Sunday, April 20, 2014

HBO’s “Game of Thrones” #33 "The Lion and the Rose"

The King Must Die

King Joffrey is dead.

By Catherine Giordano

The Game of Thrones on HBO has never shied away from killing off main characters, often beloved characters.

This week it was King Joffrey’s turn to die--at his sumptuous wedding feast, no less. He was definitely not beloved. He was a gratuitously violent cruel psychopath and he died a befittingly horrible death. The camera comes in close to show us his death grimace.  He apparently died of poison or perhaps choked on a bite of wedding cake.  

What does his death mean for Margaery Tyrell, his bride?  The marriage ceremony performed, but the marriage not yet consummated.  She’s ambitious and schemed and manipulated to become Joffrey’s betrothed, but all in all, she is one of the nicer characters on the show.   

In season 1, episode 1, I thought the young Brandon (Bran) Stark had been killed, pushed from a tower because he witnessed the coupling of Cersei and her twin brother Jamie. (King Joffrey was the son of their incestuous union which had begun when they were still children.)  But Bran didn’t die; he was only paralyzed, losing the use of his legs.

Cersei is Queen of the Seven Kingdoms married to King Robert Baratheon. She arranges to have the King, her husband have an unfortunate hunting “accident”, gored to death by a boar. She quickly arranges for Joffrey to become king and as his mother, she assumes the position of Queen Reagent.

Bran’s father, Neddard, (Ned) Stark, Lord of Winterfell, is beheaded by Joffrey soon after he becomes King. Ned Stark had learned the truth about the lineage of Cersei’s children so Cersei decided that the king must die (as must Ned Stark) to protect the only people Cersei loves--herself, her children (especially Joffrey) and her brother and paramour, Jamie. Ned’s death was a shock because he was one of the rare good ones on this show, a wise ruler, a loving family man, and a just and loyal person.

The most shocking death was still in the future.  Ned’s oldest son, Robb goes to war to build his power base in order to ultimately avenge the death of his father.  He is successful in his battles and assumes the title of “King of the West.”

Robb is aided by his mother Caitlyn, an able aide and advisor to her son in the matters of war. In order to strike a much needed alliance with Lord Walder Frey who has a slew of ugly daughters he needs to marry off, Caitlin agrees that her son Robb will marry his eldest daughter. However, Robb has fallen in love with Talisa and he marries her instead. Catelyn offers her brother as a replacement and Frey accepts this proposal.  But not really. 

At the wedding feast, we learn that Lord Frey had secretly decided that the King of the West must die for reneging on his promise to marry his daughter. The wedding fete is the scene of his revenge. He slays Robb and all of the Stark clan who are in attendance, including the pregnant Talisa and Caitlin. This scene becomes known as “The Red Wedding” because of all the blood spilled.

Now, people are killed off left and right in the world of the Seven Kingdoms. We are inured to death, but it shocks and grieves us when the characters who are the “good ones” are dispatched.  At least on episode #33, one of the "bad guys" got it. Still it shocked because it was so unexpected.

The “king-must-die” moments of the week keep coming. I’ll expect there will be several more of these
moments before the series finale.

Please share this recap and review by tweet, "like" and "+1"
Please ""follow" so you don't miss any of my reviews.
Please click the amazon shopping cart (above left) to buy from

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones 5-Book Boxed Set (Song of Ice and Fire series): A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, and A Dance with Dragons

Saturday, April 19, 2014

HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” #312 “Killing Me Slowly”

By Catherine Giordano
Jimmy Carter 

“Killing Me Slowly” sums up my review and recap (and commentary) for HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” episode 212, which aired on 3/28/14.  Emphasis on “killing.”

The monologue began with a reference to Putin’s invasion of Crimea. Maher said it was not like the U.S. invasion of Iraq. “First of all, it worked.” He followed it up with a jab at John’s McCain’s (R, AZ) seeming eagerness for war. He reported that McCain said, “Russia is just a gas station masquerading as a country.”  Maher jested that Putin replied, “Arizona is just a nursing home masquerading as a state.”

Maher also joked about the whitewash report from Christie’s lawyers that exonerated Christie of any wrongdoing on anything, ever.  Maher said that the report was so over the top, fawning and complimentary, that it might have well have said “women want to date him, men want to be him, cows want to be eaten by him.”

