Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Rhetoric amounts to more than what you advocate. The title should go without saying, but even among intelligent conservatives, sometimes it doesn't: The fact that a homicidal maniac shares your goals doesn't make you responsible for his methods. I never claimed otherwise. In point of fact, I didn't say that the ideological brethren of homicidal maniacs are responsible for the actions of homicidal maniacs. Quite the opposite. I claimed that there exists "a non-incidental relation of particular ideologies with acts of violence," a fact no one who's ever opposed Islamic fundamentalism can deny. I further claimed that: conservatives do inspire those on their fringes to engage in politically motivated violence. The politics of the George Tiller murder are an indictment against conservative rhetoric because that rhetoric made Tiller a target[.] So as to this: Is it fair to say that I "inspired" Scott Roeder's actions if I have engaged in full-throated condemnation of partial-birth abortion (and I have)? If I accurately describe the horrific acts of violence involved in that monstrous process, does that rhetoric "make" an abortion doctor a "target"? My question would be, "Have you, Patrick Frey, ever said anything like the following from mainstream conservative figure Rush Limbaugh?" One of the things I strongly believe is that we are not going to, as individuals, erase evil from the world. That is God's task. But we can be soldiers in that process, and we can confront it when we see it. Now, is child abuse an evil? Of course it is. Child abuse is an evil, and we confront it, and we take children away from parents who are abusive all day, do we not? Well, if child abuse is evil, as Mr. Morrissey points out here, then infanticide is even more evil. In this comment, Patrick notes that both of us can point to cases on the right and left in which fringe figures "advocate" violence, and I'll concede that. But openly advocating violence isn't the issue here (if only because those who do so are immediately dismissed as the cowardly cranks they undoubtedly are). The issue is the rhetoric of violence, and I don't think anyone will deny the violence inherent in Limbaugh's rhetoric there. The phrase "soldiers in that process," in which that "process" is stopping "infanticide," is not neutral language. Envisioning opposition in martial terms encourages the mentally unstable to think of themselves in grandiose terms, e.g. as God's soldiers. Is Limbaugh encouraging people to murder abortion providers? Not directly. (Plausible deniability is the order of the day.) Is he encouraging those people invested in the cause of stopping infanticide to imagine that they’re "soldiers" in a "process" who should "confront [evil] when [they] see it"? Of course he is. How do I know that? Because that's what he said. He may not have meant it that way, but that's what he said. Trace the logic of his comment: God's task is to erase evil from the world. We can be soldiers in the process of erasing evil from the world. We...
A technical question about cameras, film, and 30 Rock. After a trying week of marking papers, teaching, and generally being run ragged, I spent far too much time last weekend watching 30 Rock. As to the content of the show, all I can say is that I find it remarkable that a program dedicated to the inside baseball of running a network variety show is even intelligible, much less popular. Then I remember The Muppet Show exists or watch episodes of Saturday Night (not yet Live) from the year I was born, realize how old the trope is and find it remarkable that 30 Rock managed to enliven it. If pressed, I'd argue that its success has something to do with the meaningful inclusion of the network brass, which is in marked contrast from Lorne Michaels playing himself on SNL, but tonight I'm more interested in why the cast seems to have such huge heads: In this frame, the camera and lighting conspired to make Tracy Morgan's character, Tracy Jordan, look like something the first 10,000 fans under the age of 13 receive when they come through the gate. How did this happen? I don't know for sure, but thanks to an article [.pdf] in the Spring 2009 issue of Exposure magazine, I think I can make an under-educated guess. In it, chief cinematographer Matthew Clark says he employs wide-angle cameras to create a shallow depth of field in order to "lend a sense of immediacy to what's going on," which is all well and good, except that wide-angle cameras do the opposite. He also notes that because the sets are so small, they are warmly and dimly lit, so in order to create any contrast, he has to shoot with a wider iris to allow in more light, and doing so diminishes the depth of field. It would seem that balance is struck: wide-angle creates a greater depth of field, the low-lighting and wider iris shallow it out. The only problem, as evidenced by the frame above, is that the balance is frequently out of whack, and because wide-angle lenses exaggerate the distance between objects, whenever a character leans forward, their heads appear much bigger than the bodies they're attached to. I think. I welcome those of you who know more about cameras, lenses, lighting and film stock to correct me.

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