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Game of Thrones, only anime

[ 24 ] March 25, 2013 |

I haven’t shared a student’s RIP project in a while, so I feel I should remind you of what they are:

The final assignment of my visual rhetoric course is called Rhetoric in Practice (or RIP). It has two components. To paraphrase the rubric: the students create their own rhetorical performance, explore questions of how to target an audience, follow the conventions of a genre, choose the medium for their message, and all the while, use the critical tools they’ve been learning all quarter to develop their ideas. They then perform a rhetorical analysis of their own work via a detailed writer’s memo.

The pedagogical theory behind this is sound: by forcing them to do something fun at the end of the quarter, I get better evaluations the tools I taught them over the course of it become more solidly ensconced in their brain-space. Only this time, instead of deducing the rhetorical intent behind someone else’s decisions, they must decide how to communicate their message to their target audience most effectively.

One of the highlights of this quarter was a remake of the Game of Thrones opening credit sequence, only intended for an audience of the sort one finds at the University of California, Irvine:

I hope that, as a student project completed in a little under two weeks, this doesn’t violate Fair Use and won’t be taken down, but I can’t be sure. Also, I’ll credit the student when I hear back from her about whether she wants credit for it. Given that I’ve already had a Disney animator think it worthy of praise, though, I’m fairly comfortable sharing it with the world.

“Without edits, it’s not a film.”

[ 57 ] March 24, 2013 |

I’m watching the BBC documentary The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector, and you can too, for free:

It’s interesting more for the historical anecdotes than the Nancy Grace-style murder-narrative at its core — and I say that before reaching the point where they’ll talk about Spector threatening Leonard Cohen, Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan with a crossbow over the final mix of “Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-on.” For example, the notion that Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro’s careers could have killed by an injunction, and that only special pleading by John Lennon saved them intrigues me as a film scholar (40:40). But even more interesting is Spector’s discussion of “Be My Baby,” Brian Wilson and an “edit record” (44:28), which for him means a song that suffers because its seams are showing. “Good Vibrations” isn’t a good song because it’s

got a lot of edits in it, like Pyscho, which is a great film, but an “edit film.” Without edits, it’s not a film. With edits, it’s a great film. But it’s not Rebecca, it’s not a great story the way Alfred Hitchcock could make a great story.

I suppose this would make Rope Spector’s favorite Hitchcock film, what with all its invisible edits — or maybe that would make Rope Spector’s least favorite Hitchcock film, being that it’d be his most dishonest. Which is another way of saying that Spector seems to believe that a work in which a professional can ascertain the hand of an auteur is less valuable than one in which an amateur can. Because anyone can see the edits in Psycho, whereas it takes a trained eye to find them in Rope. At least that’s how I’m reading Spector’s aesthetic philosophy here: Wilson’s production of “Good Vibrations” is lacking because Spector can hear tracks end or overlap that the average person can’t. Except that doesn’t make any sense, because he’s basically arguing for his own insignificance, i.e. the greatest artists are the ones whose labor is imperceptible to the audience.

This criteria strikes me as counterproductive if you’re trying to claim that producers are artists. Just consider this excellent video about the production of The Beach Boy’s “Sloop John B.” I’ve queued it up to where Wilson’s editorial oversight becomes evident instrument-by-instrument, and I’ll admit that it’s clearly a highly edited song, but why would that make it less interesting to a producer than one like “Be My Baby,” which was recorded in a take, pumped into an echo chamber and transmitted into a studio? Spector seems to be arguing at cross-purposes here, fetishizing the act of capturing a sound in a moment instead of valuing the artistry required to combine various sources in order to match some ideal a composer only hears in his or her head. To muddy the waters further by introducing another medium, this seems like the equivalent of valuing Dubliners over Ulysses because the artistry is more evident in the latter than the former even though it abounds in both.

This may be one of those simple matters that only confuse me because I’ve studied aesthetic theory — only the learned can be so easily confounded — but I’m having a difficult time understanding what Spector means here. Because he seems to be saying that the best producers are really just building Rube Goldberg machines and recording the results, but that can’t be right, can it?

