Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Just in case you need to bluff your way out of a war. (This be yet another one of them posts. The direct sequel to this one, in fact.) In the previous post, we learned that the Doctor can accomplish quite a bit by yelling at things. Admonishment, it could be said, is his only consistent source of power. He has the uncanny ability to be clever at precisely the right moment, and if he lacks the tools required to bring his clever plan to fruition, he possesses an improvisonal knack for making do with whatever's at hands. As a list of powers go, the Doctor fares quite favorably to no known hero—though he could be compared to a Malthussian Lex Luthor. (He did steal the TARDIS, after all.) Point being, by the time the Doctor regenerates into his Matt Smith incarnation, his reputation is such that he can stand on a rooftop, unkempt and in other people's clothes, and stare down the very same spaceship that, moments earlier, was going to incinerate the entire planet. Quite the reputation, that is, but what has he done to deserve it? "Been very clever with stuff on multiple occasions" covers it, but inadequately. Unlike Superman, the Doctor possesses no singular power that would require him to face a particular kind of foe in a particular type of manner. He can stand alone against an alien armada precisely because he lacks any clearly defined (or plausible) method of doing so. To quote the man himself in "The Pandorica Opens," in which the Doctor finds himself trapped beneath Stonehenge and the Earth surrounded by an alien armada: Note how director Toby Haynes monkeys around with the shots in this short sequence. In the first frame, the Doctor is looking out the door, the locked Pandorica behind him, and he looks sheepish not only because of his slumped shoulders and pathetic frown, but because he's being oppressed by the compositional elements of the frame. Amy Pond and River Song flank him, and even though the shot scale is medium close-up—meaning the camera captures him from the waist to the top of his head—Haynes uses an unusually high level of framing, which creates an awkward amount of space between the top of the Doctor's head and the upper limit of the frame. This unusual level of framing makes it so the compositional oppressiveness parallels the narrative—or vice versa, as the relation between the narrative and composition is interdependent in film. In other words, it's as if Haynes squished the Doctor but left the camera in the same position it occupied pre-squishing. But wait! There is a second frame in which the Doctor has one of his brilliant ideas! Haynes cuts quickly from the Doctor staring out the door with his back to the Pandorica in a medium close-up to a medium long shot of the Doctor twirling around to address River and Amy. The oppressiveness of the previous frame is lifted by pulling the camera back—the Doctor has been freed by dint of his brilliant idea! Except there's a...
The [Impossible] Conservatism of [the Flirtatious] Pauline Kael… …can only exist in Ron Capshaw’s head, and only then because he really wants it to. Case in point: Kael herself had briefly flirted with Stalinism while in college, but soon rejected it because of her lifelong aversion to dogma. She tried its leftist alternative of Trotskyism but this, too, failed her. Just substitute “Kael” with “Obama”: [Obama himself] had briefly flirted with Stalinism while in college, but soon rejected it because of [his] lifelong aversion to dogma. [He] tried its leftist alternative of Trotskyism but this, too, failed [him]. By the logic of contemporary conservative thought, the next sentence now becomes an impossibility: In the new biography, close friends are quoted as seeing her as an “Adlai Stevenson liberal,” in love with the establishment. Sorry, Ron, but that’s not how it works now. She once “flirted with Stalinism,” which means her ideology forever bears the stain of this early “flirtation.” Consider the language there: say you “flirt” with someone at a party in 1996 and, years later, this person develops a mental illness that convinces him or her to commit an act of domestic terrorism. Should your current political ideology be determined on the basis of that two-decade-old “flirtation”? Unless I’m so old that “flirtation” doesn’t just signify a home run, but a thirteen-year-long career as a slugger for the same team, I don’t think so. Then again, I’m not a conservative, so I don’t think Obama’s “flirtation” with Bill Ayers is all that significant to his career as a slightly-if-even-and-not-even-anymore-left-of-center politician. For conservatives, you are who you once — no matter how many years ago — flirted with. In other words, Ron, leave Kael alone. She’s ours, and unless you’re willing to ditch the foundational logic of contemporary conservatism, you can’t have her.* *If you are, though, by all means please do so. Start a movement and you can have her and, let me think, I’ll throw in Rosenbaum too.

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