Monday, 10 September 2012

I would be a moral monster, were it not for... From a “hard-hitting” interview with Gov. and Ms. Romney: DAVID GREGORY: There was something that caught my attention, I’m sure it caught yours from the keynote speaker of the Democratic convention, which is—sort of went to this charge that somehow neither one of you are as empathetic about what’s going on in the country to people who are out of work. And the line was from from Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, “You just don’t know how good you’ve had it.” How did that sit with you? MS. ROMNEY: The thing that I want to communicate to people, and that it’s so important that people understand, is that Mitt and I do recognize that we have not had a financial struggle in our lives. But I want people to believe in their hearts that we know what it is like to struggle. And our struggles have not been financial, but they’ve been with health and with difficulties in different things in life. And one thing that I again like to remind people is that multiple sclerosis has been my teacher. It has been at times a cruel teacher. But it has also been a great gift in my life because what it has done it has taught me to be more compassionate and caring for others that are suffering. And I know that people are suffering right now. And for people to think that we don’t have empathy just because we’re not suffering like they’re suffering is ridiculous. Because life is a metaphor for baseball: Castro says that those born on third base don’t know how difficult it is to hit a triple. Ms. Romney responds by conceding that she doesn’t know what third base is and noting that standing in the warm summer sun is difficult too. Which it certainly is. Third base is a good place to be but by no means is it an inherently safe one. Most pitchers are right-handed so it’s easy to be picked off. Most batters are right-handed so when they pull the ball down the line hard and sharp you’re a target. And as Ms. Romney suggests, being on third base requires you to stand in the warm sun, meaning it’s possible that you’ll sunstroke or lock your knees and pass out or that swarms of angry hornets from the concessionary will ascend and attack you. That could happen. In fact it did happen to Ms. Romney: She was standing on what she didn’t know was third base, minding her own business, when a small plane sucked a large duck into one of its propellers and caused a gruesome hail of engine and duck parts to rain down upon the field. A heavy metallic something brained Ms. Romney that fine summer afternoon and she’s spent the rest of her life finding it more difficult to stand on what she still doesn’t know is third base than she did before. This statistically improbable event introduced her to a concept with which...
Breaking Bad: "Gliding Over All," said the fly to the money pile. (This being another one of those visual rhetoric posts.) I've had a week to digest the mid-season finale of Breaking Bad, "Gliding All Over," and for the first time in weeks I'm not going to talk about kitchen tables. The episode's title, "Gliding Over All," references Walt Whitman: Gliding o'er all, through all, Through Nature, Time, and Space, As a ship on the waters advancing, The voyage of the soul—not life alone, Death, many deaths I'll sing. How is that relevant to the episode? Not in the way people online are discussing it. For one, I keep seeing it referred to as an ordinary "poem," when in fact it appears, untitled, on the title page of Passage to India. And the interpretations I've read of its relation to the episode all focus on the "many deaths" because of Walter's increasing comfort with lethal force. But take a quick look at the actual poem that bit above introduces: Singing my days, Singing the great achievements of the present, Singing the strong, light works of engineers, Our modern wonders, (the antique ponderous Seven outvied,) In the Old World, the east, the Suez canal, The New by its mighty railroad spann’d, The seas inlaid with eloquent, gentle wires[.] "Passage to India" celebrates the connectedness of the world. These canals and transcontinental railroads and undersea telegraph cables have made it visible and tangible the connections between distant peoples. O voyagers, O scientists and inventors, [then] shall be justified, All these hearts, as of fretted children, shall be sooth’d, All affection shall be fully responded to—the secret shall be told; All these separations and gaps shall be taken up, and hook’d and link’d together The voyagers and scientists and inventors create the conditions necessary to acquire a new kind of knowledge: one whose "secret ... separations and gaps" will be "hook'd and link'd together." In short: titling the episode "Gliding Over All" doesn't allude to the untitled poem's "many deaths" but to the process of acquiring an interconnected vision of the world through technology that Whitman outlines in "Passage to India." Given that Walter White and his contempories aren't in the midst of a world-shrinking communicative revolution, it stands to reason that they'll come into knowledge of how secrets are "hook'd and link'd together" differently. Director Michelle MacLaren lets Walter have the first shot: MacLaren opens with an extreme close-up on a fly. The shallow focus blurs the background to the extent that the only thing the audience can see is the fly. Because we want the shot to be meaningful, we begin to study the wings and shadows of this centrally positioned and obviously important fly. We try to connect this fly to some structure of meaning. Is this an allusion to "the contamination" that deviled Walter in "The Fly" and the extreme actions he and Jesse took to "clean" the lab? The camera lingers on the fly for seven seconds—long enough for these questions to arise but not long enough for them to...

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