A Lannister is a soaring soul, as free as a mountain bird

Confused with the title?  Well don’t be!  Its a famous Gilbert and Sullivan song, from one of their better operettas “A Game of Thrones.”  The song goes like this
“A Lannister is a soaring soul,
As free as a mountain bird,
His energetic fist should be ready to insist
his dictatorial words.

His hair is gold,
and also it should curl,
His cheeks should flame
and his brow should furl,
His bosom should heave
and his heart should glow,
And his fist be ever ready
for a knock-down blow.”

See where I’m going with this?  Maybe not, so I guess I’ll just need to spell it out for you:

House Lannister is my favorite house in HBO’s  game of thrones (and in A Song of Ice and Fire, too)

Oh, and Warning!  If you haven’t seen every episode of Game of Thrones so far, up to 2 9, then beware of spoilers.

A Lannister always pays his debts… with bullets

Shocked?  Well you shouldn’t be.  If you have read some of my older posts, you would be aware that my favorite house in Harry Potter is Slytherin.  It is no wonder then that my favorite great house of Game of Thrones is the Slytherin of Westeros, the Lannisters.

Ah yes, the Lannisters.  The house everyone loves to hate.  I used to hate them too, back when I was reading through the first three books, but there eventually came a point where I really began to sympathize with the evil Lions, and eventually wished to join their ranks, despite a certain distaste for some of their leisure activities…

creepy cersei and jaime


To help you understand my decision, and inevitably bring you over to my side, thus swelling the ranks of the mighty Lannister host, I will first break down why it would suck to be a member of any of the other houses.

The Inferior Houses

At first glance, House Stark would seem to be the best house.  You would have awesome siblings (except for Sansa, that traitorous wench!), a super awesome murdered father who also happened to be Sean Bean, a family with a blood line that can be traced for thousands of years, all the way back to the first men, the largest land area in all of Westeros under your control, and demon wolves to do your bidding.  Plus, you get to worship the old Gods, who seem way cooler than the new ones.

I mean, who wouldn’t want to worship that?

It seems like the Starks have it made, but there’s a catch: if you are a Stark, then only horrible things will happen to you for the whole series.  It’s true, think about it.  Ned had to go take a horrible job that he didn’t want, then his leg got stabbed, then he got thrown and jail, then he had to tell a lie in front of thousands, breaking his code of honor, and then he was killed for it.  Sansa is just stupid and trapped in a castle full of scheming Lannisters, the worst of all fates, I’ve been told, unless of course you are a Lannister.  Bran had his legs paralyzed from pretty much day one, and they dont seem to be getting better.  He and Rickon got thrown out of their castle by a childhood friend and are forced to wander the wilds of the north with a mad woman and a retarded Giant.  Oh, and winter is coming.  Arya is pretty much a street urchin, though she is very good at it, and Jon joined to monk like brotherhood of the Nights watch, and is in the freezing north and kidnapped by crazy savages.  The only one who has anything going for him is Rob, but I have a feeling that his success just cant last.  Oh, and I almost forgot about Catlyn.  She literally ruins everything, and I think she knows it too.

I actually quite like house greyjoy.  They are essentially Vikings who worship Cthulhu.  Their emblem is an awesome Kraken, and they are evil jerks.  What’s not to like?  Oh wait, the place where they live:

How depressingly beautiful!

And worse still, the women that live there:

How depressingly depressing!

And the most worst still of all, she doesn’t even seem to know her own name!  She calls herself Yara, but I’m pretty sure her name is Asha.

I just get the feeling that when it comes to house Baratheon, no one cares.  They are just kind of usurpers to the Targaryen throne, and their emblem is a stupid stag.  None of them are exactly likeable, and they worship a fire god who can summon creepy demons, which they then use to murder each other.  Plus, it seems like ever since Robert defeated the Greyjoys, all they do is lose.

As a Targaryen, you have a 50/50 chance to be awesome or to be stupid and crazy.  A risky bet, I know, but what’s worse is you’ve been defeated by the Baratheons and scattered to the four winds.  Plus, you would either have a brother who is a moron and sucks, or a sister who is annoyingly stupid but has dragons.

House Arryn sucks, bad.  You’d have to put up with both Lysa and Robert, both of whom are creepy idiots who are disturbingly annoying.  Plus, you have to live in a castle up on a mountain.  Talk about a long trip to get groceries, unless of course you take the moon door…

As far as the HBO series is concerned, those are the only houses we have actually met.  Sure, we have seen Margery and Loras Tyrell, and we have heard talk (at least I think so) or the Martels in Dorne.  We’ve also kind of met the Tullys, but not really, so these are the houses up for consideration.

House Lannister is better than all of these, and there are several reasons why

  1. They have Lord Tywin:  Lord Tywin is possibly the most cunning of all the schemers in Westeros, or at least of all the schemers who are members of a major house.  He is also ruthless, and his banner men are terrified to betray him, especially after what he did to the Reynes of Casamere…
  2. They have a hilarious Dwarf:  Tyrion is awesome.  I would bet 10,000,000 dollars that he is almost everyone’s favorite character in the show, and if you were a Lannister, you would get to hang out with him all the time.
  3. They have infinity gold: They are famous for it, in fact.  Westeros runs on Lannister gold, so what do you think would happen if the gold supply suddenly dwindled?  That’s called economics, and the Lannisters have literal tons of the stuff.
  4. They currently hold the iron throne: It is a huge advantage to already have the thing that everyone is fighting for.
  5. They seem to have the Tyrells, too:  The tyrells produce the most food out of anyone in westeros, and I think they have the biggest army too, though as Lord Tywin says, armies don’t win wars, gold does.
  6. They are deliciously evil: This goes without saying.  The Lannisters revel in evil, even the good ones!  Sure, Tyrion is a good guy, but he also uses some rather unscrupulous means to achieve his ends.

So it’s house Lannister for me.  I can’t wait to see what the end of the season brings us.

Fus Roh Dah

I was walking home from working my dead end job on a warm spring evening when I happened upon an ancient and crumbling brick wall.  My first impression was that this wall must have been from ages past, when states warred with one another and men such as Jackson and Longstreet walked upon the Earth, but upon closer inspection I discovered something peculiar: words drawn in an ancient and mysterious language.  Being a student of the Classics, I was rather surprised that I had never seen this peculiar script in any of my researches.  Suffice it to say, it was old, very old.  It looked something like this:

I bent closer and traced my finger over the depressions that formed the characters, and found myself subconsciously humming a nameless, though catchy tune.

