UPDATE: Hello, Game of Thrones fans! You've made this my most-viewed post of the year, even though I hardly say anything about the series. Take a look at my other TV posts and you'll see I don't hate everything. I even watch a lot of stuff before writing about it!
• HBO has already renewed the epic fantasy Game of Thrones, despite unimpressive ratings for Sunday's debut episode. Vulture reports that HBO is hoping for word-of-mouth to boost the ratings, as it did for True Blood. I skipped the show myself (instead catching up on The Killing and Justified), partly because fantasy is a tough sell for me and partly because of awful publicity photos like the one at right. Most people watch TV series for interesting characters (either fictional ones like the vampires on True Blood or historical figures like the ones on Rome), not for costume design or horse training. Everything about the marketing for Game for Thrones suggested that the show is about spectacle, not character, so I'm not surprised that it's having trouble reaching viewers unfamiliar with the books it's based on.
• Gabrielle Gurley has a good piece about the cursed city of Lawrence, Massachusetts, in the new issue of CommonWealth. What strikes me is how many of the mill city's disadvantages can be attributed to its small geographical size (seven square miles). As Gurley points out:
The wealthy men who made their fortunes in Lawrence did not invest in the city by founding museums or universities, or even by building mansions in exclusive precincts like the elites did in Boston’s Back Bay or even in nearby Lowell’s Belvidere neighborhood. Immigrants unwittingly followed this pattern. Since Lawrence, a city of about seven square miles, did not have many areas with the spacious homes and yards that newly successful workers wanted, those that made it moved to Andover, North Andover, Methuen, or elsewhere.
Lawrence's bite size also means that it's stuck with a very weak tax base, heavy demands on social services, and increasing ethnic segregation (it's now about 70 percent Latino). It's a core with no apple around it. The sensible thing would be to consolidate Lawrence with some of the surrounding towns to create a city with a more stable economic base, but such a thing is unthinkable in New England, so Lawrence has to rely on state aid (including the recent "rescue package" of up to $35 million in loans).
• NPR's Linda Holmes tells us to just accept the fact that we're never going to consume all the culture that's expected of us:
Surrender ... is the realization that you do not have time for everything that would be worth the time you invested in it if you had the time, and that this fact doesn't have to threaten your sense that you are well-read. Surrender is the moment when you say, "I bet every single one of those 1,000 books I'm supposed to read before I die is very, very good, but I cannot read them all, and they will have to go on the list of things I didn't get to."
Holmes prefers this sense of surrender to what she calls "culling," or ignoring entire art forms or genres as part of an "well, I don't care about that anyway" defense mechanism against missing out on stuff.
I suppose I do some culling; I just don't care about reality TV shows or sci-fi fiction, and I'm never going to get into heavy metal music. But if someone whose judgment I trust raves about a particular example of an art form I don't care about, I'm going to watch or listen to it. So I love the movie Tremors and Janelle Monáe's dance song "Tightrope" (to take two very random examples) even though I'm poorly versed on horror flicks and contemporary R&B music. It was just fate that I stumbled onto them, and I'm fine with that.