As promised, here Steven discusses all those moments he bit his tongue on during the previous podcast with A VERY SPECIAL GUEST. You won't want to miss this! (You more than most will likely recognize a familiar face.) Enjoy!
United Smart People
As promised, here Steven discusses all those moments he bit his tongue on during the previous podcast with A VERY SPECIAL GUEST. You won't want to miss this! (You more than most will likely recognize a familiar face.) Enjoy!
First, Steven and I apologize for the delay. We encountered some technical difficulties -- poor internet connectivity foremost among them -- and it took me a few days to edit the random clicks and taps from the audio feed without having us sound like Cybermen. Enjoy!
SEK pulls his dirty, beaten, decade old Ford Taurus into a toll booth behind PORSCHE GUY from the Republic of FL. SEK’s listening, quite loudly, to the Replacements’ Tim, when he notices PORSCHE GUY seems to be having problems paying his $2.50 toll.
PORSCHE GUY: I only have fifty cents.
TOLL BOOTH ATTENDANT: It’s a $57.70 fine.
PORSCHE GUY: I’m not going to pay that.
PORSCHE GUY exits his car and slowly looks around. He turns to SEK, who turns “Bastards of Young” up even louder.
PORSCHE GUY: HEY YOU!
PORSCHE GUY: I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME!
SEK: (turns down music) What?
PORSCHE GUY: Can I borrow $2?
SEK: (looks at PORSCHE GUY’s Porsche while the fuel injector on his one-eyed Taurus sputters) Sorry. Don’t have it.
PORSCHE GUY: How were you doing the tolls then?
SEK: (realizing PORSCHE GUY knows some logic) I have $5 and change. Just enough to get me to work.
PORSCHE GUY: Can I borrow it?
SEK: I have just enough to get to work.
PORSCHE GUY: Great. You can pay it forward.
SEK: I don’t think that’s how that works.
PORSCHE GUY: Are you a religious man?
SEK: Not remotely.
PORSCHE GUY: Because I am. I believe in Christian charity.
SEK: (looking at PORSCHE GUY’s Porsche) I can tell.
PORSCHE GUY: Great!
PORSCHE GUY gets back in his car and talks to the TOLL BOOTH ATTENDANT. Both point at SEK, who vigorously waves his arms in an improvised semaphore of “NO NO NO.” PORSCHE GUY sticks his head out his window and turns to SEK.
PORSCHE GUY: Jesus pays you forward! God bless!
PORSCHE GUY speeds off. SEK pulls up to the toll booth and is informed by TOLL BOOTH ATTENDANT that he’d agreed to cover PORSCHE GUY’s toll. She also informs him that if he doesn’t pay the PORSCHE GUY forward, she’ll be docked for the difference. SEK hands over $5.00 and heads to class.
When their parents tucked them into bed last night, conservatives knew they wouldn’t be able to sleep. Tomorrow was Benghazi Day! They’d been waiting all year and putting them to bed at 9:00 p.m. was nothing short of torture. They rolled away from the mocking light of their alarm clocks and tried to fall asleep for hours, but when they rolled back over the clock read 9:04 p.m. Four minutes!
How were they supposed to make it through the night? In a few hours it would be Benghazi Day, and even though they knew exactly what’s under the Benghazi tree, their imaginations were running as wild as Muslims outraged by our freedom. Obama would be impeached! The Democrat Party disbanded! Niggers and faggots rounded up and shot! Benghazi Day couldn’t come soon enough!
They trembled like old men with weak bladders every time they thought they heard those whistles blow. But sleep would not come. Visions of dead Americans danced in their heads to the sweet sounds of a gavel calling liberals to order. They tried counting lies but quickly lost track of which ones were supposed to matter. They thought about the video but then thought better about thinking about it because it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that it was almost Benghazi Day!
They rushed downstairs and turned on the television. FOX was interviewing Benghazi Claus! Happy day! He reminded them that “when we were there, on our watch, we were always ready on 9/11.” What an unexpected Benghazi Day present! They were so excited it took everything in their power not to shoot each other in the face.
But it was only 10:00 p.m. Benghazi Day was still hours away!
So they went on the Internet and spent the night writing fan-fiction. When they fell asleep on their keyboards they dreamed of a border whose siren song beckoned illegals and liberals into its electrifying embrace. They saw white men in the White House and women who knew their place. Choirs of aborted babies sang their praises to a God who was clearly carrying. They were dreaming of the day after Benghazi Day and they never wanted to wake up.
Because it was going to be sweet.
And I’m sure it was.
I’m sure it was.
The majority of people watch Mad Men wrong. What do I mean? A translation of last night’s episode, “For Immediate Release,” from their perspective should suffice:
With the exception of Matt Zoller Seitz and a few others, the majority of responses to this episode have focused on how “satisfying” it was to see Don Draper behaving like Draper again. Meaning the majority of the people writing those responses are still watching the show primarily to experience the thrill of being a powerful white man. The episode, directed by the always excellent Jennifer Getzinger, undermines this reading at nearly every turn. Consider when Sterling announces that he’s landed SCDP a chance at Chevy after Don brushed off Jaguar:
Pete Campbell upbraids Draper, saying “Don’t act like you had a plan, you’re Tarzan, swinging from vine to vine,” creating an image that would seem to correspond with the “appealing” white male narrative above. Draper isn’t just any powerful white man — he’s the walking-talking embodiment of early 20th Century theories of white male supremacy. Like Tarzan, he’s an orphan who cultivates the talents required to survive in a hostile and alien society; and like Tarzan, when he finds himself among “normal” people again, these talents appear superhuman to them. To become king of the apes he had to become more than just a man. In this particular context, Campbell’s insult almost reads like a compliment; however, this isn’t the first time this season we’ve encountered an ostensibly superior white man in a society of apes:
For the second time in two weeks, the show demands we consider the hubris of a white man in the society “unworthy” of his talents. The reference to Tarzan in “For Immediate Release” only seems ambiguous if we conveniently forget that Draper’s mildly obsessed with a film whose premise is that no man — not even a white one on a world mad with apes — is beyond reproach. Campbell’s insult holds these two visions of white male supremacy in tension: Draper can only continue to feel superior if he deliberately forgets what he learned watching Planet of the Apes.
Those critics who found this episode a “return to form” fail to realize that they’re taking comfort in a momentary resurgence of white male privilege — a momentary return to that Golden Age “when things just made sense” that conservatives reference every time a woman, person of color, or anyone under the age of forty-five decides to have an opinion. Wasn’t it grand when self-made men like Draper could impose their will on the world?
The problem with finding “satisfaction” in this episode, then, is that it requires us to ignore the same things Draper does. Note how the medium shot of Campbell upbraiding him is composed: Draper, representing the old guard, is in the foreground, but he’s a face without a brain and out of focus; Campbell, Ken Cosgrove and Joan Harris, representing the generation after Draper’s, occupy the midground; and in the background is an unfocused Michael Ginsberg and sundry, representatives of the new generation. Although no one actually occupies the center of the frame, the dominant element seems to be the irate Campbell, as he’s on the receiving end of Draper and Cosgrove’s stares. But then there’s Joan Harris — the color of whose dress seems out of place and whose eyes meet no one and nothing — there’s Joan Harris on whose back alone the company survived. What does she have to say about Draper’s “return to form”?
Exactly. She doesn’t belong in the story white men tell themselves about how awesome they are — but she does belong to the one currently being told by Mad Men. If only more of the people watching it realized that.
How do y'all feel about pool parties? Not attending them, mind you, but hearing other people having them in the background of a podcast you're listening to? Because I think they should make you feel better about yourself, because here you are, listening to an intelligent podcast that makes your brain smarter, whereas the people at the pool party are just drinking and laughing in the Southern California sun. They'll come home drunk, sun-burned and utterly ignorant about what the Talmud has to say about those who collect shit-tons of mitzvot. Enjoy!
That theory being, of course, that what he says matters.
But what’s frightening is that in this isolated case, he may be right. (In all others? Not so much.) After trying to apply our new Internet Tradition to what Republicans said on the Sunday talk shows, it occurred to me that a weapon this dangerous can’t be allowed to fall into conservative’s grasp.
The power of Peak Exculpation must remain in our scheming hands and our mocking hearts for all eternity. Imagine if conservatives realized that they could say anything they wanted so long as someone followed with a note that they were merely “trafficking in an old theory that was perfectly within the bounds of intellectual discourse not very long ago”? That can’t become acceptable.
Sadly, given Jonah’s ability to influence conservative “scholars,” I’m sure it’ll become more than acceptable — it’ll become the excuse du jour among the professionally wrong. It’s not their fault they’re old and white and male, so how can they be held accountable for “trafficking in an old theory that was perfectly within the bounds of intellectual discourse not very long ago.”