“Da da dum, da da dum, da da dum dum da dum.”  I sang quietly too myself, and then I paused, and stood erect.  Something was wrong.  The late spring in northern Alabama is a particularly noisy time of year.  All sorts of wretched insects, from the thrice damned Grasshopper to the vengeful Cicada, commence their endless mating calls once darkness descends across the land.  Dogs  howl, begging release from the oppressive seasonal heat that permeates every hour.  Fire flies and love  bugs join in a dance, adding their peculiar luminescence or unparalleled ability to fly in one’s eyes or nostrils to the annoying music of their fellow beasts.  Late spring is a busy time, and yet, as I attempted to read the ancient runes, and as I hummed a nameless tune of a bygone era, the noises gradually decreased and the bugs seemed to vacate the area, until the world was as silent as death.

I looked around, and there was not a firefly in sight.  I opened my eyes wide, a clear invitation, and yet no love bugs struck them.  I turned back to the letters on the wall, and saw that they were now glowing an icy blue, like Gatorade frost’s glacier freeze.

“How very odd,” I muttered under my breath in an effort to conceal the sudden terror that had gripped my heart.  I wanted to run, to hide, but my idiotic curiosity, the kind of curiosity that urges you to press the button because, hell, what’s the worst that could happen, kept me in place, watching.

A great wind picked up, blowing my hair into a maelstrom, and scattering debris from here to the theater building.  I could hear an ancient chanting swirl about me, as if a horde of vikings were rowing a mighty dragon ship to the lush and fertile fields of England, and it wasn’t going to be a pleasant visit, at least not for the English.  They didn’t just need a cup of sugar, as it were; they needed all of it.  Electric lines of glacier freeze energy were pulsating from the words, surrounding my body in a shimmering light.  I was getting tunnel vision, fixated on the words of power.

“So this is how I die,” I mused as I was hoisted into the air by some unknown force, “consumed by mystic words written upon a crumbling brick wall.”  I didn’t find this surprising.  I have always been an avid reader, a book worm, or as the Germans put it, a leseratte, and I secretly knew that it would one day prove to be my undoing.  I must have been three or four feet in the air at that point, and the maelstrom seemed to be at it’s height.  The vikings were positively screaming now, and the words glowed brighter than 1,000 suns.  How fortunate I was, gentle reader, that my eyes were not burned from their sockets.  Perhaps my glasses had some sort of diffusing effect.

The vikings reached a crescendo, and it was over.  I was dropped unceremoniously to the concrete bellow, receiving a nasty bruise on my bottom.  I rose slowly to my feet and, after dusting myself off, glanced one more at the eldritch masonry and its insidious runes, only to discover that they had faded with the storm, and were now barely even visible.  I once again traced their outlines, feeling a slight depression in the cool brick, but nothing happened.  I looked at my hands, and then my feet.  I didn’t feel any different, so what had just happened?  Perhaps there is some undying wizard, a lich of some sort, that travels around the country, trolling innocent bystanders into thinking that they had stumbled upon some sort of power granting magic, but it was in fact only an impressive light show.  It sounds like something I would do if I were a mighty warlock.  Oh well.  I turned around to head home.  And then I saw them, my enemies.

I don’t know why these guys decided to be my enemies.  Perhaps they were jealous of my Gi (see The Sensei), or perhaps they were just looking for trouble, and thought they had found it.  Either way, they loved to harass me at every opportunity, though their machinations were normally thwarted by a last minute sally from yours truly.  The most peculiar thing about them was that they were all British, and had the accent of the inner city London projects.  What they were doing in Alabama only God knows, but I’m sure he finds it hilarious.

“What’s this, then?” taunted Ringo, the ring leader of their little band, “looks like we found ourselves a nerd!”

“That is quite rude,” I rebuked him, “and I expect to hear an apology forthwith.”  They all laughed, like hyenas, lending a certain Serengeti quality to the already bizarre evening.

“Yeah sure, we’ll apologize,” he laughed.  He suddenly ran up and grabbed my shirt.  “With our fists.  We heard you playing that Skyrim music earlier, nerd, and you know we hate Skyrim.”

“Yeah!” said Ding-Dong, the fat kid in the group, “We hate that game. We found the open ended world to meander a bit too much, and the main plot line too slow for any sort of large time investment.”

“Yeah!” said Chirp, the small, mousy member of the gang, “fuck that game, yo!”

“And now,” said Ringo, as his mates closed in, “We’s gonna teach you a lesson”  He cocked his fist and let fly, and time seemed to slow down.  It was almost comical how slow his fist was traveling.  Was this the wall’s doing?  I began to laugh, but suddenly, as if by magic, I heard an old man speaking.

“In their tongue, he is called Dovakin, dragon born.”  And then I knew what to do.

Pictured: A fellow Dragon born

“Fus Roh Dah!”I shouted at Ringo, and I was gifted a glimpse of a scared look flashing across his face, before he blown away from with the force of a cannon.  His body tumbled through the sky, dozens of feet in the air, before crashing into one of the many aged trees that shade the quad of the University.  I heard several loud cracks, and dared to hope that one might have been his femur.

“Lawl!” I laughed.  His friends were staring at me completely dumbstruck.  Such is often the case when one uses an amazing magical power to vex one’s enemies, I’ve found.  I smirked.

“Chirp,” I said, cordially “would you mind standing closer to young ding-dong there?  No, a little closer, please.  A little more, OK, good, and FUS ROH DAH!”  They too went spiraling into the night’s dark embrace, and left me standing wholly alone.  Was it true?  Am I… dragon born?  The evidence was resoundingly in favor of yes, but I wasn’t certain.  I have human parents after all, well, at least I think they are humans.  I suppose they could be dragons in very good disguises.  I have heard tales that dragons can take human form as it suites them, so perhaps that is the case.  I have also heard that dragons tend to have hoards of gold, in which case I would be very cross with my parents that I had to take out student loans…

Curse your reptilian avarice! Curse it!

