on the show itself—in public. We are disappointed, we have a right to be disappointed and we have a right to publicise that disappointment.

Horse Reports?

The weekly updates turned into monthly summaries and then the monthly summaries disappeared altogether. My interest in chronicling my lessons certainly took a turn for the worse when I lost Murphy, now over two years ago, and then it took a further hit as our instructor Ulrika moved to another stable at the end of last year. She has been such a huge help and such an inspiration these last nine years and it has been very hard to adjust to a new instructor. Or rather, to adjust to her absence. On top of that, life have been a bit rough in general these last two years, so when the riding hasn’t been as relaxing and inspiring as usual it has created a bit of a negative feedback loop.

I’ve kept brief notes each week, just to not lose track of any useful insights, but I am not sure about trying to post anything specific. I might just clean up my notes to post as a reference for myself and to see if it can help me regain my focus if I look at what I’ve been doing since the middle of last Autumn. More generally speaking, I’ve managed to keep riding roughly once a week, though this spring has been particularly tough with various problems preventing me from attending quite a few lessons. I haven’t been able to add on any private lessons either, though I am still hoping to try both a somewhat nearby stable which is all Andalusians and a very nearby stable which is mostly ponies. Fortunately, my regular stable does have quite a few horses I can ride at the moment (including Digression, an actual, full-sized horse that’s won my confidence), so as long as they stay healthy I should be alright there as well.

I do think I need to do something different, however, to get my motivation back. I still love riding and just being in the stable, but I miss having a horse there that I have a really strong connection with. I have been toying with the idea of buying a horse again, especially now that we have a good stable just a few minutes away, but I am hesitant. There’s a lot of things competing for my time right now. If I was better at not getting completely stressed out when things pile up, it might work…but I am not.

I think I’ll see if I can get some extra riding in during the summer or, failing that, I’ll aim for a fresh start this autumn and see about getting some private lessons in then. I’ll also be trying to sort out my back, because I don’t need any physical issues getting in the way.

It Wasn’t a Puppy After All

I think I’ve finally managed to come up with an adequate comparison to illustrate the depth of my disappointment with the second season of Game of Thrones.

It is a bit like waiting for years for a puppy. You’re eager, you’re nervous, you’re really, really expectant. But you also know it is likely that it won’t be exactly as you have imagined, so you try to keep your expectations realistic.

Then you get your puppy and it is all very exciting. After a while, you start noticing that it is not all fun and games with this puppy; it is a bit hard to train and sometimes you get quite upset because it just isn’t working out. But at the end of your first year with the puppy, you are still very happy because it is a lovely puppy, all considered.

Next year doesn’t start out so well, however. The puppy is being more difficult again. There are some glimmers of hope, though, and you struggle on for those.

Then, the bombshell hits. Your puppy isn’t actually a puppy. It is revealed to be a large rat dressed up in a puppy costume. You can keep trying to pretend it is a puppy, but that will never make it one. If you like rats, you might still be able to make do with the rat, but if you don’t…well, you’re out of luck.

That’s where I am at now with Game of Thrones. I don’t particularly dislike rats, but I am not really fond of them either. And I can’t stop thinking about the puppy.

A Brief Statement

In case anyone wonders why I may still continue watching and reviewing the show as well as providing commentary on Thronecast and in other venues…

If I look just to my own enjoyment and what my personal preference would have been, I would rather have had just one or two faithful seasons that failed to capture the wider audience and ultimately was cancelled pretty quickly than a less faithful show with more mass-appeal. I have no interest in watching mangled characters or new characters, I have no interest in being surprised.

However, since I consider myself both a fan of and a friend to George, I certainly do not begrudge him the success that the continuation of the TV-show means. Furthermore, it will bring more and more fans to the A Song of Ice and Fire fandom and that is a good thing. Based on these two factors, we continue to “support” the show in the sense of covering it our site and participating in other forms of publicity surrounding the show, such as Thronecast.

So, for as long as it is still possible to review the show as an adaptation, we will likely continue to do so. But we won’t be censoring ourselves when we feel that it is not doing justice to the books; I am quite convinced that our reviews—or any even harsher comments on the episodes I might offer outside of them—will not affect the popularity of the show in such a way that we risk causing its early cancellation.

As for Thronecast, I see no problem with us appearing on it as long as they are interested in having us and as long as the show has enough of a connection to the books that we can provide relevant commentary. We are there primarily as experts on A Song of Ice and Fire, often to provide background material that is not covered on the show. We’re not there to cheer on the show’s efforts.

Utterly Underwhelmed

After seeing the first two episodes of this season of Game of Thrones, I was almost feeling as if I didn’t really want to watch any more. The end of season one was so good, so true to the books, and now I didn’t see that closeness to the books. But we went on to episode three and four and suddenly I felt hopeful again. There would be enough scenes from the books that would get adapted really well.

Then we watched episode five. I was almost in tears afterwards.

Four ended in such an amazing way, with the birth of the shadow, and I knew we’d get a fabulous death scene for Renly. Not to mention that they would be able to actually show Loras’s reaction, described so evocatively by GRRM with just a few lines.

But no. The death scene was thoroughly underwhelming, with the horror elements of GRRM’s writing pretty much lost and the death completely sanitized. There should have been more fear, more blood, more terror. Brienne should have been even more distressed, with Catelyn the one taking charge to get her out of there.

And when we returned to the tent after their escape, we got a scene between Loras, Margaery and Littlefinger that in no way captured what happened in the books. How could they not show Loras going mad with grief, killing his own companions? How could they have him conclude that it wasn’t Brienne, just like that? How could they waste that scene in such a way when they had the opportunity to show on-screen what was only reported in the books as no PoV-characters were present?

I wanted that death to be harrowing, I wanted the reaction from Loras to be a grief-filled rage that you couldn’t help but to be drawn in by. Those scenes were supposed to make me cry and while it is true that they did make me teary-eyed, it was for all the wrong reasons.

There’s nothing wrong with the acting in these scenes, I do want to stress that, but I can’t say the same for the writing of the scenes. They’re passable, if looked at just as television and not an adaptation. But compared to the books they were immense letdowns. I just cannot believe that such a pivotal scene was done in such a weak fashion and that they changed the aftermath so much.

There were good scenes in the episode, even some very good scenes—Tywin with Arya was brilliant, Tyrion with Hallyne was very good despite some botched history—but the way it started and the way it ended was quite shattering.

I already knew Qarth would be significantly changed, but actually seeing it was still painful. It bears only a superficial resemblance to Dany’s actual storyline. Of course, that is more than can be said for Xaro. They’ve changed his appearance, they’ve changed his sexuality, they’ve changed his background. There is nothing left of the character in the books except his name, so why on earth wasn’t it changed? Jeyne’s name was changed to Talisa, after all.

So far, I am also completely underwhelmed by these invented characters, such as Talisa and “Xaro”. They are just not good creations, so what are they doing there? Yes, Talisa is replacing a character that was not very fleshed out, but still, why replace her with a trite cliché? “Xaro” is replacing an interesting character with a completely new, completely uninteresting one. Why?

Last season, we saw the episodes get stronger and stronger. This one took a dive beneath the two opening episodes of the season and a mile below episode three.