Cheeseburger Gothic

The quiet catastrophe

Posted July 17 into Writing by John Birmingham

Wrote a piece for my brother's site about disruption and the publishing industry:

My first year as a working writer I made a hundred and thirty-five dollars and ate a lot of generic poverty noodles. My second, a bumper year, I broke two hundred. It was encouraging, but not enough to upgrade to those fancy Maggi noodles the big, prize-winning authors get. After a decade of freelancing, though, I’d made it. I could mostly pay my rent and buy any damn noodles I wanted, as long as I was happy to sleep under a pile of old hessian bags on a brown couch in a share house. I didn’t go into writing expecting to make money and it turned that my expectations were entirely realistic. Starving artist KPIs? Nailed ‘em.

And then I wrote a book about living on brown couches in share houses—He Died With A Felafel In His Hand—and all of that changed, at least for a while.

The nineties and noughties were a golden age in publishing. Books, newspapers, magazines, they all made the sort of money that paid for long lunches which turned into late dinners with open tables and murderous bar bills, settled with somebody-else’s corporate Amex in the first light of dawn the next day.

And then… it was over. Not for me, not straight away, but both industries in which I worked—publishing and media—were disrupted with extreme prejudice. The Great Recession starting in 2008 accelerated a structural collapse which had been underway since Mosaic rendered its first webpage nearly fifteen years earlier. The sorrows of media have all been well traversed; the closing of venerable mastheads, the hundreds of thousands of laid-off journalists, the indignities of clickbait, the desperate raising of paywalls, the erosion of standards, the triumph of advertising over editorial, the shit-eating grins of the surviving management cadre as they tried to pretend everything was still totally golden.

But publishing was ok, right? Bookshelves are still full. Stephen King and J.K. Rowling could still fund their own small war in the Middle East if they wanted. And after a decade of chaos and collapse, independent bookstores are even coming back. What’s up with that?

Did the book industry pivot?

Did big publishers get smart?

Can we for God’s sake please get back to the business of long, bacchanalian lunches again?

No, no and not just no, but hell no.

The rest is here.

9 Responses to ‘The quiet catastrophe’

jl mumbles...

Posted July 17
I read this with great interest. My fingers itch with the thought of sending another book into the howling internet wasteland, to be judged by readers in random, isolated locations worldwide.

It's a bit like what many of our ancestors did when they stepped onto ships headed somewhere else. They didn't know what would happen when they got to their destination, but they did know it would be something new. And they would have to adapt or starve.

The frontier of our time is digital, and it looks like the big publishers have received a tomahawk to the face.

Quokka would have you know...

Posted July 21
yes it must have been shocking when they got here & 40% of the indigenous population promptly sickened & died with smallpox.
A friend told me that her child just learned in high school that the English insist it wasn't them that brought the smallpox - it was the French.
I thought better of Catholic ed up until that point but rinse lather repeat seems to be the order of the day.

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted July 17
Show noodles. Mmmm.

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Jeats reckons...

Posted July 18
More posts in CBG please John. This site has gone fairly dark recently.

NBlob mutters...

Posted July 20
Jeats Birmo has many demands on his time. If you need a fix subscribe to the Alien Side Boob. It elevates spittle flecked ranting to an art form that reminds me of Henry Moore the flowing forms, the mass with grace and the Fkn great big rocks.

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damian puts forth...

Posted July 18
Very interesting. Indeed the last paragraphs suggests there isn't just hope, but real concrete hope for new writers too. You mentioned the other week that a certain organisation had burned you pretty badly, but didn't really go into the details. What you're saying here suggests that the right place to start for someone still silly enough to try non-genre fiction is still writers groups and local agents taking on such things. I guess I'm not clear where the leap into the self-publishing unknown would begin... Doesn't one need some external validation that the product is reasonable? Not in question for a successful juggerauthor, or course. But the starting question remains.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted July 18
Yeah, I dunno that I'd want to try self publishing literary fiction. It doesn't sell when trade published, unless they pour buckets of money into promotion. It probably wouldn't sell with indie either.

damian is gonna tell you...

Posted July 22
Yes, it's one of those branch points where several subsequent steps are different depending on the path taken. It seems like local agents are still most interested in non-fiction and Australian literary fiction, while genre is supported better overseas (the location depending slightly on the genre). There doesn't seem to be a specialist entry point for Australian crime fiction, or sf or urban fantasy. I could just be looking in the wrong places of course. And obviously the making-up-my-mind-and-trying-something bit is probably the more important bit at this stage.

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Abe Frellman ducks in to say...

Posted August 7
Having followed this slow moving train wreck over the last decade or so through picking up on what you have (or sometimes haven't) written here on CBG imagine my horror when my first born announced she wanted to do a writing degree with a view to going in to editing or publishing. Anyway after much debate and discussion I came around to the view that (i) it's her life (and HECS bill), but that aside (ii) while publishing might be cactus, all of those self-publishers are going to need editing skills. So I figure the delivery mechanism will change. Is there a market emerging for freelancing editors JB or are there any co-ops springing up? Any thoughts appreciated.

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Game of Thrones S7: The Top 9 Characters They Absolutely Cannot Kill Off Because Seriously I Won't Cope

Posted July 16 into Raven On by girlclumsy

The number of characters in Game of Thrones that we desperately want to see the back of is rapidly diminishing. Old Mate Euron Greyjoy has been hyped as the next Big Bad, but we’ll have to wait and see if he can match Ramsay Bolton for brutish psychopathy.

