Final Thoughts on Game of Thrones

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So, Game of Thrones. Ever heard of it? Just ended, I’m sure you have thoughts. I have some, as well. I went back an forth on whether or not to even post this, because, as I said, everyone in the world has their opinions and everyone in the world has already written their think pieces and everyone in the world has already told everyone else in the world how much they hated this season. There’s really nothing original or thought-provoking or worthwhile I can add to the discussion surrounding season 8 and the end to the saga, but I feel like I have to try, anyway. It’s Website Law, after all. I found the final two seasons relatively disappointing and didn’t love the ending, but it was far from the worst thing I’ve ever seen. Anyone saying as such is likely just a prisoner of the moment and got caught up in the hype and theorizing, has never watched a TV show from start to finish before, or is just looking for affirmation online.

In the grand scheme of the fandom, I’m an early GOT adapter: the first season is the only one I didn’t watch live. I’ve read the books and the companion books. I know more about Westeros and Essos than any one man should know. If there’s anyone who should be personally offended by the ending to all of this, it’s me. And I just….don’t really care that much. It was a crappy ending. That doesn’t erase the hours upon hours of amazing television or the pages upon pages of amazing storytelling. Just because you found the ending underwhelming doesn’t mean the show itself is now worthless or can’t be appreciated. It’s completely absurd that a TV show had the kind of production value Game of Thrones did. Set mistakes aside, this season was mind-blowing visually. The acting, as usual, was top-notch. Yet another dominant season from Peter Dinklage, whose work as Tyrion, even though the writing let his character down, has to be put into the all-time great TV performance pantheon. TV is only getting bigger and more expensive and drawing bigger directors and actors and producers, so maybe this becomes the norm. But it probably won’t, so even if you didn’t love the pacing or the writing or the characterizations or whatever (I didn’t, either), there’s still so much to appreciate. It wasn’t a perfect ending, it’s not the end of the world.

When they look back on this ten or twenty years from now, I think the showrunners (if they even care) will be kicking themselves over the truncation of seasons 7 and 8 and the two-year gap between them. Granted, I’m sure they didn’t have much control over the delay, but it only increased the fervor and the theorizing and the hand-wringing and allowed more and more people to catch up and get hyped up for the finale. It would have been nearly impossible to come up with an ending the majority of people liked, but shortening the seasons like that tied one hand behind their backs. They kept saying it was only a 73-hour story. What? You knew that specific number when you made the pilot? That seems fake and lazy. But you know what? In a way I don’t really blame them. They signed up to adapt George R.R. Martin’s brilliant world into a television show, and, before they knew it, they ran out of world. Guys who aren’t fantasy authors had to now finish a master’s story. That would be like if Gordon Ramsey did the first 80% of an extravagant meal and then told me to finish the dish I’d never even heard of previously. It was always going to be rocky. It’s so hard to finish any massive story like this. It’s even harder when it’s not yours and you’ve been thrown into a stormy ocean with no life vest. I can see pretty clearly why those two just wanted out. They’ll always have the first six seasons.

So now we just hope and pray that Geroge can finish the books. To be honest, they’re so long and deep and there are so many different threads and plots that I don’t even know if it’s humanly possible to wrap it up in a satisfying way. His meandering style doesn’t exactly lend itself to speedy completion, but I’m sure everyone would rather wait to have as good a version as possible than some rush job. I’m worried for his health, and the amount of pressure he’s now facing is incomprehensible. I’m rooting for him, mostly because this has become one of the most formative stories in my life. As someone currently writing my own books, his world building and narrative style are inspirational. So take your time, George, but uhh, yeah. It’s kind of up to you, now.

Those are pretty much my thoughts on the ending of the show. It sucks there’s no more episodes to look forward to, but there’ll be something new eventually. There always is, and that’ll be what’s kindest to the show moving forward. People will eventually forget how much they hated this, because they’ll hate something else even more. Now, let’s rank some stuff.