If you have an issue with their obsolete positions, take it up with Father Time, Jefferson Davis and The Patriarchy.
NOTE: Someone who knows how to use the Twitter machine better than I should show @JonahNRO the power of his despicable phrase. Start a clever #hashtag and all. I’m just saying!
I’ve already kicked a downed Goldberg while having a laugh and taking a piss on him today, so you know that I wouldn’t target him again unless he wrote something so exquisite his nuts left my knees no choice.
Which is exactly what happened.
According to Jonah in the article the Other Scott linked, Niall Ferguson should be forgiven because he “was trafficking in an old theory that was perfectly within the bounds of intellectual discourse not very long ago.” Not since “a very serious, thoughtful argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care” has Jonah provided us with a sentence of such valuable vapidity.
Consider its lack of specificity: the “old theory” is “old,” but there’s no indication of how old it is; not that its age matters, mind you, because this “old theory” wasn’t merely acceptable back then, it was “perfectly within the bounds” of polite society; moreover, “not very long ago” this “old theory” wasn’t merely “perfectly within the bounds” of decorum, it belonged to the “intellectual discourse,” meaning that the right kind of people discussed this “old theory” all the time, whenever that happened to be.
Thanks to Jonah’s brilliant formulation, conservatives can now blame recent historical traffic — of an unspecified age and purview — for every vile thought that leaks through their lips. It’s not their fault that we’re unfamiliar with social etiquette from whenever it was.
In this episode we discuss many things before short-changing you on the subject of religion. If the podcast seems to end abruptly, that's because there's another ten minutes we tabled for a later discussion. Watching it, I must say I'm very disappointed in the manner in which I presented my Grand Theory of Significant Asses. It deserves to be taken more seriously than the words used to refer to the human bum allow. Enjoy!
What are we going to do with all you lying bitches? Here we are generously giving you privileges you don’t deserve, and one of you pulls this shit? I just don’t—what else can I say?
We tried to make you rational. We pretended not to ignore your vaginas and needs and civil rights and you repay us by having one of yours fake rape? Don’t you realize this discredits everyone who shares your junk? Christ—that’s it. I’ve had enough.
Feminism is officially cancelled.
Shut the fuck up. I don’t want to hear it.
You don’t have the right to complain anymore. You could’ve stopped this one woman from fabricating this one rape but you didn’t. And I don’t want to hear about all the other rapes that are real or go unreported because I don’t.
I don’t want to hear about them.
This woman lied about a rape threat! Just imagine what the person she invented is going through right now. His fictional parents are crying great heavy tears at this false accusation against the son they never had.
If he already didn’t exist he’d be wishing he never had.So that’s it feminists. If you can’t rally in defense of men who were never born then I just can’t fathom what you’re good for.
STUDENT: It’s so great to get to college and finally have a gay professor.
SEK: I bet it is. Ain’t culture shock grand?
STUDENT: Absolutely. So what was it like for you in college?
SEK: What do you mean?
STUDENT: When you first found out one of your professors was gay.
SEK: I don’t know that I ever did. Wait, what are we talking about now?
STUDENT: I read that thing you wrote yesterday. It made me proud to be in your class.
SEK: Wait, I’m your gay professor?
STUDENT: It’s awesome to finally have a teacher to relate to.
ALL THE OTHER STUDENTS: Scott’s gay?
SEK: How about we discuss Game of Thrones now?
The most important aspect of Jason Collins’s decision to become the first theoretically employable openly gay male in a major American sport isn’t that this “accomplishment” requires that many qualifiers, but that he has a twin brother who’s a heterosexual. So much of the rhetoric about homosexuality focuses on whether God made homosexuals gay or whether they’ve turned their back on the Lord by succumbing to learned perversions. The distinct sexualities of the Collins twins seem a boon to those who think homosexuals are etymological perverts: Jason has “turned aside” from the righteous path that is his birthright. Why did he do so? He was converted by childhood trauma or an agenda-driven homosexual into thinking his feelings for other men were normal; which is to say he “turned with” an individual who convinced him that other men were as attractive as women.
God didn’t put the gay in him — someone abused it into him. Whether that abuse is sexual or rhetorical in nature matters less than the simple fact that it’s abuse. That it’s become socially acceptable for prime-time faggots to queer the very foundation of marriage is a sign that American culture’s in steep decline. Children are being converted into perverts — are turning with those who would turn them aside — and political correctness prevents decent people from objecting to this abuse. But all this talk of conversion and perversion obscures the fact that homosexuals haven’t always had their agenda implemented as precisely as a Zionist plot. Homosexuals were once considered a diaspora of narcissists who wandered the world looking for themselves. They were inverts. They’d “turned inward” and demanded of others the love the mirror denied them.
Which is only to say that the operative metaphor changed.
What was once thought to be a loathsome inversion of God’s love has become what happens to children when they watch Glee. Because when you introduce contemporary American culture into the classic conversion narrative you end up with a system of dissemination indistinguishable from infection. You don’t need to convince someone to “turn with” you if society’s “putting in” or “doing to” them what the homosexual agenda wants it to. Which is why conservatives express their concerns about Collins’s revelation by not caring with thunder. So long as they ignore its importance the epidemic can be contained. They want Collins to become a non-story.
Hence the significance of the fact that Jason Collins has an identical twin brother who’s straight. The temptation to use Jarron Collins’s heterosexuality as proof that Jason was either converted to or infected by homosexuality will prove too great. That Jarron shares Jason’s DNA but not his perversion demonstrates once and for all that God doesn’t sanction the birth of gay babies. Jason couldn’t have been born this way because Jarron was too and look at him. Which means homosexuality is essentially a function of bad parenting: parents either didn’t pay enough attention to who tended to or played with their children or they allowed their children to be exposed to the pernicious influence of American culture. Better parenting can prevent children from being converted or infected by homosexuality by regulating who their children meet and what culture they partake.
That Jason and Jarron met the same people and partook of the same culture isn’t significant because the first theoretically employable openly gay male in a major American sport couldn’t have been born homosexual. Science says that stuff with the same genes is identical and therefore the gay can’t be genetic. You’ll see this argument repeatedly in the coming months — not because it’s valid but because Jarron Collins prefers sex with women. No grand conversation about how the same genes can express themselves differently depending on environmental factors will be had. The word “epigenetic” will not enter the national discourse. Why not?
Because as I type these words conservative “journalists” are combing through Jarron Collins’s life trying to discover where it differs from Jason’s. They’re searching for the Holy Grail of Gay and will use their rudimentary understanding of genetics to prove that someone either proffered Jason a sip or forced it down his throat. Jarron will become proof that Jason could’ve been “normal.” In short the “facts” of this particular case — as they understand them — accord too neatly with operative conservative metaphors for them to let it become a non-story. They will run with this because they mistake language for logic. They will run with this because they mistake logic for science. They will run with this because it eliminates God from the suspect pool.
And unless we point out that theories based on “conversion” and “infection” as are arbitrary as those predicated on “inversion” they will be successful.
(There's a television show in the title. How could it not be yet another one of those posts?)
I say “surprisingly” because the show’s producer — and at this point, principle director — is David Slade and I’m not exactly a fan of his work. That means Hannibal is a litmus test for my brand of auteur theory, because I’m genuinely impressed by some of his work here and consider him a derivative hack with all the subtlety of a nine-year-old learning to play the trumpet: whatever talent he possesses is masked by the fact that all he can do is blow. I took the fact that he does so as hard as he can for as long as he can sustain his breath as a fairly damning character flaw. But Hannibal suggests he may have finally learned something.
For those of you who know nothing of American popular culture, Hannibal is a show about a man named Hannibal Lecter. He’s a serial killer who loves playing psychological games with know-it-all FBI agents. That’s the show’s motivating irony: he’s contacted by the FBI to provide psychiatric support for their most gifted criminal profiler. He’s solving crimes! While copycatting them! Talk about dramatic irony!
The point being that this is a show about people with deep insight into the thought and behavior of sociopaths who fail to notice that their consultant’s therapist is one. It’s a show about psychological isolation — about people who can’t interact with the world or the people who inhabit it because there’s a felt distance between themselves and their humanity. So it only makes sense that even when they’re together, they’re alone. In “Potage,” for example, Lecter meets with the head of the FBI’s behavioral science division and one of their top psychiatrists:
The long shot establishes that they’re all in the same room, which is important because if it didn’t, you might not realize that. The conversation proceeds via a series of medium close-ups in shallow focus:
The depth of field is so shallow that the items on the front of his desk as unfocused as the wall behind him. His body occupies the thin slice of the world that the camera and lighting conspire into focus. Same with her:
And with him:
The three of them are sitting in the same room but are connecting neither with it nor each other. Their psychological isolation is being represented by the thin slice of the diegetic world that happens to be in focus. How thin is it?
