The Haunted Coconut

The Final Word: Bran Stark Will Always Be the True Villain of The Game of Thrones

Season 8 approaches its end, and it appears that Benioff and Weiss do not concur with my earlier theories that Bran Stark has always been a slippery villain, fighting with the Children on the side of all that is ice and cold and death. Instead, he is just a really creepy kid in a wheelchair who stares.

Maybe the humble thing would be to admit that I got it wrong. But that’s not me. I’m not a lady. Instead, I am going to tell you how B&W got it wrong.

Team Fire

“The Song of Ice and Fire” is apparently a very swift tune: Fire melts ice. Fire melts kids and buildings. Fire melts Spiders and Hounds and Mountains. Fire wins.

Fire, apparently, is also the tool of madness. I suppose if B&W were thinking men (they’re not), one could propose that the Lord of Light is a god of madness who has cursed Targaryens and Cleganes and Cersei and the pyromancers of Kings Landing and the Red Priestesses with embers of insanity.

There should be some sort of poetry in the fire being too devastating and corrupting for anyone sane to wield. But there is no poetry in the conclusion to this TV show. Instead, the insane and power hungry leverage this element for the brute force of it, sidestepping the dominions of cleverness and wisdom.

Fire wins because fire destroys. And destruction is always far easier (and flashier) than creation. Once Benioff and Weiss left the source material, they had a rare opportunity to create a world and its rulers, schemes, traps, and games. Instead, they quite symbolically stuffed Tyrion in a crypt and burned it all down. All of it. That isn’t creativity. It’s a waste.

Team Ice

If the Song of Fire is short and brutal, the Song of Ice was cut off before it ever finished. The North’s tale was far more complicated than that of King’s Landing, so it is understandable that superhero fanboys B&W had a hard time crafting a deep resolution to the issues of The Children, the White Walkers, and the Three-Eyed Raven. Once Hodor died and Cold Hands popped in for a quick “hello”, Bran’s story just stopped, as if Old Nan was called away for lunch.

So now I will pour out a little Dornish red for the plot threads that B&W scrapped in favor of CGI fire and dragon fights:

  • The White Walkers (and The Night King) were deliberately created by the Children, and we never found out why.
  • The White Walkers never hasseled Bran and his party traveling to the Three-Eyed Raven, and we never found out why.
  • The Children also made Cold Hands (Zombie Uncle Benjen) and we never found out why (or where he went).
  • The Night King wanted to destroy Bran above all else, and we never found out why. (I’m not buying that to destroy Branven was to destroy the world’s history. We don’t have a Bran, but we have these things called books, so our history exists.)
  • The Children’s magic allows for fire to dispatch White Walkers, but not the Night King, and we never found out why.
  • The Children may be all dead, or they may be hiding in the far north, and we never know either way.
  • Bran is a fecking THREE-EYED RAVEN, and we never found out why, or what that means, or WHY.

Bran - HauntedCoconut.com

Bran the Useless

“We didn’t spend hours and hours and hours of Bran being dragged through snow and ice, and all those three-eyed raven dream sequences for nothing.”

Those were the words I typed a couple years ago when first elucidating my theory. I made a mistake and overestimated Benioff & Weiss. I admit this now. It has become clear that the duo had no flipping idea what to do with Bran and his powers. After churning through George R.R. Martin’s source material on Bran, neither had grasped the gravity of the Stark boy’s mission.

Sure, perhaps I have called it all wrong, and Martin is writing Bran on a truly noble quest. That’s fine at this point. But you can’t just leave him in a wheelchair as a medieval wikipedia that doesn’t help anybody ever.

Let’s face it, I think very few of us can take B&W’s character finales as the gospel word on the subject. (See: Daenarys Stormborn)

I therefore proclaim that the final word has not been spoken about Bran and his mysterious deeds.

Brandon Stark is the bringer of the dark and an agent of the forces of the icy north. He works against his family and the realm because he does not believe himself to be a man anymore, and does not stand on the side of humans. Through his visions and his reach via the heart trees, he regards men as a destructive force that must be culled or eliminated. And it is up to the Targaryens and the Starks to stop him at any cost.

I proclaimed this two years ago, and I will stand by this until the sun rises in the west and sets in the east, until the seas go dry and mountains blow in the wind like leaves.

