Mr. Smith is a lazy reader.

I love audio books. Oh my. How I do love them. Oh so very much.

I got hooked on them when I was making near-weekly trips across Kansas to visit my parents while I was in college. Steven King books were my favorite at the time, but thankfully, I’ve branched out. Not much, because I get focused on an author and find myself sitting at work with an ear bud sticking out of my head, while I plug away in my sad little cubicle with my brain on autopilot.

By far, so far, my favorite is the Harry Potter series. I’ve listened to them dozens on times over the years. It’s not just that I enjoy the series, but the performance is wonderful. All seven books are read by actor Jim Dale, whom  you may remember as Dr. Terminus, the snake-oil salesman in Pete’s dragon. His performance is exquisite. He created well over 200 distinct and individual character voices throughout the series, and it is an absolute treat to listen to, over and over. He’s the kind of performer that could read the ingredients of shampoo and still make you squee with delight.

JIm Dale, doing his thing.

I have to wonder if I would have enjoyed the Harry Potter series as much as I have over the years if it hadn’t been for him.

Yeah. I would have. But I’m still glad he got on board.

But that’s all over now. We’ve all gotten the closure we needed with the final film, and we can all finally shut up about it. Or we can fantasize about spin-off films or maybe a TV series. Personally, I’d prefer if it was left alone. It was wonderful while it lasted, but then I’ve said that about a dozen things that I can’t watch anymore, because HOLLYWOOD RUINS EVERYTHING.

But that’s another post.

Now I mention the Harry Potter books to make another point entirely.

For me, and likely for so many of you, “A Song of Ice and Fire.” by George R.R. Martin has filled the void that the Harry Potter series has left. The new HBO series is developing an amazing following.

Last week marked the release of the latest book in the series, “A Dance with Dragons.” I rushed out to get the audio book, and I’ve listened to the rest of them a couple of times now. I mean, it was five years since the last book, so I had plenty of time to get caught up.

I’m about half way through listening to the latest offering, which is read by Roy Dotrice, as were three of the last four books. John Lee, for reasons that I don’t care to research right now, read “A Feast for Crows.”

Roy Dotrice, Recognize him?

I’m going to give credit where credit is due. Roy Dotrice got his taste for performance as a prisoner of war, entertaining his fellow prisoners to raise their spirits. He was still a teenager at the time. His pedigree is impressive, and he has performed with some of the greatest actors of his generation. He also did this….

He’s an amazing actor, truly, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed hearing his performance of this wonderful, wonderful fantasy. He was thoroughly amazing as Vincent’s father in the 80’s television series, “Beauty and the Beast,” also created by George R.R. Martin.

How much explaining do you think mom had to do?

But the television series made me realize something about the audio books, and it’s a phrase I coined a while back, that I use entirely too often.

Nothing ruins a good time like a basis of comparison.

As I listen to the new book, I’m realizing, after watching the show (which you can read more about on this awesome website), that Roy’s voice is showing his age. Every character in the books sound fifty years older than they actually are. As I listen I form images of the characters in my mind, and up until this point, they were all either crusty old codgers or ladies long past their prime.

Now I’m listening to him perform Daenarys’ dialogue, and I’m trying to picture her youthful visage of epic hotness. I just. can’t. do it. His voice has turned her into a wrinkly hag. With arm flaps and a waggley chin. It’s like that with everybody, except the characters that are already old and supposed to sound a little weather worn.

Queen Circe Lannister, as read by Roy Dotrice

It’s really, really hard to deal with.

I get that he’s an amazing actor with a strong connection to the author and a resume’ that I’d be hard pressed to find it’s equal. I just think he was miscast in this regard. I’m enjoying the book IMMENSELY, however, and when I’m finished with it, I’ll post a review of it’s content. But for now, I’m not giving you any spoilers or anything. Read it yourself. Or listen to it, it’s up to you. I think you’ll dig it either way.

‘Til next time,

Mr. Smith.

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Game of Thrones Episode Five Recap

The story this week….

Here’s your recap from HBO, but please, allow me to assist…

Please read the following, aloud, and in a British affectation of some sort.

Starks went to Kings Landing, and all things withstanding, are lucky to be yet alive. With Ned always questioning his king’s constant bed-meddling, finding two children that thrive. One is a bastard son, unknown to anyone. Talented blacksmith is he. The other a whore-born girl, mom alone in the world, wanting the king to come see.

Kate’s got a prisoner dwarf, and they will travel forth, to her sister insane in her keep. Tyrion’s now in his cell, he has not done so well as Cerce who plots and weaves schemes. Jamie is mad at Ned, whom he would soon see dead, if his good brother’s not freed. King Robert’s alone, no warmth from his throne, or his hand, or his loving wife’s greed.