As it was, I doubted I would ever be certain.  Confronting one’s parents about whether or not they are dragons is often a great way to get sent to a therapist.  Perhaps I should just be happy with my new found super power and call it a day, or night, rather.  And what a night it was!  It was neither too warm, nor too cool, and slightly foggy.  The fog closed in around me like a particularly damp and ethereal blanket, and I found it comforting.  There is something about the way fog clouds your vision that makes the world seem full of… possibilities.  As if something unknown may be around the next well trod bend.  The insects and other animals recommenced their mating calls, drowning out the agonized screams of my enemies almost completely.  I took a round about route home anyway, thus avoiding the tree in which my enemies lay and likewise avoiding any sort of legal punishment contained therein.  My throat was feeling somewhat scratchy.  I suppose it was from the magic, but it was practically begging for a cup of mint tea, and so I made one, and then I slept the sleep of a dragon born.

The Woods

Über allen Gipfeln

Ist ruh,

In allem Wipfeln

Spürest du

Kaum einen Hauch

Die Vögelein schweigen im Walde

Warte nur, balde

Ruhest du auch

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Misty Forrest

The road led nowhere.  Well, that’s not entirely true. It certainly led somewhere, just to a somewhere that was so inconsequential or so far off that it could essentially be classified as nowhere.  Like Wyoming, for instance.  The road led to Wyoming.  Either way, it was of little use to me now.  I had been following it for hours in the vain hope that it might lead to some small mountain hamlet, or perhaps to a vehicle that I could hitch a ride on or hijack, but it didn’t.  It led to nowhere.

I had found the road by pure happenstance.  I was taking a stroll through the woods on a rather lovely Sunday morning, as I am want to do at times, when the mood strikes me, when the chirping of a far off bird had caught my interest.  The wood had been peculiarly silent that day, almost as if it were waiting on something, or someone, I suppose, and did not wish to be disturbed.  The irony was not lost upon me, that the one day I wished to be in the wood was the one day it would have rather preferred that I wasn’t there.

I slowed my stride to a stop and think.  Sure, there were merits to staying on the road.  It was obviously a path that someone had used a some point, and therefore must have a beginning and an end.  I mean, it couldn’t go on forever, right?  But it could, couldn’t it?  There are shapes, certain geometrical figures, that are famous for going on forever.  A circle is one such figure, an it is indeed possible that I had been walking for the last several hours in an infinite loop.  It would have to be a very large circle, however, for me to not notice that I had been constantly turning in one direction quite a bit more than the other.  Leading someone back to where they started is essentially going nowhere, if you really think about it, and so my thesis stands.

Is it possible that this path was some sort of 18th century cart and buggy grand prix?  Certainly citizens of North Carolina were noted for a sort of unruly rowdiness at the time, and it wasn’t much of a stretch to imagine them waving their straw hats, a-whoopin and a-hollerin at breakneck speeds around bends and turns on their self made forrest race track.  I had yet to find any sort of indentations upon the ground that would indicate moon shine barrels had been placed there at one time or another, but I also hadn’t been looking.

If this path were an ancient raceway, then I would be doomed to wander around it’s bends forever, until the ferns finally hid all remains of the path from the world, and I had become so old as to barely even be able to crawl.  Of course, I would probably die of starvation long before that happened.

I decided to keep walking while I thought, as it would be a far more constructive use of my time than if I were to merely stand in one spot and think.  I have also heard, on the internet and in various books, that walking actually facilitates the thinking process, and so I found a comfortable pace and continued down the road.

The other option was that, despite my previous decision that the road led nowhere, it did indeed eventually lead somewhere.  I have always been under the impression that the smokies were jammed full of small mountain villages, whose backward residents still traveled on horseback and all shared the same last name.  These towns, I had always imagined, feuded with one another constantly,and committed great backwoods genocides whenever one got the upper hand, stomping out whole families in a fiery vengeance.  These feuds were as old as time, and the causes of some were unknown.  All that was known was that one mustn’t trust a Clampet, for he would kill you as soon as look at you, and they were cheaters and evil men all.

The primary industry in these small towns would be, as they put it, “liquor manufacturin'” and “crop tendin,” and they liked outsiders slightly less than the Clampets i.e. not at all.  It is their greatest joy to catch an outsider such as myself and make him squeal like a piggy, by any means necessary I would assume, before they sacrificed him quite horrifically to their vengeful mountain god.  These villages, I concluded, were to be avoided at all costs.  Primitive as they were, I am certain that their numbers would overcome my higher education in any scuffle that may arouse.

No, the road wasn’t for me.  On it lay too much inherent danger, be it violent natives of the Appalachian mountains or eventual starvation on road to infinity, but what else was there?  The woods didn’t look too accommodating.  Already, the first tenebrous shadows of dusk were creeping their way beneath the leaves, and a chill was present.  Despite the uncertain dangers of the road, the certain death that awaited me in those woods was to be avoided.

In nature, night time is death time when one is alone.  All that one is like to see before one’s horrible demise is the glint of an angry eye reflecting moonlight, before the gnashing teeth and hateful claws of some great cat rend one asunder.  Once again, my superior intellect would afford me little protection here.  Though I have no experience with such monsters, I am told that they are rather immune to arguments of reason, and even pleas for  mercy often fall upon deaf, feline ears.

And if the cats weren’t bad enough, there were the bears.  When god was making animals, he must have realized that he hadn’t yet made a horrific, 800 pound slaughter machine, and so he made bears.  The worst part about bears is that they look cuddly.  The media doesn’t help with this image.  What sort of animal represents fabric softener, a product based around making things soft and nice?  A bear, of course, named snuggles.  And that is the great deceit of the Ursine, their cute and furry exterior belies the hardened killer beneath.  Bears are cunning, and eternally hungry, a most deadly combination.  I have read many guides on the subject of bear death prevention, and the general consensus is that if a bear were to charge you, you should drop to the ground and pretend to be dead.  I ask you, what sort of creature is this, that will eat you only after it has seen that you are alive and given you a good mauling to boot?  The answer, of course, is one that you would not want to meet in the woods at night.

There are also many other hazards in the woods of a non-animal nature: grabbing roots, shallow pits, larger pits, collapsing trees, mires, quicksand, cliffs, spiked stumps and even normal stumps are dangerous, and when it is night their propensity to hurt is increased ten fold.

