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It’s always been raining in Castamere

[ 144 ] June 7, 2013 |

We probably don’t need to talk too much about the content of “The Rains of Castamere,” if only because I said most of what I wanted to, content-wise, in the podcast. Instead I’d like to focus on how the director, David Nutter, used the confusion created by Michelle MacClaren in “Second Sons” to great effect during the Red Wedding. If you haven’t read the books or watched the ninth episode of the third season, I highly recommend you stop reading this right now. As you remember, MacClaren’s means of shooting Tyrion’s wedding in “Second Sons” was one part (hers) misdirection and one part (the character’s) indiscretion. Everyone was a spectacle-in-waiting or a secret-about-to-be-told, but no one was talking to one another. Even the actual attempts at communication — Tywin’s conversation with Tyrion and Joffrey’s failed attempt to hold the floor — weren’t communicative, to the extent that when Tyrion finally revealed what his (modified) intentions were, there was, as I noted in the first post, “a real potential for chaos.” The lesson of the episode is, in short, that when no one’s communicating honestly, honest communication becomes impossible. Everything becomes a performance and the most convincing performer — in this case Tyrion — wins the wedding. All of which is only to say that Tyrion’s wedding consisted of jealously guarded secrets and innuendos, as opposed to the Tully-Frey wedding, in which everyone is open about everything.

Read more…


“The Rains of Castamere”: an LG&M Game of Thrones podcast with Steven Attewell and SEK

[ 90 ] June 5, 2013 |

I’m not sure what to say that hasn’t been said — actually I am, and will, in an upcoming post (or posts) comparing Tyrion’s wedding to the one in this episode. So here’s Steven Attewell and I discussing “The Rains of Castamere.” Enjoy?

You can listen to the above podcast here.

Our very civilized discussion of the premiere (S03E01).

Fancy-talking about “Dark Wings, Dark Words” (S03E02).

Here we are blathering on about “Walk of Punishment” (S03E03).

Don’t watch — because you can’t — us discuss “And Now His Watch Has Ended” (S03E04).

The rudely interrupted first half of our discussion of “Kissed by Fire” (S03E05).

The second half of our discussion of religion in “Kissed by Fire” (S03E05).

In which we discuss “The Climb” sans spoilers (S03E06).

“The Climb” with spoilers (S03E06).

“Second Sons.” We has them (S03E08).

Belatedly, “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” (S03E07).

“The Bear and the Maiden Fair”: an LG&M Game of Thrones podcast featuring SEK and Steven Attewell

[ 29 ] June 1, 2013 |

This is all out of order, but because of technical difficulties, Steven Attewell and I weren’t able to discuss the seventh episode of Game of Thrones, “The Bear and the Maiden Fair,” in a timely fashion. So here it is now. Enjoy!

The audio version for thems that only have ears.

Our very civilized discussion of the premiere (S03E01).

Fancy-talking about “Dark Wings, Dark Words” (S03E02).

Here we are blathering on about “Walk of Punishment” (S03E03).

Don’t watch — because you can’t — us discuss “And Now His Watch Has Ended” (S03E04).

The rudely interrupted first half of our discussion of “Kissed by Fire” (S03E05).

The second half of our discussion of religion in “Kissed by Fire” (S03E05).

In which we discuss “The Climb” sans spoilers (S03E06).

“The Climb” with spoilers (S03E06).

“Second Sons.” We has them (S03E08).

My name is William Blake, do you know my poetry? IV

[ 32 ] June 1, 2013 |

Because it’s Saturday night and there are (and soon will be) so many new faces around here, I feel the need to remind y’all of who I am and why I “matter.” This is a primer I wrote for prospective grad students back in 2007 when I had things like hope and a future. That it doesn’t reflect that says something. I won’t say what. You’re more than welcome to.

A is for Anxiety. Who are you, Derrida?

B is for the Bore you are, to all but Ma and Pa.

C is for the Coin you drop on Copies you deface,

D for the Despair you feel, producing at this pace.

E is for the Energy you wasted all these years,

F for Fraud, for Failure, Fake, whatever, these are tears.

G is for the Game you play, imagining you’ll finish,

H for Harry Potter. You fancy games of Quiddich.

