Category Archives: Media

But we’ll all keep reading ‘Playboy’ for the ‘interesting articles,’ right, guys?

And we’ll mean it — if we bother. Which I doubt. Seriously, those of you who are no longer adolescent boys — when was the last edition you bothered to pick up?

The shocking news:

Last month, Cory Jones, a top editor at Playboy, went to see its founder, Hugh Hefner, at the Playboy Mansion.

In a wood-paneled dining room, with Picasso and de Kooning prints on the walls, Jones nervously presented a radical suggestion: THE magazine, a pioneer of the revolution that helped take sex in America from furtive to ubiquitous, should stop publishing images of naked women.

Hefner, 89, but still listed as editor-in-chief, agreed. As part of a redesign that will be unveiled in March, the print edition of Playboy will still feature women in provocative poses. But they will no longer be fully nude.

Its executives admit that Playboy has been overtaken by the changes it pioneered. “That battle has been fought and won,” said Scott Flanders, the company’s chief executive. “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture.”

For a generation of American men, reading Playboy was a cultural rite, an illicit thrill consumed by flashlight. Now every teenage boy has an Internet-connected phone instead. Pornographic magazines, even those as storied as Playboy, have lost their shock value, their commercial value and their cultural relevance….

In other developments:

  • Apple will no longer produce cool gadgets for the consumer market.
  • Coca-Cola will drop its line of sugary soda.
  • Carter will no longer produce its little liver pills.

OK, that last one might have actually happened. At least they don’t call them that any more. But you get the idea.

Frankly, I’d call this a desperate plea for attention. I mean, seriously — if nudity has become passé, why remove it? Why not have your models nude sometimes and not nude other times, as the photographer chooses? Since it’s so last century and all.

Also, you know, there’s nothing particularly new about this. In the past, the centerfold models were often partly clad. Partly because that was sexy, and partly to distinguish “Playboy” from “Penthouse” and “Hustler.”

I’m thinking the plan is to get people to run out and buy the first edition under the new policy just to see what the clothed centerfold looks like, then everybody will say “uh-huh,” and go back to not buying the magazine, ever.

Because, as everyone knows (hence the joke), the articles around the nekkid women weren’t really that “in-ter-esting.”

The last “Playboy” I bought for the “interesting articles,” and I suppose the last one I bought, period, was the November 1976 edition — the one with the Jimmy Carter “lust in my heart” interview.

And you know, I haven’t missed it. I don’t think I will in the future, either.

After this, a headline writer would have nothing left to strive for


Bryan Caskey brought the above headline to my attention last night. I don’t know where he found it.

It prompts three thoughts:

  • The journalistic pedant in me protests that this is not a headline. It’s a lede and a good bit of the next graf. But hey, kudos to whoever had the sand to decide to hell with the rules; we’re gonna get all of this into the headline! But then, what choice did the editor have? What were they going to do, leave out the part about the guy she waved at being dressed as a Snickers bar?
  • As I Tweeted to Bryan in reply, “After that, the headline writer died happy….” I mean, seriously, what does he have to look forward to after that? He’s never going to top it.
  • If the copy editor did decide to cling to life — as we humans are wont to do — he should retire from his job at the tabloid, turn this headline into a country song and head to Nashville. Fame awaits.

Fascinating piece on Dylann Roof’s last ‘home’ before shootings

roof story

I initially saw this in The State this morning, although I’m linking you to the original piece in The Washington Post.

It’s a fascinating portrait of the Red Bank household in which Dylann Roof lived the last couple of months before the Emanuel AME murders.

An excerpt:

Now, a month after the June 17 shooting, the blinds are drawn at noon and the family that hosted Roof is inside, where the boom of gunfire and explosions is so loud the trailer vibrates.

“Ha ha. I just killed all them mothers,” says Justin Meek, 18, playing a video game in which blood and body parts fly across a 42-inch TV screen….

On a lopsided couch is Lindsey Fry, 19, flicking her tongue ring, eyes locked on a cracked cellphone for news about the shooting, which has lately included her boyfriend Joey, 21, the third Meek brother who lives in the trailer, which is in a town called Red Bank that the Meeks call Dead Bank….

They are the people with whom Roof was associating in the weeks before the shooting, and this is the place he drifted into with little resistance, an American void where little is sacred and little is profane and the dominant reaction to life is what Joey does now, looking at Lindsey. He shrugs.

For several weeks, Dylann Roof slept on the floor here. He played video games. According to the Meeks, he showed off his new Glock .45-caliber handgun, drank heavily and retreated to his car to listen to opera. And sometimes he confided in his childhood friend Joey, who wasn’t the type to ask questions….

Of course, as a journalist, I want to know how reporter Stephanie McCrummen and photographer Michael Williamson gained and maintained this sort of relationship with the subjects. What did they tell Kim Konzny, her three sons and the others in the trailer to explain why they were there and what they wanted? How, for instance, were they able to report from inside Ms. Konzny’s room where she goes and closes the door to shut out the chaos in her trailer? Seems like that would have been the very toughest line of all to cross.

What sort of relationship do you form with people to get this kind of access when your eventual product will be something headlined “An American Void?” Did the subjects ask on the front end for any assurances as to how they’d be portrayed, or did they just shrug? And if they did ask, how frank were the journalists about the impressions they were forming?

There’s something almost Faulknerian about this story, only without the long sentences. And Faulkner didn’t actually have to get to know the Snopeses. Nor, I’m guessing, did Erskine Caldwell have to hang out with Ty Ty Walden et al. to write God’s Little Acre. Real people are tougher to deal with…

Does high-resolution digital photography call for a new journalistic ethic?

Hillary detail

This is a tough topic for a couple of reasons. First, it ventures into the sensitive area that Donald Trump stomped all over with his gross comments about Carly Fiorina — the area in which women are unfairly judged by their appearance.

Second, I can’t really show you what I’m talking about on a standard-resolution PC. You sort of need the Retina display of a late-model iPad. Since I can’t see what I’m talking about at my end on this machine, I doubt that you can, either. (You can sort of, but not quite, see what I mean if you click on the above image, then click again to enlarge it. But it’s not the same.)

But I thought I’d try to raise it anyway.

Over the weekend, I was scrolling through the stories in the Washington Post app on my iPad, and paused on this story (at least, that’s what includes this photo when I look back — I think originally it was something else) about Hillary Clinton, which featured the above photo full-screen. And my first thought was, “That’s not fair.”