My mind was positively aflutter with all the dangers of the road and the woods.  I was unsure of how much time I had spent walking while I thought, concerned as I was with the chaos in my head.  A sudden horn jarred me from my pensive mood, and bright headlights blinded me in the darkness that I had been traversing.

“Outta the way!” The driver yelled, honking his horn until I stepped to the side and his car roared by me.  How odd, I thought, a car in the woods?  It was only then that I saw the streetlights, and felt the asphalt beneath my shoes, and saw the buildings lining the avenue.  Main-street!  A was almost home.  But how…?

I turned around and saw, somewhat in the distance, an old dirt path leading into the woods to the west of our town.  It seems that while I was thinking, I had walked into town.  I guess the road went somewhere after all.  Already, I could feel my thoughts clearing, feel the confusion drifting away.  Now that the car had left, the street was at peace.  The night had proved to be a warm one, despite the chill I had felt in the woods, and not a breeze blew through the city streets to help alleviate the humidity.  The people had gone to bed, and I could hear not a sound.  I began to head home as a certain drowsiness overtook me, and I could only keep myself going by constantly reminding myself of my cushioned bed that awaited, and that I only had to wait, for I too would soon be asleep.

Cheating is Winning, and Winning is Awesome

“I couldn’t let you win, because you cheated.” The dark man said to us, glaring through his goatee at our team of 8.  If memory serves, I believe we were going by the pseudonym “blood, bath and beyond” that night.  I slammed my hands on the table and jumped out of my seat, barely keeping my balance.  I had drunk much beer that night, and stability had long ago fled my intoxicated form.

“How dare you, sir?  How dare you?” I slurred, pointing a finger at him with one hand and grabbing the table with the other, lest I fall over.  My german friend Alex slammed his hands on the table and jumped out of his seat just as drunkenly.

“Yeah, how dare you?  We aren’t cheaters!  We came to the pub tonight to play an honorable game of trivia, and by Jove that’s what we did!”  He shouted.  I have often thought that the easiest way to combat someone calling you a liar is to get angry.  It could very well be your natural response to someone calling you out, even if you weren’t lying.  Too bad we were lying.  Lying our hearts out.

Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t go to trivia night at the pub with the intention of cheating, it just sort of happened.  Like in one of those teen horror movies when the popular kids play a trick on the nerd, and the nerd ends up dying and haunting them forever, which incidentally is seldom long.  We had intended to just guess on the ones we didn’t know, but after 3 or 4 in a row, it begins to get a bit discouraging, and the alluring call of our smart-phones grows incessantly louder, so much so that we are no longer able to resist their sirens call.

This isn’t our pub, but it’s as good as you’re gonna get this close to graduation

“Charles,” my friend Ashlee inevitably asks me, “you look like you need to use the rest room right now.”

“What?” I respond, confused and alarmed.  How did she know that I needed to pee?  “No I don… oh!  Yes, yes I do.  If you would excuse me…”  Using your smartphone is illegal in the pub during trivia time, and if anyone sees you doing it, they’ll report you to the Quizmaster, curse his name, and he will confiscate your answer sheet.  It is therefore necessary to stagger to the restroom if you want to cheat, far away from the prying eyes of the other teams.  The stalls provides the optimal protection, but sometimes they are occupied and/or stinky. The urinals work in a pinch, because most people just stare straight ahead while they do their business, and sometimes hiding in plain sight is the best option.  Of course, if someone does look over at you while you are at the urinal, all you must do is begin making zoo noises, and they will most likely leave you be.  If they don’t, then I only have this to say to you, my friend: run.  Simple, really.

We had sent seven or eight such expeditions to the lavatories that night, and had learned some rather impressive facts.  Ketchup, for instance, was sold as medicine in the 1830’s, and there are four cars and eleven light posts on the back of a $10 dollar bill.  Normally, when we cheat at trivia, we answer one or two questions that we know are correct incorrectly, so as to appear that we weren’t cheating.  We eventually learned, however, that we were probably going to get wrong some of the ones that we thought were right, and so the practice had fallen out of style.

The trivia quiz has two parts: useless factoids and name that tune.  It’s a lot harder to cheat on the song section, because there aren’t any speakers in the bathrooms, so we generally try to cheat as much as possible on the first part.  The songs that night were especially obtuse: TV themes from the 70’s and 80’s.  Fortunately, I had invited Richard, my boss, an honorable man and by no means a cheater, to join us that night and it turned out that he was amazingly gifted in the 70’s and 80’s TV show theme song department.  I don’t think he knew that we were cheating, though he was probably somewhat worried that we would cackle evilly every time one of us had to use the restroom.

After the songs were done, we made some last minute corrections and handed the answer sheet to Alex, who took it up front.  He returned with a big smile on his face, and plopped down into his chair with an air of satisfaction.

“Well?” I asked conspiratorially, “Is it done?”

“Yes,” he replied calmly, taking a sip of his beer, “It is done.  The quizmaster, may his hair be chewed off by a thousand camels, was dubious.  He asked me if we had cheated.”

“And?  What did you say?”  Ashlee asked angrily.

“Of course not, oh noble one!” Alex replied smugly, bowing to Ashlee as if she were the wretched quizmaster himself.

“And he suspects nothing?” I asked frantically, grabbing Alex’s shoulder and turning him to face me.

“Nothing at all.” Alex replied, shrugging off my hand

“You did well this day, Alex.” Ashlee commended.  She made a motion with her hands and we all leaned in.  All except my boss, who was furrowing his brow in confusion.  “It is finally our turn, my friends. This time, we will have the highest score!  This time, we will be the victors!  This time, the prize will be ours!”  Ashlee said the last line at an almost shriek, and we all raised our hands in the air and cheered.

“What is the prize?”  Richard asked.

“A $20 gift card!”  I responded, and we cheered some more.

“So that will pay for what, four beers?”

“Yes!  But there’s more!  If you win, you get the honor of sitting at the king’s table next monday!”

“Oh.  That’s nice”

When the time came around for the Quizmaster, curse him, we were positively giddy.  The incumbents were sitting at the king’s table, and from my vantage point I could clearly see the fear in their hearts.  It was manifest in every halfhearted laugh they dared to hazard, and in every movement that they made.  If there was room in my heart for pity, I would have felt sorry for them, but the world of pub night trivia is a cruel place my friends, and I felt nothing but the icy blackness of schadenfreude.  The quizmaster picked up the microphone, and he drew my attention away from the kings table before I could eat my fill of their misery.