Thinner than this man’s face. It’s almost as if this man — the aforementioned criminal profiler — doesn’t even understand himself. Maybe he should see somebody about that.
That’s right — he already is and it’s not working. You can tell because even when Slade switches from medium close-ups that suggest that all men are islands to two-shots that should suggest companionship, the thin depth of field isn’t even ample enough to include both subjects in focus. How isolated does Slade want these people to seem? Even when they’re four of them in the same frame he racks the focus from one to another depending on who’s talking:
Sticking four people in a frame and creating a sense that they’re talking at rather than to each other requires a deft touch I didn’t think Slade possessed. It’s not exactly unsubtle, but it effectively creates a mood that untrained viewers would describe as “creepy” without exactly knowing why. Instead of the shallow focus functioning as it normally does — to focus the audience’s attention on one element in the composition — the cumulative effect of these shots is a claustrophobia tinged with obsessive attentiveness. The world is small and largely unfocused except for this little slice of clarity. And on Hannibal, as often as not that little slice of clarity contains corpses mutilated by someone with an eye for composition. The mundane world of homes and offices and other people exists only in an unfocused and isolating haze; the frail horror of artfully desecrated bodies is sharply in focus.
As someone who writes about race and also teaches at the University of California, Irvine, I take full responsibility for this egregious recording. Clearly, I'm a horrible teacher because students I never taught wore blackface on the Internet.
So say the emails that poured in after a prominent conservative blogger tweeted my email address in connection with this local scandal. But as I scanned subject lines while deleting said emails, I noticed that I'm not the only one to blame. Irvine also has an African American Studies program that failed to prevent this racist display from happening. And a department of Asian American studies that neglected to inform an Asian American student that racism is bad. The Women's Studies department also did nothing to prevent this performance of antebellum proportions from occurring on its campus (because abortion).
Point being, despite all these programs and departments dedicated to creating a more compassionate body politic, there are still students on the Irvine campus who are racist. Therefore, per these emails and the dictates of logic, the aforementioned departments should be shut down. They're disappointing the corporate charter. The only real solution to fighting racism is to stop fighting it.
Then it'll just go away.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention how humorless these "studies" people are, and how their humorlessness is responsible for everything wrong with America.
Attewell is brilliant, as per usual; SEK is scattered, as per usual. Enjoy!
I’m beginning to understand why Michelle Malkin and “The Twitchy Staff” publish everything under the byline “The Twitchy Staff.” If I blamed a missing person for the Boston bombing on account of him being mentioned on a police scanner while wearing a Che t-shirt, I wouldn’t want my name directly associated with it either. Or with stories like “We’re pretty sure Dzohokhar Tsarnaev is not Tweeting,” which carry all the authority of a poorly sourced rumor just in case it really happens to be him so that Malkin can engage in some blog-triumphalism if the improbable turns out to be true. Would Malkin do this under her own name? Of course not. As proof I offer as evidence that she hasn’t. It looks like she has, but a quick read of that post shifts all potential blame where she wants it: on the “Twitchy Team.” Who’s responsible for this irresponsible speculation? One of these people. Which one?
Wouldn’t you like to know.
But you never will, because the site’s designed to facilitate irresponsibility. Despite all Malkin’s proud declarations about the importance of citizen journalists, in the end she’d rather hide, like the coward she is, beyond an anonymous byline because she knows “mistakes were and will be made.” How does she know? Because that’s the point of the entire site. She’s free to publish anything she’d like without having to worry about annoying things like “consequences,” because not only is she not directly responsible for what she’s published, she’s merely aggregating what other people have written on Twitter. It’s a perpetual bullshit machine powered by anonymity. She can take credit for its “findings” when some infernal occlusion causes it to belch out something accurate, but for the most part she denies via “UPDATE” the endless stream of bullshit it was designed to produce.
This is a more sophisticated version of the long-standing tradition among conservative bloggers of denying-without-denouncing the sexism and racism and homophobia and xenophobia of their readers. The bloggers are merely exercising their right to speak freely about their conservative values and extending their readers the same opportunity. When those readers inevitably reveal themselves to be within earshot of the whistle, these same bloggers claim to have no idea where all these dogs came from. The problem with this approach is that eventually the stench of urine sticks to bloggers who quietly encourage their readers to lift their leg on the America dream. So Malkin created a forum where figuring out where that smell’s coming from is as difficult as distinguishing one yellow stain from another — we certainly can’t blame her for the mess or the miasma.
But I think we can. I think we should force Malkin to take responsibility for the state of her house. She wants to shift the blame to her roommates or their friends but her name is on the deed. Anything they do or say is ultimately attributable to her. (Hence the title of this post.) I normally wouldn’t make such an insistence, but since her site is designed to allow her an unconscionable deniability, I’m not sure what choice we have.
I apologize for not posting this sooner, but unfortunately my voice deserted me Monday and Tuesday and, as I make clear in the podcast itself, I'm an asshole. We discuss, among other things: set pieces and jump shots; the threat of rape; great moments in horse cinema; hands; musical chairs; and silence. I think that just about does nothing resembling to justice to what we discussed. Also, for the first time ever, some awkwardly included visuals! Enjoy!
(Of course this is yet another one of those visual rhetoric posts. Can you not see all the pictures?)
The title of the episode, "The Collaborators," is so obviously meant to be evocative that it almost sinks beneath its own freight. The episode's foremost "collaboration" occurs between Don Draper and his upstairs neighbor, Sylvia Rosen, who are acting out the transparent stratagems of Updike's titular Couples (1968). Though Updike's novel covers the time addressed in earlier seasons, its particular combination of adultry and war is relevant here:
This pattern, of quarrel and reunion, of revulsion and surrender, was repeated three or four times that winter, while airplanes collided over Turkey, and coups transpired in Iraq and Togo[.] (161)
Simply put, there's something about having sex while the radio describes some new front in the Tet Offensive makes The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit feel more like The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. (And we well know how accurate that novel is.) Consider the first time Don and Sylvia play "collaborators." The scene begins with a point-of-view shot from Don's perspective as the elevator door opens on Sylvia and her husband, Dr. Arnold Rosen, arguing over money:
It's significant that even though she's shot in profile here, Don's able to see her entire face. He can see more of her than she can of him; he exists only in her peripheral vision, if at all, whereas he can observe her from two angles. He's not spying on her, but he is paying attention to their private matter. When Dr. Rosen enters the elevator, she throws Don the most meaningful glance she can in the half-second that she has:
The director of this episode, some clown by the name of Jon Hamm, uses this medium close-up to great effect. Remember that close-ups are meant to suggest intimacy, whereas medium shots are designed to give some sense of body language. In terms of scale, this medium close-up provides intimate access to her face as she shoots Don a plea, while simultaneously allowing enough frame to depict the familiarity of Dr. Rosen's body language. He's distant from her (emotionally) but doesn't know it (physically); she's distant from Don (physically) but acutely feels it (emotionally); and Don's somewhere back there on the elevator, but the camera's not aligned with his perspective anymore so his feelings are absent from this shot. (If it were his perspective, the eyeline match wouldn't be slightly frame-left.)