Book Power Ranking

  1. Storm of Swords
  2. Game of Thrones
  3. Dance with Dragons
  4. Clash of Kings
  5. Feast for Crows

Best Characters (show only)

  1. Jaime Lannister
  2. Tyrion Lannister
  3. Bronn
  4. Arya Stark
  5. Brienne of Tarth

Best Acting Performances (have to go top 11 because there are just too many)

  1. Dinklage- Tyrion
  2. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau- Jaime
  3. Lena Headey- Cersei Lannister
  4. Charles Dance- Tywin Lannister
  5. Alfie Allen- Theon Greyjoy
  6. Jack Gleason- Joffrey Baratheon
  7. Jerome Flynn- Bronn
  8. Liam Cunningham- Davos Seaworth
  9. Maisie Williams- Arya
  10. Gwendoline Christie- Brienne
  11. Carice van Houten- Melisandre

Best House to be in (before events of show)

  1. Tyrell
  2. Martell
  3. Dayne (need to get my hands on Dawn)
  4. Lannister
  5. Hightower (imagine being king of Chicago)

Best place to live

  1. Sunspear
  2. Anywhere in the Reach
  3. Qarth
  4. Everywhere else

Season Ranking

  1. 4
  2. 2
  3. 1
  4. 6
  5. 3
  6. 5
  7. 7
  8. 8

Biggest unanswered questions

  1. What was the point of the Night King?
  2. What can Bran actually do?
  3. What about the Faceless Men?
  4. What does Varys want/what’s his origin?
  5. What happened to Tyrek Lannister? (shoutout to the book readers)

Best Moments

  1. Hot Pie browning the butter
  2. Cersei destroys sept
  3. Tower of Joy
  4. Wildfire ships in the Blackwater
  5. Jaime-Brienne bath
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Rest in Peace Stephen Hillenburg

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I couldn’t let the day go by without commenting on the passing of one of the most influential figures of my childhood. Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of Spongebob Squarepants and a director of Rocko’s Modern Life, died yesterday from ALS, leaving behind an indelible legacy on American culture and television. He was 57.

To say that Spongebob helped shape me as a person would be a massive, massive understatement. There wasn’t a show I watched more. The humor and absurdity of it spoke to me as a 7-year-old or however old I was when I first watched it, and it still speaks to me now. When I work on my own projects, I find myself leaving heavily towards the same style that was so present in Spongebob and Rocko. I mean, if you’ve read the stories I’ve posted here the influence is pretty obvious. Spongebob was my life. I was always watching it, I played most of the video games (every single one was fire), I was there opening night for the first movie. It was legitimately my thing in middle school. We had pajama days and whenever we did I would bring in this giant stuffed Patrick I had, because why not? If you were to compile a list of everything that’s made me who I am today, Spongebob would be in the top three or four at worst.

To me, one of the marks of a masterpiece in the world of film and television is the ability to give the viewer a new takeaway with each consumption. On the surface, Spongebob is just a goofy children’s show that distracts kids long enough for their parents to do something other that watch them (I’d apologize to my mom and dad for having Spongebob blasting through the house 24/7 but I know they loved it). But there’s so much there for older viewers. There’s countless adult jokes, obviously, but a character like Squidward really stands out for me. He seems like just a stick in the mud, but he’s the most relatable and most human character on the show. He’s just an introvert who wants to be left alone and thinks his neighbors are annoying, but he also wants their companionship and doesn’t quite know how to ask for it. He’s one of the more complex characters in TV history and he’s hiding in Bikini Bottom. What a show. Also Plankton is the G.O.A.T.

So here’s to Stephen Hillenburg, the architect of one of the best fictional worlds ever created and the second ever Patron Saint of the Brian’s Den. Thank you, and rest in peace.

Impossible But Necessary Top Ten Spongebob Episodes

  1. Band Geeks
  2. F.U.N.
  3. Christmas Who?
  4. I’m Your Biggest Fanatic
  5. Pizza Delivery
  6. Jellyfishing
  7. Chocolate With Nuts
  8. Graveyard Shift
  9. Fry Cook Games
  10. Artist Unknown + Something Smells (tie)