The resolution in this moderate close-up was just ridiculously good. It’s not just that it showed every line in the face of a 67-year-old woman in an unguarded moment, unlit by a smile or any other sort of expression. It’s that I could practically see the grains in her makeup. It was just way, way too up close and personal.

And it occurred to me that, had I been the editor in charge of preparing that story for tablet publication, I would have paused, and thought, “Don’t we have something a little less intrusive?” Not something flattering, necessarily, just something neutral.

Something else occurred to me this morning when I was looking around for a photo of a male candidate where you could see the TV makeup on him with this kind of detail — and it occurred to me that I have not seen a photo like that anywhere. There are closeups, such as the one below of a sweaty Bernie Sanders — but none with obvious makeup, which we all know they sometimes wear. (And I was looking for that because I think it was the fact that I could see all of her makeup in such detail that made it seem so invasive.)

I don’t know where I’m going with this, except that photography as detailed as what we have today with high-end digital cameras — and sometimes just with iPhones — raises new questions of editorial propriety.

The last couple of weekends, I’ve been digitizing some old slides from back in the ’70s, and I’ve been scanning them at a rather ridiculous resolution — 4800 dpi — in order not to lose any detail. And I’ve learned something — there just wasn’t that much detail in 35mm photography, at least not like what I’ve grown accustomed to with even garden-variety digital images.

And occasionally, this extreme increase in detail raises questions about how much is enough, and whether there is such a thing as too much…

Bernie at Benedict

Once again, photographic proof that Mike Miller and I are two completely different people

Mike and me

That’s me on the left. Not my left, YOUR left…

Here we go again, y’all.

Last night, I stopped by the First Thursday event on Main Street, partly because I wanted to drop by Kyle Michel‘s law office and rummage through the discs he was prepared to part with. Kyle, the son-in-law of my old boss Tom McLean, is the Rob Fleming of Columbia, and much of the space in his office is taken up by his amazingly extensive record collection. Each First Thursday, he puts a couple of tables out on the sidewalk in front of his office, laden with boxes full of LPs he’s prepared to sell. (Last night, I came away with a mono LP of Trini Lopez’ greatest hits.)Trini-Lopez-Greatest-Hits---S-504697

Crossing the courtyard of the art museum on my way toward Main Street, I heard my name called, and it was Mike Miller, standing chatting with Tim Conroy — yes, he’s one of those Conroys, brother of Pat — and Phill Blair, co-owner of The Whig (and one of my elder son’s best friends).

Mike immediately reported that it had happened again. Just minutes before in a shop on Main Street, a woman had mistaken him for me. He did his best to persuade her that he was this whole other guy who had also worked at the newspaper, and she allowed as how yes, she recalls there was a Mike Miller who wrote about the music scene for the paper, but she had felt certain that the man in front of her was Brad Warthen.

This is ridiculous, people.

This happened to me — being mistaken for Mike, I mean — three times in one week back in 2012, in the wake of Mike’s run for city council. I have since posted photographic evidence that we are not the same person. That should have settled it, right?

Evidently, that photo wasn’t persuasive enough. So I asked Tim Conroy to take a picture of us together, right then and there, to put an end to the persistent rumors that Clark Kent — I mean, Mike Miller — and I are the same person. He obliged.

Please share this with your friends and neighbors, so we can clear up this misunderstanding. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Are national media losing their respect for SC Republican voters’ ability to pick winners?

NBC's Ali Weinberg at the SC State House, August 2011.

NBC’s Ali Weinberg at the SC State House, August 2011.

I alluded to this in my last post, but decided this point was worth a separate headline…

By this time four years ago, NBC’s Ali Weinberg (daughter of the famous Max) was already a fixture in the local media scene. She was here for the duration to cover the SC primary.

Week before last, I got an email from Alexandra Jaffe of NBC that began: “I cover politics for NBC News here in Washington and I’m emailing because I’ll be heading down to South Carolina in December or January to cover the primary there, and was hoping to connect with you because I’m a fan of your blog…”

Alex Jaffe

Alex Jaffe

In December or January

When we spoke later on the phone, she confirmed that her bosses figured that, since SC blew the call in 2012, it wasn’t worth the resources expended on it last time around.

Four years ago, SC Republicans were still known nationally for their habit of always (at least, for a generation) picking the eventual nominee in their presidential preference primaries. That’s why we’ve grown accustomed to seeing so many national candidates — and so much media — trooping through here every four years. South Carolina picks winners. Or at least, it did.

But after SC Republicans had a fit and picked Newt Gingrich in 2012, some of the gloss went off the reputation.

And now, at least one major news organization is making real, dollars-and-cents decisions based on that one primary. Of course, with Trump leading a poll with 30 percent of the vote here, the Gingrich victory is looking less like a one-off…

Cindi’s good idea for Greenwood monument could be applied in a lot of areas

Cindi Scoppe had a good column about the absurd problem that the town of Greenwood faces. The town decided some time back that it wanted to revise the lists of dead from the world wars on local monuments so that they were no longer separated into “white” and “colored.”

But the Legislature’s execrable Heritage Act, which was passed years ago for the now-irrelevant purpose of protecting the unlamented Confederate flag on the State House grounds, forbids the town from doing so. Which is absurd and wrong on several levels.

And unfortunately, Speaker Jay Lucas’ Shermanesque statement that while he is speaker, no more exceptions will be made to the Act, period, means there’s no hope for what the town wants to do. (I can appreciate Lucas’ pragmatic desire, once the good work of lowering the flag was done, to get onto other issues without distractions, but this is a particularly unfortunate effect of his declaration.)

Anyway, I like Cindi’s solution:

We should all hope that once cooler heads prevail, the speaker will walk back his Shermanesque statement, and the Legislature will give the American Legion and the city of Greenwood control over their own property — and give all local governments and private entities control over their property as well, for that matter.

If that doesn’t happen, there’s a better solution than a lawsuit: The folks in Greenwood should take up a collection for a new sign, to erect next to the monument, that says: “These lists of Americans who gave their lives for our nation remain segregated in the 21st century because the S.C. General Assembly either opposes integration or refuses to let local governments make their own decisions or both.”

That idea could be applied in a lot of situations where the Legislative State ties the hands of local governments. For instance, signs could be posted at Richland County polling places saying, “You are waiting in such long lines because the Legislature, in its ‘wisdom,’ gives control of the voting process to the local legislative delegation.”

Given the many ways the Legislature reaches down to meddle in local affairs, the possibilities for applying this idea are practically endless…


Thoughts on the GOP debate(s) last night?


Y’all are likely better situated to comment than I am.