“Tonight’s winners” he said, silencing the crowd with a wave of his hand, much like a Roman emperor of old quieting the mob in the arena, “With 36 points…” He paused here, and I looked at Ashley puzzled.  We had gotten 38 points, not 36.  Maybe there had been some sort of error, maybe there had…

“The Schemin’ Geezers!”  The king’s table erupted in an explosion of joy.

“How…?” I asked numbly, sinking into a black despair, “How can this be?”  The rest of the table was equally as distraught as me, all but Richard who clapped for the geezers.

“Good for them!” he said, and I think he meant it too, and we hated him for it.  We ordered more beer as the quizmaster went to congratulate the “winning” team.  He happened to walk by our table at one point, and i grabbed his sleeve and dragged him over to us.

“We had more points,” I aid threateningly, fumbling around on the table for a knife or something, though none seemed to be in reach, “why didn’t we win?”

And so we come back to where we started.  After alex and I had shouted at him so vehemently, the Quizmaster, may his house be struck by a falling satellite, seemed unsure of him self.  Perhaps he had judged us wrongly?

“Ok, you’re good liars, I admit, but I know that you cheated.  Look here, how did you know what the boiling point of liquid nitrogen?”

“I’m a chemistry major.” Alex said, and he was.  As it turned out, he actually did know the boiling point of liquid nitrogen offhand.  We didn’t have to cheat on that one.

“Well, how did you know which roman emperor wanted to put his horse in the senate.” He asked.  I raised my hand.

“How did you know which Shakespeare play had MacDuff in it?”

“Scottish name, scottish play,” Ashlee said, “We figured it had to be MacBeth.”  We didn’t have to look that one up, either.

“Classics major.” I responded truthfully, restraining a laugh.  Incredible, I thought.  He was asking us to explain only the answers that we didn’t cheat on!  He was beginning to look a little nervous now, and I could tell that he was worried that he very well may have slighted us from our victory.

“Ok, fine.  I’ll give you those, but there’s no way you knew the three large cats that can roar!  No body got that one right.”  Uh oh.  I was hoping he wouldn’t bring this one up.  It’s not that we cheated, far from it!  I knew all three.  It was that the way that I knew all three was kind of embarrassing, and I wasn’t looking forward to having to explain it.

“Oh, charles got all those!” Ashlee said, smiling as she happily pointed me out, damn her.  “He can tell you how he knew that one.”  Everyone turned at looked at me.

“Well,” I began, pulling at my collar nervously, “Lions are obvious.  I mean, who hasn’t seen the MGM logo, right?”  Everyone nodded, except for the Quizmaster, who rolled his eyes.

“Well yess, everyone got lions!  How’d you know the other two?”

“What is this, slumdog millionaire?” I asked angrily.

“Charles,” said Ashlee, somewhat annoyed, “Just tell him how you knew about the other two.”  Great.

“Ok, fine.  Well, I knew about Jaguars because of Age of Empires II: The Conquerors.”

“What’s that?” quizzed the Quizmaster.

“An old video game.  You could play as the aztecs, and they had a unit called jaguar warriors.  They were essentially guys with clubs who wore jaguar skins, but when you clicked on them, they roared, like jaguars I suppose”

“And the other?” he asked.  Here goes nothing.

“I knew that Panthers roared because in R.A. Salvatore’s beloved Drizzt fantasy novels, the main character, who is a magical dark elf, also called a drow, has a magical stone figurine of a panther.  The panther’s name is Guenhwyvar, and hen Drizzt lays down the figurine and calls her name, the panther magically materializes.  It occasionally roars, and I therefore assumed that the forgotten realms wouldn’t lead me wrong, and that Guenhwyvar roaring was an accurate representation of the average panther.”

Pictured: Guenhwyvar and Drizzt

Silence.  Dead, ugly, awkward silence.  My friends stared at me as though they had just discovered a new and disturbingly nerdy facet of my personalty that had hitherto been unknown.  I could tell they weren’t very happy with the discovery, much like how an archaeologist would feel upon finding an ancient Egyptian tomb, only to discover that it had been raided decades ago and was empty.  Not knowing what to do, I soldiered on.

“For you see, quizmaster, Guenhwyvar is no ordinary panther at all, but is in fact a creature from the spirit realms.  She lives in the Astral plane, and Drizzt’s summons merely create a portal through which she can travel into the mortal realm”

“Yes, I see…”

“No one is quite sure whether or not she can die.” I continued, raising my voice.  “She certainly can be injured, though.  On several occasion Drizzt and his companions had to send her back to her astral home, fearing that she may die there from her wounds, but she always returns completely regenerated.”

“Very good, but…”


“Yes, yes, very good.”  The quizmaster growled, cupping a hand over my mouth, thereby silencing me.   “It seems I was wrong.”  He looked around at us, telling us in no uncertain terms that was absolutely positive that he hadn’t been wrong, but that proving that we were dirty, filthy liars was too far above his pay grade.  “I can’t let you guys be the winners, because I already gave it to the other team, but I can give you a few coupons for free drinks and deserts.  Will that work?”

“Yes!” We shouted in unison, a bit too quickly.  An honestly cheated team, I realized far too late, would have rejected his pitiful coupons and demanded its divine right to sit at the king’s table.  A wry half smile crossed his face as he gave us the coupons.  We didn’t care if he had learned the truth of it, drunk as we were on alcohol and victory.  It was decided that I should hold on to the coupons, since I was the most regular attendant of trivia night at the pub, but when i got home, and the rush of winning began to wear off, I felt sick to my stomach.  We had cheated and lied to a person’s face, and for what?  Some coupons?  I had always prided myself on being honest when it counts, and now I had tarnished my reputation, or at least what little reputation I had left.  Disgusted, I threw the coupons into the trash can, and convinced myself that I had now cleansed myself of all the negative karma accrued during the night, and went to sleep, not regretting trashing the coupons one bit.  Well, at least not until next Monday, when I had an unquenchable thirst for Jamaican Cheesecake and I reached into my wallet to find it devoid of both coupons and money.

The Avengers: Giving The Dark Knight Rises Something To Live Up To

Can the internet suffer another Avengers review?

