Friday, 28 September 2012

Inside baseball. (This is some seriously tedious material. I only wrote it so I wouldn't ever have to write anything about it again. More interesting material also published on 28 September 2012 can found here.) As some of you may remember, back in 2006 myself and others were subjected to a comment and email campaign of unhinged rage from someone who claimed to be a better philosopher than everybody else. Steps were taken, by many, to stop this person. The difference between the steps others took and the ones I did had to do with the fact that he'd threatened my wife's life, on multiple occasions, and lived around the corner from me.* It was not cool. In late 2009 or early 2010 I began to receive similarly unhinged emails from someone claiming to be "Jeff" from "" I asked this person to stop sending me emails. He did not. After this persisted, instead of repeating the annoying trials of 2006, I simply had a friend, a former grad student with a law degree, send Jeff Goldstein a cease-and-desist letter. I sent it to the address he'd provided me when he wanted me to send him a free book. For the purpose of verification, that address looks like this: 5*** P****** C***** F******** C* 8****. I hope that establishes I sent the letter to the correct place without actually revealing the actual address, as I'm not the sort of person who posts private emails or home addresses or cell-phone numbers on the Internet. (All of which has been done to me, including quite recently by you-know-who.) The vile emails continued for another week or two, then stopped. I assumed that the cease-and-desist letter had taken awhile to arrive but had finally done its job, and given that I didn't want to have anything else to do with Goldstein, I considered the matter settled. I did, however, make a mistake in mentioning that I'd sent this letter to Patrick Frey without explicitly indicating that I'd rather it remain private. And I wanted it remain private with good reason: the harassment had stopped and I didn't want it to resume. For reasons unclear to me, Goldstein claims not have been the one harassing me or the person who stopped harassing me after I sent the letter. That's just a big coincidence. As I have no evidence to the contrary, I suppose I'll just have to take his word for it. There is evidence that someone sent emails to Jeff using my name at this time, and those of you who know me and can recognize my style can judge for yourself whether I wrote this email from an account I don't have. (Those of you with whom I've corresponded can search your emails and see if I've ever sent you anything from a non-Gmail or non-UCI account. You'll see that I haven't.) Here's the thing: now Jeff demands to see the emails that I never publicly claimed he sent. But I don't have them...
Fellowship of the Ring: Conventions of film, conventions of genre (One of the visual rhetoric posts born of this course. If it seems a little more basic than the rest of those posts, that’s because it’s the first real day of class and I have to start somewhere.) I have one goal here: to define "high fantasy" as a genre through Fellowship of the Ring. There will no doubt be academic arguments about the particulars—the true extent of Tolkien's influence, for example, or the necessity of orcs—but I want to sketch out the basic generic qualities of high fantasy in a portable manner, i.e. one that will also apply to Game of Thrones. Meaning the most commonly argued generic feature to qualify as unnecessary baggage is this one: Works of fantasy exist in a world utterly unrelated to the one in which we live and are therefore purely escapist. Because, at the very least, whatever work I do with Fellowship also needs to apply to Game of Thrones. That and it's just wrong. Anything written by a human being in a particular historical moment belongs to that particular historical moment even if it depicts a different or invented historical moment. The rest of the generic features of high fantasy I want to pull from Fellowship via an immanent analysis of the film itself, and what better place to begin than with maps? Maps are important because 1) sentences like "Go north until you hit Chicago and hook a left and you'll end up California" don't make intuitive sense in fantastic worlds, and 2) the most common plot elements in fantastic works, quests and wars, are map-driven affairs. You need to know who's where and in relation to what in an invented world, and that requires special attention be paid to maps. Though the visual presentation and manipulation of maps is prevalent in high fantasy—as is evidenced both above, viewing Peter Jackson's zooming around the map of Middle Earth, or in the opening credits of Games of Thrones—it should be noted that as a film convention, it predates high fantasy as a genre. (Spielberg's clearly referencing something here.) Another common element in high fantasy would be a token of power: Like one of those. In the case of Fellowship, the ring functions as both a token and embodiment of power, whereas in Game of Thrones, the Iron Throne will merely be the token awarded to the winner of the game, but in both cases there's an item whose acquisition is certral to the plot. In Fellowship, Jackson establishes and maintains the significance of the ring by constantly zooming in on it. The frame above, for example, belongs to a sustained zoom: But Jackson's always zooming in on the ring. To wit: That's Frodo at The Prancing Pony, but note the difference between the sustained zoom on Sauron's hand and the interrupted zoom on Frodo's fingers. Jackson's taking advantage of our implicit understanding of filmic convention when he zooms in on Sauron's hand: he knows that such zooms are sometimes intended to...

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