First, I missed the early, junior-varsity debate. I was still at work, on a deadline. Then, at 9, I tried to tune in, and found Fox didn’t want to let me do that, even streaming on my laptop. I fumed about that for half an hour or so before Tweeting this:

I mean, seriously: I don’t DO cable these days. Who needs it, with Netflix, Amazon and HBO NOW? And in the 21st century, what major content organization doesn’t want the whole world buzzing about it when it has an exclusive such as this? Dumb. Fox should be looking for viable ways to move away from old-school cable, the way HBO has.

But the nice thing about griping on Twitter is that people go out of their way to offer you solutions. Soon, I was watching it on the SkyNews app on Apple TV. (And apparently Fox even tried to shut that down, but missed the Apple TV avenue.)

So I saw more than an hour of it, and you know what? I was pretty impressed. It could have been SO much worse with that many people on the stage, especially when one of them is Donald Trump. But even The Donald, while bombastic and so red-faced I thought he was about to bust a blood vessel, actually seemed to be trying to be a serious candidate, after his fashion.

The Fox people were really putting their best foot forward, and the moderators — Mike Wallace’s boy, the hot blonde with the late-’60s eyelashes, and the earnest, round-headed kid — were taking their jobs seriously. Fox REALLY should have been paying people to watch this, rather than trying to limit the audience, because it would have made a good impression on people who haven’t seen them lately.

The three were asking serious, tough questions, and following up very professionally, as former Greenville News editorialist Paul Hyde noted on Facebook:

Much to their credit, the Fox News journalists are acting like journalists, challenging the individual candidates on economic policy, abortion, and their own divisive, sexist and strident statements.

You know they were doing a decent job, because a lot of the so-called “conservatives” watching were really ticked off at them. They were all like, “Et tu, Fox?” Only not in Latin, of course.

As for the candidates, I actually felt like I was getting some useful impressions of them, despite the fact that there were far too many of them. Not that I changed my mind or anything — I had previously had the most positive impressions of (in no particular order) Bush, Rubio, Christie and Huckabee, and I came away feeling about the same.

My biggest regret, aside from missing most of the first hour, was that I would have liked Lindsey Graham to be there. I think he would have held his own pretty well. I didn’t really care to see him with the second-tier, although I would have watched if not for the work conflict. That said, I think the criteria for choosing who made the varsity game was fair.

It was interesting. There was plenty of foolishness to put me off, but there was food for thought. And I didn’t expect that from such a crowd scene…


The moderators — Mike Wallace’s boy, the hot blonde with the late-’60s eyelashes, and the earnest, round-headed kid — did a good job.

Charlie Hebdo grows up, just a little bit — maybe

Bryan brings this to my attention:

The top editor and publisher of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical French newspaper that suffered a deadly terrorist attack in January, said the publication would no longer draw the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that have garnered it worldwide notoriety.

“We have drawn Muhammad to defend the principle that one can draw whatever one wants,” said Laurent Sourisseau, in an interview this week with Stern, a German magazine.

But Sourisseau, who goes by the cartoonist nickname “Riss,” said that it was not Charlie Hebdo’s intent to be “possessed” by its critique of Islam. “The mistakes you could blame Islam for can be found in other religions,” he said….

Interesting. I’d like to say that Charlie Hebdo has grown up, and is no longer interested in offending just for the sake of offending. But that crack about “other religions” suggests we’ll still see trashy scribbles about the Pope, et al.

Or maybe not. Or maybe — and this would be wonderful — Charlie will satirize Islam and Christianity only when they have a point to make, rather than just being offensive for the hell of it.

As you know, I have never been Charlie. I would be happy to say that now Charlie is trying to be me, but that remains to be seen. I see no particular indication that they’re making this move for the right reasons.

It WILL take more than goodwill, Will. But goodwill is a prerequisite

There are those who refuse to participate in celebrating the spirit of unity over bringing down the Confederate flag. One of those, unfortunately, is my former colleague Will Moredock:

It will take more than goodwill to heal this state

After the Flag


“To use Gov. Nikki Haley’s words, it truly is a great day in South Carolina” — that was the text message that awakened me at 7:15 Thursday morning from my cell phone by the bedside. It was followed immediately by other messages from friends near and far who wanted to check in and see what I had to say about the end of the Confederate flag debate and — let us hope — the end of an era.

In the days after the lowering of the Confederate flag in front of the Statehouse in Columbia, much will be written and said about the courage of Gov. Haley and the Republican General Assembly in taking that measure, to which I say, “Bullshit!”

Why did it take the killing of nine good people by a Confederate flag-waving bigot at Emanuel AME Church to open the eyes of these GOPers to what millions of South Carolinians and Americans have known for generations?…

Yes, it will take more than goodwill for our state to progress.

But the thing is, goodwill is a necessary ingredient.

And celebrating when people who have long disagreed with you decide to agree — rather than kicking them — is kind of an obvious first step.

To see ourselves as others see us can be… disconcerting

I was kind of puzzled by a piece in The Washington Post over the weekend describing the ceremony Friday taking down the flag. An excerpt:

The elaborate ceremony Friday to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse threatened to overshadow the very act of removing a symbol that had caused so much tension and testimony over the state of race relations in recent weeks.

The color guard, the phalanx of elected officials, and the cheering — and sometimes jeering — crowd of spectators all made the event feel at turns like both a state funeral and a pep rally. Neither seemed an entirely appropriate tone for the occasion, given the horrifying circumstances that led South Carolina lawmakers to finally retire the banner that, in spite of controversy, had defiantly held an official place of honor for more than 50 years.

Huh? The nature of the event felt perfect to me: A combination of the pomp that is sort of reflexive to Southerners and the bubbling, giddy joy at something many of us thought would never, ever happen.

Since I’m a South Carolinian, and I knew how I felt on the issue, and how lots of my fellow citizens felt, the event felt just right to me.

So I decided, as I read, that the problem was that Vanessa Williams must not be from around here. That seemed confirmed by this passage:

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) has been widely praised for leading the charge to take down the flag, even after she balked at doing so last year…

Say what? “Even after she balked last year?” Even after? That’s inside-out thinking. She was widely and happily congratulated because she hadn’t been for it before. And I’m not picking on Nikki in saying that; I am currently running for president of her fan club! No, she was never for it (as opposed to merely “balking” on one occasion) because she was a South Carolina Republican.

Which made her normal. The only South Carolina Republican I had ever heard express an interest, even halfheartedly, in getting the flag moved was Ted Pitts, years before he was the governor’s chief of staff, and he walked it back really, really quickly once the backlash hit him.

