A Grump’s Map of the U.S.


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“America the Beautiful”, via Pundit From Another Planet, http://punditfromanotherplanet.com/2015/09/16/america-the-beautiful/

Americans are, by and large, exceptionally optimistic people.  They tend to dwell on the positive aspects of the country, ever proud of America’s wealth, abundant resources, hardworking people, etc.  However, I’ve still found it to be a universal truth that we Americans (and I especially) love to complain about the weather.  Whether it’s too hot, too cold, too dry, too wet, or too tornado-y, every region of the U.S. has something to gripe about, as the map above makes evident.

In my own home state of Connecticut, we have several months of “snow-covered moonscape”, but we’re also cursed with heat and humidity (i.e., “air made of hot soup”) in the summer months. And for good measure, we get the occasional hurricane terror and nightmare tornado.  Fortunately, we’re spared from volcanos, or “murder mountains”, on the East Coast.  Looking at all the threats that face you in every part of the country (except, perhaps, the “mystery belt”), where would you prefer to live?

There’s good and bad no matter where you live, but the grump will always focus on the negative.  At least in America, your negatives come in a variety, and you can pick and choose which environmental hazard you mind the least.

Until next time… happy mapping!


See how the battle lines changed on every day of World War II


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This past week, the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II was commemorated.  It was on August 15, 1945, that Japan, the last axis power, announced its surrender to the allied powers after two devastating nuclear bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  It was a brutally destructive end to the most destructive period in human history.

From 1939 to 1945, the world was in a constant state of flux as the competing sides fought for geopolitical control.  Although the allied powers (initially led by France and the U.K., later joined by the U.S. and Russia) prevailed in the end, it looked very bleak indeed for the first few years of the war.  The axis powers of Nazi Germany and Italy had taken most of Europe and the French colonies in Africa, while Japan was quickly gobbling up areas of China, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific.  Only after 1944 did the allies reverse the trend, first taking back Europe and then pivoting to Asia.  The war officially ended on September 2, 1945, with Japan’s signature of the instrument of surrender.

The video below shows how the political boundaries of the axis, allied, and other powers shifted during every single day of the war from 1939 to 1945.  YouTube channel Emperor Tigerstar is remarkable in putting together videos of maps which illustrate the change in political power over periods of time, such as the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.  This video is a great example of how a well-made map can often explain a story better than words ever could.  As you watch the front lines change, and listen to audio from speeches given by figures such as President Franklin Roosevelt, you can almost picture these historical battles happening before your eyes.

During the six years of the war, over 70 million people died in total.  Violence of this magnitude has, thankfully, not been replicated since.  The two atomic bombs dropped over Japan have also been the only nuclear weapons to be used in war so far.  As we remember the events of 1945, let’s also recognize the importance of restraint and diplomacy in resolving international conflicts in the future.  The great turmoil and destruction of the war have become a memory which grows ever more distant.  As political extremism around the world is once again on the rise, let us hope that such levels of destruction never return.

National Geographic’s biggest update to its latest atlas is a result of climate change


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As President Obama noted in a speech last week, the biggest change that National Geographic has had to make to its atlases since the fall of the Soviet Union has been the change in the Arctic Ocean.  Climate change has caused a dramatic reduction in the amount of ice covering the region over a relatively short period of time.  Accordingly, National Geographic has had to keep making adjustments in each new edition of its atlas.

Just watch this gif to see how the depiction of the Arctic Ocean has changed in these atlases from 1999 to 2014:

The change in Arctic ice, as seen in National Geographic atlases between 1999 and 2014 (via National Geographic, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/08/150803-arctic-ice-obama-climate-nation-science/)

The retreat of the ice is moving at the alarming pace of 12 percent per decade, according to National Geographic, and it even appears to be speeding up in recent years.  The acceleration is caused by a certain feedback loop: ice becomes thinner, so more water is absorbed by the ocean, warming the water and melting more ice.  As the ice melts further, it will eventually cause ocean levels to rise around the world.  Island nations such as Tuvalu have been particularly concerned about their survival over the next several decades.

You can read thousands of words about the effects of climate change, but it won’t have the same effect as viewing a single map (or even better, a gif of several maps to show the change over time).  Watching the Arctic icecap vanish is a shocking sight, and very disheartening for those struggling to slow down and reverse the trends of climate change.   Nearly all scientists agree that warming temperatures and increasingly erratic weather patterns have potentially catastrophic consequences for the earth as a whole.  Let’s hope it’s not too late to prevent the worst of it.

