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Maddow is a fraud

[ 109 ] March 2, 2013 |

I never watch her myself, but I always assumed everyone I knew did, so I’m disappointed to learn that her “popularity” is entirely due to her manipulation of the Twitter machine. As Dan Riehl notes, “Hmm.”

Because exactly.

It’s much more likely that Maddow’s at home painstakingly creating fake hot-lady Twitter accounts to boost her mentions than it is that fake hot-ladies are glomming on to her tweets in order to take advantage of her popularity.

I understand why conservatives want to chuckle at this non-story, but I’m not sure why they want to convince themselves that Maddow’s unpopular among the very liberals to whom they attribute her beliefs. I’m all for unfounded mockery, but conservatives need to have a little pride and be consistent. Just read those comments.* They seem to think we’ll hate “Raymond Mildew” because “he” is a lesbian, but that doesn’t even make any sense! If she’s a man she can’t be a lesbian. This isn’t that difficult.**

*Don’t!

**Unless you’re a conservative.

The Miami Heat is funny.*

[ 64 ] March 1, 2013 |

ESPN told me so. CNN told me so. NPR told me so. So it must be true.

And it is, damn it. All I can say is that I’m much happier to have the greatest player in the world actually look like he’s enjoying his life. I couldn’t stand another decade of being forced to appreciate Jordan’s sulking, sullen demeanor. I mean, the man switched to baseball just to be pitied. Give me King James, shirtless and giddy, any day.

*Before you say anything, just start humming “The Heat [Are] On” to yourself.

Mrs. Malkin, giving in can be wrong.

[ 123 ] February 27, 2013 |

The other night I dreamt I was nine years old, on stage, singing “There’s No Easy Way Out” for assembled parents on the last day of summer camp. It was a horrifying dream made all the worse by the fact that it was a memory. My camp counselors forced me to belt out songs from the Rocky IV soundtrack because, I assume, they are terrible human specimens.

Just the worst.

But as humiliating as it is to admit to having been some failed lifeguard’s dancing monkey, I take comfort in knowing that I didn’t choose to sing that song or the Diet Coke jingle that preceded it: a seventeen-year-old man-child made me do it because of something he mistook for “reasons.”

All of which is only to say that Michelle Malkin’s parents need to sue whatever camp they sent her to for this:

I mean, her counselors even made her title it a “parody video,” like they knew how few mad props and scrip dividends her version of “Raise of the Roof” would’ve netted at the next PTA meeting sans the signposting. Or with it even. But when I watch that video — which I only did once, for the purpose of research — all I see is this:

SHE’S NOT CRYING. SHE’S NOT CRYING.

Except obviously on the inside, which is almost enough to make you feel sorry for her.

Almost.

The Third Lawyers, Guns & Money podcast: Lemieux and Campos on Dworkin

[ 24 ] February 25, 2013 |

I apologize for the delay between Lemieux’s post and my uploading of the podcast, but being that we’re responsible folk, we actually went out and purchased the software I’m using to edit these podcasts … and once registered all the settings changed such that Other Scott sounded like Mickey Mouse on the tail-end of a righteous bender. Despite Loomis’s insistence that I upload podcast anyway, I decided to hold off until my co-bloggers sounded like humans who’d sobered up. Enjoy!

The Third LG&M podcast: Lemieux and Campos on Dworkin

Poor Skyfall, it deserved better

[ 82 ] February 24, 2013 |

Sam Mendes is the Don Delillo of contemporary cinema, in that he’s as beloved as he’s banal and otherwise right-thinking people seem incapable of recognizing him as such. A few years ago I wrote of my hatred of the flat affect (or affected flatness) that characterizes Delillo’s prose, and I’m going to be making a similar argument about Mendes. I can make that argument directly, in that both blame the postmodern condition for the flattening and both think that finding meaning in meaninglessness is the proper aesthetic response to it. To wit:

To understand all this. To penetrate this secret. The mountain was here, unconcealed, but no one saw it or thought about it, no one knew it existed except the engineers … a unique cultural deposit … and he saw himself for the first time as a member of an esoteric order, they were adepts and seers, crafting the future, the city planners, the waste managers, the compost technicians, the landscapers who would build hanging gardens here, make a park one day out of every kind of used and eroded object of desire.