The downside of this is if there are fewer bad people to kill, our dear friends at HBO might start killing off…. gulp...our favourites. In some cases, we can sort-of-maybe-kind-of understand how death may be necessary: Can Ser Jorah survive his greyscale? Might Beric Dondarrion finally run out of lives? Might Jaime die at the hands of his girlfriend/blood relative?

But there are some characters who CANNOT, nay, MUST NOT be harmed. Every hair on their head is a blessing from the gods old and new, and I honestly will lose my shit if anything happens to them. Help me, HBO, you’re my only hope (of retaining some shred of dignity and not bawling like a recalcitrant toddler).

Jon Snow

You got him once. You're not getting him again. I mean it.

Arya Stark

The world's most reluctant lady is now a fearsome, not-to-be-messed with assassin. I'm honestly not sure how her story will play out this season - will she head straight for winterfell to reunite with Jon and Sansa, or will she head south from the Twins and try to take on cersei and finish off her infamous hit list? Will she at least get word to Winterfell to let them know she's alive?

Could she find a new travelling partner and create another one of the show's brilliant dynamic duos? Think Tyrion and Bronn, Jaime and Bronn, Jaime and Brienne, Brienne and Pod, and of course the Hound and Arya? Or will she make hundreds of fanboy theorists' dreams come true and reunite with her direwolf Nymeria? Whatever happens, we have all been onboard with Arya's revenge fantasy since she first starting reciting her to-kill list. Nothing must interfere.

Tyrion Lannister

Has there been a character who captured hearts and minds so immediately as Tyrion Lannister? From the moment we first saw him - fittingly, in a brothel - we have adored his wit, honesty, intelligence and occasionally even bravery.

He’s been disrespected, mistreated, put down, put upon, beaten up, backstabbed, front stabbed and threatened with cock removal - but here he is, newly minted Hand of the Queen and champion of House Targaryen.

There is conflict to come with his sister Cersei, now sitting pretty on the Iron Throne, and the current biggest obstacle for his new boss achieving her own career goals. There are of course those persistent rumours that Tyrion himself is more Targaryen than Lannister, but however that pans out, there will still be a reckoning.

Whatever happens, Tyrion defined the Game of Thrones, and so must prevail. I mean, he must… right? Despite everything that’s come before in this damn series, they surely, SURELY, cannot kill the dwarf… right?

Sansa Stark

It's possible Sansa has grown the most of any GoT character. Daenarys was a manipulated sister and wife early on, but quickly grew into her regal genetics. Jon was always noble, honorable and concerned with the bigger picture, and his brush with Death (oh to be Death just to brush him once) only intensified those drives. But Sansa has been through the wringer. From spoiled entitled princess brat, to prisoner plaything to a sadistic fiancé at King's Landing, to reluctant bride to Tyrion, prize chess piece for Littlefinger's desire, to survivor of brutal abuse at the hands of a psychotic monster - Sansa weathered all that and emerged one of the most fully rounded characters on the show.

Still a sensitive person, she has developed emotional armour by reconnecting hard with her Stark ancestry. It was she that forced Jon into action to retake Winterfell. It was Sansa who told Jon Rickon was lost the night before he was taken down by Ramsay's arrows. It was Sansa who overcame her revulsion at Littlefinger to cut a deal with him and get the Knights of the Vale to save the day at the Battle of the Bastards. I don't believe she will resent Jon for his elevation to King in the North, but I will understand if tension develops. Jon may have been stabbed six times and died, but Sansa suffered a death of a thousand cuts, and her rebirth has been epic. Long may she reign.

Davos Seaworth

Ned Stark was the moral heart of this world until it was stopped abruptly by the loss of another organ. Lucky then we had Ser Davos Seaworth able to pick up the beat from Season 2 onwards. The Onion Knight, one time smuggler turned surprise war hero and valued counsellor to Stannis Baratheon, is a truly good man when that is an undesirable and even dangerous quality to have. Indeed, it is one of Stannis' few redeeming features that despite his leap into Lord of Light crazy town, he retained Davos as an adviser. It's also one of Melisandre's redeeming features that she let him.

Davos' relationship with Shireen - she taught him to read, he made her feel special and valued when her parents couldn't be bothered - was one of the most tender we've seen on the show. His rage upon discovering how she died was tempered by true heartbreak over the loss of a good child, the real bright spark Stannis should have valued.

With Stannis gone, Davos offered his services to Jon Snow, recognising in him at once the sort of leadership and determination that Stannis had once had, but which had been twisted. It is Davos we have to thank for bringing Jon back in the first place - despite his eminent practicality and religious scepticism, it is he who asks Kate Bush "Hey, know any magic...?"

I cannot imagine him anywhere now but by Jon's side, the barometer of bullshit, a practical pragmatic with a rough charm that works a treat on brave but cautious people (case in point: Lyanna Mormont). Kill him off, and there will be tears - no onions necessary.

Sam Tarly

By all rights Sam Tarly should not have made it out of Season 1 alive. If Ser Alliser Thorne had had his way, he would have been a real-life punching (and stabbing) bag for trainee Black Brothers. But where’s Ser Alliser now? Food for worms after his treasonous attack on our most precious. And where’s Sam? Doing his best Disney princess frolic in the world’s biggest library.

Along the way, he has used his clever noggin to rescue Gilly and her bub, and work out that obsidian glass could be used to kill White Walkers (although admittedly that was an accident. But he kept calm in a crisis, and that counts).

When Jon sent him off at the end of Season 5 to become the new Maester of the Night’s Watch, he knew only Sam would have the smarts to figure out what other skills/equipment might be handy in helping stave off the end of the world. And he was smart enough to nick off with Heartsbane (or more suitably as we’ve dubbed it, “Heartsbae”) during a side trip with Gilly to the Tarly ancestral home Horn Hill.