I‘s for Isolation, you’re alone in this you know?

J‘s for all the Joy you’ll feel in this Hell when it snows.

K is for the grade you’d give, to see that student sob,

L‘s for Lucky, like you’ll be, to ever Land a job.

M is for the Money you’d be rolling in by now,

N for all the Notes you lost, although you’re not sure how.

O is for the wailing of your apoplectic fit,

P for all the Pressure, which you handle [BLEEP] [BLEEP] [BLEEP].

Q is for the Questions, all the dumb ones that you ask,

R for the Revisions, Resubmissions in your past.*

T is for the Time spent, reading this instead of that,

U for Unproductive, like the time spent with your cat.

V is for the Virtues you can always cultivate,

When you have a real life, at some undetermined date.

X is for the ones you love, but avoided for your cause,

Y ‘s for you, you you you you, and working without pause.

Z is for the Žižek, he’s really rad, I hear,

And now you know Grad ABCs, who here wants more beer?


*S is for the Shit that you inevitably leave out.

(And also for how stupid, you feel foot firm in mouth.)

Mad, mad, Mad Men conspiracies

[ 68 ] May 30, 2013 |

Maybe I’m just up far too early for human thinking to be in work, but I stumbled across this article and I can’t say I don’t find it compelling. Megan Draper’s playing an actress who’s now gone blonde — at least for one of her roles — and Sally Draper was reading Rosemary’s Baby and Charles Manson Bob Benson keeps showing up in inappropriate places. I fully believe this season’s headed for some horrible end.

Of course, every season’s been headed for some horrible end only to have it narrowly averted by characters hewing to convention. (For example, taking your young, attractive babysitter with you on vacation violates all sorts of decorum that marrying her afterwards retroactively assuages.) Point being, since I can’t comfortably dissect Mad Men visually at the moment, I thought I’d at least provide a venue for people to speculate wildly about how the season’s going to end.

How do conservatives spend slow news days?

[ 172 ] May 29, 2013 |

Manufacturing scandals. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why my Facebook feed brimmed over with hatred for Adam Levine this morning — I take that back. It’s entirely understandable why people might brim over with hate for Adam Levine if they happen to hear a Maroon 5 song. Perfectly reasonable to hate him for that. But that’s not why conservatives were upset. Seems that during NBC’s telecast of The Voice, Levine said “I hate this country” on a hot mic right before two of his final three contestants were eliminated. Given that Levine is a Jew who openly supported Obama, clearly he hates both this country and Israel. Goes without saying.

But he said it! On national television! Outrage!

Of course, for those of you who don’t know, The Voice is a singing competition in which coaches create teams of singers and watches as “America votes” them off one-by-one. He hates “this country” because two of the three people remaining on stage at that point were from his team. He’s clearly tense at the thought of losing two of his contestants. And America put him in this position.

(But only if by “America” you mean the millions of white people who keep voting for obnoxious female “country” “singers” who have that “country” “attitude.” Any non-ballad by a female “country” “artist” who’s six-feet-tall and blonde invariably involves “puttin’ on boots,” “tellin’ him off,” and “drivin’ my truck away.” It’s the most odious brand of popular female empowerment in circulation today.)

Point being: this is no more a scandal than any of the others “plaguing” the administration at the moment. But it’s an instructive non-scandal because it’s the perfect distillation of the contemporary conservative mindset. This “scandal” couldn’t be any less important. And yet look at this comment from the first link:

I used to be an Adam/Maroon 5 fan. Met all of them in person at a concert and thought he was a really nice guy. However, after this comment … I won’t be supporting their music. So not all of their fans hate this country. AMERICA!

Translation: “I loved his music and when I met him he was personable when he didn’t have to be, but now that I’m willfully misunderstanding something he said, AMERICA!” Welcome to the final years of the Obama administration. It’s going to be an annoying ride.

I still know that you’ve seen that I saw you: miscommunication in “Second Sons” (Game of Thrones)

[ 93 ] May 28, 2013 |

(This is obviously another one of my visual rhetoric posts. The rest can be found where they always are.)

