Monday, 01 July 2013

“Write right from the left to the right as you see it spelled here.” Given that I’m moving back to Louisiana, it only seems fair that I pass its literacy test before being granted the right to vote. Unfortunately, it seems I’m illiterate: 1. Draw a line around the number or letter of this sentence. How does one draw a line around something? I thought lines were those infinitely extendable things with no curvature. How I am supposed to draw a line around the number of this sentence? I have an idea! Wait — that’s three lines. Fuck. Maybe I should try to draw it around the letter of this sentence? Not that I know what that’d be. Do they mean “the” letter of the question or “the” letter of “this sentence.” Given that both the question and “this sentence” have more than one letter, I’m not exactly sure what they’re asking me to do. Maybe this? Granted that’s nine lines now, but they’re now “around” both “the” “letter” and “the” number and “the” word “number” in the question as well as the words “this sentence.” I may not be right but I can hardly be wrong. Moving on: 22. Place a cross over the tenth letter in this line, a line under the first space in this sentence, and circle around the last the in the second line of this sentence. I got a little confused over whether they meant the first space in this sentence or “this sentence,” but I made up for it: They didn’t ask me to draw Bad Ass Jesus struggling to get off the cross, but they didn’t not ask me to either. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. What’s next? 29. Write every other word in this first line and print every third word in same line, (original type smaller and first line ended at comma) but capitalize the fifth word that you write. That’s it — I’m fucking illiterate. I don’t even know what the difference between “writing” and “printing” is. You win Louisiana! I won’t be casting any votes that matter anyway. Just once I’d love to live in a state where they do.
Mad Men: Who's "In Care Of" what now? In my first post on “In Care Of,” I discussed the importance of the logic of the “Oh Really” sequence to the episode; in the second, I not only proved that cowboy hats aren’t the new lasers, but also that Matthew Weiner is dedicated to creating pain by any means necessary, including undermining the importance of structural elements like the “Oh Really” sequence. In other words, my first two posts were about how Weiner creates tension via the visuals and sustains it by undermining the visuals that created it via the narrative. Most television shows — and most television writers — have a particular set of visual and narrative crutches they break out when they need to rouse their viewers. For example, Joss Whedon favors hackneyed speeches undermined by immediate circumstances: BUFFY: No, it doesn’t stop! It never stops! Do you — do you think I chose to be like this? You have any idea how lonely it is? How dangerous? I would love to be upstairs, watching TV or gossiping about boys or — God, even studying! But I have to save the world. Again. Or: LOKI: Enough! You are, all of you are beneath me! I am a god, you dull creature, and I will not be bullied by – (HULK flattens LOKI by SMASH) Whenever one of Whedon’s characters starts to speechify like William Wallace pontificating about the theoretical possibility of Scottish independence, that character’s likely to find his or her authority undermined either by their own words or someone else’s actions.* Whedon telegraphs it to a man who proceeds to semaphore it at your face. Which is why Mad Men continues to make for compelling television: Weiner and his writers are clearly aware of how they’re manipulating us and, like a great boxer, always slug us where we’re not expecting. Especially when they’ve established those expectations in a particular episode. In the last scene of this one, he combines the “Oh Really” sequence with its content-dependent and confessional opposite. To wit: He opens with this long shot of the Draper/Whitman family. They’re all clearly staring up at something, and because of the extremely high angle, seem to be dominated by whatever that something is. Establishing that something’s doing the dominating before actually showing it on screen has two effects: the first is to rouse our curiosity; the second, to remind us of what’s become obvious by now, i.e. that this family’s been burdened by an unknown and unspoken something for quite some time. Of course Don knows what it is, but to Sally, in particular, there’s just been this horrible presence that’s tainted her father’s relationships with everyone. She has no idea what it is, but this shot’s telling you here it is. But before cutting to this looming presence, Weiner thinks we need a refresher on how close this family is at the moment: These are the children. They’re together, but: They’re also apart from Don. Each slightly encroaches into the others’ shot, but for...

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