Source: National Geographic

The Persistent Riddle of the Kitora Tomb Star Chart


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In 1998, the ancient Kitora Tomb was discovered in Asuka, located in the Nara Prefecture of Japan.  The tomb is relatively small but features beautiful paintings of animals (a black tortoise, a red phoenix, a white tiger, and a blue dragon) which represent the four points of the compass.  Even more fascinating is a star chart on the ceiling which was discovered through further probing in 1998.  In the years since, it has been the subject of a great deal of speculation as to its origins.

Image of the Star Chart from the Kitora Tomb (via CNET, http://www.cnet.com/news/mysterious-ancient-star-chart-shows-foreign-skies/)

When was the star chart created?  What does it represent?  What was its purpose?  These are questions upon which researchers have failed to come to universal agreement.  We do know that the chart appears to depict 68 constellations in the night sky, and the rings depict the movement of celestial objects such as the sun. Japanese astronomy researchers have suggested a date of creation between 520 BC and 40 BC, which could make this the oldest surviving star chart of its kind.  Evidently, the chart was created several hundred years before the Kitora Tomb itself.

Researchers Matsuru Soma and Tsuko Nakamura have come to the same conclusion with regard to the star chart’s vantage point: China.  They believe that the view of the sky shown in the Kitora Tomb chart resembles the view that would be visible from modern-day Chinese cities such as Xi’an or Luoyang during this time period.  A different hypothesis, from Kazuhiko Miyajima, is that the chart shows the view from Pyongyang or Seoul, in North and South Korea, respectively.  Either way, it is curious that the chart depicts a view of the sky from a different vantage point from the place it was created.

An annotated diagram of the star chart makes it a little easier to understand:

Annotated Kitora Tomb Star Chart, by University of Iowa Research Fellow Steve Renshaw (via CNET, http://www.cnet.com/news/mysterious-ancient-star-chart-shows-foreign-skies/)

As the research continues, we may eventually have answers to the persistent questions of the Kitora Tomb Star Chart’s origin and purpose.  Until then, we are left to wonder.

Source: http://www.cnet.com/news/mysterious-ancient-star-chart-shows-foreign-skies/

More Unusual Calendar Designs



As a sequel to the popular 2014 post “The Flow of Time and Calendar Design”, I wanted to share a few more unusual calendar designs that intrepid artists have created.  Calendars help us to visualize and organize our day-to-day lives, and these unique designs all serve a purpose in encouraging us to see time differently.  Sure, 2015 is already half over, but it’s not too early to start thinking about 2016.

Cats Let Nothing Darken Their Roar

Cats Let Nothing Darken Their Roar, via http://www.catsletnothingdarkentheirroar.com/product/28

This Finish calendar is now in its 10th year.  It follows the traditional design, except for the fact that two weeks, rather than one, are placed in each row.  The letters for each month are spelled out by a phrase that changes every year.  In 2015, they recycled the 2006 phrase for January: Jaws, Nuts and a Diary.  The name of the calendar itself, Cats Let Nothing Darken Their Roar, spells out “calendar” if you take a few of the letters from the first four words.

The Calendar Dodecahedron

This calendar you can hold in your hand, as each of its 12 sides represents a different month. It makes for a colorful desk accessory and does not take up much space.  Switching between months is relatively easy compared to flipping pages on a standard desk calendar.  However, it is not nearly as practical, with little room to write events on the dates.

The Keyboard Calendar

By Harald Geisler, via Art at Heart (http://www.artatheart.co.uk/artatheart/typography/page/9/)

By Harald Geisler, via Art at Heart (http://www.artatheart.co.uk/artatheart/typography/page/9/)

The keys from a computer keyboard are the main ingredients for the above calendar.  From a distance, it is a mismatch of faded colors and black marks.  Look closer, and you will say months, days of the week, and numbers.  The image above begins with Friday the 2nd, followed by Saturday the 3rd, etc.  Once again, this is not the most practical way to organize your schedule, but it does give you an interesting image to ponder.  When your entire year is represented by a collection of keyboard keys, it seems to change one’s outlook on time itself.  Perhaps each day is simply a key waiting to be tapped?

Ink Calendar

In this most unusual calendar, a bottle of very slow-moving ink is spilled at the beginning of the month and gradually fills in the month’s days in embossed paper.  It takes 24 hours for each day to fill in with ink.  I love the fact that this calendar keeps current on its own, and the flow of time is illuminated so tangibly.