While we may wish we were a Jon or a Dany, we are actually all Sam. We’re the ones who aren’t physically perfect, we’re not natural warriors or leaders, but damnit we a half-decent brain and a sense of curiosity and we get things done. Occasionally we have our own little hero moment, such as when Sam left Gilly at Horn Hill for approximately 13 seconds, before changing his mind and declaring they stick together, no matter what.

That’s why Sam’s entrance into the Oldtown library spoke volumes (look at that pun!). It was an achievable goal, something we could recognise in our own lives. Sam was a smart guy; his Xanadu was that library. Maybe ours is something different - a new job, a fitness goal, a pay rise, a positive Tinder date. It’s something grand when it happens, and because it’s not out of the realm of possibility, we keep on truckin’ ‘til we get it.

Tormund Giantsbane and Brienne of Tarth

Clearly these two are incredibly important in their own right but it’s the tantalising possibility of something sexy happening between them that makes it vitally important both of them stay very much alive.

Tormund is the ferocious ginger warrior wildling; Brienne is the ferocious blonde warrior woman. Brienne was once forced to fight a bear; Tormund claims to have f***ed a bear. Both support a Stark (R + L = J be damned, that Snow is Stark, not Targaryen), which shows good judgement. Both enjoying carving the crap out of bad guys, which makes them eminently deserving of all the screen time.

By all rights we should have seen the attraction coming, but when Brienne rode through the gates of Castle Black causing Tormund to drop his jaw in awe, the whole internet roared with collective thirsty YES! THIS! BY THE GODS, THIS! This was a hole we didn’t know we needed filling. I won’t joke that Brienne is the same - sure, we want her to go there, but we want her to be into it.

Of course the spanner in the works of Tormienne is Jaime Lannister, Brienne’s one time prisoner/travel companion. He retains a grudging affection for the straight-laced Tarth fighter, as evidenced by their most recent, almost tender, farewell at Riverrun. But Jaime’s back in King’s Landing now with his twincester, the new Mad (as Hell) Queen. Brienne will head for Winterfell and Sansa, where Tormund awaits, hoping she’ll throw him a bone… of meat, which he will devour lasciviously in front of her.

I’ll even be fine if Tormienne continues as one-sided sexual tension. I just want to see it, all of it, every last drop of it, and so they must both live. We Game of Thrones fans are nothing if not romantic.

Lyanna Mormont

DON’T. YOU. F***ING. DARE.


Beloveds, from this Monday (eeeeek!) I will be posting my recaps here at the 'Burger for all to read for free. However, if you would like to support these recaps, you can jump onboard my Patreon train here and pledge a minimum of $1 per recap. If you do, you will be super sexy and a dynamite in the bedroom. It's just science. Thank you to Beloved Patrons Alannah, Lorna R, Brendan C, Anthony S and Holly R for your amazing support. Much sticky dragon love. MoK. xoxo

11 Responses to ‘Game of Thrones S7: The Top 9 Characters They Absolutely Cannot Kill Off Because Seriously I Won't Cope’

Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted July 16
Excellent recap as ever Girl Clumsy, might I suggest Beric Dondarrion is quite safe since in a recent interview George RR Martin revealed he is a fire wight. The binary opposite to the Ice wights raised by the Night Kight king. Consequently, I presume only to be killed by an equivalent to dragon glass or valerian steel.

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Ashley reckons...

Posted July 16
Love the thoughts- looking forward to the show! Just a thought - since Gendry is all but back from the dead - do you think he will be the one who knows how to create Valyrian steel - and hence performs a critical role?

girlclumsy ducks in to say...

Posted July 16
I've heard whispers of this possible return of Gendry - I'm onboard, let's get his shirt off and ironmonger some Valyrian Steel for all.

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Rob mutters...

Posted July 16
At least half of this list should die.

Too many cliches are starting to grow, the original razor sharpness of GoT has declined into sitcom/rom com territory.

Arya Stark and Jon The Emo Snow top the list.

And Lyanna Mormont?

Really?

Another ridiculous spoilt child.

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Victa swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 16
Far, far away!

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sousy wench has opinions thus...

Posted July 16
While my brain mostly agrees with you, I'll still be crushed if most of these characters bite it.

I vehemently disagree regarding Lyanna Mormont. If Bran (everything is his fault) or Rickon (fucking zig zag), were half as awesome as the Pady of Bear island, Winterfell wouldn't have fallen at all. (Blocks ears and hums to keep out any logical rebuttals).

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girlclumsy ducks in to say...

Posted July 16
Lyanna is awesome, nobody can take that away from us!

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Dean asserts...

Posted July 17
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KrP-V4gqbM

Dean swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 17
Hmmm link text not active, but it's a Top 10 death predictions for S7 (not mine)

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Blue mumbles...

Posted July 17
On the contrary - many of those people sadly, tragically, must die. It's what makes GOT GOT. Ned, Rob, Caitlyn, Grey Wolf, Lady, Shireen... if all these characters were still alive the show would be far less impactful.

The only characters that must survive to the endgame are Daenerys, Jon Snargaryen, and the Night's King.

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But her emails!

Posted July 14 by John Birmingham

Today's Alien Side Boob is free because it's an experiment. No newly invented profanities. No off colour sexual references. Just a thought experiment.

An alternate micro-history. One I'm so intrigued by I'm thinking of doing agreater length as a quick ebook.

You'll understand why after reading below.

Chinese Dirt on Trump? ‘I Love It,’ Chelsea Clinton Said.