But not from the scene. This is the first example of the "collaboration" between the two, so it should come as no surprise that after Dr. Rosen enters the elevator, Don remembers he's forgotten his cigarette:
The medium shot is perfunctory, because its main purpose is to capture Don's exaggerated gesture. The fact that the gesture's exaggerated is important, or would be if Dr. Rosen were paying attention. (Which he seems not to be.) But Don puts on a show just in case and zips back up the elevator:
To Dr. Rosen's apartment, where Sylvia awaits. Whether she knew he was also playing this game at this point is unclear. That she wanted it to be one of the days he did goes without saying, but her attractiveness here isn't a function of being "made up" so much as being natural. Which reminds Don of something:
If you click you can see the subtle hint of a thinking zoom that makes the reverse from the shot above more significant. Instead of reversing back to the door as Don enters it, the audience is presented with another point-of-view shot from Don's perspective:
Instead of entering Sylvia Rosen's apartment to continue playing "collaborations," the camera reverses into Don's memory. Note how the same subtle zoom works in two different ways here: the first begins with a close-up and moves into a closer-up, and because the perspective belongs to the audience, it believes that it is "getting inside Don's head." And it is, as evidenced by the second zoom, which moves from a medium into a closer medium and is clearly from a perspective within the diegetic space:
Young Don's. The subtle zoom here is a young boy staring at a prostitute into whose house his pregnant stepmother has brought him. There is a lot to untangle here, but the main point is the very subtle way in which the memory of young Don's time in the bordello is coloring what's about to happen between elder Don and Sylvia Rosen. Because remember what Sylvia and her husband were arguing about earlier? In case you forgot, here's how her encounter with elder Don ends:
They're not playing "collaborators" anymore: the movement between his memory and the present moment makes it clear that, in Don's mind, they're playing "prostitute." And they're doing so while being informed of yet another U.S. setback in Vietnam because of the Tet Offensive, which itself followed on the heels of the Koreans taking the USS Pueblo. Death and violence are not visible on screen, but their presence is pervasive. As, for example, is the case with Peter and his game of "collaboration," which begins innocently enough:
Combined, these two images strongly suggest that wives are about to swapped, but 1968 is not yet the 1970s in suburbia, so this should be nothing more than a dinner party. Which it seems to be until one of the wives stops by Pete Campbell's apartment in the city:
Yet again, the woman is playing "collaborator," and clearly enjoying her role in what she believes to be their affair. However, after sex, she tries to talk to Pete about the covert eperations they will undertake: cars parked near rather than next to mailboxes or on the street rather than in the driveway—the secret, sacred curb dances of suburban love. The reclining long shot of her as she snaps on her special lingerie seems to indicate attraction, as this is a clearly attractive, nearly naked woman offering to play her part:
Pete looks at her and wishes she were a prostitute. So he just starts playing "prostitute" anyway. He walks up to her and invades her space, but instead of an intimate close-up of the sort that would be appropriate, given they've just been intimate, Pete looks at her, gently touches her hair and says
That we can't see his face as he delivers this blow isn't a surprise. After all, only one person can play "prostitute" at a time. Sylvia and this woman are both forced into the role of playing prostitute by someone they considered their collaborator, but while the outcome of Don's mid-course game-change is merely violence on the radio, the off-screen violence this woman suffers is more personal:
In terms of scale and angle, this shot nearly mirrors the one above it, in that both register the prolongation of a moment of pain in a medium close-up. The first pain, in the panel above this one, is psychological, in that she's merely be made to feel like a whore; the second pain is also psychological, in that she has lost both her first collaborator, her husband, and must run to her second lost collaborator, Pete. But the second pain is also physical, because her first collaborator beat the shit out of her. But he did so off-screen, leaving Pete and Trudie to deal with the repercussions of violence.
And this is the key to the episode: the deaths and violence that happen off-screen are beginning to intrude into the lives of these characters. Such things have happened before on Mad Men, but they seem to be coming at an accelerated pace. Why? Because the game is changing, as are the players, but the game's not merely evolving from one into another, as it seemed previously; now the rules of the game are being changed such that it's the bottom of the third inning, the batter asks the umpire if he can take two free throws instead trying to hit that wicked curve again and is being given the go-ahead.
Because she just got burned in a totally effective manner by an actor! From a television show!
This @amandamarcotte claims to like quality television? Well here's one show she can no longer watch: JUSTIFIED. twitter.com/yesnicksearcy/…— nick searcy (@yesnicksearcy) April 13, 2013
The problem with this logic extends beyond the fact that conservatives devote Russian steppes of bandwidth to discrediting the idea that actors ought to participate in the public sphere. They start highly effective Twitter-campaigns to boycott actors and employers who make overtly political statements because they believe, deep in their ideological core, that people involved in the production of televisual entertainment have nothing to add to the national conversation. We're talking deep personal convictions here. They'd never enthusiastically embrace the statement of a character actor just because who am I kidding of course they would. They don't hate Hollywood -- they hate that the majority of it thinks their values are antediluvian. And when someone from Hollywood agrees with them?
Every conservative celebrity-of-the-month becomes the John-Paul-George-and-Ringo of Twitter for awhile. (Adam Baldwin's either sitting alone crying on the abandoned set of Chuck or mercilessly pounding his Twitter trying to make Twitchy love him again.) But the thing about Twitter-campaigns and its meth-dependent scribe is that it all amounts to chatter amongst like-minded folks. Conservatives on Twitter form tiny circles of self-congratulation whose sole purpose is being sky-hooked into illusory importance by a service, Twitchy, that only exists to reinforce that delusion. No fiendish liberal could come up with a plan that mollifies conservative egos with the subtlety of Twitchy. Once they scale Malkin's xerostomic mount they feel like they've made it -- who cares if their throats are too parched to say anything else? It's not like they said much of value before.
Take Nick Searcy's declaration above. He will never be more beloved by bigots than he is right now. This is the summit for him. All that was required of him to reach it was a profoundly impotent public statement. No longer will Amanda be able to turn on her television on Tuesday nights and watch Justified because ... because ... because Nick Searcy said so. You'd think someone who's portrayed as many officers of the law as Searcy has would understand the concept of enforceability, but apparently he's more concerned with being Conservative Internet Hero Du Jour than actually saying something that might make sense. But at least he attacked Amanda in a way that might hurt her feelings!
Because I'm sure his empty threat to take away toys he doesn't own via means he can't control must really sting.
She added that she thinks most superhero comics readers don’t have a problem with increased diversity, but rather with stories that promote sermonizing over storytelling. Alysia will be “a character, not a public service announcement … being trans is just part of her story. If someone loved her before, and doesn’t love her after, well—that’s a shame, but we can’t let that kind of thinking keep comics in the 1950s forever.”
Except it's not "just part of her story," because it's just not part of the story. It's an interruption in Barbara Gordon's issue-wide interior monologue. Because in this issue Gordon has quite a bit of confessing to do:
You don't even need to enlarge the image to see that the majority of this conversation is filtered through Gordon's interior monologue—those black dialogue boxes speak for themselves. This is Gordon telling you a story about Gordon, which would be fine if this didn't happen:
I admit to having edited out three panels of hugging and a close-up of that message-cat, but that doesn't detract from my larger point: Alysia's confession isn't an organic element of the narrative. It's utterly forced. Consider the first set off panels above: it's a series of two-shots emphasizing the bond between Barbara and Alysia that "transitions" to an unnecessarily dramatic close-up on Alysia. Because it's not as if Barbara's confession of having been paralyzed and tormented and stalked lacks emotional weight. Her burden is even indicated, visually, by the purple half-bat that haunts her words. She can't escape what's been done to her and who she is, not even when she's telling her own story to herself. Which, again, is all well and good. I adore the confessional mode so long as it doesn't involve Don Draper talking about swimming. But a narrative written in the confessional mode simply isn't the best place to have someone other than the confessor make a grand gesture. My editorial work above may be a little dishonest, but it's certainly indicative of the issue's overall narrative emphasis. If Simone wanted to have Alysia's moment be hers, she should've placed it in a narrative that didn't belong to Barbara Gordon, because that makes it seem like an afterthought.
And that only provides more ammunition to people who think "cis-gendered" is just "another one of those terms invented in universities aimed at eliminating the word “normal” when discussing sexual preferences." Because people who think DC is pushing an LGBT agenda will feel like its being "shoved down their throat" when revelations like this are inserted into narratives so awkwardly. That close-up pushes Alysia into the reader's face in a manner liable to remind readers that the forced intimacy of all close-ups is actually really creepy, and when it comes to rhetorical effect, the difference between "shoved down my throat" and "thrust in my face" is without distinction.
Or, another installment of "SEK yet again looks at everything that isn't his webcam, while Race for the Iron Throne's Attewell just looks composed, only this time SEK also looks like a Soderberghian Smurf." (He's not doing himself any favors here.) This podcast discusses, among other things, gender and violence, sex and manipulation, time travel, Batman, and Attewell's amazing ability to corral SEK's dithering into almost topical blather. (Also, the punchline to that pointless joke SEK made can be found here. It may make its way into an argument eventually, but that day is not today.) Enjoy!
(Yes, yes, this is yet another one of those visual rhetoric posts.)
Midway through Don Draper's life journey, he strayed from the path and found himself in a dark wood:
I know that doesn't look much like a dark wood—and the idea that Draper somehow just started his midlife crisis is rather far-fetched—but this is what writer Matthew Weiner and director Scott Hornbacher wanted the audience to be looking at while Draper read the opening lines of the infamous beach book that is Dante's Inferno. Of note is the fact that Don is just beginning the book, and the only evidence that he's finished it is that, when asked by its owner, he replies "It made me think of you." Which means that in all likelihood he didn't read it, and so what follows has less to do with Dante's actual poem and more with what it stands for in this scene, i.e. an epic midlife crisis written in terza rima that no man in recorded history has ever read on a beach. The juxtaposition of Dante's meditative lines and Megan's taut stomach signals the insincerity of Draper's reading. The last time the audience directly occupied Don's head, after all, is when he composed his anti-tobacco letter, an effective but utterly insincere and ultimately petulant rebuke to a suitor who'd already rejected him. But he's trying, for whatever reason and however insincerely, to come to terms with the state of his soul.