This show is now in it’s zone, all of the character’s shown, at least so far as we know. But one thing I’m sure about, there’ll be no tiny doubt, this baby ain’t close to full grown. We’re nearing a path of big change, all things get rearranged, and you’ll be HOOKED on this show!

Well, I am out of rhymes. I cherish these special times, and I do hope this isn’t my peak. The season’s got seven left, can’t wait to see the rest, and you, I will talk to next week!

Thanks for stopping by, and have a look at next week’s preview!

Mr. Smith

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Hodor Hodor, Hodor Hodor Game of Thrones #4. Hodor.

I can’t stop squealing. Oh the joy I feel with every episode.

Here is your episode recap via HBO’s website.

We met Hodor this week. Hodor hodor, hodor hodor hodor. Hodor. No really. Hodor.

Ned had a lovely time doing some investigating. For some reason, in the book, as I was reading about him running around and finding out stuff about Jon Arron’s Death, I didn’t really put it together that he was totally Columbo-ing the hell out of “The Case of the Strong Seed.” Turns out maybe Jon Arron found out too much about King Robert’s bastard son. I don’t think the Lannisters want that coming out, do you? The scene where it all falls into place is great. Nothing has to be said, we just….know. This kid is special.

I’m starting to notice a pattern. In the books, there are certain things that are described, like the helmet King Robert’s son made, that we want very badly to see. Do we see it? No. Not yet anyway. We haven’t gotten a good look at The Mountain yet either. George, you are such a tease.

We also meet Sam, and we’re gonna love Sam so much. He’s Craven, I know, but come on. He’s ADORABLE. He and John are developing their relationship, and it’s pretty compelling. There’s a wonderful scene where they are chatting about lost opportunities for love, well, not love exactly, sex really, but we see John’s shame of being a bastard, which runs pretty deep it would seem. Then old grumpy pants (don’t remember his name, thus grumpy pants) comes in and starts barking out stories about cannibalism. I guess it gets cold north of the wall when winter comes.

Aren't they just the cutest couple?

I’m dying to know what planet they are on, where winter can last ten years, but they still call North, “North.”

Aria’s still training with needle, Sansa is super pissed at her dad for setting her up with such a simpering jerk, and Bran’s getting a saddle made. Thanks for the hookup Tyrion!!

Ooooh Tyrion. He’s in trouble. What makes this show SO GOOD are scenes like the one in a tavern on the King’s road, where Tyrion stumbles in and gets COMPLETELY BLINDSIDED by the news that he’s wanted by Lady Stark for the failed murder attempt on her son. It was the classic shakedown scene of all time. It gave me goosebumps on my goosebumps on my Hodor. Just a brilliant, brilliant scene.

Two more things I want to mention. First, Viserys better get a lid on that dragon he thinks he has inside him, or another girl might beat his face in with gaudy jewelry. Daenarys is a total warrior queen now -er- Calisi. Sorry. How cool is that? I’ll tell you. VERY cool.

Second, the greatest thing I’ve ever seen, EVER. The slow and agonizing death of Jon Arron’s recently knighted former squire at the end of The Mountain That Rides’ lance during the jousting competition to celebrate the appointment of the new hand. Right in front of Sansa. It seems that at every turn Sansa is realizing that fairy tale princesses don’t have lives like fairy tale princesses. Nothing would indicate that tidbit better to me than seeing a man spew blood from his neck and mouth while he slowly, and I mean slowly, dies with a lance tip jutting out of him. Then some squires come and unceremoniously drag him away. Not ’till after he’s dead though. Any sooner would be…too soon. That’s they way I imagine jousting. Just a bloody ol’ business.

That got me thinking. Why did people stop jousting? I asked my friend who is studying for her doctorate in Medieval studies, and she was able to tell me that it was not the implementation of gunpowder as a propellant of projectiles for the armies of Europe. Which was my theory. Which was wrong. So the world may never know. Maybe you have a theory. Bet it’s wrong though.

See ya next week!

Mr. Smith

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Game of Thrones – Episode 3

Well now we’re getting to the meat of things. Are you keeping up? No? What the heck’s the matter? You can’t follow fifty different character arcs because you just started watching this week? This series is going to be more inside than the middle of third season of Farscape.

I imagine if you did just start watching this week, you caught the first two episodes as re-runs. If you didn’t do that, you must’ve downloaded it, or you’re the kind of person that walks in on the end of a conversation and says, “Oh I totally know what you mean.” Then you’ll proceed to tell a not-so-fascinating anecdote that is completely irrelevant, about which, nobody cares, and probably isn’t true. But then, if you are that kind of person, you’re waiting until the end of the series to comment about the time your aunt bought a potpourri warmer at Target but never got to use it because when she plugged it in, she had a stroke and drowned in a small pool of scented oil. Even at the funeral you could still smell the simulated apple pie.