By NYT Staff and Agencies. JULY 11, 2017

Chelsea Clinton received an email on June 3, 2016, promising dirt on Republican nominee Donald Trump. The information was described as being part of Chinese support for her mother’s ultimately successful presidential bid. Her reply? “I love it.”

The June 3, 2016, email sent to Chelsea Clinton could hardly have been more explicit: One of Bill Clinton’s Chinese business partners had been contacted by a senior Chinese government official and was offering to provide Hillary Clinton’s campaign with dirt on Donald Trump.

The documents “would incriminate Trump and his dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your mother’s campaign,” read the email, written by a trusted intermediary, who added, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of China and its government’s support for Hillary.”

If the future president’s only daughter was surprised or disturbed by the provenance of the promised material — or the notion that it was part of a continuing effort by Beijing to aid her mother’s campaign — she gave no indication.

She replied within minutes: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

Four days later, after a flurry of emails, the intermediary wrote back, proposing a meeting in New York on Thursday with a “Chinese government attorney.”

Chelsea Clinton agreed, adding that she would most likely bring along “John Podesta (campaign boss)” and “my father-in-law,” Edward Mezvinsky now one of President Clinton’s closest, but most controversial White House advisers.

On June 9, the Chinese lawyer was sitting in the younger Clinton’s office, just one level below the office of her mother the future president.

The Justice Department and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are examining whether any of President Clinton’s associates colluded with the Chinese government to disrupt last year’s election. American intelligence agencies have determined that the Chinese government tried to sway the election in favour of Hillary Clinton.

The precise nature of the promised damaging information about Mr Trump is unclear, and there is no evidence to suggest that it was related to Chinese-government computer hacking that led to the release of thousands of Republican National Committee emails. But in recent days, accounts by some of the central organizers of the meeting, including Chelsea Clinton, have evolved or have been contradicted by the written email records.

Clinton advisers have often insisted that the campaign had no contact with various Chinese insiders — claims that were later proved false.

After being told that The Times was about to publish the content of the emails, instead of responding to a request for comment, Chelsea Clinton posted images of them on Tuesday on Twitter.

She said that nothing came of the meeting. But in an interview on Tuesday with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, she said that “in retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently.”

President Hillary Clinton wrote on Twitter early Wednesday: “My daughter Chelsea did a good job last night. She was open, transparent and innocent. This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. A vast right wing conspiracy!”

Speaking from Paris overnight the president said, “Anyone would have taken that meeting.”

Mr Trump, as he has done since losing the election, maintained a dignified silence.

A lighter moment came on Twitter when Breitbart publisher and one time Trump advisor Stephen K. Bannon tweeted, “I…worked on this story for a year…and…she just…she tweeted it out.”

The comment quickly went viral, inspiring thousands of memes and all but eclipsing actual news coverage of the Clintons’ latest fast evolving email scandal.

6 Responses to ‘But her emails!’

schalmer swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 14
In WW.2.1.1 does Admiral Kolhammer have his flag upon the Big Donald?

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted July 14
I've considered it.

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Nocturnalist puts forth...

Posted July 14
A yuge flag. The best flag, trust me, you won't believe how classy this flag is, everyone says so.

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Matthew swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 14
Reads entirely plausibly, which isn't a good thing for American democracy.

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Barnesm puts forth...

Posted July 14
you are making one of those subtle point things aren't Birmo?

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Dave C puts forth...

Posted July 17
Intriguingly counterfactually... cant wait to see how it ends... in both universes.

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One Week.. 'til GOT

Posted July 10 into Raven On by girlclumsy

There is ONE WEEK TO GO until Game of Thrones returns, as we can all marvel in the visual spectacle, the compelling drama and the taut thrillingness of Jon Snow's abs (and everything else).

To mark the occasion, I have written a little ditty celebrating my joy at the upcoming Season Seven.

To the tune of the 1998 classic, One Week by the Barenaked Ladies:

It is one week 'til my favourite show
Hits my TV again
Thank you HBO
One week 'til I get to see
The Mother of Dragons act out my fantasies
One week til my dear Jon Snow
Deals with knowing more than nothing that he didn’t know
Yesterday, it was agony
But now it’s only one week ‘til winter is coming

Hold me now and see Darth Cersei
With brother Jaime
Working out their giant map plan
They are in deep at the Keep
With enemies ready to sweep
They like the Mountain
‘Cause he’s now a giant zombie man

Hot like a dragon gotta face facts
The throne’s a contract
And Cersei thinks she’s a player
But that fortune from a frog witch
Could be a real bitch
And Jaime is a Kingslayer

Gonna make a turn to Dragonstone
I yearn to see Dany return and make 'em burn
Cause she’s the finest f***ing Queen Bee
She torched the Masters at Meereen
Like a real machine it was a scene
More schnikt and mean than Wolverine
She’s so amazing, man
I wish I had her C.V.

How can I help it if I think you’re handsome when you’re dead
Trying hard not to cry at your sweet head
I’m the kinda gal who worships a junk mound
Can’t understand what that is?
Here’s some background
I have a tendency to wear my love on my sleeve
I have a history of stalking Jon Snow

It is one week 'til he looks at me
Dead no more but still f***ing deadly
One week 'til he tackles me
With his honour and poise, he’s so f***ing broody
It is one week 'til the afternoon
When the Night’s Watch commander causes me to f***ing swoon
Yesterday I just dreamed in awe
About how I just might get my hands on his Longclaw

--instrumental--

That dick at the diner knows The Hound likes chicken
Brienne beat him up, but he just kept tickin’
Helped by but couldn’t help a cleric
He then met Beric
And got back in with the Brotherhood
Like Arya Stark he’s got a purpose
Hang out with Thoros
Like chillies, gonna set the world on fire
With flaming swords they’re on edge now
Form a wedge now
And you just might get out of a quagmire