PS – Bran is NOT the Night King.

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The West Wing: Inside Goldfish Gail’s Fishbowl – Season 3

Gail the Goldfish has already seen a lot during the first two seasons of The West Wing, and season 3 only gets more exciting! Gail gets active in the re-election campaign, launches a protest for women’s rights, meets some diseased livestock, and has a close encounter of the Charlie kind!

Here it is, a list of Gail sightings from season 3.

If you think that you can identify one of the mystery props, please do comment and if you can convince me, I will happily give you full credit for the spot!

 

NoGail

Season 3, Episode 01

No Gail. She is still in shock over the tragedy that occurred at the World Trade Center.


 

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Season 3, Episode 2

  • Prop: Curious. Appears to be some sort of pagoda-like structure, but it isn’t clear how this ties into the plot.
  • Gravel: Dark green and white
  • Nod to Plot: Could it be a nod to Haiti? Somehow? I don’t think so. Maybe it is a pagoda and it is Gail’s way of telling CJ she needs more zen in her life right now!

 

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Season 3, Episode 3

  • Prop: Complete mystery. A shark? We never get very close to Gail. I blame Blabbish.
  • Gravel: Dark green
  • Nod to Plot: If it is maybe a toy shark, it would be because that’s what CJ needs coming after the Bartlet administration.

 

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Season 3, Episode 4

  • Prop: A whiteboard on an easel. It appears that Gail is helping out Sam, tracking the House votes.
  • Gravel: White
  • Nod to Plot: President Bartlet wants to veto a repeal of the Estate Tax, but House shenanigans threaten a veto override.

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The Meaning of Being Unemployed and Staring at Cow Arses

Sometimes the universe sculpts an entire day out of mockery and disillusionment.

Today I was asked to herd cattle for the first time in my life, which is a very Green Acres experience for someone who has only seen a real living cow up-close at the zoo or (once or twice) at a petting farm. The cows from the next pasture had invited themselves into the road and my yard for some green snackage, and somehow this became a situation where I was walking through my front gate and into the road, with my cellphone to my ear, following bobbing cow rumpuses toward my farmer neighbor. It seems like it should be easy to keep the cows going down the road, but I had doubts about being too aggressive. What if I anger one of the mamas, or worse yet, the bull? Even if they don’t turn and charge me, they could spook and cause a massive upset much like the antics caused by Billy Crystal’s coffee grinder in City Slickers. So with the cell phone in my jeans pocket, I casually picked up a stick long enough to tap on the ground and strolled behind the stragglers, tapping the stick on the asphalt whenever they slowed to munch some grass. It worked, albeit very slowly. I thought it was a lovely stroll. The farmer who was waiting with the open gate was less than impressed at my leisurely approach. He smiled and shook his head, then made a remark that I didn’t have an ounce of farmer in me–and it wasn’t even a zippy come-on line.

I laughed and agreed, but that surprisingly stung. Okay, it’s true, I have no farm experience outside of video games and children’s books. I’ve watched Babe a lot, and Baby Boom. But those don’t prepare you to drive cattle down a road while wearing a faded “Nasty Woman” t-shirt and blue jeans. I didn’t have any Paulie Shore chaps or straw hat, nor did I have any John Denver playing. I wasn’t ready. We’ve only just moved to rural-rural Ireland, and I was raised in Metro Detroit.

On my equally leisurely stroll back to my rental house I silently curated quips to explain my “urban skillset” that farmers wouldn’t possess. I came up empty. I know that you should chain your barbecue grill to the house or it’ll get stolen (my dad lost three Weber kettles that way). I know how to time rush hour to the best advantage and when the mega grocery stores are emptiest, but them I’m out.

And that really bothered me, because today’s developing theme is “SKILLS!”.

It first emerged when I updated my LinkedIn profile. See, I quit my job of six years this past weekend, and now I need a new one. Nothing is a more haunting assessment of one’s life than staring blankly at the “Add New Skills” section of LinkedIn. The mouse hovers and my mind is a dark sea. I can reenact The Big Chill. I can cook homemade chicken noodle soup (on tonight’s menu). I can move my fucking family across an ocean. I can draw a very wonky Garfield cat. I know the entire Greek alphabet. I can drink an entire bottle of wine in one sitting. I can take my bra off without removing my shirt.

