Welcome to “A Song of Nice and Fire” Upworthy’s weekly series recapping one of the most brutal shows on TV. Since brutality is not really in our wheelhouse, Eric March has taken it upon himself to dig deep, twist and turn, and squint really hard to see if he can find the light of kindness in all the darkness. He may not always succeed, but by gosh if he won’t try his best.

Here’s what he found on this week’s "Game of Thrones."


FIREBALL!

[rebelmouse-image 19528388 dam="1" original_size="500x227" caption="GIF by "Game of Thrones"/HBO." expand=1]GIF by "Game of Thrones"/HBO.

For an episode high on characters non-consensually set ablaze, "The Spoils of War" featured a lot of man's-kindness-toward-his-fellow-man. I didn't even have to squint that hard.

Let's dive right in!

1. The Stark siblings reunite!

[rebelmouse-image 19528389 dam="1" original_size="700x466" caption=""You guys are weird." Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO." expand=1]"You guys are weird." Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO.

After six and a half seasons, thousands of miles traveled, several months of assassin training, two nightmare marriages, and one attempt to kind of become a tree, the remaining three children of Ned and Catelyn Stark finally get the band back together — and it's glorious.

Sure, it's also a little awkward. Bran behaves like the world's most insufferable college freshman home for Thanksgiving who has thoughts about the categorical imperative, while Sansa increasingly suspects that Arya's kill list might include a certain red-headed sister whose name rhymes with Pantsa Park. Arya, meanwhile, is too busy fighting knights three times her size to a draw to really bother with any palace intrigue, stirring up some of her sister's long-buried childhood resentment. But for the most part, everyone hugs and has a nice, easygoing break from the generational trauma they've been subjected to.

And just like at most family reunions...

2. Everyone gives everyone a dagger!

Like a fruitcake on Christmas morning, Westeros' most infamous stabbing implement — the knife that almost ended Bran way back in season one — spends a majority of last night's episode being re-gifted. Littlefinger gives it to Bran, who gives it to Arya, who gives it to Brienne, who gives it back to Arya. Sure, they all have different motives, not all of them 100% pure, but hey, it's the thought that counts!

Judging by Arya's rapid mastery of the weapon, I can easily imagine it making its way into a certain perpetually-on-the-edge-of-cynical-laughter face before too long.

Careful who you pawn that fruitcake off on...

3. A Lannister pays her debt.

What do you know? Cersei actually delivers on her promise to make good on her loan from the Iron Bank.

[rebelmouse-image 19528390 dam="1" original_size="700x466" caption=""Profits. Dividends. ROI." Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO." expand=1]"Profits. Dividends. ROI." Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO.

That's A+ financial responsibility, even if it involved poisoning an old woman to death to make it happen.

Gotta balance those books!  

4. Bran thanks Meera for dragging him thousands of miles through the snow.

Yes, he does so in the most ungrateful, detached way possible and leaves out a few minor details and incidental dead friends, but if we set the bar as low as we possibly can, he does say thank you. Turns out you can be all-knowing and all-seeing and still recall the essential Emily Post.

Anyway, Meera's off the show now probably, so score one for character economy!

5. Jon gives Daenerys a free art history lesson in the dragonglass mine.

Time was, a guided tour of the catacombs beneath Dragonstone would set you back 175 euros and a cooler full of overpriced baguettes, but here's Jon, giving it to Daenerys free of charge!

[rebelmouse-image 19528391 dam="1" original_size="700x467" caption=""I think I'm gonna take a pool day, but you two go ahead!" Photo by Macall B. Polay/HBO." expand=1]"I think I'm gonna take a pool day, but you two go ahead!" Photo by Macall B. Polay/HBO.

Of course, there's no such thing as a free lunch. It turns out that in addition to enough dragonglass to slay an army of white walkers, the mine contains some seriously spiral-y etchings that conveniently help Jon sell the story he failed to adequately transmute to his potential ally-in-walking-dead-killing a few days (Weeks? Months? Centuries? What is the timeline on this show?) prior. Panicked, throne-room descriptions of ice zombies delivered by a man wearing an IKEA shag rug on his back? Eh. The same story scratched onto a cave wall? That's the sort of thing that gets a dragon queen on board.

Jon wins her over enough that Dany offers her killing prowess — in exchange for your standard pledge of undying loyalty and submission ("Bend the knee"). Unfortunately, there are some plan-hitches even Dany is unaware of.

Thankfully...

6. Tyrion delivers the good news first!

[rebelmouse-image 19528392 dam="1" original_size="700x467" caption=""Also, loooove the sash." Photo by Macall B. Polay/HBO." expand=1]"Also, loooove the sash." Photo by Macall B. Polay/HBO.

Good communicators know how to sandwich bad news in between the good, and that's exactly what Westeros' smartest, most prolific talker does by leading with the glorious capture of Casterly Rock before filling in the small matter of the trapped Unsullied, ransacked resources, and dead allies.

The delivery is so tactful that Daenerys remains cool enough to probe Jon for advice — and seems to take it when he reminds her why people are into her in the first place.

People, that is, like him. He seems into her.

Also, she is his aunt.

Weirdly, we all 'ship it.

7. Jamie casually persuades Randyll Tarly not to whip a bunch of his soldiers.

Look, it really sucks when your exhausted army is moving at a snail's pace, and flogging the slow-moving dudes does seem like the kind of thing that would speed things up, but props to Jamie for urging his co-commander to at least give the guys a stern talking-to before going all "Fifty Shades of Grey" on them.