Not having been for bringing the flag down before doesn’t say anything about Nikki Haley as an individual, but the fact that she got out front on it this time very much counts to her credit — and to the credit of the great majority of Republicans who rose up and decided to do the right thing, without amendments, qualifications, ifs, ands or buts.

That’s the news here, folks. Republicans not being interested in getting the flag down has always been a dog-bites-man thing. This astounding conversion is man-bites-dog. It’s an amazing thing. And Jenny Horne’s raging speech was an amazing thing, and wonderful. This is not the kind of thing that happens to us every week.

So you bet the governor is being widely praised, and she deserves it. As do all of those Republicans who responded to her call to get this done. And if you don’t think they’re going to pay a price for it back home, and therefore don’t realize that they can use all the encouragement we can give them, then you haven’t read the comments on this Meet the Press item yesterday.

It worries me when people write about stuff, and they don’t get what’s going on, on a fundamental level…

Back in the day, when we were all quite young


Cynthia Hardy isn’t the only one remembering when.

Susan Ardis at The State posted some pages from an old newsroom directory from the late 1980s on Facebook. I got tagged because mine is one of the mugs featured.

On this page, you can find all sorts of familiar names and faces. There’s Cindi Ross, before she was Scoppe. She was such a baby (only 23 when I became her editor). There’s Clark Surratt, who comments here frequently. There’s Neil White, who left in the most recent buyout. And there’s Bill Robinson, who opted to go in the first buyout round, several months before Robert and I were laid off.

Even though this page just covers from Priddy to Wiggins, there are almost as many people as there are in the whole newsroom today. Today, there are two people listed as covering government and politics, total (although some others sometimes do). On this one page, I count six of us — aside from me, there’s Bill, Cindi, Maureen Shurr, Steve Smith and Clark. There were about five others, in those halcyon days right after the Record had closed and we had combined the staffs — Lee Bandy, Charlie Pope, Jeff Miller, Scott Johnson and Bobby Bryant. And Clif Leblanc at one point. I don’t think I had all of those people at the same time, but all were on the gov staff at some point in that period. And once, at the height, I did have 10 people.

We could flat cover some gummint in those days.

Oh, and don’t forget to check out Mike Miller, back before we were doubles.

The employee directory was a handy thing to have in a newsroom with 150 or so people.

Later, this sort of thing disappeared. When I was editorial page editor, I was frustrated that while I knew most of the news people, in other departments of the paper were hundreds of people who knew who I was (not because I was so popular, but because my picture was in the paper all the time), and I didn’t know them. Which can be socially awkward:

“Hey, Brad!”

Hey… you!”

So I nagged and begged and harangued our HR person for a picture directory. I knew pictures existed of all employees — for their IDs — so how hard would that be? An electronic one on the intranet would do. But she kept saying no dice, because of some kind of fear in the HR world that having such directories around would lead to sexual harassment or something. Which seemed odd to me — wouldn’t a harasser be more likely to harass in person, instead of via a picture? But never mind, this concern was all the rage in the HR universe, and we were not going to publish such a directory.

But finally, she got fed up with my griping about it, and had someone compile a looseleaf directory just for me. Just that one copy, eyes only to me. I felt like C, the head of MI6, and the only one allowed to see the NOC list.

I consulted it frequently, and it came in quite handy. And ne’er did I harass a single fair maid.

Fun to be on the page with Robert (and Cindi) again

better page

“They’re back and they’re bad!”

“When they get together, Trouble comes a-runnin’!”

“Confederate Agenda II: Just when you thought it was safe to read the paper again…”

I’m thinking taglines for a cheesy sequel buddy action flick after seeing the page today in The State with Robert Ariail paired with me once again — my column with his cartoon. A lot of friends have commented on that — favorably. Although when Mike Fitts said it was “Just like old times,” Neil White, being himself, responded that “they were celebrating Throwback Tuesday over there.”

“It’s Throwback Tuesday. Don’t turn that page!”

Anyway, it’s great to be back with Robert in print today, even though it’s only today. And to be back with Cindi Scoppe, of course. I’ve been working with her off and on since the weekend, strategizing about what I was going to write and the best time to run it, then working together through the editing process. And I was aware that she was writing two editorials that would run with my piece — this one congratulating the Senate, and this one exhorting the House to follow the Senate’s example — whereas Robert’s cartoon was more of a nice surprise.

Now that was even more like old times. I haven’t even seen my buddy Robert this week, but working on this with Cindi was a very pleasant return to the alternative universe where everything is as it should be.

I even called her to ask for a PDF of the page today, to have a souvenir of the occasion (nowadays, things don’t seem real without a digital version). An inferior JPG image is above. Click on it, and you get the PDF.

My column on the flag in The State today


Tim Dominick/The State

A New South Carolina

We have come so far. We are so close. Let’s get it done.

That’s the litany I’ve been reciting this past week, as the previously unthinkable quietly became a matter of fact — at least in the S.C. Senate. To paraphrase a T.S. Eliot quote that Sen. Tom Davis cited after the Senate vote: This is the way the Confederacy ends; not with a bang but a whimper.

We now live in a new South Carolina. No, the flag’s not down yet, but the South Carolina I’ve known all my life is gone. In that late, unlamented version, that anticlimactic 36-3 vote in the Senate would have been impossible. And yet in this new world, it was so … matter of fact. Poetry aside, there wasn’t even a whimper.

How did we get here? Well, I wasn’t around for the start. But while some scoff at the ostensible reason for putting the flag up there — to mark the centennial of The War — I find it credible. I was in the second grade in New Jersey when the centennial observances began. Navy blue kepis — the hats we identify with the Civil War — were very popular among the kids who mocked my South Carolina accent. I searched everywhere and found a gray one. I wore it to school, daring the other boys to try to knock it off.

Innocent enough. But the centennial ended in 1965, and the flag stayed up. We know why. By that time, the civil rights movement was winning important national victories.

And what did the flag mean? We know. Oh, news reports will affect that priggish, pedantic neutrality peculiar to the trade: “Some people see the flag as meaning this; some see it as meaning that.” But we know, don’t we? It is a way white South Carolinians — some of us, anyway — have had of saying that, despite Appomattox and the civil rights movement: We can do this. We don’t care about you or how you feel about it.

It was a way of telling the world whose state this is.

My own involvement with the flag started in February 1994, about six weeks after I joined The State’s editorial board. I hadn’t planned to write about it. But my colleague Lee Bandy had asked then-Gov. Carroll Campbell about the flag. The governor had dismissed the issue as beneath his notice. He was too busy with the “big picture” to fuss about with such “temporal emotions of the moment.”