The interview was with former president Jimmy Carter, former president, Nobel Peace prize recipient, and founder of “The Carter Center.”  Carter has a new book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power.  Carter wears his Christianity on his sleeve—he’s a Sunday school teacher, so Maher couldn’t resist challenging him on religion.  He told Carter those who advocate violence, enslave people, mistreat women, etc. and defend it with religious texts are interpreting the texts incorrectly.  Maher maintained that the problem is that they are interpreting the texts accurately and went on to cite passages to prove his point. Carter trumped him when he said “I go back to what Jesus said and did.”  (So Carter is pretty much saying he reads his Bible selectively, ignoring the parts he doesn’t agree with.)  But it was enough to get Maher to say “Jesus was a good guy” and to change the subject.

The panel was pretty well behaved tonight.  Even Rick Lazio (former Congressman R, NY) got me to thinking that he wasn’t so bad.  Then he would add the “but” and that killed my good feelings for me. “The government is not doing a single thing to help the inner city.” So far so good.  Then he adds, “At least Ryan is talking about poverty.”  Yes Ryan talked about it, blaming poverty on the poor.

Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, had to set Lazio straight.  She said, “We should unite around solutions, not just blame people.”

Maher had a trick up his sleeve. He read a quote that sounded not too different from what Ryan had said and then announced that it was a quote for Michelle Obama.  W. Kamau Bell, the third panelist, a comedian and star of the TV series Totally Biased, who happens to be black, explained it.  He said that it was about the audience.  Michelle was talking to black people and “Black people talk differently to each other when you [white people] are not around.”  I say there was another difference—intent and context. Ryan was talking to white people castigating black people for laziness; Michelle was talking to black people urging them to do better for themselves.

Bell also stated that you can’t blame poor people for not working when they live in an area where there are no jobs, the schools suck, the hospitals suck, there are no grocery stores, and all the dads are in jail. In other words, In other words, change the inner cities and the people will change themselves.

Another topic was the Boston Marathon bombing.  Maher announced that it was the anniversary of that terrible event. He then showed a picture of the Boston police force marching down the street dressed in riot gear and accompanied by tanks.  “Who knew that Boston had an army?” he said. Maher said that we have police forces that act like armies all over the country. “An army that sustains itself on plunder.” He was presumably referring to the seizure of assets that occurs with drug busts.

Maher next brought up the Russian man, Ibragin Todashev, who was associated with the Tsaraev brothers who did the bombings and who is alleged to have committed a triple murder. We may never know for sure because the FBI shot him. Lazio defended the shooting, saying the guy flipped out and threw a table.  Maher correctly pointed out that we don’t know what happened since the only witnesses are the men who did the shooting and, in any event, killing the man was an excessive response.

Maher brought up “the corporations are people” issues.  They are people only when they want to be.  Hobby Lobby claims a religious exemption from providing health care coverage that includes contraceptives for women because a company, like a person, can have religious beliefs.  Lazio says, “I’m pro-choice.” So I’m liking him. Then he adds, “A closely held corporation, run by a family, is different” and is entitled to an exemption. So now I’m back to disliking him. Tanden has to set him straight once again.  “Why is it about religious freedom for the employer, why not religious freedom for the employees? Do corporations get to make religious decisions for all of us?

Corporations also don’t want to be treated like people when they destroy the economy and ruin people’s lives. No one on Wall Street was punished. They also don’t want to be treated like people when they kill people.  Like GM being slow to announce a recall of cars with faulty ignition switches. Over 300 people died. Maher said, “Corporations are killing us a little more slowly.”  I think he meant less directly compared to FBI agents with guns.

Another important issue discussed in the show was the killing of the oceans.  The search for the missing Malaysia jet turned up no jet wreckage but lot’s of garbage. Maher said, “We have turned the ocean into a porta potty. We are killing the ocean—radiation from Fukishima, oil slicks, fishing on the verge of collapse--and it is going to kill us if we don’t fix it. We need the ocean to live.  Agreement all around.  We are killing the ocean slowly.

The mid show guest was the actor Josh Gad, the voice-over star of Frozen.  He told us the movie has made over a billion dollars.  “It is a license to print money.” 