While on an all-expense paid trip to Hawaii. How well is it going for him? He attends the Sheraton's approximation of a luau:
And seems unsatisfied with it:
Catching him in a medium close-up with a fuzzy couple in the foreground and fuzzier G.I. in the background is significant because the camera is calling attention to Don in a crowd—a crowd comprised of happy people busy enjoying this simulation of a traditional Hawaiian festival in a way that he can't. It's not because he's unmoored from culture or that he doesn't want to enjoy the proceedings; he feels the absence of something acute here, which ironically enough presents itself, visually, as being the only sole subject in focus. His pain is more real than the joy of the fuzzy faceless crowd to which he belongs—but thinks himself better than. Love, after all, is a feeling invented by guys like him to sell nylons. The folks at this luau are just stupid enough to feel it. So what does someone who can't muster fake emotions at a simulated celebration of nothing in particular do?
He drinks. But he doesn't just drink anywhere, no, he drinks immediately before a painting of what is, presumably, an actual version of same ceremony he just witnessed. It's still mediated, only this time by art instead of commerce; and it's still unsatisfying, because he's not even looking at it. It clearly exists, dominating the central area of the frame as it does, but it almost seems to be shaming him, almost as if he can't make eye-contact with it without being reminded of his inability to feel the emotions he evokes in others via mediations like this one. Don seems to have lost the ability to feel anything other than drunk, and with this anhedonia comes an inability to even appreciate artifice for its own sake, a skill that's not merely critical to his profession, but the one that sets him apart from others in it. (But more on that later.)
As those of you who've been reading these for a while no doubt already noticed, this shot is extremely unbalanced. Don occupies frame-left in a way that begs for something to occupy frame-right to balance it out, and who better to occupy it than a fellow military man? They bond over military issue lighters and the groom-to-be joins Don for a drink, thereby balancing out the shot in a way that suggests that Don's balancing himself out:
Only no. Even when the groom-to-be joins him, his blacked-out best man tilts the frame in the other direction, with a compositional element on the right that vainly demands a similar one on the left. The reasons for this are complicated: like Don, Private First Class Dinkins has tangled up war and marriage in an unconventional way. P.F.C. Dinkins wants to ensure that his wife acquires American citizenship before he returns to Vietnam and (possibly) meets a terrible end; in short, he's using his war as an excuse to legitimize her identity, as opposed to Don, who used his war to acquire an illegitimate identity. Who is Dick Whitman to commune with such a soldier, much less the woman marrying him to acquire, through legal means, an identity?
He's the man to give her away, that's who he is. I'm not even going to try to unravel the ironies evident in this shot here. I'm not going to point out that he abandoned his wife all night to give another woman away in marriage; or that Dick Whitman is helping a Mexican immigrant acquire an identity he doesn't have; or that the painting Draper and Dinkins decided to do this before is of a wedding ceremony that failed to move Draper in the least; or any of the other ironies compounded in this simple long shot of some people getting married on the beach. Instead, I'm going to point out that Don is no more moved here than he will be later, when he sees this image again through one of Megan's photographs:
Don's inability to be moved by this image of himself being unmoved during a ceremony that replicates, in life, the subject of a painting that also failed to move him is even more significant because of how it's being displayed:
That's a Kodak Carousel, which as you remember from "The Wheel," is a machine that produces nostalgia, that "twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone." Except here, Don feels no twinge. Despite his old wounds, some of the most significant of which come from this exact same sort of intermingling of love and war and identity, Don feels no pain. His moving and dramatic speech in "The Wheel" betrays him, as this episode isn't about Dantean self-reflection so much as fleeing. What is Don fleeing?
The nothing that he can't seem to escape but which has incapacitated him. When he pitches to Sheraton near the end of the episode, he's a hollow shell of the man who sold Kodak on selling not just memories, but the emotions they necessarily evoke; because whatever necessity tied him to his emotions has been severed by something. What?
Nothing, as in, the Big Nothing.
Don's struggle to understand Lane's suicide, which initially manifested itself as guilt-by-hallucination, has been replaced with nothing. Neither life nor its many imitations, be they painted or projected, can move him, because he's nothing so much as a member of the title of the show whose time-slot Mad Men took: The Walking Dead. In the Sheraton pitch, he desperately tries to make art imitate life in a meaningful fashion. Here's his bedroom floor the night before:
Here's his pitch:
As the Sheraton executives bluntly inform Don, this guy? The one who made the footprints? He's dead. From their perspective—and this is, literally, from their perspective—this man who walked into the ocean believes he has nothing to live for. Don's examination of this board after they leave is heartbreaking in its cluelessness:
He simply doesn't see it. He feels it—or more accurately, he doesn't—but he doesn't know what it isn't is. He doesn't know what's missing. The medium close-up here emphasizes that instead of the emotional response he had to his Kodak pitch, Don's intellectualizing everything. He's thinking instead of feeling, and the result is unambiguously inappropriate art accompanying suicidal copy. When he tells Dr. Rosen earlier in the episode that he doesn't want to compare what he does, advertising, to what Dr. Rosen does, doctoring, it's partly because you have to want to live to care enough to save someone else's life.
Don clearly doesn't.
About which more tomorrow.
All images in this post are used for educational purposes and are the exclusive property of Lionsgate Entertainment and AMC Network Entertainment.
To celebrate what’s going to be a very Mad Men week at Lawyers, Guns & Money—at least two posts by me and a podcast starring an illustrious cast of thousands—I thought it’d be good to remind everyone where we left off. (And by “everyone” I probably mean “me,” as I need to pick up threads I’ve forgotten about in the intervening months.) So here’s where we left off (plus a little coda) according to Yours Truly:
In lieu of memorializing Roger Ebert myself, I thought I'd instead collect comments about his death that would've made him smile. Like this one:
Ironic that he had a "gift"( his job as a movie-goer/critic"....would that not be a fun job????!!!)...then started bashing those who had a different "thought than his". He continued to bash while he was silenced with cancer......some people never "get it"...never "shut up"...never focus on The Lesson.
Had I been given the "gift" of such an insipid job (which made millions for him)....I would be grateful. I would not be bashing the Country nor the Conservative Founder's philosophy which made it all so possible. I would be GRATE-FILLED!!
Had I been given a cancer which would silence me, I would reflect on the purpose of that.
"BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM!".....Psalm 46:10
Suffering...perhaps due to his lack of recognition of the Divine Master of OUR Country...and gratitude for his fellow American and the RIGHTS given to us by our Creator.
I do not call his stubborn clinging to life as "brave".....what are the options?...limited, at best...
He would've loved someone turning his cancer into signs from an "[UN]GRATE-FILLED" God that he should shut up. This one too:
In spite of the multitude of naive "film lovers" who wouldn't be able to recognize an effectively entertaining and well-crafted film, without a critic's advice, Ebert's reviews were, for the most part, foolish and off-the-mark.
He was famous [= worthy of respect??] because of his early exposure on nationally syndicated AT THE MOVIES TV show. Like "Laugh-In," "Ray Harryhausen," "CNN," being first doesn't always make one the best, merely famous to the masses who are unaware of the subject matter.
Every week Siskel would remind the nation the Ebert was an idiot, leaving Ebert to stare dumbly with his mouth open. Unfortunate that Siskel died first. Fortunate for Ebert. Conspiracy anyone?
To be accused of putting out a hit on Siskel because Gene was the better film critic? He would have treasured that. This too:
Ebert’s opinions have produced torture for as long as I can remember. Look on his death as a late term abortion...many years too late.
All this unnecessary punctuation to punch the "abortion" line? He would've adored it. As well as this:
I will NOT have ANYTHING good to say about him for Him, His “Industry” and the “Industry” that he reported on accelerated the ROT of our once-GREAT Country. He will stand before the “Great White Throne” to give an account of his life and receive JUDGEMENT!
They say a person's life can be judged by the enemies he's made. As a pristine able-bodied specimen in perfect health, I don't know what it's like to face death, but if ever the day comes that I must, I only hope to be remembered so ungraciously by illiterate Christian bigots sporting tongues impervious to teeth.
Because I'd like to know that I led a life worth living and, as Ebert's enemies make it abundantly clear, he did just that.
On March 30th, The Economist published “Climate science: A sensitive matter,” in which James Hansen, formerly of NASA, noted that “the five-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade.” The article then outlines the many ways in which the scientific community is attempting to account for the fact that the mean global temperature is “already at the low end of the range of projections derived from 20 climate models.” Different models are consulted, other mechanisms suggested, alternate sensitivities proposed, i.e. science happens.