Carroll Campbell did a lot of fine things as governor, but on that day he really ticked me off. So I ripped out a short editorial — just 349 words — that said if the governor was serious about national ambitions (and he was), he needed an attitude adjustment. The “emotions” to which he referred arose “from a failure to resolve the central crisis of our history. That failure arises from many causes, but one of them is a lack of leadership. The rest of the nation can be expected to have little patience with a man who seeks to lead it into the 21st century, but can’t make a gesture to lay a 19th century conflict to rest.”

From that moment, I couldn’t leave the issue alone. I berated a series of governors, and Legislatures, on this failure of leadership. And what result did I, or anyone else calling for the flag to go, get? A hardening of attitudes. The Republican Party rose to power in the General Assembly after putting a mock flag “referendum” on its 1994 primary ballot, after which legislators moved to enshrine the flying of the flag into law.

The anti-flag movement grew, and reached its zenith in 2000, with a 60,000-strong demonstration on Martin Luther King Day, and a dramatic march from Charleston to Columbia led by Mayor Joe Riley. And still, what did we get? A “compromise” that moved the flag to a more visible location. After which the Legislature made it clear for 15 years that it had zero interest in revisiting the issue.

But that all happened in the old South Carolina, which ceased to exist not the night that Sen. Clementa Pinckney and eight of his flock were murdered in cold blood. It ended two days later, when the families of the slain forgave the young man charged with taking their loved ones away.

The new South Carolina was born in that moment, in that courtroom. Hatred and death didn’t bring it into being. The love of the living did.

A chain reaction of grace started there, and its radiance shone forth from Charleston. The nation marveled: Why were they not seeing another Ferguson, another Baltimore? How can this black-white lovefest be?

A series of governors had, to varying degrees, brushed off the flag. (Although both David Beasley and Jim Hodges sought compromises.) And now here was one saying, without any mention of compromises, “It’s time to move the flag from the capitol grounds.” Period. God bless Nikki Haley for actively stepping out to lead this new South Carolina, a state that would be ashamed to engage in the games of the past — a state that couldn’t look at those victims’ families and respond any other way. A state that had grown up.

Standing behind her on that miraculous day, three days after the arraignment, was a cross-section of our political leadership — black and white, Democratic and Republican. The chairmen of the two parties, whose rivalry was defined by the division that flag represented, literally stood shoulder-to-shoulder.

Things like this don’t happen in South Carolina. Or rather, they didn’t happen in the old South Carolina.

Anything can happen now. Anything. Thank God. Now, on to the House.

Mr. Warthen is the former editorial page editor of The State and now director of communications and public relations at ADCO, a Columbia marketing agency. He blogs at

The first 350 words I wrote on the Confederate flag

black and white flags

OK, it’s technically only 349, which is amazingly terse, considering the thousands — probably hundreds of thousands — of words I would eventually write on the subject.

I make a reference to this piece in my column in Wednesday’s editions of The State. I thought I’d share the whole thing with you.

It was February 1994. I had only been on The State‘s editorial board for six weeks. One morning, I read in our paper where my friend and colleague Lee Bandy had asked then-Gov. Carroll Campbell about the Confederate flag that then flew over the State House, and saw how dismissive the governor had been of the issue.

Which I found to be outrageous.

So I quickly ripped out this very short editorial — what we called a backup, as opposed to a lede — and got it into the paper ASAP. (Actually, The State has the first backup that I’ve seen in awhile on the page with my column.)

I hadn’t thought all that carefully about the flag up to that point. The fact that it should come down seemed obvious to me. But in reading this you can see I had not yet developed the themes that would be central to my writing about the flag later. You’ll see that I emphasize South Carolina’s image to outsiders, which has not been an important theme to me since then. I mainly did that because it was believed that Campbell harbored presidential or vice-presidential ambitions, so I seized on that to at least give him reason to think harder about the issue.

Here is the editorial:

State, The (Columbia, SC) – Wednesday, February 16, 1994

THE ever-careful Carroll Campbell is taking an interesting gamble by not taking a stand on flying the Confederate battle flag atop the State House.

As Governor Campbell cautiously nurtures ambitions for the national stage, this issue could prove to be his Rubicon. If he crosses it, he risks alienating a chunk of South Carolina voters. But crossing it could be a way of gaining the national credibility necessary to his ambitions.

Increasingly, the flag is a human relations irritant even as we confine our gaze inward. And it is a problem for Southerners each time we reach out to the world. This happened with Georgia as it looked toward the Olympics, and Alabama as it worked to lure Mercedes-Benz.

As Mr. Campbell gazes outward, he should see that he ought to issue a call to bring the flag down, and he must do it now. He will have no standing to address it next year, when he will be asked why he avoided the issue as governor.

To say, as Mr. Campbell does, that the flag has to do with little more than “temporal emotions of the moment” is absurd. These emotions arise in turn from a failure to resolve the central crisis of our history. That failure arises from many causes, but one of them is a lack of leadership. The rest of the nation can be expected to have little patience with a man who seeks to lead it into the 21st century, but can’t make a gesture to lay a 19th century conflict to rest.

We’re not saying it would be easy. We’re saying that the effort would be worthwhile, particularly if the flag is placed in an appropriate historical display. The Governor has gained a considerable store of political capital in the past seven years; this would be a good way to invest some of it.

By having the guts to deal with this problem constructively, he will have shown himself worthy of the national stage. And he will have done an enduring service to his home state.

Anyway, that was the start of my 21 years of writing on the subject. And soon, maybe, maybe I’ll be done.

We have ONE flag to deal with, and in SC, we know which one it is

flags cropped Sowell

This morning, The Washington Post ran a story headlined, “Did Republicans jump the gun on the Confederate flag?

It was prompted by a national poll that showed the public evenly split on whether the flag is a racist symbol. The premise of the story was that golly, did Nikki Haley and the rest get ahead of public opinion by moving to take down the flag?

This engendered a couple of strong reactions in me. The first was, a NATIONAL poll? Really? In what way is that relevant? I appreciate that, in this era of all local stories being nationalized, the rest of the country feels like it’s a part of our problem, but no matter what sort of vicarious interest they may have in this drama, it is ours to deal with. Our obligation, our duty, our task.

The second was, please don’t anybody do a South Carolina poll, not for another week or so, please. And my reason for saying that leads to my third reaction, which I put in a Tweet:

I realize that to folks in Washington, a town full of political consultants, the idea of getting out ahead of public opinion is… well… unprofessional.