To recap: this is a complement to the most recent podcast Steven Attewell and I produced, on “Second Sons,” in which we discussed, among many things, miscommunication at the wedding of Sansa Stark and Tyrion Lannister. I found my contribution to that part of the discussion lacking, so I decided to demonstrate what I meant about Tyrion coming to dominate a scene that possesses real potential for chaos. The first part can be found here and really needs to be read for the following to make sense.

When we left off, what had been a hostile but orderly wedding banquet teetered on the edge of something. Relations had been frosty but fine until Loras Tyrell reminded people how legs work and walked away from the table, which inspired Tyrion to do something with alcohol. His father, Tywin, noticed his clever son noticing Loras and, aware that Tyrion can become a giant fucking lion when the mood strikes, strode across the hall to talk to him. However, his grandson  (twice-over) had a terrible idea: Joffrey “Baratheon” decided to humiliate his former bride-to-be, Sansa, but caught Margaery Tyrell noticing his planning-face and decided she should be part of it too. All of this happened via glances passing between parties. We resume mere seconds after the last post ended, with Tyrion staring at Sansa’s ass:

This is only unusual not only because, in recent episodes, Tyrion’s been shot in a manner that makes his head appear level to those of the people he’s speaking to. From the camera’s perspective, when he spoke to his father, sister or nephew, he’d ceased being a little person. But earlier in this episode, his height — and its relation to his sexual abilities — had been made an issue when he met with Sansa:

Such is what’s required of him not to stare at her ass. The contrast between this shot before the wedding and the one of his father — that’s Twyin behind him in the first image — is part of both Michelle MacClaren, the director, and Tyrion’s respective plans. In order to make himself appear drunker than he actually is, Tyrion abandons the pretense of being the willful supplicant and lets his eyes rest at their natural level. That it happens to coincide with Sansa’s ass is a happy and convenient coincidence that fails to impress his father:

Read more…

I see that you’ve seen that I saw you: miscommunication in “Second Sons” (Game of Thrones)

[ 23 ] May 25, 2013 |

This is a complement to the most recent podcast Steven Attewell and I produced, on “Second Sons,” in which we discussed, among many things—some of them kitten-related—miscommunication and the wedding of Sansa Stark and Tyrion Lannister. I found my contribution to that part of the discussion lacking, so I decided to demonstrate what I meant about Tyrion coming to dominate a scene that possesses real potential for chaos. But first let me make two noncontroversial statements:

  1. Prior to acquiring language, mammals developed the ability to use their eyeballs to control others’ eyeballs simply by looking around an environment.
  2. Filmmakers have long taken advantage of our inability not to follow the eyeballs of characters as they glance around the screen.

So if you walk into a crowd and everyone’s looking up:

I don’t care who you are or where you’re from, you’re going to follow their eyes and look up too:

It’s just natural—even if you’re really not from around here. The same logic applies when you’re watching a film. If all the characters look at something, your eyes will follow theirs. It’s the quietest means a director has to move your eyeballs where he or she wants them. Noisier varieties include dramatic movement, the sudden appearance of a new object or character, a loud unexpected sound, etc. Clearly these attentive systems evolved hand-in-hand: the first person who notices the sudden appearance of a new object may make a dramatic movement, which catches the attention of everyone else and compels them to follow that first person’s glance.

For example, if four people are in dining room and one of them notices a giant fucking lion in the kitchen, that person’s likely to make a dramatic movement accompanied by a loud unexpected sound; everyone else will turn to that person and then follow their glance into the kitchen, at which point they’ll also notice a giant fucking lion and panic will happen. At this point in our social evolution, however, we don’t need dramatic movements and loud unexpected sounds to compel our eyes to follow others’ glances—we just do it.

When coupled with all the social strictures that regulate who can look at whom and in what way and when, the potential for a director to make an audience very uncomfortable should be obvious. They can make us look at things we shouldn’t be looking at, or at things we can be looking at but are doing so wrongly, or most powerfully, they can use the sympathy or enmity they’ve already established for particular characters to make us pity or praise them for the direction of their glances. The wedding of Sansa and Tyrion is a perfect example of exactly how this is done by someone quite talented at doing it, Michelle MacClaren, whose episode of Breaking Bad, “Gliding Over All,” was all about staring and following stares. (In fact that second link contains images strongly resembling those about to follow, except this time, for ease of reference I’ll keep everyone’s eyelines a consistent color: Joffrey’s yellow, Tyrion’s teal, etc.) So let’s start staring!

