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Game of Thrones: Why Samwell Tarly Was the MVP of 'Dragonstone'
Poop, soup, books — repeat. Who could forget that montage? Here are the key takeaways from the first episode of Game of Thrones season 7, which crashed the HBO website like wildfire taking down the Sept.
Joseph Campbell never witnessed the widespread influence of his life’s work. His most famous work, The Power of Myth, a conversation with the journalist Bill Moyers, was published posthumously. Campbell’s wife, Jean Erdman, later commented that Campbell wouldn’t have enjoyed fame all that much. He was in it for the stories.
That’s what led him to a life of mythology, reading about Native Americans as a young boy. When Moyers opens The Power of Myth with a question about the relevance of mythology in everyday life, Campbell replies that it just catches you. We’ve lost “the literature of the spirit,” he continues, we’re only concerned with the news and problems of the hour. This was thirty years ago.
But a long view of history and culture is essential, according to Campbell.
When the story is in your mind, then you see its relevance to something happening in your own life. It gives you perspective on what’s happening to you. With the loss of that, we’ve really lost something because we don’t have a comparable literature to take its place.
Fortunately we do have a literature of the spirit today, only for most people it takes place on a screen. How the story is transmitted is not as important as that it’s transmitted, however. The very problem that Campbell addresses made its way into last night’s premiere of Game of Thrones.
The montage of Samwell Tarly’s drudgery working as an intern at the Citadel—cleaning bedpans, serving bean soup, stacking books, books thrown at him; editing you won’t quickly forget—comes to a head when weighing organs for the Archmaester. Sam says he wants access to the restricted area. He was sent to the Citadel to learn how to defeat the White Walkers, which the stuffy academics in their pearly tower don’t believe in. Sam, though, has seen them.
What strikes most in this episode is the evolving maturity and confidence of certain characters: Jon Snow making adult decisions as king; Sansa Stark shutting down Littlefinger; Sam stealing keys to access the restricted area. Sam’s usurpation celebrates Campbell’s mythology: he’s seeking the long view of history, which, of course, he discovers by way of an archaic map of the volcanic island of Dragonstone. Suddenly in front of his eyes is the store of obsidian, aka dragonglass, he’s been looking for.
The emphasis on the library and its books—stored knowledge—gave this episode an exceptionally mythological feel. The series is the world’s current most popular mythology, a story so grand that the HBO website crashed last night when the premiere released. And a story only makes sense when it touches upon the climate of the times it is being presented in. Without a link to the modern world the story could not possibly have such impact.
Which is the function mythology has always served. Gilgamesh’s epic journey for the plant of immortality, still told in the dreams of Silicon Valley coders uploading consciousness into the cloud; Homer’s wars retold in theatrical narratives reflecting American invasions; the Vedas and Sutras reinterpreted in home furnishings and tattoos in a planetary remix of yoga. Humans communicate through stories. The ones touching the largest number of people influence the outcome of history.
And they serve as warnings. The Archmaester tells Sam, “we are this world’s memories,” an important reminder at a time when the very nature of higher learning in America is under assault. The “uneducated” make good war fodder, whether that battle is fought by soldiers or for the minds and wallets of a nation’s citizens. The antidote to such ignorance is reading.
While the Archmaester is certain of his institution’s role, he is not without blind spots. The wall has stood through it all, he tells Sam, and has emerged after every winter thus far unscathed. His final analysis: it can never happen here. Foreshadowing at its most blatant.
Before yesterday’s premiere I stumbled across a Vox video relating themes in Game of Thrones to climate change. As expected, Facebook debates were heated, as every idea about this series inevitably is. But one recurring sentiment was stark: Leave my television alone. I don’t want to think about the broader implications. It’s just a show. Let me keep something sacred.
Ironic. The only thing that can actually be considered sacred—the planet, at least for us animals—proves to be not as important as what’s on the screen. A vehicle for escape, not a portal into reality. The screen has long served this role; arguably so has literature, to summer readers. But the contrast is especially loud when books are less valued and distractions are everywhere. Mythology becomes a myth, which is tragic.
Sam knows that not only can it happen here, but it is happening at this very moment. The voluntary ignorance of his superiors astounds though doesn’t surprise him. And so he turns to books in what will help determine the future of the planet. We should all be so lucky.
Derek's latest book, Whole Motion: Training Your Brain and Body For Optimal Health, is out now. He is based in Los Angeles. Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.
A new study finds that dogs fed fresh human-grade food don't need to eat—or do their business—as much.
- Most dogs eat a diet that's primarily kibble.
- When fed a fresh-food diet, however, they don't need to consume as much.
- Dogs on fresh-food diets have healthier gut biomes.