Gotta ring my bell at Winterfell
See where Ramsay fell and had
His own starving dogs eat his face and chew on his hamstring
Gotta get a glare with Mormont bear
Cause Lyanna’s stare has got the loom and the lords may be
Keen to hail a new king

How can I help it if I think Sansa is just the best?
Trying hard not to say she’s like Baelish
I’m the kinda gal who loves Tormund Giantsbane
Can’t understand what I mean?
It’s that mane
He has the tendency to battle hard and bite off ears
He has a history of ogling Brienne

It is one week 'til the Onion Knight
Will know if banning Melisandre was right
One week and we’ll see it’s true
Tyrion will drink just like we thought he was gonna do
One week 'til I get to see
My favourite man bun and abs staring back at me
Yesterday, it was fantasy
But my dreams have come back as my reality

My dreams have come back as my reality
Don’t judge me please, I swear I’m not crazy
OK, maybe, I’m a little bit crazy

Starting from next week, I'll be posting my Raven On recaps here at the 'Burger after each and every episode. They're free to read, but if you want to support, you can jump onboard my Patreon campaign and pledge just $1 per episode ($7 for the season). Thanks to Beloved Patreons Hazel F, Bernard W, Jessica Y, Owen T and Patrick C for your ab-tastic support. Love, MoK. xoxo

8 Responses to ‘One Week.. 'til GOT’

Tarryn K ducks in to say...

Posted July 10
I don't know who to throw money at, but I need someone to sing and release this!!!


Also nice work shoehorning in the junkmound ;D

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girlclumsy would have you know...

Posted July 10
Oh MAN, I wish I could shoehorn in that junkmound.

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Lorn mumbles...

Posted July 10
I'm with Tarryn K, when's this getting released! Love it!

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Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted July 10
That's brilliant Nat, now you just have to put it to music and a kick ass filmclip with Game of Thrones rather than eighties references.

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Bernie mumbles...

Posted July 10
I'm excited!

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Kraven would have you know...

Posted July 11
JunkMOUND! Somebody please make this a video for me.

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Don Bagert is gonna tell you...

Posted July 12
Game of Thrones is opposite Twin Peaks in the USA, how about in Australia?

Barnesm reckons...

Posted July 12
Twin Peaks is only on our STAN streaming service so no competition.

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Eulogy

Posted June 30 by John Birmingham

Many of you will already know that my dad passed away last week after long and terrible illness. I wrote about him for BT, but this is a more personal tribute that I'd like to leave here. The eulogy I gave at his funeral:

An old folk saying has it that when a father dies it feels as though half the sky has fallen. This speaks the truth of it.

Our father was the sheltering sky, the wide vessel of our universe.

Beneath his mild firmament no storm ever raged, no hard rain fell. His nature was as gentle as the fallen world is harsh.

All our lives he was both counterpoint and bastion against the trespasses of ill fate and the predations of the ill-intended.

Dad was a gentleman in the literal sense of the word. A gentle man. I don’t recall him ever raising his voice, let alone a hand against anyone. And I am sure we gave him ample reason.

I know the world did.

I have two memories, separated by ten years, but bound together by my father’s hand.

As a boy of five I am walking home from school attended by the grey phantoms of misery and fear. I know that up ahead a bully waits in ambush, as he has waited for me every day, to drink deeply from the intoxicating well of the terror he inspires.

This day is no different, until it is, for when my tormentor suddenly appears, so too does dad, unbidden, unexpected and unhoped for in my abject woe. He made things right. Where before I had slunk along beneath lowering clouds, I could now unfold myself, stand up and fear no more. For there he was, like the sky, gentle blue and mild and infinite, forever watching over me.

Ten years later and I am running home from school. I am covered in bruises and welts, given me by a poor excuse for a man, a Christian brother, who’s own poor excuses and wretched justifications for his behaviour will not spare him the prison cell he will soon occupy for much graver wrongs than he ever did me.

Soon. But not soon enough for dad.

While I do not ever recall him raising a fist in anger, I do believe he would have done so that day had circumstance placed him in the path of this bloke. He knew how to raise a fist. He was a boxer in his younger days. But he unmade his fists when he married and raised children. He effected my rescue, again, as he effected all things in his life. Quietly, simply and with a faith in the rightness of what he must do.

He was a man of strong faith, but gentle nature, and he could no more betray his faith or nature than the sky itself could fall.

It is only now he is gone, that we look up and find half the sky gone with him.

It is customary upon days such as this that we take the measure of a man by recounting his works and listing his victories, public and private, great and small. Dad had all of these, but what he did counts for so much less than who he was. Husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.

To everyone he loved, he was the sheltering sky.

You were safe beneath his gentle light and warmth. It feels as though half the sky has fallen, but that cannot be. If you look up it is there. It is always there. Like dad.

35 Responses to ‘Eulogy’

Dave W ducks in to say...

Posted June 30
Thank you for sharing this with us, John.

My words are not up to the challenge. I feel like all I have is cliches, and that's not what I want to say.

All my best wishes.
Dave

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Bondiboy66 reckons...

Posted June 30
I too say thanks for sharing the eulogy. My deepest condolences to you and your family for your heartfelt loss.

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dunnandrus asserts...

Posted June 30
Vale.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted June 30
Money is free but love costs more than our bread
And the ceiling is hard to reach
When my son is a man he will know what I meant
I was just trying to leave something behind
I was just trying to leave something behind

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted June 30
I hope you're happy. You made me cry in a burger joint.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted June 30
Turn about is fair play, mate.