To understand Delillo. To penetrate his secret. The appeal is there, everyone sees it when they think about it, everyone knows it is “a unique cultural deposit,” taken by Delillo on the chest of Americans who want to believe they belong to an esoteric order, that they are the adepts and seers of literature. Only they aren’t. They read a big book full of moments, as above, in which characters look at “garbage” and are struck by an epiphanic bolt named “recycling.” Don Delillo writes “deep” thoughts for stupid people. Mendes traffics in similar crap:

I don’t care if it could be mistaken for a two-shot of people in a museum, that thing they’re looking at is still a plastic bag, not a reminder that everything is connected. Or if it is a reminder that everything’s connected we’re back to the profundity that it is modern recycling. It’s not evidence that there’s “this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know that there was no reason to be afraid.” It’s not an ontological proof of the existence of a non-denominational Kindness that communicates through gusts of trash. It’s a fucking plastic bag. But it gets worse. It’s a plastic bag “that was just, dancing with [Ricky], like a little kid begging [for him] to play with it—for fifteen minutes,” meaning that it’s a plastic bag that Ricky didn’t recycle. He befriended it in the name of the non-denominational Kindness who speaks through trash and filmed the encounter so we all could meet said Kindness through Art. It’s first-order Art in the film, when Ricky shows it to Jane, but it’s second-order Art when Mendes presents us Ricky showing it to Jane, so we experience their experience of Art because in the postmodern world one can never experience The Thing Itself only mediated versions of It through Art. This is a Baudrillard-bruised insight from ’70s masquerading as profundity and everyone fell for it. The Academy declared it the Most Unique Cultural Deposit of 1999 and Mendes the Most Unique Cultural Depositor of the same.

Which brings us to Skyfall. I watched it last night and thought it a fine little Bond film. But it was not the Art it thought it was. Mendes comes from a theatrical background and directs his movies like old episodes of Masterpiece Theater: he positions the camera at some distance from the action, checks that every element of the frame is in focus, then walks away. The result is a reliance on shots that are longer than they need to be:

He seems not to know that when every element of a shot is in focus, the result is a flatter looking shot. There is foreground only in the literal sense that some people are closer to the camera, but because the people in the background as are crisp those in the foreground, the frame feels short and flat, like someone learned how to stage a scene in a theater. Just so you don’t think I’m unfairly knocking filmed versions of theatrical productions, here is a screen capture from something you know I’m inclined to love:

The Doctor and Captain Picard in Hamlet. Brilliant! Marvel at the spectacular set design! Glory in the deftly composed theatrical lighting! Are you done yet? Good. Now look at the shot itself: the spectacular acting and stunning design and artful lighting are all undermined by the manner in which they appear on film. That’s not a criticism, just an acknowledgment of difference. Plays must be filmed at this scale (an extreme long shot here)  because the alternative is that the performance is halted every time an in-frame element or the camera needed adjusting. In which case the play would cease being a play and become a movie. Saying that Tennant and Stewart’s Hamlet looks like a play isn’t an insult, merely an acknowledgment of what it is. But Skyfall is not a play. It’s a film too often shot like one. Even the action scenes:

Read more…

It’s the lines! She hates the lines!

[ 76 ] February 22, 2013 |

It is 1 p.m. SEK will be spending the next five hours in his office helping STUDENTS revise their essays. At no point will there not be a line of STUDENTS outside his door.

STUDENT #1: I have a class at 1 p.m. Can I just drop this off, have you comment on it, and pick it up after class?

SEK: I’ll try to have it done by then, but six of your classmates are waiting in line, and I have to get to them first.

STUDENT #1: See you at 2 p.m.

SEK spends the next hour in conference with the STUDENTS who waited patiently outside his office. It is 2 p.m.

STUDENT #1: I’m here to pick up my paper.

SEK: I’m sorry, I haven’t had a chance to get to it yet. Do you have any more classes today?

STUDENT #1: No.

SEK: So if you can just wait, I’ll get to you as soon as I finish talking with your classmates.

STUDENT #1: I’ll just come back at 3 p.m. See you then.

SEK spends the next hour in conference with the STUDENTS who waited patiently outside his office. It is 3 p.m.

STUDENT #1: I’m here to pick up my paper.

SEK: I’m sorry, I haven’t had a chance to get to it yet. Since you don’t have any more classes, maybe it’d be best to take your place in the queue and we can talk as soon as I’m done with your classmates.

STUDENT #1: I’ll just come back at 4 p.m. See you then.

SEK spends the next hour in conference with the STUDENTS who waited patiently outside his office. It is 4 p.m.

STUDENT #1: I’m here to pick up my paper.

SEK: I’m sorry, I haven’t had a chance to get to it yet. If you’ll just—

STUDENT #1: Come back at 5 p.m.? Yes. See you then.

SEK spends the next hour in conference with the STUDENTS who waited patiently outside his office. It is 5 p.m.

STUDENT #1: I’m here to pick up my paper.

SEK: Have a seat, there’s only one person in line at the moment so it’ll just be a—

STUDENT #1: FINE. I’ll come back at 6 p.m.

SEK spends the next hour in conference with the last of the STUDENTS who waited patiently outside his office. It is 6 p.m. SEK has just finished what he thought was his final conference of the day. STUDENT #2 is packing up her stuff and preparing to leave.

STUDENT #1: I’m here to pick up my paper.