Does the hulk smash…things?

Answer: Yes.

I can’t even begin to describe how awesome this movie is.  Oh wait, I’m sorry.  That came out wrong.  What I meant to say was I can even begin describe how awesome this movie is.

Close your eyes my friend, and imagine you are on a tropical beach.  Now open your eyes so you can read.  You are relaxing in the hot summer sun when a midget dressed up in a tuxedo approaches you.

“Hi there, fellah!” you chirp, “Whats your name?”

“I’m Peter Dinklage” he responds with a nod and a wink.

Pictured: More awesome than we’ll ever be.

“Wait a minute…” you say, taking off your $10,000 sunglasses to get a better look at him.  “Aren’t you the actor…

“Who plays Tyrion Lannister in the hit HBO drama Game of Thrones?” He asks cheerfully.  “Yes, yes I am.  But do you want to know what’s really funny?  I’m exactly as witty, funny and cunning as him in real life!  Here, drink this.”  He offers you a bottle.

“I always hoped you were!”  You respond happily, taking the bottle from him and having a drink.  It takes like crisp grape juice.  Sweet but with a slight sour hint.  It’s bubbly too.  “My god this is good!  What is it?”

“It’s wine, only it tastes like what you always imagined wine should taste like as a kid.  And it only gets you drunk when you want it too.”

“Neato!  Thanks!”

“No problem.  Oh, and I also happened to bring along Scarlett Johansson and she’s positively dying to meet you, or if you are female or gay, perhaps Bradly Cooper or Daniel Craig or something”

Peter has his run of the litter, as it were.

“I’ll take Scarlet thanks.  But why are you here?”

“Don’t you know, insert your own name here I’m your best friend.  Here’s ten billion dollars.  And a Jet pack.”

“Is that it?” you ask, amazed.  Peter pauses for a minute, and then shakes his head and laughs.

“How silly of me, I almost forgot!  Here’s a FRICKEN LIGHTSABER THAT ACTUALLY WORKS.  FOR REAL.”  Then some polar bears come out and start doing acrobatics and dancing and stuff, and a bunch of parrots bring you some beer, except the beer tastes like Dr. Pepper, which is perfect, because you, Scarlet and Peter all love Dr. Pepper.  There was a bonfire later, but you can’t remember much of it.  Oh, and you don’t have a hangover in the morning.  And Scarlet wants to hang out the next day.

That’s how awesome the avengers is.  Go watch it.  Now.


And then it happened.  Despite all of my careful planning and practicing, I forgot everything I was going to say.  This is a common occurrence in college students when we are forced to do presentations.  We are meant to read our papers but to not stare at it.  We are supposed to just sort of glance down, absorb all the words, and then spew them out like a vocabulary sponge.  The problem with this method is that it is quite easy to lose one’s place, which leads to one becoming flustered.  Once one is flustered one inevitably starts to babble nonsense because the silence is just too awkward.  I had lost my place, and i could feel the fluster rising in my bowels like a vengeful eagle.  I had a choice to make, and i chose instead of being sad to be smashing!

My thought process.

You see, there is a recent (or perhaps not so recent, I do only get internet access in my cave once a week) internet fad in which one replaces someone’s face with the face of Nigel Thornberry.  Above is a great example, but there are many others, like this one

The movie would have been much more smashing like this.

If you don’t know who Nigel Thornberry is, then I pity you, because you missed out on a big part of the late 90’s and early 00’s.  Nigel is a character from the cartoon “The Wild Thornberrys,” in which Nigel and his family traveled around the world making animal documentaries.  He described things that he liked as “smashing!”  You probably wont find this post amusing in the slightest if you never watched the show, but if you are a truly devoted fan of my blog and wish to slog through this post, then more power to you I suppose.  Now, where was I?

Ah yes, my paper.  I had worked on this particular paper for over 3 months, it was my senior thesis after all, and I had forgotten literally everything about it and had lost my place while reading.  I think it was about crime in ancient rome… or maybe fish.  This was bad, but don’t worry, gentle reader, for I was not in any true danger.  The penalty for messing up one’s paper had been recently reduced from beheading to a mere 13 lashes from the ol’ cat o’ nine tails, but even though death was not a possible outcome, the situation was quite perilous indeed.

“Ahem,” I said, clearing my throat.  What could I do?  Smashing, I need to be smashing!  And so I became smashing, as smashing as even Nigel Thornberry himself.  Once the transformation was complete, I remembered everything.

A brief depiction of my metamorphoses.

“You know what?” I said, picking up my papers and tossing them in the air, “Who needs these old things?  I’m sure that you and I are quite done with hearing papers read, am I right?”  There was a general nod of assent from the audience.  some of the sleeping people had even woken up from the fluttering noise of my paper blowing out the window.  I gave the room a quick look around until my eyes finally rested on an individual who had been on his computer during all of the presentations.

“You!” I said, pointing at him.  He jumped in his seat and looked around, wondering who I was pointing at, until he realized that there was no one near him.  He pointed at his chest and mouthed the word “me?”

“Yes, you!  Come hither.” I beckoned with one of my fingers.  He came to the front and stood before the podium.  “What is your name, lad?”


“Smashing!” I turned back to the audience and gestured to roger. “Roger is going to help me demonstrate the difference between manifest theft and non manifest theft in ancient rome.”  I set a pen on the podium and then turned around to face the wall.  So far, so smashing!

“Now, Roger,” I said, still facing the wall, “If you would be so kind as to take my pen from the podium and then signal once you have accomplished this simple task.”  I waited for but a few moments until I heard a slight cough from behind.  I spun about.

“You rascal!” I roared, “You’ve stolen my pen!”  Roger looked absolutely terrified.  He held out his hands in protest and began mumbling something about me telling him to take.  I laughed, which seemed to calm him somewhat.

“Roger, Roger, Roger… this is just a demonstration!  I know you didn’t actually steal my pen.  This was merely a demonstration of non manifest theft.  If the audience will recall, I didn’t find out anything of mine had been stolen until after the deed was done.  That’s why it’s non manifest!  I didn’t actually see it happen  Now, if you would be so kind as to return the pen to the podium, we can continue.  Good, that’s good.  Let’s give a round of applause to Roger here folks.  He’s doing a great job.”  The audience, now all interested in what I was doing, politely clapped.  Roger seemed to be encouraged by this, and he puffed his chest out a little.

