Culture

Game of Thrones: The Iron Bank of Braavos Will Have Its Due

By on 5.5.14 | 4:38PM

“We all live in its shadow and almost none of us know it,” declared Tywin Lannister. He was speaking about the Iron Bank of Braavos, the largest independent bank in George R.R. Martin’s fictional world, and maybe the most powerful behind-the-scenes player in Game of Thrones. “You can’t run from them, you can’t cheat them, you can’t sway them with excuses.” The Iron Bank will have its due, and it has a mercenary force of debt collectors to hold clients accountable. The bank seems a fitting nemesis given the new irony of the Lannister house slogan: “A Lannister always pays his debts.”

In these days of post-war, anemic financial recovery, power attracts death as honey attracts flies. First there was Robert Baratheon, then Ned Stark, Robb Stark, and now Joffrey Lannister. Thus Lord Baelish’s subtle power grabbing seems prudent. He thinks he has the strategic pawn to rule in the North—Sansa Stark—whom he believes is the last remaining Stark and thus the natural heir to the Northern throne.

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Does Donating Sperm Make You a Father?

By on 5.5.14 | 3:24PM

There is a fascinating story developing in the New York Times that centers on actor Jason Patric. Patric, who gained fame for various roles he played in the 90s and early 00s, agreed to become a sperm donor for an on-again, off-again girlfriend in 2009. Somewhat predictably, the relationship and arrangement went south, and now the mother is denying Patric's paternity claims:

For the last two years, Jason Patric and Danielle Schreiber have been waging what has become one of the highest-profile custody fights in the country — one that scrambles a gender stereotype, raises the question of who should be considered a legal parent and challenges state laws that try to bring order to the Wild West of nonanonymous sperm donations...

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The Beer Spectator: Get Your Chai Out of My Beer

By on 5.3.14 | 11:58AM

What’s in my beer? Pretzel and raspberry? Isn’t chai a type of tea? Why does my beer taste like somebody accidentally dropped a Mound in it? 

These are just a few of the freakish brews in the “extreme beer” category.

Brewers can throw whatever they want into beer: herbs, spices, tree bark, chocolate, coffee. This is one of their great blessings: Beer is only restrained by our imagination.

But it's also a curse, as unrestrained innovation undermines the delectable elements of the permanent things. Those permanent things are water, barley, and hops. 

In reaching for extreme heights, brewers walk too close to the fermenting barrel’s edge. Eventually, they will drown in their pretzel water.

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Among the Intellectualoids

Plato’s Stepchildren

By 5.1.14

Here’s a puzzle: Rebecca Newberg Goldstein has released a very solid and well-received book, Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away. Half-dialogue, half-explanatory essay, practically every page has a citation that goes to one Platonic dialogue or another. And yet, the further I read, the more I missed Plato. Sure, there was a Plato on the page. But I didn’t recognize him—or the Greeks, for that matter, who seem reduced to a set of ideological stereotypes.

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Game of Thrones: All Men Must Die On-Screen

By on 4.30.14 | 11:02AM

The latest episode began with the death of slave masters and ended with the death of a baby. If Game of Thrones had a slogan aside from “Winter is coming,” it would be “Valar Morghulis: All men must die,” with the implied addendum, “and you must watch them die.”

The White Walkers are embodiments of an oncoming winter and death. Picture an army with Lord Voldemort’s face mixed with an unmasked Darth Vader postmortem. I thought they were going to eat the sacrificial baby dingo-style, but instead they converted it to one of their own via life-force-sucking communal voodoo action on a pedestal amidst an icy Stonehenge.

The books do not reveal what happens to Craster’s male babies left out as sacrifices in the middle of the night, making the end scene of episode four both frightening and enlightening. Yet it also points to a deeper trend of overdramatization and lazy showmanship in the Game of Thrones series.

“TV show viewers demand answers,” my friend explained. That's true. They have to know who killed Joffrey and what happened to Craster’s babies. It’s a different medium than the novel with different demands and expectations.

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Flick Story

Whither Dom Hemingway?

By 4.30.14

Richard Shepard's Dom Hemingway, starring Jude Law as an aging felon and Richard E. Grant (yes) as his best friend, is a bizarre genre hybrid of gangster entertainment and family tearjerker. At first we seem to be solidly in lads'-night-out funland: splashy neon colors, head-butting and gut-punching, terrific music, wenching and boozing and unauthorized smoking. There are rivers of obscenity and wordy, actory speeches. (All of these are given to Law's titular Dom, which is a shame, since if anyone can speechify it's Richard E. Grant. The man is to monologues what piranhas are to luckless Amazonian fishermen.) The movie opens with an extended ode to Dom's, let's say, virility, and you think you know the kind of movie it's going to be.

But even in that opening scene, Law's face is so distorted and his voice so desperate that he seems genuinely deranged. The movie whipsaws the audience's sympathies: Dom is our POV character, but he's violently unstable and his idea of fun rapidly stops being yours.

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NBA To Free Speech: Drop Dead

By on 4.29.14 | 3:35PM

I just wanted to dash off some very quick, very angry thoughts about the lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. As Aaron covered yesterday, while Sterling's comments were reprehensible, he has a checkered record when it comes to race relations. But in the final calculation, it really doesn't matter whether the guy is a racist or not. What is important are the troubling implications for free speech and civil society.

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The Nation's Pulse

Hurricane Carter’s Comeback

By From the February 1986 issue

No fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any courtroom of the United States, than according to the rules of common law.
—The Bill of Rights, Amendment VII

On June 17, 1966, at two in the morning, someone burst into the Lafayette Grill, in Paterson, New Jersey, and shot four people, killing two men, mortally wounding a woman, and critically wounding another man.

A woman named Pat Valentine, living directly upstairs, heard the shots and ran to the window. She saw two black men climb into a distinctive late-model white car with "butterfly" taillights and New York license plates. Another witness down the street saw the same thing and called police.

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The Beer Spectator: Spring Seasonals From the Top Ten Craft Brewers

By on 4.25.14 | 3:27PM

The Boston Beer Company, owner of Sam Adams, tops the list of the largest craft brewers in the United States.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company sits solidly in second place. It is currently expanding its operations to North Carolina.

Many argue about the validity of the largest brands being truly “craft”—the definition means “small, traditional, and independent.” Obviously, most arguments arise over the size prerequisite. Small means producing less than six million barrels a year.

I won't argue over such trivialities; I care more about the quality and essence of the beers.

To finish my series on spring seasonals, I purchased from three craft brewers in the top ten: Sierra Nevada, New Belgium Brewing Company, and Bell’s Brewery.

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Update on Yesterday’s Baby Incineration Story

By on 4.25.14 | 10:57AM

Yesterday we reported on the British Columbia Health Ministry's admission that it was sending the remains of aborted babies to a waste-to-power facility in Oregon. Disgusted by this practice, the Marion County Board of Commissioners has put a halt to all burning of medical waste while the situation is investigated:

“We are outraged and disgusted that this material could be included in medical waste received at the facility,” said Commissioner Janet Carlson. “We did not know this practice was occurring until today. We are taking immediate action and initiating discussions with Covanta Marion to make certain that this type of medical waste is not accepted in the future.”

Marion County Chair Sam Brentano says if that is the case it cannot be tolerated. He immediately stopped the burning of all medical waste while the county looks into the report. An emergency commission meeting was scheduled for Thursday morning.

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