Top Ten Anime Opening Songs of All Time

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In all my years, this might be the slowest summer I can remember. There’s nothing going on. The NFL training camp storylines are all boring, repetitive, or depressing. Baseball is just kind of there until the playoff race. NBA free agency came and went. The only major story is the Ohio State situation which…..yeah I think I’m good on that. The real world’s been pretty dry, too. No crazy fast food items, no funny science articles, no nothing. As a result, I’ve been quite bored. And in my boredom, rather than try new things or make progress on my theoretical career, I’ve turned to an old friend of mine, G Gundam. It’s my favorite show of all time, and I’ve watched it in it’s entirety at least seven times. But I just can’t get enough. It’s silly, it’s over-the-top, it’s melodramatic, and almost definitely wouldn’t be put on the air in 2018. Really the only thing you need to know is that there’s a giant horse robot that’s piloted by an actual horse. But every few years, I’m drawn back to it. Yes, it’s a ridiculous super-robot show about gundams fighting for control of the universe, but’s it’s so much more than that. It’s a story about love, loss, and that human moment where you learn your parents/ the people that raised you aren’t perfect, after all, and it has one of the best casts of characters you’ll ever find. And it totally leans in and embraces the absurdity of itself. I could literally talk about G Gundam for days on end.

But on to the topic at hand. Among the many reasons why I love G Gundam so much (alongside the beautiful character designs, countless emotional scenes, and the fact that it’s one of the rare cases where the dub is far superior to the original Japanese) is that the soundtrack is pure heat. Every song and composition is an absolute banger, and that includes both of its opening songs. It got me wondering if both songs would rank in the top ten of anime opening theme songs. So, I decided to introduce yet another segment literally only I care about, the Top Ten Anime Opening Songs of All Time.

Before I begin, I must make it clear: I’m only including shows I’ve seen. I’m sure that one random show you watched on Crunchyroll the other week has a fire opening song, but I haven’t seen it, so it’d be disingenuous for me to include it. And while I’ve likely watched more anime than the average person, my knowledge is far from encyclopedic. So, again, that show that no one watched but you loved isn’t on my radar. Sorry. As for actual criteria, it’s pretty simple: is the song good? Is the song catchy? Does the song insert random English words? If the answer to all of these is yes, odds are it’ll make the list. The quality of the actual show doesn’t matter. As with all of my lists, if you disagree it just means you have incorrect opinions.

10. Outlaw Star

A criminally underrated member of the Toonami class of anime that aired in the early 2000s, Outlaw Star‘s opening song is a slice of late 90s music that concludes with a deliciously forced English phrase. I’m a sucker for space operas so I was naturally drawn to Outlaw Star, but a song that made me want to go to a Lenny Kravitz concert every week didn’t exactly keep my devotion at bay. Could have benefitted from a second season, though.

9. Death Note First Opening

Finally, a song for all the teens out there that no one understands, especially not their annoying stepfathers. God, this song is angsty. Almost too angsty for the list, but I included it, anyway- mostly because it’d be hard to find a song that fits a show’s general vibe more than this. Death Note is a pretty basic bitch answer when it comes to best anime (is the plural anime or animes? I never know), but that’s because (the first half) is great and everyone should watch it. Just hide the sharp objects during the opening.

8. Seven Deadly Sins First Opening

Seven Deadly Sins is a goofy-ass show (yes, and manga. I know 90% of these are based on manga that I haven’t read. Don’t be that guy) that’s essentially a send-up of classic fantasy tropes while also being a pretty standard fantasy story. It also has a flaming hot opening song. They changed it halfway through for reasons I don’t fully understand, but it’s really just bad luck that this song isn’t much higher. Guess it’s true what they say: there’s a lot of good music out there.

7. Attack on Titan First Opening

Need more choirs in my opening theme songs. I’ll say this: no show’s theme song has ever made a show sound as important as Attack on Titan‘s. Feel like the fate of my non-Titan infested world is at stake just watching it. Like if I don’t press play on that next episode evil wins. That’s a powerful incentive to keep watching.

6. Digimon (Japanese Version)

I know, I know. The “Digimon: digital monsters” song holds a special place in my heart, too. But the Japanese version is objectively 100000000 times better. I’m neither a sub nor dub purist, but when the American versions of shows take out fire openings like this it makes me wonder why you’d even bother airing the show, in the first place. I’ll save my thoughts on why the Digimon show universe is far superior to the Pokemon show universe since I realize I can only go so deep into my own brain before I lose everyone completely.

5. G Gundam Second Opening

“G Gundam is only number five? I thought you just went on and on about how good the music was!” Fear not, friend. As I said, G Gundam has two opening songs. Be patient and enjoy some truly elite-level English phrase insertion. Most anime theme songs go for intensity or ear-worm-ability (is English actually my second language, too? You’ll never know), “I Trust You Forever” hits you with the sentimentality. Get you a show that does absolutely everything.

