GOT- “The Ghost of Harrenhal”

Another Sunday, another episode of Game of Thrones. As usual, warnings of kinda-spoilers–kinda, because unless you’ve read the books the clues I give won’t make a lick of sense. This offering, titled “The Ghost of Harrenhal,” spent actually little time in Harrenhal, dizzily transporting us from The Wall to Essos and back. We start off with Stannis’s and Melisandre’s freakish shadow baby teaching Renly, and all newcomers to ASOIAF, the dire meaning of “valar morghulis.” This leads to a case of “guilt-on-first-sight” by several guards who implicate Brienne the Beauty in the crime, and pay for their sloppy detective work on the sharp end of her sword. Nice fight scene. Lady Stark urges the lovesick king’s guard (who was seriously barking up the wrong tree) to flee with her, as Renly’s forces sail away, disintegrate into mass confusion or start lining up for Stannis. Later Brienne takes an oath of vengeance and swears her fealty to Lady Stark, in a touching Thelma & Louise moment that we all know is going to end in a brutal hanging. (see? no sense. not a lick.)

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Anti-Fascist dieselpunk II- The Italo-Abyssinian War

After my last posting on Anti-Fascist dieselpunk and the Spanish Civil War, which owed much to Steampunk Emma Goldman’s original blog, I began thinking about the other great anti-fascist struggle also lost in the shadow of WWII. In 1935, before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Mussolini’s Fascist Italy invaded Ethiopia–one of the few African territories at the time not under European colonial control. The brutal attack on Ethiopia (then also called Abyssinia), which employed poison gas and flame throwers on civilian populations, was partly strategic, and also revenge–for an Italy still smarting from their humiliating defeat by Ethiopian forces at the Battle of Adwa in 1896. While the near impotent League of Nations remained shamefully complicit in their refusal to denounce Mussolini or allow arms to a beleaguered Ethiopia, outrage was heard from throughout the black diaspora. Ethiopia had long functioned as a symbolic political and cultural historical site in black popular culture, politics and thought; and the invasion by Italy was seen by many as an attack on the entire “black world.”

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GOT- “Garden of Bones”

Another Sunday, another episode of Game of Thrones. And what is there to say except, “let the blatant divergences from the book in order to get some cheap thrills and push through to some larger plot devices begin!” But as an old roommate who happened to be film student once reminded me, movies are not books, even if they’re based on them. There are always changes made–the question is, do such changes help improve on the original storyline or dramatically alter it into something unrecognizable? As usual I’ll try not to give away any real SPOILERS regarding future parts of the storyline for those who haven’t read the books, though I may allude to a few.

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The Old Negro Space Program

Putting the “Mock” in Mock-u-mentary, The Old Negro Space Program was a bit of snark created in 2003 by comedy writer Andy Bobrow, who has worked on television shows like Hype, Malcolm in the Middle and Community. Parodying documentaries from Ken Burns’ Civil War  and Baseball to Henry Hampton’s Eyes on the Prize, the short allegedly tells the little known tale of the Negro American Space Society of Astronauts (NASSA). Cleverly done, the video uses humor to satirize the now formulaic style of documentariy making–complete with a straight-faced white African-American studies professor, readings from diaries of “afro-nauts” and even the requisite “Negro spirituals,” that no documentary featuring black people before 1960 seems able to do without. At the same time, through laughter, TONSP addresses issues ranging from institutional racism to white co-option of black achievement. (Of course some deconstruction of the short’s very un-PC tone could delve into possible undercurrents of mocking real issues of black oppression and rendering them as entertainment, thus diluting their importance . . . but it’s Friday and this is funny, so I’m going to let it slide). Shown at the HBO Comedy Festival back in 2004, Bobrow calls TONSP one of the first video shorts to “go viral.” In 2006 it was even nominated for a Nebula, but was disqualified because of the date of its release. Years later, it remains a “classic” because everyone knows, “goddamned, space is one cold m*thaf*cka.”

Anti-Fascist dieselpunk and the Spanish Civil War

I was watching Guillermo del Toro’s excellent dark fantasy realism flick, El laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth) the other day, and it reminded of an excellent blog article I read on Emma Goldman and dieselpunk late last year. Huh, you ask? Yes, like a Third Stage Guild Navigator, my mind “moves in strange directions.” Stay with me, and I’ll connect the dots….

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