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Surtac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 30
Lovely words, John.

Again, my condolences.

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David Shapcott mutters...

Posted June 30
Thanks John. My father Bob Shapcott passed away in October and so much of what you have written could have applied to him. He was an Ipswich lad. Maybe it is something about this town. It seems to breed big quiet gentlemen in the truest sense of the word. It also breed a cheeky sense of humour. Though dad spent nearly 20 years dying from strokes dementia and assorted ailments he was a larakin until the end.

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insomniac mutters...

Posted June 30
A couple of sets of really emotionally thinky words, three if you count Boylan's.

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pi mutters...

Posted June 30
Sorry for your and your familys loss JB. My condolences.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 30
Man. That's undone me for the end of the week. I must have missed the various other notices. I'm heading to the pub before i catch the bus home. I'll have a beer for your dad and one for mine.

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Jim KABLE mutters...

Posted June 30
John: Short - and oh, so sweet - your words re you father. Pause for further thought - for me. Your good fortune to have had your father for so long. Clive James never got to see his; Germaine Greer's returned from war a stranger. As for me - it's a kind of conundrum I've spent much of my life trying to figure out. My father was a passenger - killed in a car accident - the car driven by his favourite big brother who survived. Coming down the then unsealed slope into Willow Tree. The place forever marked for me by the peppercorn trees. I was just two. No conscious memories of him - though there are some remarkable memories from just after that disappearance from my life.

When at home from work he carried me around - refusing to place me into the outreaching arms of aunts - not so usual in those far-off days for men to take charge. It was a warming image when my mother told me this a mere decade or so ago. He was a remarkable sketcher of portraits, he wrote love poetry to my mother - some were rendered into songs - he played an array of instruments - harmonica, piano and piano accordion, trumpet and violin and guitar - he was an energised powerhouse - in the surf, in the mountains - plucky is a word which springs to mind.

And not having him alongside during my years of growing up was a loss - in your terms, John - of the entire sky. And I have spent much of my life - especially from age 11 searching the world to flesh him out. I visited him just two weeks ago - he lies in the cemetery at Quirindi. A communion of sorts takes place each time I call on him - as you might imagine. Anyway, John - I found very moving your eulogy - just wishing, as I read it, that I had had a similar kind of chance to do likewise for my father! Thank-you.

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StevetheH mumbles...

Posted June 30
John, that sent me into tears.
Now I'm remembering my nan.
She held up half the town I lived in - not just with food, but love.

It's the departure of the gentle ones that hits us most.

Take care mate - hugs from all of us

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w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted June 30
Beautiful photo, John. That's your son I'm assuming. So much love.

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CathieT ducks in to say...

Posted June 30
No words.

(Hug)

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jl mumbles...

Posted June 30
Requiesce in pace.

Jason

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Kerry swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 1
Beautiful

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HAVOCK21 would have you know...

Posted July 1
My thoughts go out to you and your family.

H.

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Trent puts forth...

Posted July 2
John,

A beautiful tribute to what sounds like a wonderful man. Can feel your pain and admiration in your words.

Hope you are doing ok. Time doesn't heal all wounds but it does make them a bit easier to live with as each day passes.

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pedrogb mumbles...

Posted July 2
Sorry for your loss.

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jason would have you know...

Posted July 3
Your loss reminded me that we should never leave our words of love and praise unspoken. I have been negligent in not telling my daughters how proud i am of them
(and i truly am, they have already exceeded my dreams for them). I am sure they always knew it but now they are sure. Sadly I am still not sure how to tell my parents how grateful I am for everything they have done for me. It's not the way in my family.

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Therbs mutters...

Posted July 4
Respect

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Gilligan is gonna tell you...

Posted July 4
Beautiful words that somehow coincided with the office getting all dusty.

Much love to you and yours, good sir.

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Oldy mumbles...

Posted July 5
Beautiful words, John. Thanks for sharing them.

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Dirk puts forth...

Posted July 5
Hang in there my friend.
D

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Aaron Campagnone reckons...

Posted July 5
I feel for your loss. We are not friends, we are not even acquaintances, but still I feel I know you through your writing and your blogs. I lost my mother 8 years ago now, and so I understand the grief and pain you feel, that your family feels. I will tell you one thing I learned over the last 8 years. Its a hard lesson, but it is one that has brought me peace. It does get better. People will say, the hurt will go away...it does not. It always hurts to think of your missing parent. What does change is that the pain lessens. It takes time, but you will be able to look back on your memories with a smile. I know that for the first months any thought of mother nearly broke me, but over time, I was able to look back on the good times, the fun times, the little things that make a person laugh, and you will be able to do that again as well. While time does not heal all wounds, it gives them scar tissue and does dull the pain. Give yourself that time, and focus on the good, the happy, the fun times.

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Quokka asserts...

Posted July 6
Beautiful. You were very blessed to have him, JB.
Please accept our condolences for your loss.
xxxx

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Dave C ducks in to say...

Posted July 6
I'm very sorry for your loss, John. He sounds like a hell of a Dad. I have no doubt that the world was richer for his presence, and shall be poorer in his absence. Like ripples from a stone tossed in a pond, though, the positive effects from one good man can spread far and wide, and span generations.
Best wishes.

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Brother PorkChop ducks in to say...

Posted July 6
Sorry John. I've been away and am very sorry to hear. Lovely words. Its coming up to 10 years since my Dad left us and I feel it every day.

Brother PorkChop would have you know...

Posted July 6
Someone put me on to an essay by CS Lewis called A Grief Observed. I don't know if you've heard of it but it helped.

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AuntyLou is gonna tell you...