4. Cowboy Bebop

A little different than pretty much every anime song ever, I love Bebop‘s jazz-centric soundtrack. Really gives it that noir-feel. Cowboy Bebop is an absolute must-watch if you haven’t seen it already. It’s pretty much Firefly if Firefly wasn’t on network TV and wasn’t bound by the shackles of live-action. The opening theme fits in perfectly. A memorable and influential song for a memorable and influential show.

3. Death Parade

Death Parade is a decent show about the afterlife. Death Parade has an absolute BANGER for their opening theme. It’s absurd how catchy this song is. I want to live inside this song because it’d be so much fun. It’s the biggest gap between opening theme quality and show quality in television history. Actually, no it’s not. That title goes to….

2. Pokemon First Season

I’ve probably gone into this before, but I hate the show. Ash SUCKS and I want Pikachu dead. I guess I’m too big of a game purist. That being said, only the staunchest hater and biggest stick in the mud can deny the power of the Pokemon theme song. It’s the GOAT English song opening in anime history, and is probably in the top ten for all TV. The remix from the first movie is scalding hot, as well. If only Gary was the main character (this might not be the last Pokemon related content of the summer. Hmmmmmm).

1. G Gundam First Opening

Let me tell you about how dominant the G Gundam soundtrack is. If I was to make a list of the top ten ending songs in anime history, guess which show would have two in the top ten? The answer is G Gundam, if you couldn’t tell. This is the unquestioned GOAT opening theme in television history. I won’t listen to any arguments to the contrary. It has it all: it’s catchy, it’s upbeat, it has a ton of random English phrases. I put the full song because it’s so hot, but the shortened version that’s paired with the video is iconic, too (mostly because it spoils large portions of the plot). Actually, I’ll just include that, too.

It’s just the best. Period. End of story. Nothing will ever top the G Gundam opening theme song. Did I mention that Domon Kasshu, the main character, is thicc as hell, too?

I can’t think of a better set of endorsements for a show than what I’ve just laid out. If you don’t want to watch G Gundam after all this, I don’t know what to tell you.

God, I’m lonely.

RIP Anthony Bourdain

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If you hadn’t heard already, legendary television host, chef, traveller, and author Anthony Bourdain committed suicide this morning at the age of 61. Normally I don’t really cover celebrity deaths unless they actually meant something to me. Anthony Bourdain meant something to me. Meant a lot to me, actually.

It’s a trivial thing, but I played football in high school, and every summer during two-a-days I would find a random show to watch in-between sessions. It helped me decompress and develop a (somewhat) soothing routine that kind of got me through some rough weeks. My sophomore year (first year of double sessions), it was American Chopper. Junior year it was Bizarre Foods. Senior year it was No Reservations. I had seen various promos for No Reservations before, but never actually tuned in. I had seen food shows and travel shows before, why would this be any different? It turns out it was way different than anything I had ever watched. The way he talked, the way he interacted with the environment around him just spoke to me. It felt like it was a real couple days in the life of a traveller, not another heavily scripted reality show.

I was hooked instantly, and, the more I watched No Reservations and Parts Unknown the more I considered Bourdain an idol of mine. I had always loved food and been interested in traveling, but he stoked a desire to experience the world through food that still exists today (even if I’m too poor scared to actually act on it). The way he could naturally bond with everyone around him and his complete openness to try new things were kind of a blueprint for how I, an extreme introvert with the people skills of a paper bag, could theoretically live my life. He made the world seem like a less scary place, and he showed that, regardless of where you live or what language you speak or what food you eat, everyone’s really just looking for the same thing. Which, of course, was the entire point of the show.

And more than anything, he was just so cool. He might have been one of the five coolest guys to ever live. Which just shows what a bear depression really is. I won’t insult people who are really suffering by saying I know exactly how they feel, but I know how hard it is to deal with. It’s not real depression or anything, but I frequently deal with bouts of overwhelming sadness and self-doubt, but since I’m too scared or embarrassed to talk to other people about it, it just kind of festers for a few days. Again, I’ve never been suicidal or felt like there was no way out of the tunnel, but I still sympathize with anyone who feels crushed by the weight of the world. Don’t be like me. If you’re ever feeling low, or trapped, or scared that there’s only one way to end the pain, reach out to someone. There are countless suicide prevention hotlines out there you can call. Or better yet, talk to a friend or family member. Sometimes it’s good to just talk to someone you know. You might think you’re burdening them, but believe me, anyone who cares about you would never think that way. No one should ever feel like there’s no way out.