SEK: Good timing. STUDENT #2 and I just finished so—

STUDENT #1: I’m here to pick up my paper.

SEK: We can go over it right now.

STUDENT #1: It’s too late.

SEK: I’m more than happy to stay a few extra minutes and look over your paper with you.

STUDENT #1: No, it’s too late. Give me my paper back.

SEK: ?

STUDENT #1: !

SEK: I can send you comments via email if you’d—

STUDENT #1: IT’S TOO LATE. JUST GIVE ME MY PAPER.

STUDENT #1 grabs her unmarked essay and storms out of SEK’s office. STUDENT #2, who hadn’t finished packing up yet, looks as confused as SEK feels.

STUDENT #2: What the

SEK: Your guess is better than mine. You kids don’t make any sense anymore. I just don’t understand—

STUDENT #2: The things we do on your lawn?

SEK: Out!

Stay classy, North Carolina

[ 48 ] February 18, 2013 |

Or not:

Not only will the licenses be vertical rather than horizontal—something ordinarily reserved for beginning drivers—but they will also feature a pink header and include the following words in all caps “NO LAWFUL STATUS.” Now, of course, none of these changes are necessary. And they have no apparent effect. The licenses will be fully valid. All they will do is send a not-so-subtle message to the immigrants (all of whom have lived in the U.S. for the vast majority of their lives) that they’re not really welcome or equal in the eyes of the state of North Carolina—even for the limited purpose of driving.

I’d rather North Carolina stop being not-so-subtle and go old-school:

What could possibly go wrong?

“I’m only racist on my mother’s side. My father’s people were misanthropes.”

[ 106 ] February 18, 2013 |

That Brevard Community College will be firing Sharon Sweet for compelling her students to vote for Obama is, of course, evidence that such indoctrination is ubiquitous in contemporary academia. The first comment on that Daily Caller link states the case in its strongest form:

Liberal fascism at home on every campus.

Exactly! Those two words always belong next to each other on campus. Goes without saying. What I find interesting about this story is that there’s no racial angle to it. Sweet’s race is never mentioned in the article nor does a search turn up an image that’s unequivocally of her. But Jim Hoft knows what she must look like, so when he did a Google Image search for “Sharon Sweet” he carefully considered all of the faces that might be hers and went with his gut.

That it told him she must be the black woman in the mug shot doesn’t make Hoft himself a racist—just his gut. Which makes him, what? About thirty percent racist?

The first forty-five were mistakes, the forty-sixth an accident

[ 189 ] February 11, 2013 |

The headline at the LA Times reads “Torrance neighborhood edgy after mistaken shootings,” and the phrase “mistaken shootings” refers to the fact that there have been multiple incidents in which Los Angeles and Torrance police officers have opened fired on people who don’t remotely resemble proud cop-killer Christopher Jordan Dorner: two Latina women delivering papers for the Times and a white man sneaking in a morning surf. But calling these incidents “mistaken shootings” downplays both the extent of the mistake and the severity of the shootings. Consider the state of the truck driven by the Times employees:

I’m not sure what I find more disturbing: the fact that two members of the LAPD put at least forty-six bullets in the back of that truck or that the barrage only wounded the two women in the truck. Not that I wish them further injury, mind you, only that I’m uncomfortable with the level of incompetence such “marksmanship” seems to suggest, because the police are out in terrible force and they are angry. If you live where I do, you don’t need to watch the news conferences or know that over 50 members of the force (and their families) are in protective custody to notice, and feel unsettled by, the heightened police presence in Riverside and Orange and LA counties. I literally can’t go to the doughnut store without having to stand behind four grumpy sleep-deprived cops.* I understand why the 15 and 91 were crawling with police vehicles last Thursday, as Dorner shot the officers in Corona a few miles from my apartment, but given that the search is now centered around Big Bear, I’m not sure why the continued police presence is necessary.

Especially when, since the “mistaken shootings” that happened last week, people who drive pickup trucks of any make and model are being encouraged to find alternative means of transportation until Dorner is dead or custody.** Because you never know when an angry sleep-addled cop who can barely hit the back of an SUV will open fire on you because of who you could be, but clearly aren’t. Having a standing army of incompetent shots occupy a few counties may not be the best way to calm civilian nerves. This strikes me as generally true, but even more so when the only stated targets are cops and the only victims unrelated to law enforcement personnel have been shot, mistakenly, by law enforcement personnel.

*By which I mean, when I went to the doughnut store this  morning, I had to stand behind four grumpy sleep-deprived cops.

**This despite the fact that the burnt husk of the truck in question was located on Saturday night.

The Loomis Brothers’ Super Bowl Podcast

[ 12 ] January 31, 2013 |

A.k.a. “Why you don’t let SEK name your podcast,” is now available:

Download it here, and subscribe here.