Posted July 6
I have been wondering what to say to you. We don't know each other but my feelings for you in this time are sincere. I lost my mum some years ago and I will miss her forever. She was my best friend and we buried her the day before I married my sweetie. Hard? Yes, but she will always be with me. John, your dad will be with you always. In the quiet moments...in the times when you are unsure...when you need his steadfast wisdom or kindness - I think you will find those things in yourself. Keep making him proud.

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Unpossible mumbles...

Posted July 7
Touching pair of stories.

I hope that your old man was in a good state when you published the dave trilogy.

One of Dave's worst stories was how he handled the kid who bullied his son.

It seems like that story was modelled on the exact thing your dad didn't do.

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damian would have you know...

Posted July 9
Very much share your feeling here. My grandfather, similarly, modeled this form of kind, gentle but nonetheless strong as iron masculinity for me. He passed 3 years ago last Wednesday, at 89, so I suppose they're not quite the same generation, but clearly there's a similar background ethic.

I personally can't abide men who display their masculinity as a sort of presumptuous arrogance, the notion that "a gentleman knows what he wants". The ideal version of masculinity doesn't really even have the words "I want" in its vocabulary. It has the commitment to work hard your whole life to make things right for your kids, or even without the kids just to make things right. The acknowledgement that thankless tasks are still worth doing, that leaving a slightly better world behind is its own reward.

Even that gentleness is its own reward.

jason ducks in to say...

Posted July 10
The greatest compliment I have ever been paid was by my wife who told me when I deal with my kids I remind her of Atticus Finch.

I always saw him as the perfect role model. Gentle and caring not boastful but strong and powerful in protecting others.

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matt everitt has opinions thus...

Posted July 11
beautiful words John, thank you for sharing your heart.

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Sweet flaming swords, it's another Game of Thrones S7 trailer recap!

Posted June 22 into Raven On by girlclumsy

Bless you, HBO. Bless your glorious cotton socks. Delivering us a heart-pumping, loin-girding, ab-touching cracker of a trailer right on the Winter Solstice.

Of course it’s the summer solstice up past the equator, but we here in the Antipodes need no imagination to picture the depths of chilly misery they must be now enduring in Westeros. In Brisbane alone the temperature has been dropping to 11 or 12 degrees at night (roughly 54 in that ridiculous Fahrenheit), and that’s so arctic I had to put on slippers.

Not unexpectedly, the payload in this piece is a heck of a lot bigger than in last month’s HUGE WAR ROOM FLOOR MAP trailer.

The war room floor map doesn’t make a reappearance, but I’m not surprised. As I mentioned back then, that trailer focused on the human relationships, threats and alliances, with not much attention paid to the supernatural threat beyond The Wall.

By contrast, this one lets rip with battles and skirmishes and beat-ups galore, and slams the apocalyptic reality of the White Walkers right back into our gaping, drooling faces.

So let’s do a quick breakdown of the voiceover sequences and then hone in on some key flashes of “WHAT” and “WAS THAT JUST” and “HOLY CRAP” from the montages.

We start with a tracking shot of the Lady of Winterfell, walking past a weirwood tree in what we assume is the Godswood. Strong, determined, unblinking, she is taking her cues from 2009-era Beyonce. She Is…. Sansa Fierce.


"Uh oh oh, oh oh oh, oh oh, oh, oh oh oh"


But whispering, always bloody whispering, in his stupid bloody whispering voice, is Petyr Baelish:
“Don’t fight in the North, or the South. Fight every battle, everywhere, always in your mind.”

If we assume he says this in person to Sansa, it’s an interesting focus on the internal struggle that must be won before any victory in the field can be had. It’s about removing the physical constructs of each battle and placing strategy, confidence and belief first and foremost. With the greatest match still ahead of Sansa, the Starks, the North and essentially to humanity as a whole, Littlefinger is starting to sound like a sports commentator. I mean, what I call him certainly rhymes with Rex Hunt.

Meanwhile I must find out where to obtain a copy of that introductory cello-with-choir underscore. I want to download it to my iPhone so I can walk around in slow motion with the music playing in my ears, pretending I’m an epic hero about to face danger and battle and stuff when really I’m just about to face feeding the foster kittens.

Other images seen in those opening moments: a long shot of Meera and Bran at The Wall, giving hope they will find some security with the rump of the Night’s Watch; Daenarys and her table top gaming board; Arya on a horse; Baelish in the shadows (maybe a dungeon?); and that weapon being sharpened again like a character on the “Who Shot Mr Burns?” episode of The Simpsons.

There’s also some shots that add weight to the idea we could be going to Casterly Rock this season, with the Lannister banners hanging in a stone keep filled with smallfolk seemingly welcoming somebody in, and Jaime seen from behind in armour striding around a battlement. It could be the King’s Landing, but perhaps not? There’s also a low-key beach landing, and later on, a glimpse of Grey Worm in a helmet approaching a rocky cliff - could it be Unsullied troops looking to take The Rock?


Good luck with that.


The second voice we hear is Jon’s:

“For centuries our families fought together against their common enemy. Despite their differences… together. We need to do the same if we’re going to survive. Because the enemy is real. It’s always been real.”

The first half of this grave declaration runs over shots of Dany walking along the beach at Dragonstone, then pulling down what looks to be like an old Targaryen banner, possible revealing a throne, or maybe some sort of family secret/inheritance. We see those magnificent dragons tearing it up like teenagers on a Contiki tour, and Tyrion looking pensively out over the sea.

Other characters pop up: Theon looking grim as usual; Brienne and Pod look awesome as usual; a flash of a snowbound Hound. There’s a series of shots involving Lannister soldiers, with Jaime and Bronn overseeing a team of archers, in what can only be described as a bromance-turned-bowmance.