Circular Calendar

The entire year is again represented in one image, but this time it flows in a circular direction.  The outside ring lists each month, and the next inside ring contains each day in that month.  The most prominent feature is the giant yellow circle in the middle, representing the sun.  Its position on a given day indicates the hours of daylight, which is why the sun is closer to the outside rings in the summer months.

Map Calendar

Of course I had to find a calendar which was also a map!  This July 2013 desktop wallpaper calendar features a map which perfectly captures what July represents in the popular imagination: picnics, popsicles, and fans for cooling down.  Time is the 4th dimension, after all, so it is only fitting that this dimension should be mapped accordingly.

Hope you all enjoyed the calendars, and let me know if you’ve seen any other interesting designs which I may have missed!

What’s Your Favorite Map Projection? Here’s What It Says about You


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There are many ways to handle the challenge of depicting the three-dimensional Earth on a two-dimensional map.  Each has its advantages and drawbacks, such as distortions in the size and shape of landmasses.  I think a simple Robinson or Winkel-Tripel projection does a fine job, but others would argue that any rectangular shape is inherently illogical.  For these deep thinkers, we have the Dymaxion or Goode Homolosine.  The most unusual one of all, the Waterman Butterfly projection, may actually be the most accurate, at least according to its creator Steve Waterman.  But I still find it incredibly disorienting and hard to use.

One of the most intelligent and hilarious webcomics, xkcd, created the below graphic to explain what your favorite map projection says about you.  The Theory of Knowledge blog brought this to my attention, and it tickled me in just the right way.

Exploring Earthsea

Fantasy is so captivating for so many people because it promises a world very different from our own.  Fictional worlds have magic, mystery, and dragons, not to mention a greater sense of danger and adventure than our own current-day planet Earth.  Stepping into Middle Earth, or Narnia, or Westeros, is exciting because we are experiencing completely alien and unpredictable.

And yet, most fantasy worlds end up repeating the same tired tropes.  For example, the geography and climate strongly resemble medieval Europe and the main characters are usually light-skinned.  This blog has already pointed out how most fantasy world maps are left-justified, with the ocean to the west, because writers are consciously or unconsciously basing their landmass on Europe.  Writers write what they know, after all, and most fantasy authors are European or American.  But extra credit is due to writers who break out of this mold and create something truly unique.

That’s where Earthsea comes in.

Map of Earthsea, originally created by Ursula K. Le Guin, redrawn by Liam Davis (via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Map_of_Earthsea.jpg)

Earthsea is the setting of the Earthsea series of fantasy novels by American writer Ursula K. Le Guin.  Beginning with 1968’s A Wizard of Earthsea, Le Guin set out to build a universe which subverted all the typical tropes.  I have not read her series yet, but based solely on the world map above, I would have to say it appears that she succeeded.

There are no major continents on Earthsea, just an assortment of numerous small islands, the largest of which, Havnor, is about the size of Great Britain, but does not resemble it in shape.  The defining feature of Earthsea is not the land, but the water, which surrounds all the islands and stretches in all directions.  The people that live in Earthsea are, by and large, red-brown in coloring, unlike most of the denizens of other fantasy universes.  Le Guin even employs a Taoist philosophy to underpins Earthsea’s treatment of magic; the usage of magic is good when it is in balance with the natural world, and bad when it upsets that balance.

Earthsea reminds me of other worlds which came after, such as the world from the video game The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, which was released in 2003.

Map of the World in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, by Deviant Art user YoshisGhost (via http://yoshisghost.deviantart.com/art/Zelda-Wind-Waker-Map-178433407)

When the game first came out, many long-time Zelda fans were very skeptical if not outright hostile to the idea of a world where Link had to travel by boat from island to island.  It broke with the series’ structure of using a horse to travel between locations in a world reminiscent of a traditional fantasy novel.  However, players gradually warmed up to it, and now the game is often praised as one of the best in the series for upending the standard tropes and trying something different.  It seems to me that the Earthsea series did just that, only several decades earlier.  I hope that more fantasy writers, and videogame designers, follows these examples in being more creative with worldbuilding in the future.

Happy mapping!

The Amazing Expanding United States


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It’s Independence Day weekend here in the US, so I’ll have just a short post today, because everyone should be outside enjoying the beautiful weather.