Peter Jackson and “Competitive Realism”

[ 57 ] January 28, 2013 |

An old (and far more talented) friend of mine responded to the discussion Rob and I had about frame rate:

The choice to go from 24 fps to 48 fps was that some filmmakers really hated the strobing effect when the camera pans in 3-D versions of movies. Their solution was to up the frame rate—giving the filmmaker more information to play around with. Honestly, the 24 fps strobing never bothered me, cause if you are telling your story right, little nitpicks like the don’t enter the mind of your audience.

For reasons unclear even to me, I responded to his gentle correction with A Brief and Inadequate History of Special Effects:

I didn’t want to get too technical in the podcast, but I was hinting at that: 3-D created a problem that didn’t previously exist, and the solution is worse than the original problem. No more strobing, but now the effects are so obviously “special” that we may as well be watching the original Clash of the Titans. An incredible film, don’t get me wrong, it just required a superhuman suspension of disbelief. Which at the time was fine, because “special effects” like George Reeves flashing across the sky were meant to be “special,” outside of the ordinary, and didn’t need to look as if they were of this world or obeyed its laws of physics.

I tend to think George Lucas ruined this fantastical acceptance of the specialness of “special” effects when he married recognizably modernist styles with space stations and star ships—the Millennium Falcon could’ve been a Le Corbusier, the stormtroopers come from the mind of an Italian fascist, and half the scenery consisted of the same brutalist style that litters my campus. Point being, his realist aesthetic made “special” effects look quaint, the people who loved them rubes, and that’s where we’ve been ever since. Realism or naught! Realism or naught! (With a few exceptions, Del Toro notably among them.)

So I could understand why Jackson wanted The Hobbit to accede to the demands of the regnant style, but in doing so he utterly ruined his film. I mentioned in the podcast that the best scene in the film, Bilbo’s encounter with Gollum, looked like exactly what it was: Martin Freeman in front of a green screen talking to a man in ping-pong ball covered suit. (I know that’s not how they do it anymore but you know what I mean.) It looked like Jackson had decided to avoid the uncanny valley by introducing its monstrous child to an actual human being and hoping the audience wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. I’m not going to say it made me want to cry, but I’m not going to deny I teared up a bit at the sheer waste of it all.

Like you, I’m more interested in the story, so if the technological advances can be integrated into it—like the conference tables in Avatar—I’m fine with that because it complements the narrative. But I don’t even think we need 3-D. It took us millions of years to develop the particular sort of stereoscopic vision we have, and our brains react to an “occupied periphery” the same way now as they did before: by flooding our bodies with hormones that make us nervous, tense, excited, afraid, etc. Since our eyes still point forward, you don’t need anything more fancy than an IMAX to occupy our peripheries, and I’m fine with that.

I thought I was talking about special effects and their more cloyingly “special” forbears, but the real sore spot for me here is the blind lionization of a limited definition of “realism.” Don’t misunderstand me: I find relocating fantastic narratives to a world that resembles ours an admirable endeavor. Heath Ledger’s interpretation of the “Joker” outstrips Jack Nicholson’s because we don’t need a vat of quasi-mystical chemical slurry to believe that a child of neglect and poverty might come to resent those he believes kicked him down to choke him out. I’m all for grounding narratives that occur in fictional worlds in ones that mostly obey the rules of ours. I’m on board with Battlestar Galactica and (though I’ll never admit it) I even watch Arrow. But the “reality” of “realism” has to amount to more than a little extra grease smeared on the walls of some backlot “Brooklyn.” Because when “competitive realism” becomes a sport the audience always loses. Embracing filth for love of the slop as an ethos would be one thing, but embracing it as an aesthetic out of devotion to an empty notion of what constitutes “realism” is more than just a thing:

Read more…

Name our production studio(s)!

[ 123 ] January 26, 2013 |

In the first podcast, Lawyers, Guns and Money presented a Lawyers, Guns and Money Production. Which is all well-and-fine for a first podcast, but as we’re mere decades away from monetizing the Internet, I think we need names that are more representative than repetitious. In the comments to Other Scott’s recent post, I suggested that Lawyers, Guns and Money should present

  • A Head on a Stick Production
  • An Internet Tradition Production
  • A Pancakes for Jenny Production

I was thinking we needed one studio, but there’s no reason each of us can’t have our own. For example, Hogan won the Internet by nominating Erik to be the CEO of

  • Control the Means of Production Productions

Also, Njorl pointed out that we don’t need to stick to “Productions,” but somehow missed the opportunity to note that our next podcast could be a Pancakes for Jenny Joint.

So I appeal to your vast knowledge of all Internet Traditions to help us figure out who we should be. The winner(s) will receive fleeting acclaim on a mid-level political-and-whatever-it-is-I-do blog and possibly an invitation to participate in a forthcoming podcast. Have at it!

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