Monday, February 16, 2015

What does the popularity of HBO's Game Of Thrones say about Humanity?

Consider these facts:

Number of countries in the world = 196

Number of United Nations member states = 193

Number of countries viewing the 2015 Super Bowl  = 180

Number of countries viewing HBO Game of Thrones = 193

Should we doubt the veracity of HBO's claim? I don't know, but even if this number is a bit stretched, it would still seem that Game of Thrones is insanely popular. Possibly one of the most popular TV series of all time. It's certainly one of my favorites.

[As an aside, I was curious about which three countries don't watch Game of Thrones? I searched the web but could find no answer.]

In case you aren't aware, the show is based on author George R.R. Martin's epic fantasy saga, "A Song of Ice and Fire," which is currently a five book series.

Makes me wonder, what must it be like for viewers in some of those other countries?

"Faster! Must be in front of TV by Sunday at 9 PM."
photo credit: via photopin (license)

Frightened from watching the show, bush children scan the sky for dragons.
photo credit: Kgalagadi via photopin (license)

Brutal, man, I can't watch this red wedding scene.
photo credit: via photopin (license)

Some other interesting facts gleaned from the HBO documentary, Game of Thrones Season 5, a Day in the Life which speak to the scope of the show.

Number of countries where season 5 is being filmed = 5
The documentary showed scenes from Dubrovnik, Croatia; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Seville, Spain; Osuna, Spain.

Number of sets used for filming = 151

Number of cast members = 166

Number of crew members = approximately 1,000

Number of extras = 5,000

Number of people who applied to be an extra = 85,000

Is it any wonder that the average budget for each episode is reported to be six million dollars. Obviously, HBO wouldn't continue to spend this kind of cash unless it received high ratings which begs the question, why is this show so appealing? What does it say about 21st century humans who are so enthralled with this fantasy?

Let me put it in perspective...

Perhaps the answer lies with the parallel to reality. I won't get into specific examples so as not to spoil things for those who haven't had a chance to watch the show or read the books. If you are already a fan, you'll understand what I'm writing about.

Unlike most stories, Game of Thrones has no leading protagonist and no specific antagonist. The many contenders for the Iron Throne engage in constantly shifting alliances to achieve their ends. Once won, the victor's claim to the throne is always tenuous at best. Can we not see this same thing happening in the real world?

Then there exists the moral ambiguity of the characters. Individuals in the ensemble cast are portrayed as neither all good nor all bad. They struggle with right and wrong from their own unique points-of-view. Morally centered characters often rationalize evil deeds. Evil characters are capable of showing kindness. There is both religious zealotry and moral debauchery. The helpless masses struggle to survive while caught up in the socio-political turmoil. They are just like us.

Game of Thrones is no fairy tale. There is no happily ever after. As viewers, we become attached to charismatic individuals, those with whom we can maybe identify with. Those characters die, or in most cases they are brutally slain. In real life, our dreams sometimes die, too.

Although fantasy, Game of Thrones reflects the larger game of life. No matter our similarities, differences, cultural preferences, or political persuasions we can live vicariously through the made up characters in that world. They allow us to feel comfortable with our own shortcomings.

Do you agree or am I off base? Feel free to comment.

Game of Thrones, Season 5 begins April 12, 2015 on HBO.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Winter Doldrums

Here we are once again in my least favorite time of year aptly labeled the dead of winter. The holidays are over, the super bowl is over, it's always cold, it's always dark, and the groundhog predicts six more weeks of the same. Ugh.

photo credit: via photopin (license)

No wonder the failure rate is so high for dieters this time of year. If we can't be active outdoors what is there left to do but eat? Overeating is one of the classic symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

+ Feel sad, grumpy, moody, or anxious.

+ Lose interest in your usual activities.

+ Eat more and crave carbohydrates.

+ Gain weight.

+ Sleep more but still feel tired.

+ Have trouble concentrating.

How many of these symptoms affect you?

That's not to say that winter is all bad. As a writer, this is my most productive time of year. There are fewer distractions. No yard work, no gardening, no outdoor improvement projects or repairs, and no need to keep the cars clean. The winter doldrums also present unique opportunities other than eating, sleeping, and watching TV. To combat SAD, consider some of these ideas.

1. The activities of your neighbors are also limited during winter, and they have less to do, so why not take the opportunity to get to know them better. Invite them to dinner. If you aren't sure what to talk about, play cards or board games to get the conversations flowing.

2. Learn something. Fewer distractions means more time for continuing education. Want to learn another language? Become better at tying flies? Take up knitting? Winter offers more uninterrupted hours than any other time of year.

3. Go south. We all need a break, so why not take a week or so and travel to warmer climes? Doesn't always have to be Florida or California. Try someplace new. Think outside the box. For example, I've never been to Brownsville, Texas, but I understand it's a nice place to visit with plenty to do. It's located on the southernmost tip of the state near the Gulf (warm and sunny). I'd like to check it out someday.

4. Fitness. Golf courses and tennis courts may be knee deep in snow, but there are plenty of gyms to visit to work off the calories from wintertime overeating. Introverted? Going to a gym not your thing? Buy a treadmill or elliptical machine for your home. Boring? Not if you listen to audio books while working out.

5. Instead of TV, try reading. It's better for your mind, forces you to concentrate, and exercises your imagination. Maybe you don't have the time or funds to travel to a place like Brownsville, Texas, but there are plenty of fascinating books on the history of Texas, if history is your area of interest. What about getting lost in a good novel? I prefer having a good chunk of time in order to stay engaged while reading. No time is better for reading than long, bleak winter nights.

What about it? Are there any other activities that you can suggest for my list? What strategy do you use to combat the winter doldrums?