Or, as Rich Lowry wrote at the National Review on April 2nd, “[i]n other words, the scientific ‘consensus’ [has] been proven wrong.” Granted, he actually writes that the consensus “will have been proven wrong” if the mean global temperature remains flat “for a few more years,” but that’s a difference without distinction. First, because he declares himself arbiter of a scientific consensus he doesn’t understand; second, because he chooses the scientifically precise date of “a few more years” before the consensus he doesn’t understand will be invalidated; and third, because he’s drawing the conclusion that “the ‘sensitivity’ of the global climate to carbon emissions has been overestimated” despite the fact that his own article contains a paragraph about factors that might be mitigating warming. He tacitly admits that carbon emissions may still have a warming effect, it’s just that, for example, “new coal-fired plants in China and India, releasing so-called aerosols into the atmosphere that act to suppress warming, may be partly responsible for the stasis in temperatures.”
Which is only to repeat myself: he’s writing about a science he doesn’t understand; moreover, he’s doing so from a position of ignorance so profound he doesn’t even realize his arguments might be entirely compatible. In the same way that I can be both an athlete and a writer, so too can carbon emissions be pushing temperatures up while aerosols drive them down. Arguing that X doesn’t do Y because A does B isn’t much of an argument.
Unfortunately, he’s sharing his misunderstanding of logic and science in the influential pages of the National Review, which means that despite the fact that he misrepresents processes he doesn’t understand, his conclusion will shortly acquire the status of received wisdom as it’s repeated, in ever more ignorant forms, by other writers in the pages of the National Review. For example, today Victor Davis Hanson wrote “[t]he global warming hysteria—with no measurable planet warming in the last 15 years despite sizable increases in carbon emissions—is abating[.]” His evidence? He doesn’t need to cite evidence.
Lowry already established this new conclusion as a fact.
Which means I can propose my own new theory: based on the evidence above, conservatives require six days to transform science into stupid and stupid into ideology. I less-than-eagerly await the inevitable proof of my error.
The old, white math professor who teaches in the classroom before me did not release his students at 10:50, as he is supposed to. He did not release them at 11:00, when my class starts. At 11:05, I entered my classroom to find a room full of students, fast asleep, and the old, white math professor silently working on a problem on the whiteboard. When I informed him that I needed the room, his students stirred and made for the door, but he pointed at me and said, "I need to finish this problem."
His students left.
He went back to work.
The old, white math professor continued to work at the far end of my classroom until 11:30, at which point he took out a notebook and copied what he'd written on the whiteboard. At 11:40 he noisily collected his books and markers and strode out of the room without a word.
This is because the old, white math professor is an asshole.
The old, white math professor again refused to leave the room at 10:50, so today
Ithe dashing young lecturer walked up to the podium and began to prepare for his class. He asked the old, white math professor if he was almost finished, but received no response.
At 11:00 a.m., the old, white math professor picked up an eraser to correct some minor mistake on the whiteboard, at which point the dashing young lecturer smiled broadly, politely asked the old, white math professor if he needed help and, without waiting for a reply, promptly began erasing the entire whiteboard.
The old, white math professor stared in horror at the dashing young lecturer -- who hopes he didn't erase the cure for cancer, but is otherwise extremely pleased with himself.
In this podcast, Steven Attewell, author of the indispensable Race for the Iron Throne blog and general internet celebrity, joins Yours Truly for a rousing discussing of "Valar Dohaeris" that was in no way ruined by me posting everything I had to say about the episode three hours earlier. Because it turns out that, in the presence of experts, the smartest people are the best listeners. All spoilers are prefaced by a damned fool loudly declaiming against them and I'm responsible for 99 percent of the salty language, for which I apologize in advance but will not be endeavoring to amend. Enjoy!
(It goes without saying that this is one those visual rhetoric posts.)
The title of the third season premier of Game of Thrones comes from the traditional Braavosi exchange: one meets the chipper greeting, "Valar Morghulis [all men must die]" with the equally cheery response, "Valar Dohaeris [all men must serve]." Given that the last episode of the second season was named "Valar Morghulis" and the first episode of the third season is "Valar Dohaeris," it seems sensible to consider these two episodes together because they are, if only ritually, conversing with each other. What are they saying? "Valar Morghulis" would be saying "I may not be a liar, but I'm not telling the whole truth," because the episode's final shots demonstrate that all men must die except for the ones that don't stay dead:
Combine that with the man who was Jaqen H'ghar becoming another man after advising Arya and it becomes clear that the certitude of the Braavosi greeting is a comforting ruse. All men must not be anything—not absolutely—if they can also be both one thing and another. What can change its face isn't a man and what can't stay dead can't be trusted. Meaning I'm not sure how much I want to invest in "Valar Morghulis" as a title tied to its theme; in "Valar Dohaeris," however, the theme that "all men must serve" manifests repeatedly, beginning with the opening sequence. This sequence ties the two episodes together almost comically, as the change in scale from the first two close-ups (from "Valar Morghulis") to the extreme long-shot (from "Valar Dohaeris") resembles the kind of fear-realizing and mad-scrambling often found in cartoons:
Sam Tarly's service is twofold here: first, his general service as a man of the Night's Watch; second, his particular service as a member of a scouting party, which was to tend to and dispatch distress-ravens. That he failed to do so during his epic flight from the White Walker only indicates that he failed to meet the terms of his service, not that he escaped the responsibility of serving altogether. The episode's director, Daniel Minahan, could have foregrounded the humiliation written on Sam's face when his Lord Commander upbraids him by using a close-up, which would've captured every mortified muscle trying not to twitch with shame; instead, Minahan decided to shoot Sam in a medium close-up with his Lord Commander in an off-center two-shot that suggests both the bonds these two share and the precariousness of their situation:
But it is not just these two, bound by service though they may be, who are in a tight spot. The reverse to the long shot—which is even more unbalanced than the one from which it reverses—heightens Sam's humiliation by including the presence of everyone he failed to serve:
Point being, the opening sequence strongly suggests that service (and its terms) will be a thematic element of this episode in a way that death (in its finality) was not in "Valar Morghulis." In truth, saying that service "strongly suggests" itself as a theme is an understatement so grave as to almost be a lie: from Jon Snow and Ser Barristan pledging their respective fealty to Mance Rayder and Daenerys, to Tyrion and Davos bemoaning their father and father-figure's reluctance to recognize their commitment to the cause, and did I mention the Unsullied? The elite band of warrior-eunuchs who have been on their feet for nearly two days just waiting for someone to slice off their nipples? These are examples of the meaning of "service" to which the phrase "Valar Dohaeris" conventionally applies, so connecting the visual rhetoric to iterations of this theme would be a bore.
More interesting is the visual pun on another meaning of the word "serve" that worms its way into the episode. Consider the scene in which Cersei comes to talk to Tyrion, who is still convalescing in his new quarters. Tyrion hears her knock, pulls a stool to the door and greets his sister through the bars:
And yet Minahan chooses to shot both through the bars. The tightness of the framing on Tyrion makes him seem the more imprisoned one, because this shot is, debatably, from Cersei's point-of-view. Despite having an entire door to look at, she focuses her attention (via the camera's close-up) on the one section of the door that emphasizes the bars between her and her brother. (She could just look at the door, after all.) The reverse shot from Cersei, however, isn't even debatable: it's clearly a point-of-view shot from Tyrion's perspective. He's looking at his sister as if he is serving time, and and for what? For successfully defending King's Landing at Blackwater? Tywin will answer those questions later, but for the moment I want to focus on Minahan's decision to imprison, visually at the very least, members of the Lannister family. Because they aren't serving—they're serving time.
It's not just Cersei and Tyrion who find themselves behind or speaking between bars. When Joffrey and his newly betrothed, Margaery Tyrell, venture into the city, here is the perspective the young king has of his subjects:
This medium shot is almost too precious. Look at little King Joffrey peeping at his bride-to-be through the bars of his processional. He doesn't occupy the center of the shot, nor does his tiny blue carriage, the size of which suggests that peeking out requires he kneel before his subjects. The bars quadrisect his face into a giant ear, an eyeball, another eyeball, and another giant ear.:
He's less of a person than an assemblage of odd-looking sense-organs seemingly on display for all and sundry. He may think he looks regal as he jealously peers out the rear of his cage, but Minahan's framing suggests that Joffrey misunderstands what's meant by "the trappings" of royalty here. Who is free to move as they please and who is serving time in a gilded hot box?