Of course, it’s an awfully rare thing here in South Carolina. In fact, the last time I saw leadership on the flag by a public official in our state was Joe Riley’s march from Charleston to Columbia in 2000.

But that’s what we’re seeing right now. That’s the miracle, or one of them. Our governor and two-thirds majorities in both chambers are ready to act, and they’re not waiting around for polls or political advice from anyone. And I, who have castigated pretty much all of them on one occasion or another (and with a lot of them, a lot more than that), am as proud of them as I can be.

Anyway, my Tweet ended up on Facebook as all of them do, and someone commented (and seems to have thought better of it and taken it down now) something to the effect that she was fine with taking this one flag and putting it in a museum, but she felt like people across the country going on about other Confederate symbols and such were going overboard.

My response to that:

None of that concerns me, or I should think any of us in South Carolina. We have this one flag to deal with. We’ve known that for ages. So we need to get it done.

There’s this one flag, that is qualitatively different, in terms of what it means, from any other flag, symbol, statue, institution name, monument or what have you anywhere in the world.

It, in one form or another and in one place or another, has flown at the State House since 1962, and we all know why. It is a way white South Carolinians have had of saying that, despite Appomattox and the civil rights movement, We can do this. We can fly this flag no matter how it affects you or how you feel about it. We don’t care about you or how you think or feel about it; you can go to hell if you don’t like it. In your face.

This message is delivered, of course, primarily to black South Carolinians, and secondarily to anyone else who wanted the flag down, including — putting in a word for people like me — quite a few of us white South Carolinians.

It’s a message that could only be delivered by a flag flown at our seat of government, this message about a highly exclusive, restricted definition of whose state this is. You can’t send that message anywhere else with any symbol. By flying rather than being a cold monument, it says this definition of South Carolina is alive; it’s now; it’s not just history.

That’s why this one flag has to come down.

I’m tired of folks, some of them quite nice folks, talking slippery slopes: Oh, but what about all those other flags, symbols, etc.? I dismiss such questions with increasing impatience. We are dealing with this specific flag for specific reasons that are particular to it — in fact, unique. Those reasons don’t exist for any other object you can name.

Let the rest of the country talk about what it wants to. Since they don’t have this flag to deal with, let them obsess over whatever lesser symbols they have in their desire to be a part of what we’re dealing with. That desire may be laudable, but right now it’s a distraction, if we let it be.

We know what we have to do here in South Carolina. And finally, we’re about to do it.

Not only was the flag not always there; neither was the monument


I say that not to suggest moving the monument. I just want to emphasize that the folks out there muttering darkly about how we’re trying to “erase history” by moving that flag that was put up in 1962 generally don’t know a lot about our postwar history.

I wrote this column to run on July 2, 2000 — one day after the old naval jack was removed from the dome, and the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia was placed behind the Confederate flag monument.

My purpose in writing it was to let it be known from the very moment of the compromise, that I was not satisfied with it, and saw it as by no means a permanent solution. There was very little appetite for continued debate on the subject at this moment, and I was acutely aware of that. People were flag-weary. But while most folks were celebrating, I wanted to signal that this wasn’t settled, and foreshadow the debate to come…

Here’s the column:


State, The (Columbia, SC) – Sunday, July 2, 2000

Author: BRAD WARTHEN , Editorial Page Editor

An important thing to remember about monuments: They aren’t set in stone.

OK, bad choice of words. They are set in stone, or concrete, or something along those lines. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t be modified or moved.

Take, for instance, the Confederate Soldier Monument on the State House grounds. For many of us who wanted the Confederate flag moved off the dome, that was probably the least desirable place of all to put its replacement. Unfortunately, if the flag or one like it was going to fly anywhere, that was probably the most logical location.

Why? Because so many groups that advocated moving the flag said to put it instead in a more historically appropriate setting. And what more appropriate place could there be to put a soldier’s flag than alongside the monument to the soldiers who served under it? It’s just too bad that that monument is in the most visible location on the grounds. There’s nothing we can do about that, is there?

Well, here’s a fun fact to know and tell: The state’s official monument to Confederate soldiers was not always in that location. In fact, that isn’t even the original monument.

I had heard this in the past but just read some confirmation of it this past week, in a column written in 1971 by a former State editor. When I called Charles Wickenberg, who is now retired, to ask where he got his facts, he wasn’t sure after all these years. But the folks at the S.C. Department of Archives and History were able to confirm the story for me. It goes like this:

The original monument, in fact, wasn’t even on the State House grounds. It was initially erected on Arsenal Hill, but a problem developed – it was sitting on quicksand. So it was moved to the top of a hill at the entrance of Elmwood cemetery.

The monument finally made it to the State House grounds in 1879. But it didn’t go where it is now. It was placed instead “near the eastern end of the building, about 60 feet from the front wall and 100 feet from the present site,” Mr. Wickenberg wrote.

But another problem developed: The monument kept getting struck by lightning. “The last stroke” hit on June 22, 1882, and demolished the stone figure.

At this point, if I were one of the folks in charge of this monument, I might have started to wonder about the whole enterprise. But folks back then were made of sterner stuff, and they soldiered on, so to speak.

At this point a new base was obtained, with stirring words inscribed upon it, and “a new statue, chiseled in Italy,” placed at the top. On May 9, 1884, the new monument was unveiled and dedicated in the same location in which we find it today.

So we see that the folks who lived in a time when “the Recent Unpleasantness” was actually recent – and burning in their personal memories – had to try four times before they came up with a way that suited them and their times to honor Confederate sacrifice.

In light of that, why should anyone assume that we’re finished deciding how to remember the Confederacy in our time?

Am I suggesting that we move the monument yet again? Not necessarily. I don’t think anybody’s ready for that battle yet. (Anyway, the Legislature doesn’t meet again until January.)

But I am saying that alternatives to the present arrangement exist. For instance. . . .

Remember the proposal that came up in the heat of the House debate to put the new Army of Northern Virginia battle flag within the context of a group of flags honoring S.C. veterans of other wars? The plan died partly because the details were sketchy and partly because House leaders didn’t want to consider anything new at that point.

Well after the present arrangement was safely passed and signed, that plan was resurrected – in an improved form – by Sen. John Courson, who had already done so much to bring the compromise to fruition over the past six years.

Sen. Courson’s resolution, co-sponsored by the 19 senators who, like him, are military veterans, would create a commission to “design and establish an appropriate monument to be placed on the grounds of the Capitol Complex to recognize and honor the accomplishments of South Carolina veterans who have served honorably, in peace or war, in any of the five branches of the Armed Forces of the United States of America.”