Read more…

Their interest in the Kaitlyn Hunt case is purely academic

[ 188 ] May 24, 2013 |

It’s just a coincidence that Robert Stacy McCain’s infatuated with what he’s calling “The Teenage Lesbian Trial of the Century.” There’s nothing prurient about his interest:

[A] sheriff’s department arrest affidavit in the case says the 14-year-old ran away and spent that night at Hunt’s house, where the two teens “put their fingers inside of each other’s vaginas, put their mouths on each other’s vaginas, and both of them used a vibrator on each other to insert it in each other’s vaginas” …  Will prosecutors include the vibrator as Exhibit A? If readers want to send me to Florida next month to cover The Teenage Lesbian Trial of the Century, this would be a good time to hit the tip jar.

Nothing prurient at all. But given the attention this case is attracting among ideologically unattractive bloggers, it’s worth noting a few relevant details. Foremost among them, according to the official affidavit, the parents of the 14-year-old conducted a “controlled phone call” with Kaitlyn Hunt, the accused:

The day after that inflammatory phone call, Hunt was arrested. I’m not saying that she shouldn’t have been—statutory rape laws exist for a reason and Hunt essentially confessed to the crime during that “controlled phone call.” But context always matters in cases like this, especially when state laws dictate that while an 18-year-old man can be arrested for having sex with his 16-year-old girlfriend, that same 18-year-old man could legally impregnate his 15-year-old wife. Prosecutions of this sort depend on ignoring the existence of conflicting statutes, and they can do so because the conflict involved privileges traditional marriage.

Meaning that—besides his desire speak openly about fantasizing about the sex lives of teenage lesbians—McCain’s interested in this case because there’s no potential for conflicting statutes. The defense can’t claim that these two could’ve performed this act had they been married because gay marriage isn’t legal. This provides him and the other moral hypocrites linked above with an ostensibly unambiguous position: “This is a clear-cut case of illegal sexual activity because there exist no grounds under which it could be legal.” They have the moral high-ground!

They can claim that any liberal who compares this case to similar ones between consenting heterosexuals supports pedophilia, empowers sexual predators, etc. All those liberals are actually doing is demanding that the same standards be held to this case that apply in similar ones in which the specificity of the law creates situations that ideologues can abuse in bad faith. Will their next demand be that parents who take pictures of their infant children bathing be arrested? Of course not.

But why use that sort of common sense when you could attack liberals while drumming up interest in “The Teenage Lesbian Trial of the Century”?

“Second Sons”: an LG&M podcast on Game of Thrones with Steven Attewell and SEK

[ 42 ] May 23, 2013 |

We apologize for missing last week’s episode, but Google Plus had updated its “Hangouts” feature and we couldn’t find the new button. But it’s been found! Also, in this podcast we have a first: I’ve finally figured out how to incorporate images without making the resulting file too large for Youtube. So now if you’re watching the podcast, you’ll see the visuals we’re describing while we’re describing them. (At least mostly. I’m still experimenting with keeping the size down and the audio quality high. This is tougher than it looks.) In this episode we discuss making my students weep uncontrollably; the dynamics of the relationship between Tyrion and Sansa; the similarities between Dany and Walter White; the politics of Stannis Baratheon; and many other things beside. Enjoy!

Enjoy this fine podcast without the images I painstakingly inserted into it just for you.

Our very civilized discussion of the premiere (S03E01).

Fancy-talking about “Dark Wings, Dark Words” (S03E02).

Here we are blathering on about “Walk of Punishment” (S03E03).

Don’t watch — because you can’t — us discuss “And Now His Watch Has Ended” (S03E04).

The rudely interrupted first half of our discussion of “Kissed by Fire” (S03E05).

The second half of our discussion of religion in “Kissed by Fire” (S03E05).

In which we discuss “The Climb” sans spoilers (S03E06).

“The Climb” with spoilers (S03E06).

UPDATE: In case anyone’s curious as to the spontaneous fits of intemperate profanity.