Which brings me to my point: what do all of these characters have in common? They're all serving time in Tywin Lannister's royal scheme. Much as you admire Tyrion or detest Cersei and Joffrey, this episode erases all doubts about who has agency in the House Lannister: it's Tywin and Tywin alone. His children and grandchildren are pawns imprisoned by the moves Tywin plays. Just look at the poor bastards.
But maybe it's a coincidence that the Lannister brood is shot in a manner suggestive of imprisonment, and maybe other characters with claims to the throne are also shot in a similar fashion. It would be nice if Minahan provided some sort of direct reference for the sake of comparison. Maybe something like this?
In both shots, a claimant to the throne is surrounded by a repetitive vertical element that meets slightly to the right of frame-center. By structuring the shots the same, Minahan invites the audience to pay attention to the differences: Joffrey's vertical elements terminate at hard wooden walls and ceiling, creating a claustrophobic effect amplified by his retracted posturing, as if he wished there were more wall for him to cower before; Dany's vertical elements extend into open sky, and she stands with her dragon before her and her friends beside her, resulting in a shot as expansive as Joffrey's is confining. Same structure, similarly stationed subjects, but these shots convey vastly different messages about the "service" required by the throne.
Adam Kotsko writes like ain't nobody's in a business:
Yet it occurs to me: is anything inherently a business? We normally think of a bakery as a business, for example, but isn’t it actually a place where people bake things? One can imagine a bakery operating under many different economic systems. The examples multiply. A clothing retailer is a place where people come to get their clothes. A convenience store exists to provide people with easy access to frequently used items. A car factory exists to make cars. Even a bank exists primarily to intermediate between people’s different financial priorities (e.g., saving vs. spending), rather than to make money as such. All of those things are typically “run like a business” in Western countries, but that doesn’t mean that they directly “are” businesses.
Only one type of pursuit is inherently a business: hedge funds. Hedge funds avowedly exist for no other purpose than to turn money into more money. They are indifferent to the means by which that is accomplished — they will buy and sell anything, from an oil drum to a government bond to a complex bet to pay out if a certain asset reaches a certain price. For all the advanced math and physics deployed, the basic logic is simple. Buy low, sell high — minimize your costs while maximizing your revenue. That’s what it means to run something “like a business.”
John Holbo appreciates the overkill:
Defenders of ‘traditional marriage’ insist 1) that their position is, well … traditional; wisdom of the Judeo-Christian tradition, the history of Western Civilization, etc. etc.; 2) they are not bigots. They are tolerant of homosexuality, and the rights of homosexuals, etc. etc. Maybe they watch the occasional episode of “Will and Grace”, in syndication (even if they didn’t watch it back when it started.) They are careful to distance themselves from those Westboro Baptist Church lunatics, for example.
It’s gotten to the point where one of the main, mainstream arguments against same-sex marriage is that legalizing it would amount to implying that those opposing it are bigots. Since they are not just bigots (see above), anything that would make them seem like bigots must be wrong. Ergo, approving same-sex marriage would be a mistake. Certainly striking down opposition to it as ‘lacking a rational basis’ would be a gross moral insult to non-bigoted opponents of same-same marriage.
This ‘anything that implies we are bigots must be wrong’ argument has problems. But that’s old news. Here’s the new argument. Grant, for argument’s sake, that contemporary arguments against same-sex marriage have been scrubbed free of bigotry. Doesn’t it follow that these arguments must not be traditional but, somehow, quite new?
Some days I'm reminded of why I started blogging by the very people who encouraged me to do so. This is one of those days.
Until I thought about what it looks like in their heads:
I'd be upset too if I expected something Christian like Easter eggs and saw that instead.
UPDATE II: And of course, [a] Glenn Reynolds [clone posting at Glenn Reynolds' site] can't help but add: "Twitchy.com notes that 'Google’s Easter insult sparks Twitter backlash, mockery,' as well it should." It's almost as if he doesn't know that the entire point of Twitchy.com is to manufacture and amplify "grassroots" "Twitter backlash." (Or like it's in his best interest to pretend not to be a party to the scam.)
UPDATE III: When I added the words "Glenn Reynolds" to this post, Typepad's "Related Posts" recommendations changed to:
SEK sits down to eat dinner in the living room. His cellphone rings, and because his wife is spending the night in the desert, he runs to his office to answer it. He returns to find CAT on the makeshift table.
CAT: I don't know what you're talking about.
CAT: This isn't Kraft dinner on my face.
SEK: What isn't Kraft dinner on your face?
CAT: Your Kraft dinner. It's all in your bowl.
SEK: So how did it get on your face?
CAT: It didn't. (CAT licks Kraft dinner off his lips) See?
SEK: And since when have you been Canadian?
CAT: Je ne comprends pas. Au revoir!
... and other things in a manner that will no doubt land them in much trouble. We really should be better than this. But whatever. Enjoy!
[I'm re-posting this because I received an email on my earlier post inquiring as to whether "cartoons" are capable of tackling difficult social issues responsibly. I think this old post demonstrates how something as ostensibly slight as a "cartoon" can have a profound impact on a person's moral development.]
The year was 1988. I was a recent transplant to Louisiana and a tad on the introverted side. (What with being deaf and all.) So I spent endless hours reading comic books. I may have “like ‘em liked” some girls at this point, but can find no evidence of it in my fourth grade yearbook. Not only did I know nothing about girls, I distinctly remember not even knowing what this “rape” thing I heard about on the news was. But I mowed my lawn every day—my father having decided to instill the value of hard work by allowing me to earn $4 whenever I wanted by re-mowing what my new work ethic transformed into a hilariously mangy lawn—and so I had plenty of money to blow on X-books. Meaning I spent most afternoons blissfully unaware of anything that didn’t involve the X-Men or X-Factor or The New Mutants or, if I was desperate enough, Alpha Flight.
One late October afternoon, I purchase a copy of X-Men #236. On the cover Wolverine and Rogue are hung by their feet from a scaffold, flanked on both sides by grinning fools in military garb. (This image disturbs me more now than it did then.) What had happened? The X-Men had sacrificed themselves to save the world, only in the end they were granted a reprieve: they would be dead to the world but would live undetected and undetectable in the Australian outback. They were invisible to all forms of electronic recording devices. They were able to move throughout the world invisible to all by the naked eye. Or so they thought until a fascist state called “Genosha” declared war on them. To make a long story short: shit hit fans. Wolverine and Rogue were captured.
For those unfamiliar with the comics or the films, Rogue has the power to absorb the memories and/or mutant powers of whomever she touches. So, naturally, she doesn’t touch anyone for fear of knocking them unconscious and draining them of their “life energy.” Her entire life Rogue has wanted nothing more than to touch someone without hurting them. To be loved. But she’d come to accept the fact that this would never happen. This self-sacrifice moved my fourth-grade mind. I sympathized with her despite having no clue as to what she sacrificed or why. I only knew that it pained her and, being the good sympathetic identifier that I was, I felt her pain by proxy. So without really knowing why, I wanted Rogue to be able to touch people.
And after she’s captured by the Genoshans, she’s stripped of her mutant powers. Now she can touch people without having to worry about killing them. For a moment, I’m happy for her. If only she can get out of this jam she’ll be able to touch someone! That’s all she ever wanted! Then I hit this panel:
And I was confused. That’s Rogue huddled there in the corner. She’s traumatized. Over the next few issues she’ll disappear. Another personality—and I mean that literally—will emerge. Rogue will be so hurt by whatever “liberties [were] taken when she was being processed” that she’ll cede control of her psyche to Carol Danvers. (Read the link. It’s too complicated to explain briefly.) Needless to say, despite not knowing quite what those “liberties” were, countless data points began to constellate for me. I saw “touching” and “forced” and “fascism” and “liberties” circle the pained figure in the panel above and I was confused. Angry. Upset. I didn’t know why, but I knew that I was. My sympathies had identified with something they couldn’t comprehend.
When I was hit by that car and pain plus medication turned my mind to cottage cheese, the most “intellectual” material I could stomach were comics. Re-reading this one, I stumbled into a realization: my feminist sympathies were first marshaled while reading a comic back in the Autumn of ’88. The medium is far from perfect, but it’s not wholly without value. I’m not defending myself here so much as describing a stage in my development. So please don’t read this and think “Scott think spandex is progressive?” I don’t. Only once upon a time, it inadvertently was.
I’m just a teacher of argument, not a lawyer, so I’m only going to address the merits of these arguments on their merits, not their legal standing. To begin:
JUSTICE KAGAN: Mr. Cooper, could I just understand your argument. In reading the briefs, it seems as though your principal argument is that same-sex and opposite—opposite-sex couples are not similarly situated because opposite-sex couples can procreate, same-sex couples cannot, and the State’s principal interest in marriage is in regulating procreation. Is that basically correct?