I recently saw Frozen and I have a problem with the hidden message of this movie: Girls rule and boys drool.  Once Disney movies portrayed girls as helpless just waiting for a man to come and save them, like Cinderella and Snow White.  Then the male and female roles became a little more equal—Aladdin and Jasmine were equal partners in their adventures.  Then the pendulum swung too far evidently when Disney realized that princesses were a financial bonanza.  The princesses in Frozen don’t need any men.  The “hero” in the show, Kristof, is an oaf, a fixer-upper (there’s a song about it), who has to be whipped into shape by Princess Elsa. Even then he is a bumbler who can’t rescue Elsa’s sister, Anna--Elsa has to do the job herself. The other men in the show are “Prince Hans”, a villain who acts like “Prince Charming” but only want to marry Elsa for money and position, and Olaf, a funny little snowman, sort of a pet.

By the way, little girls are desperate to have Princess Elsa dresses.  Disney can’t make them fast enough so some people are buying them on the Internet for $1,500.  And that is not t worse part. The worst part is that the retail price is $150—$150 for a dress or a little girl.

The mid-show comedy segment was funny. It seems there is a crack epidemic in Vermont, which also happens to be the home of “Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.”  So Maher renamed some Ben & Jerry’s flavors.
  • Chunky Junky
  •  Late Night Smack
  • Grubby Hubby         
  • Needles and Cream           
  •  Robert Brownie, Jr.

In New Rules, in a segment called “Left Behind,” Maher railed against Democrats for always having talking points that begin with an apology. For instance, they are always saying the ACA needs to be fixed. Polls show that people are overwhelming in favor of the basic components of the act. Democrats should be proud to own ObamaCare. This is the “can-I-get-an-amen” moment of the week.

Maher cracked, “Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum said ObamaCare would kill children.  No, you are thinking about assault rifles.”

Maher brought the show full circle back to Jimmy Carter, saying “And they should be proud to own Jimmy Carter. A failed presidency?  By whose standards?  We may have had a bad economy, but you know what we didn’t have—a war!  And he was the last president to ask for shared sacrifice. Another “can-I-get-an amen” moment of the week.

Maher finished with, “Carter put solar panels on the White House roof.  Regan tore them down because he thought the sun was interfering with Nancy’s astrology.”

Please share this review by tweeting, "liking" on facebook, and "+1 ing"
Please ""follow" so you don't miss any of my reviews.
Please click the amazon shopping cart (above left) to buy from

Saturday, April 12, 2014

HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher #314 Riot-Roundup

Rob Lowe, actor and author of Love Life,
was on Maher's panel.
By Catherine Giordano

"Pussy Riot"--great name for a band! Bill Maher did an interview with the political activist group of young women in Russia who masquerade as a band on Real Time with Bill Maher, episode 314, which aired on April 11, 2014.

Congressman Vance McAllister (R, LA) was the butt of a lot of jokes, as well he should be. The married congressman ran on family values, and now a video is all over TV and the internet showing him passionately kissing a female staffer who is also married (not to him). In the monologue, Maher said, “Republicans are either voting against women or rubbing against women.” Strike one.  McAllister if forming an exploratory committee—his tongue was an exploratory committee.” Strike two. “That wasn’t kissing, that was fracking” Strike three. You’re out. Only he wasn’t out. The staffer he was kissing has resigned, but he’s still there. Being exposed as a hypocrite is not putting him out of the game.

One of the panelists was Rob Lowe, actor and author of a new book Love Life. With a book title like that, there had to be a joke about Lowe having been involved in a few “pussy riots” of his own.  This was the “cheap-shot-joke” moment of the week. I checked out the table of contents on —Lowe’s book appears to be both more serious and more entertaining than the cheap shot joke would imply.

Continuing with this theme, the mid-show comedy segment featured the “Sex Harasser’s Manual.” The book would include tips for Congress, such as: 

·        Never say, “Are those your real breasts or have they been gerrymandered?
·        Grow up—We all know it is pronounced BAY-ner.

The mid-show guest as Matt Taibbi, a journalist, and author of The Divide:
American Injustice in the Age of  the Wealth Gap. He was reading us the riot act about our so called “justice system.”  In a nutshell: “It is very easy to go to jail if you are poor; very hard if you are rich. All those crazy things you do when you are young—the poor go to jail, the rich don’t. It’s morally unjustifiable.” 