And still the mouse hovers waiting to add a skill. SKILLS! After six years of wonderful and instructive employment, shouldn’t I be overflowing with credentials? I have had a mad and exciting life!

I’m a certified Master Gardener. I am a citizen of two nations, and I live in a third. I was a ghost writer for a squirrel guide booklet. I buried a beloved sister. I won awards for my charity work. I published an article in Canada’s History magazine about an ancestor of mine. I’ve gone from assistant to manager in my last three jobs. And I can complain really, really well. I mean, like an art form. I vote in every election and I diligently recycle. Kind of.

Still the mouse hovers. My life has been anything but boring, but I can’t drive cattle. And I haven’t gotten any certifications in “project management”.  I wasn’t training for another company’s job this whole time, I was training for my job. My job! The one I left so I could watch cows eat my freshly planted shrubs and leave liquid brown puddles in my gravel driveway. And the farmer’s laugh echos in my brain, and my phone buzzes with texts from my husband. He’s on a business trip and showing me the exciting new machinery he’s overseeing. Or something like that. I try to listen whenever he explains, but then “The Ride of the Valkyries” starts playing in my brain and…I lose track. But whatever makes him so proud of those machines, I bet that’s a skill. He and the farmer and the cows and the people at LinkedIn are probably somewhere together right now laughing and laughing.

While they’re off chomping cigars and toasting their lives of deliberate purpose and clarified direction, I will just keep telling myself how scrappy I am, damnit. I haven’t cultivated my life around corporate labels or agricultural knowhow, but I’m damn good at working hard and being a lovely, bold monster. And tonight, after I settle in with my bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup, I’m going to flick off my bra from under my t-shirt and celebrate being skilless. Tomorrow, I order steak. Lots and lots of steak.

 

2020 Democratic Candidates Compared

Everybody, we have a long and bloody road ahead of us until Election Day, 2020. The Monster Politic is just starting to awaken from its very short slumber, and the cable news channels are already feeding the beast and prepping the arena for some of the most ungladiator-like combat in the history of the worrrrrrld.

So, Dems, who are we going to throw in the arena with Lumpy the Orange Foul-Mouthed Blob? Will it be the DNA-tested woman who likes to video herself drinking a beer according to a script? Will it be the fuzzy-domed muppet who admits to loving socialism? Or maybe the dude who brags about watching porn with his mom.

So many choices!

Realizing you might need a little help picking which hero to give your favor to, I have devised a very helpful, very scientific overview of every current 2020 Democratic primary candidate:

2020 Democratic Candidates - HauntedCoconut.com

Choose your candidate wisely. We only get one chance to crowbar that orange lump out of the White House and spray for crabs.

How to Play Shanghai Rummy

A card game for 3-8 players that is good for a quiet evening at home, or some time ’round the campfire.

Many years ago I went on a camping trip with a friend’s family to a remote cabin in the Canadian wilderness where you could see the stars at night, and smell the fish during the day. I was only thirteen, but even way back in those ancient times, this was a vacation free of television, phones, and air conditioning. During those days when it poured rain, and late at night when the crickets sung to the stars, we had little to do but play card games, and my friend’s family had a clear favorite: Shanghai Rummy. It was competitive and exciting…and it helped pass long blocks of time without counting the cricket chirps.

Decades have passed and that friend and I had a very ugly falling out long ago, but I still remember loving that card game. Much more than I love her. So I pulled out a couple decks of cards not long ago to pass a quiet night, and realized I couldn’t remember a single damn rule. And worst of all, the interweb tubes cannot agree on any part of the rules.

In advance, I beg your forgiveness for not playing the way you and Granny or cousin BuberToober used to play. There are eighteen billion (no exaggeration) variations on how to deal, how to score, and even the round requirements. Are Jokers wild? Or should deuces be wild? Are there penalties for accidentally discarding a valid card? Make up your mind, Al Gore! Well, this is the awesomest, most consensusy set of rules that matches my memory.

Overview:

This is a card game that take a couple hours to play, and involves collecting cards in your hand until you have the right combo to dump them onto the table in front of you. The cards in your hand are your enemy, and threaten to saddle you with points that keep adding up until your shameful, shameful defeat.