“Now, roger, I would like you to once again steal my pen, but this time I will be watching.  Go ahead whenever you are ready.”  Roger strutted over to the podium and plucked my pen off of it with a flourish.  The audience gasped a little at his boldness.

“You rascal!” I roared, “You’ve stolen my pen!”  Roger gave me a quite demeaning look and smiled.

“Yeah?” he asked, holding his arms out wide and turning to the audience, “and what are you gonna do about it, nerd?”  He barked out a harsh laugh and I grudgingly gave Roger a mental commendation.  He was playing his heart to perfection.  The audience booed him and shouted that he should return the pen to me this instant.  Smashing!

“Why,” I responded, pulling a gladius, a Roman style sword, from it’s hiding place under the podium.  Roger turned at the hair raising sound of metal scraping. “Kill you, of course!  Such is the cost of manifest theft, you simple fool!” I raised the deadly blade high for a killing blow.  It’s metal glinted harshly off the fluorescent lights, and for just a moment, we could imagine that we were not in a science classroom at all, but were instead standing on the blood soaked sands of the arena.  I was a mighty executioner, Nigelus Thornberris, and Roger was but a runaway slave, condemned to death by stabbing.  Such spectacles were common enough in the Roman world, though not as popular as the gladiatorial bouts that brought such fame to the colosseum.  He looked up at my sword with fear in his eyes, but I had no pity.  Killing was my business, and business was good.

In a flash, it was over, and we were back in the science room, with it’s cold tile floor and institutional overhead florescent lights.  Roger was on his knees, his hands clasped before him, pleading for his life.  All of the bluster that had characterized his performance beforehand was gone.

“Roger,” I sighed, shaking my head and lowering my gladius, “Roger, Roger, Roger… I’m not going to kill you!”   Roger sagged with relief.  The audience muttered in disapproval.

“Oh thank god,” Roger breathed, “for a minute there I thought…”

“That’s the guards job!  Guards!”  Two praetorian guards burst into the room in full battle gear and marched over to roger, who backed away in fear.  They quickly closed upon him and grabbed him, and then dragged him away.  The bewildered Roger couldn’t seem to decide between screaming “No!  Nooo!” and  “What?  How?”

“Smashing!” I laughed as he was dragged out the door, “That guy had been pissing me off with his incessant typing for the past hour!  How rude!”  The audience followed my example and burst into laughter as well.

“Now, if you would permit me,” I sad, pulling out a collection of papers from behind my back, “I would like to continue reading my paper.”

“Smashing!” They all responded, and so I read.


Sunday in the Renaissance with Brian

I like Renaissance festivals.  There’s something magical about being able to step back in time to a long forgotten age.  I should know, I do it often.

“What, you go to medieval fairs a a lot?” you might ask

No, I’ve only ever been to three or four.  I actually travel back in time, or at least used to.  I’m a time traveler.



“Time travel?”


“Like doctor who?”

No, no!  More like Hiro from Heroes, I just sort of wish myself there and suddenly, with a glint in my eye and a twinkle in my toes, I am whisked away to a new age.  It’s all terribly complicated, so I’ve drawn a diagram to help you understand:

In step 1 we see that I am in a normal house with a dog outside. If we then go to step two, we can tell that something has changed. I am now in a castle, with a plague rat outside. This is time travel

But I found that with time travel comes a host of other chores that one must inevitably complete before being able to go home.  They include but are not limited to: storming castles, slaying monsters, rescuing princesses, assassinating Caesar, impaling heads on spikes, putting spikes through heads, completing dark druidic rites and cooking feasts.  The list goes on and on, but the one thing that all of the items have in common is that they are a chore.  We time travelers grow tired of them after a while, and so we often find ourselves attending modern re-creations of the past such as civil war reenactments and Renaissance festivals.  It helps us when we are jonesing for the oh so familiar thrill of traveling back in time and we aret required to save any kingdoms.

And so it happened that my friend Brian and I decided to visit the Georgia Renaissance Festival a couple days ago.  I was very excited.  One of my favorite things about renaissance festivals is the people who inhabit them.  They are consistently interesting and irresistibly bizarre.  Look at this guy, for instance

scary guy

A medieval batman, perhaps?

I could tell it was going to be a good trip, but even as we entered I began to notice some striking dissimilarities between this festival and the actual renaissance.  First off, though there was a frightening, obviously insane woman sitting in mud and playing a wooden flute at the gates, I failed to find any dead peasants in the gutters or in the street.  It is inattention to detail such as this that detracts from the overall festival experience.  The nerve!  I decided then and there that once I got back to Birmingham I would send a strongly worded letter to the host of the event with my suggestions to increase historical accuracy.  Take the water, for instance.  It was clear and drinkable, and I didn’t even taste a hint of syphilis.  Preposterous, I know, but it only gets worse, I’m afraid.

historical inaccuracies abound at the medieval fair

Where are the hanging bodies of thieves? Where are the indentured peasants tilling the fields? WHERE IS THE AUTHENTICITY?

A blast from a horn caught Brian’s attntion, and we followed the sound to a stick thin 40 something year old man who was dressed in all black and had a purple feather sticking out of his hat.  Rediculous!  I assumed that he didn’t know that purple dyes were very expensive during that time, and the color was reserved almost exclusively for royalty.  I held my tongue, however, not wanting to ruin what ever it was he was about to do.  He told us to wait because, as he put it “I am going to do stuff.”  It turns out that he was a hypnotist, but not just any hypnotist, mind you, he was in fact the worst hypnotist on the planet.  My patience had run thin.

“A hypnotist?” I asked him, scoffing, “Absurd!  Hypnotism wasn’t even invented until the 19th century, a good 300 years after the time period for this fair!  How do you explain that?”  He looked at me for a long time.

“Shut up kid.” He said dismissively, and then began his act, which involved telling a woman that he was going to hypnotize her, asking her to close her eyes, and then pushing her on the ground and saying He then passed around a hat that we were supposed to put money in. I was about to challenge him to a duel upon the jousting lists when my friend Brian dragged me away.  He must have known what I had been thinking.

I glanced back at the terrible hypnotist one last time, and saw to my terror that this man was watching me with great interest.

Who does he think he is? Blade? A monk? A Serial Killer? All three?