RIP Anthony Bourdain.

Welcome to the Brian’s Den Newsroom

Introducing a new feature here at https://www.briansden69.com, the Newsroom. Since there’s going to (hopefully) be a lot going on in my life soon, I think this is a good way to kind of cover a lot of the stories I may not get the chance to talk about, particularly in the sports world. I’m thinking about doing these a few times a week. Let me know your thoughts- good, bad, never do it again? Either way, there’s some good stuff coming up in the near future.

If You Didn’t Watch Jesus Christ Superstar Live Last Night You’re an Uncultured Fool

Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert - Season 2018

Not many people know this about me, but I’m a big time Andrew Lloyd Webber guy. Huge, in fact. My mom had a bunch of ALW soundtracks we would put on for long car rides (remember when there was no satellite radio or Spotify or iTunes and you had to use CDs? Yuck) that I listened to roughly 10,000 times. Some of the songs are ingrained in my DNA at this point. I know all you Theatre Heads out there are calling me basic and plebeian and all sorts of nasty stuff because I like the Broadway equivalent of Top 40 pop music, but you can all go to hell. Yes, I enjoy Mr. Mistoffelees more than some highfalutin B.S. like My Fair Lady or something. So sue me.

Anyway, yeah, big ALW guy, so you knew I was tuning in to Jesus Christ Superstar Live on NBC last night. It was the first major event I watched via PlayStation Vue (no more cable for me!), which was exciting. It also kind of made me feel a little holier after I “forgot” to go to church for Easter (although I was wearing a Jon Snow t-shirt all day so I was supporting the cause). Folks, let me tell you: I was not disappointed. Usually these “live” (I still refuse to believe it’s really live) musicals they show on TV are absolutely trash, and, as such, I never watch them, but when I heard they were throwing up an ALW joint I was in. I’ve never actually seen JCSS (only heard the soundtrack a bunch) so I was kind of lost in the beginning, but once it got rolling it was flaming hot. Some rapid-fire thoughts since I’ve never even considered reviewing a play before so I don’t know what you’re supposed to talk about:

  • My sources are confirming that John Legend can, in fact, sing. Quite well.
  • I’ve never seen Hamilton because I’m not rich so I’d never seen the guy who played Judas before. His name is Brandon Victor Dixon and he’s an absolute MEGASTAR. Guy owned the stage every second he was on it. One of the most dominant performances these eyes have ever seen. Need him to be more famous so he’s in more stuff.
  • The casting on the whole was A+.
  • I go back and forth on John Legend all the time, mostly because it feels like he’s more famous than he should be. Like how many super-duper-mega-hits does he really have? Not many. I mean, he’s one of the most talented artists in the world and he hardly has any signature songs. Maybe I’m just not a big enough Legend stan so I haven’t heard the deep cuts, but I feel like for him to justify being an A-lister he needs to pump out a couple more heaters. I don’t know, I’m probably wrong. But when he really turns it up, not many people can touch him.
  • Shoutout to the wardrobe department. That gray cardigan John Legend had on was what Mugatu envisioned when he created Derelicte.
  • The villain duo was pure dynamite. The jackets they had on were straight out of Power Rangers in Space.
  • Dammit, there weren’t any mohawks or tattoos in Jesus’ time. My column:
  • If you’re Peter and you’re told you’re going to deny Jesus three times beforehand, wouldn’t you stop yourself after two just to prove him wrong? Maybe that’s just me.
  • Top Five ALW Shows- 1. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat 2. Phantom of the Opera 3. Cats 4. JCSS 5. Evita
  • Top Five ALW Songs- 1. “Music of the Night” 2. “Mr. Mistoffelees” 3. “Any Dream Will Do” 4. “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” 5. “All I Ask of You”
  • The Brian’s Den Official Review for Jesus Christ Superstar Live: 🇮🇱🇮🇱🇮🇱🇮🇱🇮🇱🇮🇱🇮🇱🇮🇱

So, um, yeah, how about that thing that happened in the NBA, huh? Pretty crazy.