Monday, 10 June 2013

In Memoriam Mr. Banks So, the Bring Your Own Lampshade, Somewhere There's a Party having heard nothing for days, sent Something exceptional has happened for him to have fallen so certainly silent. Nothing further to predict, though suspicion grows amongst those not utterly credulous that this silence is exotic in nature. ∞ Ha! ∞ I thought that might that draw you out. I reluctantly agreed to convene this awkward exchange with you thinking you would never believe this matter closed. The Color Me Impressed considered what the matter in question might be and why it might have been closed. It summed-up the exchange again but the briefing remained inadequate. Before I over-focus on what may be irrelevant details please re-transmit said information to the pre-appointed location for verification of authenticity. If said information is thereto judged to be in excess of tenable evidence other sympathetic elements within the Culture will assist in applying an appropriate response. The Bring Your Own Lampshade, Somewhere There's a Party assured Color Me Impressed that the information was authentic using every confidential code it had at its disposal and many it didn't. Broadcasting such information made things difficult operationally. But it didn't want Color Me Impressed to consider the remote possibility that this information could be a set-up. ∞ The thought had already occurred, the VPS CMI replied, lying. But if true the possibility of action against it is too far down the list of probabilities to venture getting into. If it happened it happened and there's nothing to be done about it. ∞ There is always the opportunity to engage in the mourning before it becomes a matter of rote necessity. The delays on these signals already threaten the sincerity of any response that might be sent. ∞ Might be sent, shot back the Color Me Impressed, to whom and why? Would deeply appreciate knowing what the fuck is going on? Prompt answers are the in thing this season so please stop reluctantly dancing and step on point already. ∞ The point, chimed the GSV A Picture on a Fridge Never Stocked with Food, is that someone was aiming for politeness but achieved nothing because you are as confused as ever. There has been an event. We deserved to get there in time to do more, if there was anything that could have been done, but we did all we could and we failed. There's a chance that something was made or recorded, thought left for posterity, that could be or has been recovered. We need to do or have done that already. ∞ Something has and it was and we've already done so. Enjoy your eternity, Mr. Banks. Enjoy the ever-living fuck out of it. You've more than earned it.
Mad Men: Fencing with shadows over "The Quality of Mercy" I keep on reading that the title of this season's penultimate Mad Men episode, "The Quality of Mercy," is "a phrase from Shakespeare" without any explanation as to what its significance might be. Todd's the exception, but his account of the play muddies his most pressing insight: one only appeals to the quality of mercy when dealing with people who don't deserve it because one wants it from that very same person. It only exists as a rhetorical tactic. But it doesn't work quite that way anymore. For contemporary audiences the quality of mercy is something granted through extra-textual means -- the play's antisemitism retroactively grants it to Shylock -- which is another way of saying that characters exist in history and shouldn't be judged by their actions in the moment so much as their reputation over the not-so-longue durée. This excuses nothing: Shylock behaves like a stock Jew because Shakespeare didn't think his character worth elevating. The same can't be said of Don Draper in a season in which his status as an unknown quantity's been highlighted by the presence of fellow professional liar Bob Benson. Or can it? The last two episodes have seen him turn against his wife (Megan) and his protege (Peggy) for reasons that aren't entirely clear but clearly aren't merciful. And yet the arrival of Benson mingles with his failing marriage and office foibles in a manner that makes him seem deserving of the mercy Shylock wanted to refuse Antonio. That mercy would've denied Shylock his "pound of flesh." Care to guess who we are in this analogy? That's correct: we're Shylock demanding a pound of Draper's flesh and we're the contemporary audience extending him mercy because we know that Shylock's been misunderstood by history. Which is about where we stand at this point in the series: Draper's a tragic figure made all the more tragic by the decisions he's making. He's an unforgivable human being widely recognized as a product of his circumstances. He's the man everyone envies until they see his substance is little more than strategically placed shadows -- particularly in this episode. But before I comment on that I should note how this episode begins: With Draper in the fetal position. I'm not going to go all Freudian on you because I don't do that anymore. What's more significant than any Freudian overtones is that this is the first time in this episode that one side of Draper's face is hidden from the camera. That Phil Abraham went with an overhead shot in order to accomplish that is a telling oddity: we don't normally see shots from this perspective outside of the opening credits. Make of that what you will. What I find significant is that the opening shot of the episode 1) informs us that Don's wounded and 2) suggests that he's hiding his wound by hiding his face. I know this isn't actually true -- you can't hide psychological scars behind turned heads or well-positioned shadows -- but...

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