“Your costume is horribly inauthentic!  People didn’t have leather coats like that back then!” I shouted at him.  He merely eyed me and took another sip from his mug.  I count myself lucky that I never saw him again, though I am quite certain that on some lonely, dismal night, many years from now, I will be in my room, writing, when i hear a tinkle of broken glass from the living room.  I will walk into the room to discover this man standing in the exact same position and in the exact same costume, and the last words I will ever here will be “Who’s inauthentic now?”

We made it to the jousting lists just in time.  Some horribly obese women who were wearing disturbingly tight corsets were trying to sell the crowd $5 pennants to support a knight.  Apparently, each side of the arena was assigned to a knight who would be jousting and you were meant to cheer for only your knight and boo the other one.  Our side was the fated to support the evil Amadeo, a rakish scoundrel from Italia, whose horsemanship was as sharp as his goatee, and who would win at any cost.

You can tell he's evil because he's wearing red and black. Oh, and because he's FOREIGN

I was reather pleased with our choice in seating.  This Amadeo seemed like a real go-getter, and I was certain he would bring us victory.  I squealed with glee as none other than King Henry VIII himself came on to the field and sat on his throne. The referee knight on the field began a long diaribe about jousting and rules and honor and other such nonsense that I’m sure I would have completely ignored if I would have been able to hear, but as it was I could hear nothing other than the inane fool standing right behind me with a cart full of beef jerky who was shouting”BUYYYY MYYYYYY JERKYYYYY!!!” about every 5 seconds.  Whenever his voice became tires he would take out a bell or whistle or horn to make as much noise as possible.  I turned and gave him the most irritated look i could muster.

“Has anyone ever bought our jerky?” I asked scornfully.  He thrust out his chest defiantly for just a moment, until his whole body sagged and his head drooped down wards.

“No.  Never.” He cried as tears dropped from his eyes.  I felt a pang of pity for him, and nearly reached out to console him, when he suddenly lifted his head, still crying, and tilted it slightly askew as he extended to me a ragged piece of beef jerky.

“So would you… would you buy one?  My beef jerky?” He asked, his hands shaking.

“No, never.” I replied dryly, turning my attention to the joust that was just about to take place.  The ref seemed to have finished and the games were about to commence.  We had all come to see some knights in full armor ride horse and hit each other with things.  Preferably lances, but any other sort of weapon would have been acceptable.  What we got instead was a insulting farce of  knights charging wooden dummies and catching rings out of the air with their lances.  Amadeo’s opponent caught more rings, and so he was pronounced the winner.

“Absurd!” I roared, standing up and waving my plastic beer cup around, sloshing it’s delicious contents on the spectators around me.  “We came for blood!  Blood damn you, blood!”

“What’s that peasant saying there?”  King Henry roared back, shoving himself out of his seat and pointing an accusatory turkey leg at me.

“He says he wants blood my lord!” said the referee knight.  Ridiculous!

“Blood?  Blood!  Ha Ha!” The king laughed.  His face suddenly darkened, and he looked right at me and in a deep, threatening voice said “Then blood you shall have.  A Joust!”

“A joust!” shouted the ref.

“A joust!” cheered the crowd

“A joust?” asked the knights, suddenly worried

“Yes!  A joust!” King henry confirmed.  He waved at some squires who brought at wooden lances to the knights, who eyed them nervously.  It was at this point hat I was beginning to wonder whether these guys were even real knights at all, or if they were just actors that the festival hired.  A horn was blown, and in a flurry of hooves and flash of steel they charged, their magnificent beasts racing down the list towards one another at breakneck speed!

a Joust

It was quite thrilling!

The day was getting better and better.  The knights were actually pretty good at jousting, and the crowd was really getting into it.  We cheered, we gasped, we booed, we cried!  After two bouts, however, the king stood up and looked at the ref angrily.

“What’s this?  Why are they still using these practice lances?  Go on!  Bring out the real ones.”

“But my lord, is that… legal?

“I will make it legal.  I’m the king, after all.”

“But, my lord, I don’t think that we should…”

“Guards, take this man to the tower!” He ordered, and several armored me approached the ref and pulled him down from his horse.  The dragged him off while he screamed “Noooo!”  The crowd stood up and cheered.  This was great fun!

“You there!” said the king, pointing at one of the squires, “You’re the new referee, but don’t disappoint me.  You know the price of failure!” A scream cut through the hot afternoon air and ended in a sickening crunch.  “Now, bring out the real lances!”

The squire climbed up in the old ref’s horse and nodded at two other squires who went fetched the lances.  The knights must have looked very worried indeed, but as it was we couldn’t see their facial expressions inside their helmets.

“Much better!” The king said, sitting back down.  “Now, commence the joust, and may the best man live!”  The crowd roared it’s approval as the knights took their positions.

“Amadeo will surly win this one!” I said to the little kid next to me, “He’s a real go getter.  Plus, he’ll do anything to win.  That other guy is toast!”

“But, won’t they die?” asked the kid, looking up at me with worried eyes.

“Well, yes, but it’ll probably only be one of them who dies!  There’s no need to worry, Amadeo will win!  You do want Amadeo to win, dont you?”

“Um… yes?”

“Good boy,” I said, ruffling his hair.  The horn blew and the knights thundered towards one another and we stamped our feet and hooted like howler monkeys.  When the two met, the sound of steel upon steel rang out across the land, and we all held our breath in anticipation.  When their horses finally parted, my side of the lists began to cheer like madmen.  Amadeo’s lance had gone straight through the other guys chest, killing him soundly!  I turned to give the kid a high five, but he had gone.  The king stood up and we grew silent.

“Well struck, Amadeo!  You are this days champion!”  He screamed.  We cheered even louder as Amadeo took a victory lap.  Our revelry was cut short, however, by the arrival of police officers who arrested the King and shut down the festival.  He had apparently gone mad from the heat of his robes.  I heard that he was thrown in jail after a long trial, and his daughter Mary took over running the festival.  She proved to be a poor ruler as well, and was deposed so that his third daughter Elizabeth could take the throne.  One of my friends went last sunday and said that she was a fair and just ruler, at least compared to her predecessors.  Such is the way of the world, I’m afraid.  The best renaissance festival I have ever been to also happened to be the most illegal.

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