The monument would consist mainly of the official flags of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. Thereby all who served our nation – black and white, from the Revolution to Kosovo – would be honored the same way we are honoring those who served the Confederacy.

The plan leaves site selection to the new commission, but Sen. Courson says there is only one place left on the grounds that could easily accommodate such an addition – the same grassy area where the ANV battle flag was raised on Saturday.

The resolution was filed at the last minute and automatically died at the end of the session. But Sen. Courson introduced it anyway to give lawmakers something to think about between now and next January.

So you see, the present arrangement – with the Confederate banner sticking out so conspicuously by itself in a prominent place – really isn’t set in stone, in the metaphorical sense.

Sen. Courson has presented one viable alternative. There are no doubt others.

I was being generous there suggesting Courson’s idea.

The best proposal to emerge from the debates of that year came from Bob Sheheen — the former speaker, and Vincent’s uncle.

He suggested doing away with the physical, cloth flag altogether, and placing a modest bronze monument somewhere on the grounds to say that the flag once flew here over the dome, and giving some historical perspective.

Unfortunately, that proposal was never really given a chance. The infamous compromise came out of the Senate and then-Speaker David Wilkins allowed only one day — one day — for debate, thereby ensuring that no other proposal would have a chance to catch on and win support. Pressed for time, the House just passed the Senate plan, and moved on.

That day was one of the most frustrating of my professional life. This was before blogging, and The State’s online presence was pretty rudimentary. All day, I kept writing different versions of an editorial based on what was happening in the debate, hoping that Wilkins would allow the debate to continue another day, hoping to have some influence on the outcome — hoping for the chance to push for the Sheheen plan or something like it.

But they pushed on late into the evening, and I had to let the page go without any editorial on the subject, since I didn’t know what the facts would be when readers saw the paper in the morning.

So frustrating. Such a missed opportunity…

Today finally IS ‘a great day in South Carolina,’ as we witness a host of miracles in the State House, of all places

the group

Today, the state of South Carolina leaped out into uncharted territory, launching itself from the 19th century right over the troubled 20th, and into the 21st. And it wasn’t even kicking and screaming.

It is, without a doubt, a miracle that today, Gov. Nikki Haley called for the Confederate flag to come off the State House grounds ASAP.

That is HUGE. That alone would have me walking around the State House (as I was just moments ago) saying, “What state am I in? Really, help me: Where am I?”

Today truly IS “a great day in South Carolina.”

NOTHING like this has ever happened in the 28 years that I’ve covered politics and government in South Carolina. Nothing even close to it. What happened today broke all of the rules of what does and does not happen in South Carolina.

Today, the state’s political leadership got together and said, “Hey, let’s just stop all the usual b.s.” Just like THAT (imagine me snapping my fingers)!

But I didn’t witness just one miracle today beneath the dome, with a storm raging outside and thunder crashing. Really, it’s impossible to count how many I saw. I’ll use a biblical accounting method and say seventy times seven. Or more than the stars in the sky…

Let’s just count a few:

  • Nikki Haley, elected as the darling of the Tea Party, standing there and saying “It’s time to move the flag from the capitol grounds,” and saying that if the Legislature doesn’t do it while it’s already here in town (through a proviso, or somehow amending the sine die resolution), she’s going to call them right back to deal with it. And meaning it. Wow. God bless her.
  • Joe Riley, freighted with grief as mayor of a Holy City in mourning, standing there right with her and not having to say a thing because Nikki Haley is saying what needs to be said. So that second march won’t be necessary, Mr. Mayor.
  • Mariangeles Borghini, Emile DeFelice and Tom Hall, the regular folks who pulled together the impromptu, haphazard rally Saturday, standing there witnessing it. Afterwards, I had to go over to Ms. Borghini, a recent immigrant from Argentina, and say, “You know, you don’t normally get what you ask for this fast in South Carolina.” But… maybe you do, now. Who knows? Everything we all knew about SC politics just went out the window. And you know that second rally they’re planning on the flag for July 4th? It just turned into a celebration, instead of another small step on a long, sweaty road.
  • Jim Clyburn standing at her right hand, in total agreement with her on the most divisive issue that I’ve dealt with in my decades in South Carolina.
  • Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham, who within the last few days was mouthing the usual stuff about how we had to understand that for some folks it’s about heritage, standing there on her other side. Mark Sanford, who was saying the same stuff a couple of days back, standing behind them.
  • Sen. John Courson, long the Confederate flag’s best friend in the Senate (except when Glenn McConnell was around), standing there with all of them. (Mind you, John has always been the most reasonable voice of that caucus, but he’s still the guy with multiple Confederate flags in his office, and is sort of the embodiment — the sincere embodiment — of the “honor the war dead” argument that has kept the flag up.)
  • South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Matt Moore and Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison — one white, the other black, sort of like their parties — standing literally shoulder-to-shoulder and grinning without reservation, in complete agreement with each other on the issue that has most surely divided them since we turned into a two-party state, since long, long before either of these young men even knew what Democrats and Republicans were. Moore, who was mouthing the usual “it’s not the time” stuff a couple of days ago, now saying, “We can’t change our past, but we can heal our future.” And Harrison, who can usually be counted on for the usual “if it’s Republican, it’s bad” stuff, telling me “I have nothing but respect for Gov. Haley. She’s doing the right thing, and she’s doing it for the right reasons.”
  • Mind you, Haley and Sanford and Graham and Scott and Courson and Matt Moore all represent the Republican Party that essentially came to power on the issue of keeping the flag up. The GOP took over the House after the 1994 election. The party got an unprecedented turnout in its primary that year in part by, in the national year of the Angry White Male, putting a mock “referendum” question on the primary ballot asking whether the flag should stay up. One of the very first things the party caucus pushed through after assuming control of the House was legislation that put the flying of the flag into law, so that no governor or anyone else but the Legislature could ever take it down. (You might say, why bring that up at such a wonderful moment. Here’s why: To let you know how big a miracle this is.)
  • Democrats and Republicans who have spent the day working sincerely together in multiple meetings today, not to posture and get the other side to vote against something so it can be used in the next election or to raise money, but to solve an issue that cuts right through the heart of South Carolina, and defines the differences between them. I asked House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford whether he has EVER been in such extraordinary meetings as he has been in today, with leaders of both parties determined to reach agreement on such a heavy, politically impossible issue and put it behind us for good. For a second, he almost reverted to the usual, starting to say, not while this governor has been in office… But I said, no, I mean EVER. And he said, no. He has never experienced anything like this on any issue.
  • Drivers going past the flag on Gervais and not just honking their horns in celebration at the flag coming down, but playing monotonal tunes on their horns, a regular symphony of honking. Such giddiness is as unprecedented as all the rest of us. It’s almost like our local version of the Berlin Wall coming down.
  • J.T. McLawhorn, president of the Columbia Urban League, telling me, “Things can change in a moment.” Meaning ANYTHING, no matter how intractable, no matter how long-lived. In South Carolina, the most change-resistant state in the union.
  • The way the sentiment that it was too soon to talk about such a hairy political issue, when we haven’t buried the first victim of the Charleston massacre, had just evaporated. Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, told me that Clem Pinckney “himself would say, ‘Do not lose this moment.'” This was, as the governor had said, the way to “honor the nine blessed souls that are now in heaven.”
  • The way the entire world was there to see it and hear it. And yeah, I’m sure that’s one huge reason we’re seeing this happen so quickly — was best to come out and say this now, while the world was watching, so that everyone would know of the miracle that had happened in South Carolina. But it was still something to see. I estimate this media crowd was about twice the size of the one that witnessed Mark Sanford’s public confession upon his return from Argentina six years ago this month.
  • To hear the booming voices of people spontaneously crying out, “Thank you, governor!” as she left the podium. (Presumably, those were the non-media types, and there were a lot of them on hand.) And no, I don’t think that was planned. It sounded heartfelt to me. Just like the applause that interrupted the governor, and which she had to wait for the end of, after she spoke the fateful words, “It’s time to move the flag from the capitol grounds.”
  • The way nobody was hedging, or qualifying, or talking about half-measures. In the state that normally doesn’t change, and when it does it does so in the tiniest, hesitating, gradualistic baby steps, the governor was like, Let’s just go ahead and take it down, and lawmakers of both parties were like, Yeah, let’s, and the rest of us were like Keanu Reeves, going whoaaaa