There’s also a glimpse of a wheelchair-bound Bran (possibly with Bloodraven, the old dude from the cave, watching on) warging just as a bunch of ravens fly over a battlefield, seemingly sparking the interest of the Night’s King. As Jon’s voice sounds out “The enemy is real. It’s always been real”, there is a pause, fade to black, and then THIS MOTHEREFFING SHOT:


BMF.


Holy flipping heck, it’s Beric Dondarrion carrying a flaming sword! But as we remember, it was Thoros of Myr who carried a flaming sword. SO WHERE IS THOROS? WHY DOES BERIC HAVE HIS SWORD?

A bit further on, there is another shot of my beloved fighting on a bluff (he can fight on my bluff anytime etc) and LOOK THERE IT IS AGAIN:


So the Brotherhood Without Banners (and possibly now Without Thoros of Myr) will at some point team up with Jon, Tormund and co. for more adventures fighting...wights, I assume? Unless Jon’s foreboding talk about coming together to fight the evil was aimed at other houses who have yet to sign on to the new reality of winter life and the coming icy apocalypse. They all seemed to acknowledge him as the “White Wolf” King in the North at the end of last season. But who knows, there could still be some hold outs.

That final montage before the Sansa voiceover contained a plethora - yes, El Guapo, a plethora! - of frames/shots/glimpses/sightings/moments that had my heart beating against my chest like a Looney Toons character looking at another Looney Toons character in drag. Moments like this:


Jaime Lannister racing on horseback across a field of fire, lance in (remaining) hand. This surely must involve the stampeding Dothraki army, with dragon accompaniment, as seen in other sections of the trailer. But who is he aiming for? A human… or a dragon? And could he fell a dragon? We know historically Jaime was a fine jouster at tournament, and it’s a credit to his thighs that he can still seat his horse so ferociously with the reins in his golden hand, while his left hand grasps his mighty spear OK wow I have totally distracted myself and need a moment.

I loved seeing Jon standing sexily next to Ser Davos almost as much as I fretted seeing him fight off one of the head honcho White Walkers; I did a little dance seeing Missandei plant her linguistically deft lips right on Grey Worm; and of course seeing Tormund Giantsbane lunge at anybody is delightful (and hopefully with Brienne, consensual).

There’s the Greyjoy fleet approaching King’s Landing, Yara and Theon looking at fireworks/fire, and a glimpse of old mate Euron getting ragey as ships burn; and as he accompanies the Dothraki warriors, a close-up of Drogon so severe you can smell his lizard breath.

But there’s also some things that weren’t clear to me. For example, is this Theon looking wrecked on a beach? Or Euron? Or an Unsullied?


Oh gods, it's Gendry, isn't it? He finally got out of the boat.

And this guy. Who is this guy?


WHO ARE YOU MYSTERY MAN


As we see a sole rider hot-hoofing it away from camera, the voiceover concludes with Sansa throwing up some Grade A metaphor and/or allegory.

“When the snows fall, and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies…. but the pack survives.”
And we get this breathtaking shot of our King in the North, from one of his greatest angles:


His back hump looks so soft.


Now I must admit, when I first heard that phrase, my immediate response was “LONE WOLF WHAT ARE YOU REFERRING TO JON IS THIS INSINUATING JON COULD DIE NO NO NO”. Please understand I’m a little sensitive when it comes to the mortality of my beloved.

But it’s more likely Sansa’s singing from the same song sheet as Jon - that all petty human squabbles have to be put aside to ensure victory, that the time for individual glory is over. Indeed, Jon has been proof of that over and over again - his early days of wanting to be a kickarse Ranger are long gone, and he has become one of the most well-rounded (and #junkmounded) diplomats in the series. It wouldn’t surprise me if their dialogue here occurs in the same scene.

Can we take a moment to appreciate the sartorial splendour of our King in the North? Decked out in designer whites, he’s practically Fursace. Or Furberry. Or Salvatore Furragamo. He’s also really embraced that man bun. I mean, it makes sense - all of those luscious black curls would get in your face while fighting, not to mention getting wet and sticky in all that snowy weather. Of course I long for the return of the mop top, but for the moment I can live with the “Jon Snowcone”.

Well, kittens, that’s about all I’ve got for now, but if I have any strokes of genius about this trailer I’ll get back to you. We’re closing in on a month out from S7, E1 - will we get a third trailer before it hits? Whatever happens, I will be here for you, my beloved Throners, always your devoted recappespondent and ab connoisseur.

A special shout out this week to all my Patreon subscribers for your generosity and loyalty, including Tarryn K, Jamie E, Cath G, Alison M and Elana M. If you want to find out more about my Patreon campaign, and why I ask people to consider paying $1 per recap, head over here.

Valar morghulis!



4 Responses to ‘Sweet flaming swords, it's another Game of Thrones S7 trailer recap!’

Bondiboy66 puts forth...

Posted June 23
I am allowed to go 'Squeeee!' I don't care - I'll do it anyway.

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Abbey mutters...

Posted June 23
"Oh gods, it's Gendry, isn't it? He finally got out of the boat."

Snorted. Loudly. Still chortling haha

I only listened to your podcast with Stu talking about this the other day and I'm still picturing Gendry going round and round and round and round and round ..... you get the idea. So funny.

spankee has opinions thus...

Posted June 26
There's a podcast?

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Seakla would have you know...

Posted June 25
Here's a link to that piece. It's "In the Light of the Seven", from the previous season.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pS-gbqbVd8c

I also love this piece :-D

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