In honor of America’s 239 years of independence, let’s remember our nation’s humble beginning as thirteen tiny colonies.  The colonies had to fight against the most powerful empire on earth for the right to self-governance.  And yet they prevailed against the British after several years, and the Treaty of Paris in 1783 established the United States as an independent nation.  The colonists had the freedom not only to rule themselves, but to expand their territory westward over the North American continent.  Over the subsequent years, America took advantage of several opportunities, economic (the Louisiana Purchase), military (the Mexican-American War), and diplomatic (treaties with Great Britain over the boundary with Canada), all of which expanded its territory.

It is truly a marvel to see how the United States grew by such leaps and bounds from 1776 to the present day.  Below is a collection of maps from an Atlas which illustrate which areas were added to the union and when.  Quite a lot of information is here, including many little-known factoids of American geography, such as the fact that Vermont was an extralegal self-governing entity from 1777 to 1791.  With its many territorial possessions across the ocean, America has now become a global empire, a far cry from its thirteen original colonies.  Who knows what the future will bring?

Territorial Expansion of the United States (via AMDOCS, maintained by George Laughead, http://www.vlib.us/amdocs/)

10 Places You Can’t See on Google Maps



In a relatively short period of time, Google has achieved a remarkable feat of cartography: mapping the entire world.  Anyone with an internet connection can access Google Maps, find their location, zoom in, zoom out, and virtually explore anywhere else on the globe.

Well, almost anywhere.  A map is only as good as the data its creator has been given, and Google does not have the access or the authority to display certain locations, presumably for reasons of national security.  Of course, we don’t know for sure, because when you try searching for these places on Google Maps, they just appear as a blur or a black line.

The video below shows 10 of these hidden places on Google Maps.  They include military bases, power plants, nature reserves, and even some that are just plain mysteries.  In our hyper-connected information age, when anything can be googled, it is rare to encounter the un-googleable.  What do you think is being hidden, and why?

Has the Violence in Game of Thrones Become Gratuitous? A Look Back on Season 5


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Jon and Sam (Courtesy of HBO, via http://www.vox.com/2015/6/14/8780147/game-of-thrones-adaptation-jon-snow-dead/in/8156066)

Violence, vengeance, fire-breathing dragons, ice zombies, and lots and lots of death.   Season five of Game of Thrones really doubled down on the more shocking elements of the show, putting an exclamation point on its thesis statement that this is a cruel, unjust world.  The season was rife with scenes of abuse and terror, and the finale alone featured enough deaths (both certain and presumed) to fill an entire season.  It turned off many viewers, including Senator Claire McCaskill, who publicly renounced the show after one rape scene too many.

But violence in a TV show, in and of itself, is not a bad thing if it serves the plot.  The question this season was whether the violence was justified or gratuitous.

In reaching my own conclusion, I’m going to first examine several aspects of the season as a whole to see what worked and what didn’t.  I’ll be judging the season on its plot, characters, and cinematography.  From this assessment, I’ll determine whether the violence was a help or a hindrance towards the success of the season.

Spoilers follow from the TV show, but not the books.

Plot (5/10)

In general, the plot was very uneven.  For long stretches of time, especially in the early episodes, almost nothing of consequence would happen.  Then, suddenly, the pace picked up in the last few episodes.  By the time the finale hit, so many game-changing events happened in a row that they lost much of their impact.  I understand that the source material is even worse, but I think the directors could have done a better job of evening it out.

That said, some of the arcs worked very well.  In past seasons, the events at the Wall had put me to sleep, but now I was fully onboard.  The arrival of the White Walker army gave that storyline the sense of urgency it needed.  Jon Snow’s election as Lord Commander was a little implausible, but the chain of events leading up to his death I found to be logical, even though I was caught by surprise.  One caveat, though, is that if he truly remains dead, and does not come back to life as many predict, then his heroic arc didn’t have much of a point.  Unless, that is, the point was for him to die as a martyr for his righteous cause.  However, many avid watchers and book readers sound pretty confident that Jon is coming back, somehow, despite Kit Harrington’s claims to the contrary.

Other storylines I mostly enjoyed were Tyrion’s trip to Meeren, and the political power plays going on at King’s Landing.  It was fascinating to see Tyrion and Cersei follow opposite trajectories.  Tyrion began the season in a crate on a ship, and he finished the season as the de facto ruler of Meereen.  Tyrion is at his best when pulling strings and make deals behind the scenes, so I am intrigued to see where this goes next season.  Cersei, on the other hand, went from Queen to prisoner, forced to suffer a humiliating, public punishment.  That final shot of her in the arms of the reanimated Mountain makes me think that the pendulum will shift again next season, when she begins to take her revenge on all her enemies.