How did we get here, and so fast? I don’t think we can explain it in earthly terms. A friend who gave me a ride back to the office after the miracle said she felt like maybe, just maybe, it started when those family members stood in that courtroom the other day, looked at the (alleged) brutal killer of their precious loved ones, and forgave him. I nodded. Maybe so. Maybe that was the beginning of some sort of chain reaction of grace, which led to this.

I don’t know.

Yeah, a lot has to happen before this thing is done. But I think it’s going to happen. I asked James Smith whether he thought, based on his interactions with those involved, the consensus to act was solid. He nodded: “Rock solid,” he said. I believe him.

I know nothing, Jon Snow, about why people think this show is so awesome

I was directed to the above fun video by The New York Times‘ recap of the “Game of Thrones” season finale, which I watched almost in real time, having binge-watched, off and on, all the way from the first season, starting when HBO NOW came available in April.

Here’s that recap, and here’s the one from The Washington Post. Between the two, the NYT one is better, if “better” is defined as “more obsessive and exhaustive.” Although you may be interested that the Post also provides a second recap by someone who has actually read the books. (Must be nice to work at a paper that can afford to pay two writers to watch a TV show and go on and on about it. For that matter, it must be nice to still work at a paper.)

Now, SPOILER ALERT, in case any of y’all still haven’t gotten to that episode.

Some observations based on the latest, and for that matter the whole series:

  • As the NYT observes, no more awkward dinner parties for Jon Snow. Which brings me to the key point about all this to me: From Ned Stark to his bastard son, this is not a series that I can ever love, because it will capriciously and sadistically kill anyone I am capable of having any admiration for at all. Although Brienne is still around. I think.
  • And speaking of Brienne, why didn’t we get to see her kill Stannis, who so richly deserves it? This series now ranks in my mind as the most obscene in history. The very fact that anyone could even conceive of what happened to Stannis’ precious daughter, and then go ahead and depict it, sends my mind careening off into the darkness. Why, when we are “treated” to all kinds of graphic violence committed against far more admirable characters, are we cheated of the satisfaction of knowing for sure that this pretentious monster is dead?
  • And speaking of pretension: Where are we supposed to grab ahold of this series politically (seeing as how what it is about is people maneuvering for political power)? Where are we supposed to stand? We know that, under the monarchical rules of succession, Stannis was indeed the rightful heir — but who ever rooted for him for even a moment in the course of this series? So who are we supposed to want to win the game?
  • This season was at least a tad less adolescent than others, with fewer shots of gorgeous young female nudity. As though to make up for that, in the final episode Cersei is stripped naked and made to walk through the streets of King’s Landing for about a week and a half of screen time — although it’s fake, because they used a body double. And sorry, Beavis and Butthead, but there’s really nothing sexual about the scene. You remember when Jerry Seinfeld explained the difference between “good naked” and “bad naked”? Well, this was bad naked.
  • Whatever happened to Bran Stark? You know, the kid we thought we were supposed to care so much about ever since the Kingslayer tossed him from the battlements in the very first episode of the series? I mean, he reached the end of his quest, had a mind-expanding experience (I think, but it’s been awhile), and then, nothing. He was last seen north of the Wall, where a good bit of this season’s action takes place, but no Bran. I looked it up and got an explanation, but it’s still weird.
  • When, pray tell, does winter get here? For five seasons, we’ve been told it’s coming; it’s coming. Characters in the vicinity of The Wall always make like their running just half a step ahead of it. And we’re also led to believe that in this alternative universe, when it comes it will last for years. Well, it’s been five years since we were told to bundle up; where is it?
  • How long does it take a Khaleesi to gather up her dragons, cross over to Westeros and start sorting these clowns out? Hasn’t that been the plan since the first season? She seemed to be doing well there for awhile, gathering up resources and gaining power on her way to the sea, but then she takes yet another city, and stops there and gets all bogged down in local politics. Here she had this awesome fighting force, advancing with Tarquin’s ravishing strides, and then… she takes up residence in a pyramid and lets the Unsullied wear themselves out rumbling with the local hoodlums. What’s the plan here, Mother of Dragons? What does policing Meereen have to do with taking back the Seven Kingdoms? Talk about mission creep…

That’s enough for now; I’m sure y’all have plenty of other stuff to say.

Bottom line: I watched this to find out what everybody was on about, and it was intriguing enough to keep me going to the present point. But it’s not as compelling as many people seem to think it is, and in many ways is quite flawed. It’s no “Breaking Bad,” or even a “Mad Men” or “Walking Dead.” It doesn’t come close to “The Wire,” and no way does it measure up to “The Sopranos,” HBO’s proudest achievement in fictional drama to date.

That’s my verdict, anyway.