Four diets were tested<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU5ODI1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjY0NjIxMn0._w0k-qFOC86AqmtPHJBK_i-9F5oVyVYsYtUrdvfUxWQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="1b1e4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="87937436a81c700a8ab3b1d763354843" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="960" />
Credit: AntonioDiaz/Adobe Stock<p>The researchers tested refrigerated and fresh human-grade foods against kibble, the food most dogs live on. The <a href="https://frontierpets.com.au/blogs/news/how-kibble-or-dry-dog-food-is-made" target="_blank">ingredients</a> of kibble are mashed into a dough and then extruded, forced through a die of some kind into the desired shape — think a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_extrusion" target="_blank">pasta maker</a>. The resulting pellets are sprayed with additional flavor and color.</p><p>For four weeks, researchers fed 12 beagles one of four diets:</p><ol><li>a extruded diet — Blue Buffalo Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe</li><li>a fresh refrigerated diet — Freshpet Roasted Meals Tender Chicken Recipe</li><li>a fresh diet — JustFoodforDogs Beef & Russet Potato Recipe</li><li>another fresh diet — JustFoodforDogs Chicken & White Rice Recipe.</li></ol><p>The two fresh diets contained minimally processed beef, chicken, broccoli, rice, carrots, and various food chunks in a canine casserole of sorts. </p><p>(One can't help but think how hard it would be to get finicky cats to test new diets. As if.)</p><p>Senior author <a href="https://ansc.illinois.edu/directory/ksswanso" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Kelly S. Swanson</a> of U of I's Department of Animal Sciences and the Division of Nutritional Sciences, was a bit surprised at how much better dogs did on people food than even refrigerated dog chow. "Based on past research we've conducted I'm not surprised with the results when feeding human-grade compared to an extruded dry diet," he <a href="https://aces.illinois.edu/news/feed-fido-fresh-human-grade-dog-food-scoop-less-poop" target="_blank">says</a>, adding, "However, I did not expect to see how well the human-grade fresh food performed, even compared to a fresh commercial processed brand."</p>
Tracking the effect of each diet<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU5ODI1OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3NjY1NTgyOX0.AdyMb8OEcjCD6iWYnXjToDmcnjfTSn-0-dfG96SIpUA/img.jpg?width=980" id="da892" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="880d952420679aeccd1eaf32b5339810" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="960" />
Credit: Patryk Kosmider/Adobe Stock<p>The researchers tracked the dogs' weights and analyzed the microbiota in their fecal matter.</p><p>It turned out that the dogs on kibble had to eat more to maintain their body weight. This resulted in their producing 1.5 to 2.9 times the amount of poop produced by dogs on the fresh diets.</p><p>Says Swanson, "This is consistent with a 2019 National Institute of Health study in humans that found people eating a fresh whole food diet consumed on average 500 less calories per day, and reported being more satisfied, than people eating a more processed diet."</p><p>Maybe even more interesting was the effect of fresh food on the gut biome. Though there remains much we don't yet know about microbiota, it was nonetheless the case that the microbial communities found in fresh-food poo was different.</p><p>"Because a healthy gut means a healthy mutt," says Swanson, "fecal microbial and metabolite profiles are important readouts of diet assessment. As we have shown in <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jas/article/92/9/3781/4702209#110855647" target="_blank">previous studies</a>, the fecal microbial communities of healthy dogs fed fresh diets were different than those fed kibble. These unique microbial profiles were likely due to differences in diet processing, ingredient source, and the concentration and type of dietary fibers, proteins, and fats that are known to influence what is digested by the dog and what reaches the colon for fermentation."</p>
How did kibble take over canine diets?<p>Historically, dogs ate scraps left over by humans. It has only been <a href="https://www.thefarmersdog.com/digest/the-history-of-commercial-pet-food-a-great-american-marketing-story/" target="_blank">since 1870</a>, with the arrival of the luxe Spratt's Meat Fibrine Dog Cakes—made from "the dried unsalted gelatinous parts of Prairie Beef", mmm—that commercial dog food began to take hold. Dog bone-shaped biscuits first appeared in 1907. Ken-L Ration dates from 1922. Kibble was first extruded in 1956. Pet food had become a great way to turn <a href="https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/choosing-dog-food/animal-by-products/" target="_blank">human-food waste</a> into profit.</p><p>Commercial dog food became the norm for most household canines only after a massive marketing campaign led by a group of dog-food industry lobbyists called the Pet Food Institute in 1964. Over time, for most households, dog food was what dogs ate — what else? Human food? These days more than half of U.S. dogs are <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/03/magazine/who-made-that-dog-biscuit.html" target="_blank">overweight or obese</a>, and certainly their diet is a factor.<span></span></p><p>We're not so special among animals after all. If something's healthy for us to eat—we're <em>not</em> looking at you, chocolate—maybe we should remember to share with our canine compatriots. Not from the table, though.</p>
What makes some people more likely to shiver than others?
Some people just aren't bothered by the cold, no matter how low the temperature dips. And the reason for this may be in a person's genes.
Eating veggies is good for you. Now we can stop debating how much we should eat.
- A massive new study confirms that five servings of fruit and veggies a day can lower the risk of death.
- The maximum benefit is found at two servings of fruit and three of veggies—anything more offers no extra benefit according to the researchers.
- Not all fruits and veggies are equal. Leafy greens are better for you than starchy corn and potatoes.