MR. COOPER: I—Your Honor, that’s the essential thrust of our—our position, yes.
JUSTICE KAGAN: Is—is there—so you have sort of a reason for not including same-sex couples. Is there any reason that you have for excluding them? In other words, you’re saying, well, if we allow same-sex couples to marry, it doesn’t serve the State’s interest. But do you go further and say that it harms any State interest?
MR. COOPER: Your Honor, we—we go further in—in the sense that it is reasonable to be very concerned that redefining marriage to—as a genderless institution could well lead over time to harms to that institution and to the interests that society has always—has—has always used that institution to address. But, Your Honor, I—
JUSTICE KAGAN: Well, could you explain that a little bit to me, just because I did not pick this up in your briefs. What harm you see happening and when and how and—what—what harm to the institution of marriage or to opposite-sex couples, how does this cause and effect work?
MR. COOPER: Once again, I—I would reiterate that we don’t believe that’s the correct legal question before the Court, and that the correct question is whether or not redefining marriage to include same-sex couples would advance the interests of marriage as a—
JUSTICE KENNEDY: Well, then are—are you conceding the point that there is no harm or denigration to traditional opposite-sex marriage couples? So you’re conceding that.
MR. COOPER: No, Your Honor, no. I’m not conceding that.
JUSTICE KENNEDY: Well, but, then it—then it seems to me that you should have to address Justice Kagan’s question.
MR. COOPER: Thank you, Justice Kennedy. I have two points to make on them. The first one is this: The Plaintiffs’ expert acknowledged that redefining marriage will have real-world consequences, and that it is impossible for anyone to foresee the future accurately enough to know exactly what those real-world consequences would be. And among those real-world consequences, Your Honor, we would suggest are adverse consequences.
Cooper argues, not in essence, but is actually forwarding the argument that redefining marriage will have real-world consequences that are impossible for anyone to predict, but which include the adverse ones he knows will happen. Cooper fails freshmen composition. But what are his real concerns?
MR. COOPER: Yes, Your Honor. The concern is that redefining marriage as a genderless institution will sever its abiding connection to its historic traditional procreative purposes, and it will refocus, refocus the purpose of marriage and the definition of marriage away from the raising of children and to the emotional needs and desires of adults, of adult couples.
People might seek to meet the “emotional needs and desires of adults, of adult couples”? Why would the gays want the emotional needs and desires of all adult couples to be met? What did they ever do to them? Who really matters here anyway?
JUSTICE KAGAN: Well, suppose a State said, Mr. Cooper, suppose a State said that, Because we think that the focus of marriage really should be on procreation, we are not going to give marriage licenses anymore to any couple where both people are over the age of 55. Would that be constitutional?
MR. COOPER: No, Your Honor, it would not be constitutional.
JUSTICE KAGAN: Because that’s the same State interest, I would think, you know. If you are over the age of 55, you don’t help us serve the Government’s interest in regulating procreation through marriage. So why is that different?
MR. COOPER: Your Honor, even with respect to couples over the age of 55, it is very rare that both couples—both parties to the couple are infertile, and the traditional—
The men. Of course. The men matter here, because they’re the ones who can continue to be fertile in perpetuity. So the emotional needs and desires of couples are less important to Cooper than the government’s commitment to protect the inalienable rights of viable sperm. But I’m sure there’s no precedent about marriage and its effect on children that might be relevant here.
GENERAL VERRILLI: Well, they might try to make a different record about the effects on children. But there isn’t a record to that effect here. And the fourth point I would make, and I do think this is significant, is that the principal argument in 1967 with respect to Loving and that the commonwealth of Virginia advanced was: Well, the social science is still uncertain about how biracial children will fare in this world, and so you ought to apply rational basis scrutiny and wait. And I think the Court recognized that there is a cost to waiting and that that has got to be part of the equal protection calculus. And so—so I do think that’s quite fundamental.
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Can I ask you a problem about—it seems to me that your position that you are supporting is somewhat internally inconsistent. We see the argument made that there is no problem with extending marriage to same-sex couples because children raised by same-sex couples are doing just fine and there is no evidence that they are being harmed. And the other argument is Proposition 8 harms children by not allowing same-sex couples to marriage. Which is it?
I wonder why Roberts didn’t want to address the argument that biracial children can fare well in the world? I can’t think of any reason why he’d want to avoid that issue. I’m sure he didn’t change the subject to avoid talking about the fact that the sitting President might be relevant to the argument?
I don’t read a lot of Supreme Court transcripts, but I do teach argument and did do forensics in high school, so I know both what the former entails and what the latter occasionally requires, i.e. having to take the AFF or NEG of a case based on a draw instead of a deeply held belief. You have to argue the case you have to argue, I get that, but honestly? Cooper couldn’t have made a more unsympathetic case about an issue which, though it will be decided on other grounds, needed an argument based on something more sophisticated than bigotry in order to acquire more popular support. It’s not just a freshmen composition course he failed today.
The final assignment of my visual rhetoric course is called Rhetoric in Practice (or RIP). It has two components. To paraphrase the rubric: the students create their own rhetorical performance, explore questions of how to target an audience, follow the conventions of a genre, choose the medium for their message, and all the while, use the critical tools they’ve been learning all quarter to develop their ideas. They then perform a rhetorical analysis of their own work via a detailed writer's memo.
The pedagogical theory behind this is sound: by forcing them to do something fun at the end of the quarter,
I get better evaluationsthe tools I taught them over the course of it become more solidly ensconced in their brain-space. Only this time, instead of deducing the rhetorical intent behind someone else's decisions, they must decide how to communicate their message to their target audience most effectively.
One of the highlights of this quarter was a remake of the Game of Thrones opening credit sequence, only intended for an audience of the sort one finds at the University of California, Irvine:
I hope that, as a student project completed in a little under two weeks, this doesn't violate Fair Use and won't be taken down, but I can't be sure. Also, I'll credit the student when I hear back from her about whether she wants credit for it. Given that I've already had a Disney animator think it worthy of praise, though, I'm fairly comfortable sharing it with the world.
I'm watching the BBC documentary The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector, and you can too, for free:
It's interesting more for the historical anecdotes than the Nancy Grace-style murder-narrative at its core—and I say that before reaching the point where they'll talk about Spector threatening Leonard Cohen, Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan with a crossbow over the final mix of "Don't Go Home With Your Hard-on. For example, the notion that Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro's careers could have killed by an injunction, and that only special pleading by John Lennon saved them intrigues me as a film scholar (40:40). But even more interesting is Spector's discussion of "Be My Baby," Brian Wilson and an "edit record" (44:28), which for him means a song that suffers because its seams are showing. "Good Vibrations" isn't a good song because it's
got a lot of edits in it, like Pyscho, which is a great film, but an "edit film." Without edits, it's not a film. With edits, it's a great film. But it's not Rebecca, it's not a great story the way Alfred Hitchcock could make a great story.
I suppose this would make Rope Spector's favorite Hitchcock film, what with all its invisible edits—or maybe that would make Rope Spector's least favorite Hitchcock film, being that it'd be his most dishonest. Which is another way of saying that Spector seems to believe that a work in which a professional can ascertain the hand of an auteur is less valuable than one in which an amateur can. Because anyone can see the edits in Psycho, whereas it takes a trained eye to find them in Rope. At least that's how I'm reading Spector's aesthetic philosophy here: Wilson's production of "Good Vibrations" is lacking because Spector can hear tracks end or overlap that the average person can't. Except that doesn't make any sense, because he's basically arguing for his own insignificance, i.e. the greatest artists are the ones whose labor is imperceptible to the audience.
But this criteria strikes me as counterproductive if you're trying to claim that producers are artists. Just consider this excellent video about the production of The Beach Boy's "Sloop John B." I've queued it up to where Wilson's editorial oversight becomes evident instrument-by-instrument, and I'll admit that it's clearly a highly edited song, but why would that make it less interesting to a producer than one like "Be My Baby," which was recorded in a take, pumped into an echo chamber and transmitted into a studio? Spector seems to be arguing at cross-purposes here, fetishizing the act of capturing a sound in a moment instead of valuing the artistry required to combine various sources in order to match some ideal a composer only hears in his head. To muddy the waters further by introducing another medium, this seems like the equivalent of valuing Dubliners over Ulysses because the artistry is more evident in the latter than the former even though it abounds in both.
This may be one of those simple matters that only confuse me because I've studied aesthetic theory—only the learned can be so easily confounded—but I'm having a difficult time understanding what Spector means here. Because he seems to be saying that the best producers are really just building Rube Goldberg machines and recording the results, but that can't be right, can it?