Needed:

  • 2 decks of cards + 1 Joker (3-4 players)
  • 3 decks of cards + 2 Jokers (5-8 players)

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The Shawshank Redemption: Andy Dufresne’s Questionable Tax Advice

The Shawshank Redemption is one of the most peculiarly loved films of all-time. Something about a clever man dreaming behind bars speaks to more people than I would’ve ever thought possible. But Rita Hayworth and I have one little question about a pivotal plot point: Was Andy Dufresne’s tax advice to the Warden bullshit?

Here’s how it goes: It is 1949, and atop a roof at the Shawshank Prison, Warden Hadley loudly groans that he has inherited $35,000 from his brother, but he is livid that the government is going to “take a big wet bite out of [his] ass” in taxes.

Prisoner Andy Dufresne dangerously interjects himself into the conversation insisting that the Warden need not suffer any tax burden at all, suggesting:

“If you want to keep that money, all of it, just give it to your wife. See, the IRS allows you a one-time-only gift to your spouse. It’s good up to $60,000…Tax-free. IRS can’t touch one cent.”

But is that true? Or was it at least true in 1949? Or was Andy just bullshitting for some beers and the fun of it. Let’s take a look at the tax law to understand.

One reason this plot line may have crept into the deliciously warped mind of Stephen King (and therefore, that of character Andy Dufresne) is because there was a major reform of the United States Tax Code in 1948, specifically impacting estate and gift taxes–including marital exemptions. But did it provide a tax shelter for Warden Hadley’s inheritance?

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The D&D Alignment Game: Game of Thrones Edition

Okay, RPG fanatics, it’s time to play one of my favorite time-killing games, “The D&D Alignment Game”! Which of your favorite characters falls into which Dungeons & Dragons-prescribed boxes?

I think the most fascinating aspect of categorizing the Game of Thrones characters is how  passionate every character is. It was surprisingly hard to select a “true neutral”, because even characters who should have been completely neutral (read: maesters), weren’t. Pycelle was evil. Luwin was good. Hodor was good. Granted, “true neutral” is supposed to be the rarest of alignments, but I think it speaks to just how electric each character is in a massive cast.

Forgive me in advance for not being able to list more characters. Varys is “neutral good”, as is Daenarys and Jorah Mormont. Hodor is good. Joffrey is mostly “neutral evil” (though at moments, the argument could be made for chaotic evil). Jon Snuhh is “lawful good” just like his foster father. And Bran Stark? The jury may be out for some. But I have made a very strong argument that Brandon Stark is “neutral evil”. Oh yes. So evil.

Game of Thrones D&D Alignment Grid

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A Few Definitions

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Know Your Irish Road Signs

Thinking of visiting Ireland this year on vacation? Getting around in a new country can be tricky, confusing, and startling. Don’t panic.

This is why I have assembled the following guide to help you navigate the unfamiliar roads of the Irish countryside. It is based on my wisdom gleaned from living here for just under a year’s time. And let me tell you, at first these signs were a bit befuddling, but study up and you will learn to navigate hazards like a pro. Be a safety hero, learn your signs!

 

Roundabout

Twirl Three Times


 

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Autograph Seekers Ahead


 

warning-loose-chippings

Car Farting Zone


 

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Caution: Bicycles Falling From Sky


 

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Do Not Bump Head on Cars


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Warning: Cars Have Been Drinking


 

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Suggested Car Swimming Area


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Stop Children, At All Costs


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The West Wing: Every Episode Ranked

PART THREE

The West Wing ranking continues! We have made it through the good, the bad, and the Ted McGinley in PART I and PART II. There are a few flaws with some of these episodes, but on the whole, they’re classic–warts and all. And by warts, I mean Commander Crap Reese. So put on your oversized Josh jammies, grab some whiskey and Blow Pops, and snuggle up with Marion Coatsworth of Marblehay. It’s time for the best!