Since the interview was concerned repression in Russia, Maher had to point out that America is #1 with respect to the percent of its population that is in prison and Russia is #8.  Taibbi added that crime is down by 44%, but the prison population is up by one million. 

Another panelist, Anna Marie Cox, political columnist for Guardian USA, blamed “for-profit prisons.” And that is all that you need to know to understand this issue.  Every business wants to grow and if your business is prisons, you are lobbying for harsher laws and longer sentences. You are also providing minimum services to squeeze ever last bit of profit out. There’s no rehabilitation or humanity. As Maher said about our so-called “correctional institutions”: “We are creating so many bitter unemployable people.”

During a discussion about the Ukraine situation, the third panelist, Congressman Duncan Hunter (R, CA) said he was in favor of “tactical nuclear weapons.”  When everyone else was so shocked they were on the verge of a riot, Hunter explained that he only advocated tactical nuclear weapons, the kind that explode underground. Maher rightly chastised him saying “Nukes are a genie we shouldn’t let out of the bottle.”  People like Hunter scare me half to death. Doesn’t he realize if we nuke them, there are a whole lot of thems who can nuke us right back?

Maher pointed out that ignorance equals belligerence. He mentioned a recent poll asking people to locate Ukraine on a map. As you might have guessed, few got it right. Some even put Ukraine inside the U.S. The poll also asked if we should use nukes. The people who didn’t know where Ukraine was were far more likely to want to use nukes.

The New Rules finale was titled “The Call of the Riled.” Maher talked about Mike Rogers leaving Congress for a talk-radio gig and Jim DeMint who left the Senate to become head of The Heritage Foundation (a right wing “think-tank.”) Maher said, “There has never been a better time to quit government and go into the lucrative business of talking about government.” He concluded by naming Sarah Palin as the “one night stand of governing” and claiming that Ted Cruz sees “higher office as just a higher form of talk radio."

There was no riot of the set of “Real Time with Bill Maher” this week, just a riot roundup of scary scary stories about scarcity of good government. Fortunately, although the panelists were mostly “straight-men”, Maher gave us a few moments of humor.  

I hope you enjoyed this recap and review of the show.  Please leave a comment.

Please share this review by tweeting, "liking" on facebook, and "+1 ing"
Please ""follow" so you don't miss any of my reviews.
Please click the amazon shopping cart (above left) to buy from

Friday, April 11, 2014

HBO's The Game of Thrones #32 “Two Swords”

Here Be Dragons
Daenerys with one of her dragons on "The Game of Thrones"

By Catherine Giordano

Daenerys, a star in The Game of Thrones, is the “mother of dragons” and the mother of all warriors. Her cute little dragons appear to be adolescents now and they are getting a little hard to handle. Daenerys is warned, "Dragons can never be fully tamed."  Be careful, Dany, they may soon bite the pretty little hand that feeds them.

Daenerys is a wonderful female character who has come a long way since Season One.  She began as a innocent child bride given in marriage as a bribe to obtain military help for her brother’s quest for the Iron Throne.

She went from being used by her family and abused by her husband to become his beloved wife. Upon her husband’s death, she became a fierce leader of her people—like Ruth in the Bible her husband’s people, the Dothraki, became her people.  She’s a tiny little thing, but no one would dare toy with her now.  She outwits her enemies. amasses a loyal army, and moves steadily towards her goal of taking the Iron Throne for herself.  And she does it all while looking beautiful.

The Game of Thrones has so many strong interesting women and she is one of them.

The Game of Thrones is such a complex story and each episode contains a multitude of characters and dozens of plot developments. There are plenty of websites to provide recaps. I’m just going to write about one female character each week. I chose Daenerys this week because she is beautiful, smart, strong, and she has dragons. I have dragons also, but mine are collectibles made of glass and ceramic and wood.

Click Here for more info on a great collectible dragon.

Please share this review by tweeting, "liking" on facebook, and "+1 ing"
Please ""follow" so you don't miss any of my reviews.
Please click the amazon shopping cart (above left) to buy from

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Real Time with Bill Maher #313 “Going Going Gone”

Alex Wagner, MSNBC host
By Catherine Giordano

The discussion on Real Time with Bill Maher, episode 313, aired on April 4, 2014,  focused on what’s going well, what doing down, and what’s going gone.