Linguists of the Future take note

[ 51 ] May 21, 2013 |

This morning I heard a tornado compared to the physical equivalent of “the IRS-ghazi-gate.”

The Jew in me wants to insert a “ben” just to let people know that this shit has a father to blame.

My name is William Blake. Do you know my poetry? III

[ 94 ] May 19, 2013 |

Because it’s Sunday night and there are (and soon will be) so many new faces around here, I feel the need to remind y’all of who I am and why I “matter.” I welcome other authors to do the same. Point being, I’m an urban legend whose improbable tales just happen to be true. It all began one day back in March 2007, when I received email from a student I’d just failed, slightly redacted it, and posted it on the Internet:

My Teacher,

I appreciate you taking your inconvenience to instruct us but I really had some problems in your class and I would like to explain them to you now.  Every day I wanted to discuss with you about the way you grade my papers and the way you teach the class, but I could not because the things you say in class and your words disturb me so much I can not.  You make me completely uncomfortable with the little things you say in the class like how you talk about television or how you talk about when you are grading our papers and trying to be fair.  You do not seem to care about our grades only that they are up to your too high standards and I can not talk to you because you make me completely uncomfortable.  For example, you say you will talk to us about our grades but you really will not because of how uncomfortable you make me feel with your words and what you say.

I will plan to contest the grade you have given me in this class when I get it because I know it will be much higher with any other teacher.  I am a very religious man and you are not a bad person but you do not choose your words with enough care like a teacher should.  You try to be objective and the very attempt becomes your flaw because you try so hard to grade fairly and comment wisely that you become biased to your own ideas.  You criticize our writings because we are college students and young but do not realize that you offend most of us when you do this.  I am always offended when I go to your class and have been on many occasions but I never tell you of my offense because you make me completely uncomfortable so I never say a word.

You like to lead discussions and that is bad because it is the entire means by which we learn but we do not know what you want from us on our papers.   I have honestly no idea what I learned from you in this class because so much time was spent discussing the tiny details in the passages in the book and so if I learned anything it is how to read things in too much detail.  I could have read books in too much detail on my own but that is not what I came to college to do because I already know how to read and I would have told you this but you make me completely uncomfortable with your words so I never said a word.

By doing this you give us no guidance on our papers.  I thought it was lame that you decided to show a movie and a cop out because you chose not to give us any instruction.  I know that it was a movie based on the story in the play we read but it was not teaching to show it to us when you could have been teaching us to write what you wanted us to write on our papers instead.  The movie was completely racist and very offensive because it contained cultural stereotypes that are often used in disrespectful jokes about people who have their feelings hurt all the time.  I was offended by this racism and in the movie and had my feelings hurt by it.  If that was supposed to teach me something about the class I completely do not understand.

After this quarter I am hurt and tired and feel like talking to you now will do me no good.  I wanted to go to your office hours but I could not find the time or make myself because of your words.  I feel like my paper was written to the best of my ability in reference to your teaching skills in the discussions.  You grade my papers poorly but do not realize that you do so because they reflect your teaching skills.  Other people may have done well with your skills but I did not and would have talked to you but what you said about grading fairly made me uncomfortable.  I take my responsibilities as a man and I have never complained about my grades but this one I will because I did not need you to teach me how to read or to write.  I have made very high grades in all my other writing classes and even though I had many disputes with those instructors we always settled them to my happiness.  Now for the first time I can not talk to you to settle my grades because I am uncomfortable to talk or even write to you.  I should have stayed strong and like a man no matter how much your words and what you said offended me.  I do not blame you because when there is error there are two to blame, the perceiver and the target.  I do not know what this email does but I have to get my feelings off of my chest.  Thank you for reading this and I am sorry if what I feel has shown you disrespect but these are my feelings and I feel by your words you did not respect them.  I love everyone and believe you to possibly be a great person but with your words you have treated me completely unfairly.

I am a very religious man and I love every one but I will forward this letter to the head of your department so he can see that I am a serious student who does not deserve the grade you will give him because I write so very well.

First: I forgot to note that this turned into some lovely poetry.

Second: Other teacher/student interactions you might enjoy:

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