Meet your DOOM, Aunt Marge!

You should know better than to lie.

I digress, Back to the task at hand. To keep you abreast of things, why not look at this…..

Episode Three Recap from our friends at HBO.

John’s on the wall, Tyrion hung with him for a while, but had to split, and oh is he going to be in trouble with Catelyn, huh? Daenerys is preggers and having trouble keeping her ungrateful jerkwad brother alive, Lord Stark is annoyed because the king is a drunken whoremonger, Queen Cercei seems to be under the impression that the sun shines out of her son’s backside. Speaking of Joffrey, why can’t Tyrion smack the crap out of him every episode? Petyr’s finally got a chance to even the score with Ned for stealing his lady love of yore, Jamie is, in my opinion, far too into his sister, Aria is taking dancing lessons, and Sansa is an idiot, and on and on and on.

We met some new folks too. Everyone is important. I have no idea how G.R.R.M keeps track of it all.

Pay attention, friends. It’s barely begun.

See ya next week!

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GoT Episode 2 recap?

The brutality is becoming clear. This world is bloody. Not just bloody. BRUTALLY BLOODY.

And I think that’s pretty sweet. Like these guys…

So cute together!

This is the second episode. Last week Jamie, caught red-fannied and mid-coitus with his own sister, kicks a little boy out of a tower window, saying, “The things I do for love.”

This week, The Hound rode down a butcher’s son to please his prince, who, by the way, is also a bad, bad boy. Lots of other stuff happened too, and it was all equally grusome and delicious to watch. The character development, by the way, is blowing my mind. Wonderful performances. So subtle. So…

In fact, rather than read me reckon what a dozen other mysterious dorks on the interwebs reckon, use your kick-ass video card to check this out:

Game of Thrones: The Kings Road Recap

Oooooh Yeah. Bran wakes up. Or is it Rickon? I think it’s Bran. See what I mean? I spoke about it last week here. This stuff’s hard to keep track of.

No dream sequence with a crow either. I was okay with that. I think it wouldn’t have served the story well to interrupt the flow with a trippy talking bird teaching Bran to fly. Oh. If you haven’t read the book, that’s something you missed. The other way they handled it was pretty awesome, and sets up something very cool that starts to happen later on. I reckon.

This show is doing wonderful things for my general outlook. Especially after all the softball by comparison Marvel movies coming out. But that’s another post. Another time. Maybe.

Mr. Smith

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Game of Thrones episode 1 review

Winter is here.

On Sunday, April 17, 2011, HBO premiered the first episode of their adaptation of George R. R. Martins epic fantasy novel “A Song of Ice and Fire – A Game of Thrones.” If you haven’t read it, having an appreciation for the fantasy genre, I would recommend that you do. In fact, read along with the series. Each season represents one book, so to me that sounds pretty doable. Watch some, read some, repeat. It’ll be worth it.

The show opens with the Black Watch patrolling for Wildlings, and they find them turned to White Walkers. The White Walkers attack the Black Watch and leave one survivor. Instead of returning to The Wall, the survivor turns and runs south, is apprehended and beheaded by Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell. Get all that? That is just the first ten minutes, and it’s enough to immerse the viewer into this familiar, yet alien world, where winter is coming, and it will last for years.

You have to study this series. There are many, many players, and they are all important. So far, HBO has been very true to the novel, nothing has been left out. And the the feel and look of the series is comfortable to the way I envision the worlds. The thing about it though, the fantastical elements, stunningly visualized, are simply set dressing to what the story actually is. It’s about……..a lot of stuff. Some of the typical elements of fantasy, like legendary deeds, kingdoms in peril, struggles for power, and magic have all been included, and it all works. But then as we learn the motivations behind why they do what they do, things start to get dark, and sexy, and cruel, and extremely bloody. It’s all captured so perfectly.

Casting was key, and when they announced that Shaun Bean (Boromir in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy) was cast as Lord Stark, I tittered with excitement. Then I heard that Peter Dinklage was cast as Tyrion, and I squeed with joy. The rest of the cast is just as perfect, and performances all around are as outstanding as the beautiful settings where they are placed.

I was worried for this series, but then I found out it’s already been picked up for another season, which is good, because there are a lot of seasons required to tell this story in it’s entirety. No one knows how it’s going end, the last of the story has yet to be released, and George has been tight lipped about it for the most part. It’s a tease that has lasted for a long time.

What I think people are going to have a problem with is the complexity of character relationships, and trying to keep up with who exactly is betraying whom. We’ll have to pay attention, and based on what I’ve seen in the first episode, we’re going to want to.

Here’s what you should have seen this week…

Here’s what’s happening this Sunday….

George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” airs Sunday nights at 8:00pm CST on HBO.

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