ObamaCare is going well. On March 31, the end of the 2014 enrollment period, sign-ups had gone through the roof, surpassing the 7million target number.  This success has made Republicans go crazy (crazier). The “truthers” are back--only this time it is not about a birth certificate, it is about cooking the books.  And now that the Supreme Court has gone and voted down more spending limits, the billionaires will be pounding that message into our heads with even greater ferocity. 

The interview was with Captain Paul Watson founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation organization and the “star” of Animal Planet’s Whale Wars, a documentary-style reality show.  He told us that ocean life will be gone unless we change our ways.  “If the oceans die, we die.” He advocated for protecting bio-diversity in the ocean. He warned that “global warming/climate change” could alter the oceans currents, plunging Europe in a deep freeze. I feel our planet is going downhill like an Olympian in a luge, and maybe it is already too late to stop this downhill slide.  [See The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert.] It’s the extinction that could wipe out human beings.]

The panel included Alex Wagner, host of MSNBC’s Now with Alex Wagner.  She speaks with confidence and passion—she knows her stuff.  I’d say that Wagner presents the liberal viewpoint, but it is more accurate to say she presents the honest viewpoint..

Wagner stands in stark contrast to another female panelist, Carrie Sheffield, a columnist for Forbes, decidedly in the Republican/conservative camp, spewing forth the same old discredited talking points. Worse yet, she seemed to think she was on a game show, smiling inanely each time she thought she had scored a point.  She thought she had landed a zinger when she said that campaign spending in 2012 is the same amount Americans spend on chewing gum.  Maher looked at her like she had gone off on the train to Crazy Town.  “It’s not the amount in aggregate that matters,” he explained. “It’s the percentage spent by rich people.”

The third panelist was former Representative (R VA) Tom Davis.  He too spewed the talking points, but at least he didn’t make a fool of himself while doing so.  And, towards the end of the show, he even said something I agreed with. He said that the rogue agencies in the CIA must be held accountable.

I hope Davis will continue to be for accountability when the CIA torture report is made public.  The report will show how the Bush administration, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and all the rest, violated the Geneva Convention and engaged in torture and gained no useful information in the process.  Maher seemed really angry when he castigated the movie Zero Dark 30 which showed that torture helped in the search for bin Laden. He called it “product placement for torture.”  [I refused to see the movie when it played in theaters, but I did catch it on HBO and it made me as angry as it made Maher.]

Bill came back to the torture report in New Rules. He said, “If the torture report makes you disgusted, you’re liberal; if it makes you shrug, you’re conservative; and if it makes you hard, you’re Dick Cheney.”

The comedy sketch dealt with a report that said 43% of college age and high school aged boys have been coerced into sex.  He then did a showed video about the terrible threat of LBS, Lucky Bastard Syndrome.  The title speaks for itself.

The mid-show guest was Nas, a rapper and songwriter with a new album, Illmatic XX.  He’s very soft-spoken for a rapper—I had to turn the volume up on my TV to hear him.  He mentioned that he did a song with Jay Z on a prior album (Hip Hop is Dead) ironically titled Black Republican.  (“I feel like a Black Republican--I got money coming in.”) This put Sheffield into a tizzy because she took Maher’s joke—“You may have a new recruit”-- literally.  Nas, gently put her in her place saying, “I wouldn’t go that far.”

In New Rules, Maher spoke about how the middle class was going, going, gone.  He said that Tiffany was doing great and umpteen different versions of dollar stores were doing great, but stores that cater to the middle class like, Sears and Penney’s, were dying.  “We are becoming a country of rich people and desperate people.” The bit wasn’t all that funny so we got the “Maher-goes-for-a-desperate-joke” moment of the week.  “Lube up,” was the tag line, “time to do some porn.” 
The final New Rules bit wasn’t as sharp as it usually is—Bill didn’t seem to know where to go with it.  Nonetheless, I’m going to HBO every Friday at 10pm.  Because, despite one kinda-fell-flat joke, Maher has gone and done it again, delivering an hour of news-focused opinion, commentary, and humor. Bill Maher has got it going on.

 Please share this review by tweeting, "liking" on facebook, and "+1 ing"
Please ""follow" so you don't miss any of my reviews.
Please click on the shopping cart at the top left of this post to buy from