Here are the Top 50:

50. “Evidence of Things Not Seen” (season 4, episode 20)

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I love that Toby’s accoutrements for poker include a giant bottle of whiskey and two Blow Pops. With that noted, let’s play some poker! Oh wait, other things keep getting in the way, including a job interview with an actor who just got out of rehab, a telephone farce with a Russian leader, and a shooting in the Briefing Room (!!). The titular evidence and things not seen relate to each of these distractions, including Josh not seeing Joe Quincy’s (yeesh, what a name!) little Republican sticking out, and suppressing any feelings over the shots fired. The spy plane, the egg, Will hitting the fifth row. Get it? Hope? Faith? Skepticism? Fear? This is Sorkin being a little cutesy, and also trying to scare us a bit. See, we all know the season finale is approaching, but know not what shape the menace might take. Last episode we wondered about a plane crash. Now we wonder about another shooting. In the meantime, this fake spider under the sheets doesn’t move us very far but allows us to enjoy our favorite characters for a bit. That ain’t all bad.
Points Lost For: Very special guest star Matthew Perry. Blech. Joe Quincy is written like a pancake.
Awkward Suspension of Reality Moment: Remember back in “20 Hours in LA”, when Donna’s at the fancy-pantsy party and she wants to try and meet Matthew Perry? That makes Joe Quincy’s appearance less believable than his name.

49. “Manchester: Part 2” (season 3, episode 2)

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Finally, we’ve settled at the Bartlet Farm! Can I just say that every single White House speech should be written in a barn with a serpentine test audience? Ach, but we’re doing the time warp again and it really dampens any dramatic crescendo that I might’ve enjoyed. What elevates this episode over its previous counterpart is the levity that we get from apple cider and Toby handling all the campaign signs with his magic marker.
LOST Crossover Theory: Has anyone considered that Evan Handler’s character, Doug, might actually be a figment of Sam’s imagination, just as his character on LOST, “Dave”, was Hurley’s imaginary tormentor? He is Sam’s conscience and coping mechanism after his recent paternal meltdown, followed by the revelation that his father-like President was also leading a secret life. He wants an apology from everybody. So he has invented Doug, who shouts at him and pushes him. Just like Dave. Connie might be his therapist who tries to explain what Dave Doug means and help him through this troubling time. Hmmmmm. I’m on to something here.

48. “Stirred” (season 3, episode 17)

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It seems to me that over the past few episodes, Josh and Donna really don’t have much to do. First, they were prank calling the Flenders of Hartsfield’s Landing, and then they were blowing up Lemon-Lyman.com. Now they’re debating the legitimacy of making a teacher appreciation day. Donna really is sweet, though, and I love the solution that they eventually cultivated. Most of us really did have one of those teachers, didn’t we? Mine was Mrs. Barbara McClanaghan. English teacher. Twelfth grade. She told me she saw something in me when really no one had to that point in my life. A friend, a wry mind, and really supportive mentor. She passed away from breast cancer in 2002. Darn you, Donna, for digging all of that up.
Points Awarded For: PB’s commentary on James Bond’s snooty martini order
Points Lost For: The gang seriously floating High Priest Leo’s name for V.P. He brings nothing electorally, he isn’t the folksy yin to the President’s brainy yang, and…I have a premonition that Leo might be really bad at campaigning.

47. “Bartlet’s Third State of the Union” (season 2, episode 13)

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Do any of you people have accents? How about you, you special bastard, Ted McGinley? Is that gum in your filthy Alpha Beta mouth? I’m interested, because, see, I just do not get a lady-boner for the State of the Union. Never have, doubt I ever will. As a matter of fact, I loathe it. But at least my annoyance can be channeled into Abbey’s anger. She gives such good wrath. And just to tie a big ribbon on this episode, I’ll note that any day, any time, I’d rather be dancing and drinking a Pink Squirrel in the steam pipe trunk distribution venue over watching even two minutes the SOTU.
“Women in Government? That’s Crazy!” Moment: Two of the most high-profile women in the White House are so bubble-brained they both sit on a bench with wet paint, in spite of signs. Therefore, they must go on TV bottomless, or dance in bathrobes. Why isn’t Rob Lowe in a banana hammock, damn it all?
Side Note: It always bugs me that Ted’s show is spelled “Capital Beat”, instead of “Capitol Beat”. The former isn’t exactly wrong, but the latter makes so much better sense.
Pink Squirrel Recipe: (Because you’re dying to know) 1 part almond liqueur, 1 part creme de cacao, and 1-2 parts heavy cream or vanilla ice cream. Mmmmm.

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