I actually thought Daenerys’s arc in Meereen was well-handled, even though some reviewers found it to be tedious.  Previously, I had been frustrated by Dany’s sidequests, eager for her to sail to Westeros and unleash her dragons already.  But her rule of Meereen served an important purpose in teaching her how to make difficult decisions, and it was useful to see her agonize over re-opening the slave pits.  I especially enjoyed the argument between Tyrion and Hizdahr and wish there had been more discussions of political philosophy as a backdrop to Dany’s decision-making.  Finally, dropping Dany in the middle of a Dothraki horde at the end of the season is a fascinating development, because Dany has rarely, if ever, been off on her own without her advisers, forced to rely purely on her wits.

I thought that the plotlines in Dorne and Winterfell were hastily constructed and poorly executed.  Dorne looks like a stunning location, but we see very little of it and the people who live there.  Half of the season was spent watching Bronn and Jamie riding to save Myrcella while the Sand Snakes plotted, only to have them all suddenly, coincidentally, arrived at the exact same time and all get captured.  Mycella’s poisoning at the very end of the season is a shocking development, but it also didn’t make sense.  Why would Ellaria and the Sand Snakes be standing at the dock saying goodbye to their enemies?  Why would Jamie let Ellaria kiss Myrcella, without suspecting that she might try to poison her?  After Myrcella is poisoned, what’s stopping Jamie and Bronn from turning the ship around and coming back to kill Ellaria?

As for Winterfell, plenty has been written elsewhere about Sansa’s terrible rape scene.  In terms of plot development, I think it could have worked, if they had not chosen to portray it the way they did.  But the larger issue is that Sansa seemed to regress significantly compared to the end of last season, when it looked like she had finally learned how to play the “game of thrones”.  Now she is back to being a victim, dependent on Theon to save her.  And depending on how she fares after that jump off the castle wall, she might be crawling around with two broken legs in season six.

A plotline that fell in the middle for me was Arya.  It was a cool concept to see her begin her assassin training, but the pacing was incredibly slow until the very end.  It was obvious from the start that the mission of the faceless men differed from Arya’s, but it is not clear if the show is pushing her towards them or towards her own path.  Will she forsake her kill list to become a faceless man, or will she acquire the skills she needs and then leave to attain her revenge? Arya’s dispatch of Meryn Trant, and her punishment by blinding, makes me think that she will have to stick around the House of Black and White for at least a little while longer.

A major theme of the season was the futility of revenge.  The desire for vengeance is powerful, but ultimately unsatisfying once it’s achieved.  We have been cheering on Arya as she recited her kill list, but when she finally killed one of her marks in cold blood, it felt more like sadism than justice.  Meanwhile, Brienne fulfilled one of her oaths by tracking down Renly’s killer, Stannis, and getting a confession out of him.  After Stannis told her, “Go on, do your duty”, Brienne raised her sword, but there’s a hesitation, because there is little satisfaction in enacting retribution on a broken man.  Similarly, Cercei’s suffering this season should have felt like just desserts for a woman who has done so much evil, but we took no pleasure in her pain when it came to pass.  In these cases and others, violence was used not to titillate, but to highlight the pointlessness of a continuing cycle of war and punishment that has been ongoing in Game of Thrones since the beginning.

In Westeros, it seems that bad things always happen to good people.  Indeed, many of our favorite characters hit rock bottom this season.  But some of the villains did too, and when you really think about it, some of the heroes are not in such bad shape.  The question that comes to mind, though, is why anyone would be a good person when the consequences of one’s actions, whether good or bad, are kind of random.  Here’s a well-written article that addressed that very question perfectly: http://www.vulture.com/2015/06/game-of-thrones-no-good-deed-go-unpunished.html

Characters (8/10)

The acting overall was superb this season, as we started to gain deeper insights into some of the characters which we had not previously had.  The writing at times was weak, but the actors delivered the lines with plenty of conviction to sell the material.  Even in silence, I thought that many of the characters expressed wide ranges of emotions with well-executed facial expressions for the given situation.