Later, Jamie, the most morally medium Lannister, continues to get right with his gods by attempting to talk Tarly's son Dickon out of his shell shock. His efforts are nearly undone by Bronn, who not only laughs at the dude's admittedly hilarious name but proceeds to mock his pampered upbringing with a well-/poorly timed poop quip.

But the sellsword rapidly redeems himself because not seven seconds later...

8. Dany goes for a dragon ride!

What good is painstakingly raising three dragons from birth if you're going to sit around and not ride them? To the delight of viewers and horselords alike, aspiring Queen Daenerys finally scratches the itch for the first time since landing in Westeros.

Her first destination? Straight at a bunch of unsuspecting Lannister soldiers (cf. the above "FIREBALL!").

Mercifully, in the ensuing (epically one-sided) carnage...

9. Bronn ditches his sack of gold to save Jamie's life...

[rebelmouse-image 19528393 dam="1" original_size="700x467" caption=""Um ... hm!" Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO." expand=1]"Um ... hm!" Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO.

...when they and several hundred of their closest foot soldiers find themselves under combined assault from the Dothraki, who apparently brought a teleportation machine over from the steppe (again, I have to ask — how quickly is time moving on this show?) and the aforementioned 50-foot fire monster from the maw of hell. In an act of utter and utterly surprising selflessness, when forced to choose between his spilled gold and the lives of his comrades, Bronn elects to leave the cash money behind and make a beeline for the scorpion in a vain attempt to spear Daenerys' one-woman scaly air force out of the sky.

Indeed, for a supposedly honor-less killing machine, not only does Bronn sniff out the oncoming horde in the first place and trade his pay for the chance to save a couple dozen Ed Sheerans, he (or some guy who really looks like him) also risks involuntary immolation to push Jamie into the most conveniently adjacent river of all time, sparing him an untimely death-by-Drogon.

Give that man his castle, already.

P.S. — While it's not exactly "nice," credit to director Matt Shakman for providing lots of long, lingering shots of Lannister soldiers screaming and staggering around on fire, reminding us that war really, really sucks if you're the little guy — even if you fight for the baddies.

Random Acts of Niceness

  • Jon, who hasn't seen Theon since all that, you know, stuff went down, demonstrates heroic restraint and refrains from smashing the ironborn lordling's face in. Funny how so many of the nicest moments on this show involve one character not killing another character they emphatically should kill! Take it where you can get it, I guess.
  • Littlefinger promises to protect all of Catelyn Stark's children, which seems sweet until you remember it's a vow that conveniently leaves out a certain sibling/cousin/bastard who just happens to be out of town giving museum tours at the moment.
  • Thanks to Stannis, Davos is now an insufferable grammar pedant who knows the difference between "less" and "fewer." Stannis appreciates the congrats.

Whew! Lots to cover on the kindness beat. Join me next week when, hopefully, Jamie finally learns Dickon's name (assuming the golden-armed general hasn't drowned), Sam finally gets to read the long academic tome of his dreams, and Tormund and his wildling brigade report nothing of note going on at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea — false alarm!

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

What you look like in a selfie camera isn't really what you look like in real life.

We've all done it: You snap a selfie, look at it, say, "OMG is my nose swollen?" then try again from a different angle. "Wait, now my forehead looks weird. And what's up with my chin?" You keep trying various angles and distances, trying to get a picture that looks like how you remember yourself looking. Whether you finally land on one or not, you walk away from the experience wondering which photo actually looks like the "real" you.

I do this, even as a 40-something-year-old who is quite comfortable with the face I see in the mirror. So, it makes me cringe imagining a tween or teen, who likely take a lot more selfies than I do, questioning their facial features based on those snapshots. When I'm wondering why my facial features look weird in selfies it's because I know my face well enough to know that's not what it looks like. However, when a young person whose face is changing rapidly sees their facial features distorted in a photo, they may come to all kinds of wrong conclusions about what they actually look like.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

This article originally appeared on 11.30.16


Norine Dworkin-McDaniel's son came home from school one day talking about Newton's first law of motion.

He had just learned it at school, her son explained as they sat around the dinner table one night. It was the idea that "an object at rest will remain at rest until acted on by an external force."

"It struck me that it sounded an awful lot like him and his video games," she joked.

A writer by trade and always quick to turn a phrase, Norine grabbed a pen and scribbled some words:

"Newton's First Law of Parenting: A child at rest will remain at rest ... until you need your iPad back."

And just like that, she started creating "The Science of Parenthood," a series that names and identifies hilarious, universal parenting struggles. She put in a quick call to her friend Jessica Ziegler, a visual and graphics expert, and together the two set out to bring the project to life.

Here are some of their discoveries:

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This article originally appeared on 11.30.16


Chris Porsz was tired of studying sociology.

As a university student in the 1970s, he found the talk of economics and statistics completely mind-numbing. So instead, he says, he roamed the streets of his hometown of Peterborough, England, with a camera in hand, snapping pictures of the people he met and listening to their stories. To him, it was a far better way to understand the world.

All photos by Chris Porsz/REX/Shutterstock.

He always looked for the most eccentric people he could find, anyone who stood out from the crowd. Sometimes he'd snap a single picture of that person and walk away. Other times he'd have lengthy conversations with these strangers.

But eventually, life moved on and so did he. He fell out of love with photography. "Those pictures collected dust for 25 years," he says.

Then, a few years ago, Porsz found those 30- to 40-year-old photos and sent them to be printed in his local newspaper.

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