In particular, I was most impressed by Cersei, played by Lena Headey, who experienced the full gamut of emotions throughout her arc this season.  At the beginning, she was still the cartoonish villain, scheming wickedly and heaping condescension on all those around her.  After being locked up by the Faith Militant, she became indignant, then enraged, and finally broken, as she suffered one humiliation after another.  Cercei was completely stripped, literally and figuratively, and the audience couldn’t help but sympathize with a woman they had previously hated so much. That long, agonizing “walk of shame” to the Red Keep was so difficult to watch because Lena Heady showed so convincingly the level of physical and psychological pain that her character was undergoing at the hands of the sadistic septons and the crowd.  One could argue that this scene was just gratuitous violence, but I think it served the narrative purpose of humanizing Cercei’s struggle for legitimacy and power in a man’s world.

I also thought that there was tremendous character development for Jon Snow, Theon, Daenerys, and Jorah this season.  Jon Snow wrestling with his new role as Lord Commander, and Daenerys struggling with quelling an insurgency in Meereen, allowed for significant growth in both of their leadership skills.  However, I will note that Jon could be more compelling still if we saw more of his internal struggles.  His heroism and righteousness often feel out-of-place in a show filled with morally ambiguous characters.

Theon spent most of the season in a tortured stupor, which was frustrating for the plot, but he conveyed his inner turmoil well.  Jorah may seem like an unlikely choice, due to his generally wooden nature, but I think this is by design due to the kind of man he is.  I thought he had some very strong scenes on the road to Meereen, such as his subtle sadness at learning of his father’s death before having the chance to repair their relationship.  For so many characters, we saw a different side this season, and it is credit to the show that it knows how to develop fully three-dimensional characters from initially minor roles.

The low point, again, was everything that happened in Dorne.  Prince Doran seemed completely disinterested in everything going on around him.  The Sand Snakes were silly caricatures with odd accents.  Myrcella was a one-dimensional princess, and it was somewhat disconcerting that she would be not just tolerant but actually glad that her uncle was really her father.

Cinematography (9/10)

The cinematography was probably the strongest element of the show in a season of uneven pacing and character development.  With stunning set pieces, CGI creatures that are fantastical yet lifelike, and dramatic scores that perfectly evoke the mood of each scene, it is easy to forget that this is a television show, not a movie.

In particular, I was impressed by the long Hardhome battle scene in episode 8.  Unlike most blockbuster action movies these days, which are filled with quick cuts, monotonous clashes of weapons, and incongruous explosions, the Hardhome scenes was filmed deftly and fluidly, with choreography that could easily be followed.  With shots like a horde of White Walkers clambering over the side of a cliff, only to rise again and charge toward their prey, this scene captured their ferocious tenacity and proved beyond a doubt who the true threat is in Westeros.  The closing shots were especially haunting, after the White Walkers had raised the slain wildlings to join their ranks.  As the gravity of the situation sank in, the music turned down almost to silence, and Jon Snow stared at the Night’s King while the boats retreated.

One other powerful scene to highlight, again, is Cercei’s long walk, which I discussed above.  It is interesting how massive the scale of the scene was, even though the central character was just one person.

But the season was not just a collection of big, shocking moments.  In fact, the majority of the time was spent in quieter scenes of dialogue, or traveling on roads to new destinations, or lingering on a character’s face to reveal his or her inner turmoil.  Violence is the exception, not the rule, when you really get down to it, and even in violent scenes (such as Sansa’s rape or Myranda’s death), the directors avoided too much graphic content.  The composition of the scenes indicates that Game of Thrones is a drama with occasional violence, as it serves the story, rather than a violent show with occasional drama to justify the violence.


The strongest parts of the season were the acting, cinematography, and certain of its plotlines.  Overall, I would rate the season to be weaker than the previous ones, though it is still better than virtually every other drama on TV, and I am still excited to see where season six takes us.

But what about the question that started this discussion?  Has the violence become gratuitous?

Many would argue that the violence has been gratuitous on Game of Thrones since Season 1, Episode 1.  I suppose it depends on your individual comfort level.  But violence is part of GoT’s DNA, and there is no way around that.  To be a fan of the show, one has to have a certain level of tolerance for violence.

I believe that the show has, so far, maintained a good balance and avoided an excess of gore.  The violence employed has served a purpose, although it could, in some instances, be toned down or filmed more tactfully. Game of Thrones fans are not sociopaths, and they don’t tune in to delight in blood and guts flying across the screen.  They enjoy the show because it offers a window to another world, as well as a window to our own past.  This is a world of chivalry and moralistic crusades, but also cruelty and violence, especially directed towards women and the powerless.  That is one of the main points of the narrative, and to lose that element would be to lose some of the power and significance of George R.R. Martin’s world.