Happy birthday, Mr. Kurosawa

[ 55 ] March 22, 2013 |

Turn off the college basketball games you never care about when you’re not gambling on them and spend the weekend watching something worthwhile.

You’re welcome.

UPDATE: So long as we’re on the subject of cinema, feel free to discuss the relative merits of The Searchers if you’re so inclined. I say it might could be terribly racist. What say ye?

Please refrain from panicking until the authorities figure out which movie we’re in.

[ 20 ] March 22, 2013 |

Because when you think about it, there’s only about a 50 percent chance we’ll all be dead by morning:

Sympathy is for hypocrites (like Matt Yglesias)

[ 261 ] March 22, 2013 |

As you’ve no doubt heard, Matt Yglesias recently bought a townhouse. I know! Important news! He also paid a tidy sum for it, which means that he’s required, by the laws of this great nation Twitter, to disavow everything he’s ever written about progressive politics. As a property owner, he can’t espouse liberal beliefs any longer because he’s a property owner. That makes perfect sense if, as those on the right believe, all politics are personal. Because Yglesias can only be a hypocrite for purchasing an expensive home in a buyer’s market if you believe that class sympathies can only be extended to people in the same class as the sympathizer.

And if you believe that, as many conservatives do, you’ve sacrificed the very concept of principled belief to the satisfaction of playing “gotcha” politics. Which is all well and good so long as you don’t want people to believe you’re capable of understanding — much less possessing — principled beliefs.

All I will say about the CW’s Arrow

[ 43 ] March 21, 2013 |

… is that Captain Jack and River Song have already arrived, and this is the interior of Oliver Queen‘s club:

If this isn’t the nerdiest post ever to appear here, I shudder at the thought of what might “best” it.*

*I’m not saying this post is an entry in any sort of behind-the-blog competition, but I’m not not saying that it isn’t either.

How to remove a ring from your finger without a firearm

[ 71 ] March 19, 2013 |

[An astute reader brought the sad tale of Alfredo Malspini III to my attention, and lest any of you shoot off a finger to spite a ring, I thought I’d share some practical advice about ring-removal that I wrote up a few years back.]

There you are on a Saturday night, futzing with your wedding ring because your wife thinks your trichotillomania makes you look mangy: off your left ring finger, onto your right pinkie; off your right pinkie, onto your left pinkie; off your left pinkie, onto your right ring finger; off your right ring finger, off your right ring finger, OFF YOUR RIGHT RING FINGER, non et cetera. You pull and you twist; you pull while twisting and you twist while pulling all to no avail.

You look at your wife and you tell her, “I’ve misplaced my wedding band.”  She will look at you, j’accuse burning in her eyes, until you hold up your right hand. She will then enter the kitchen and return with the ingredients required to perform Step One:

1. Apply cold water and a little soap.  Gently work the soap under the ring and twist. If the ring still does not come off, massage the area of the finger below the knuckle to remove some of the fluid from the finger. Wait a few minutes, then repeat. Continue until the finger is good and chafed.

After fifteen minutes of repeated failure, your wife will walk back into the kitchen and return with the materials needed for Step Two:

2. Dry the chafed finger with hand towel, then apply the following in any order: water-based lubricants, oil-based lubricants, semi-solid fats, hydrogenated vegetable oils, as well as any lard, suet, ghee, tallow, or schmaltz you find lying around. As with the soap and water, work the slippery substance under the ring and twist and turn. Carefully slip a knife under the ring and try to slide it over the knuckle. If the ring-bearer cries in pain, ascertain whether its source is the ring jamming on the knuckle or the knife slicing into it.

This too will fail. Your wife will walk back into the kitchen yet again. Take this opportunity to try to wash your hilariously lubed finger. The water-based lubricants will dissolve quickly, but the oil-based lubricants, semi-solid fats, suet, schmaltz, &c. will take some time. Expect to find an oily residue scumming the top of the bucket used in Step Three:

3. Thrust your hand into the bucket of ice water which your wife has brought in from the kitchen. Leave it in there until the ring-bearer screams. When he does, shoot him a look of unconcealed embarrassment with a hint of disappointment, then allow him to “tough” it out for another three minutes. Once he passes out, remove his hand from the bucket and check to see that the desired amount of vasoconstriction has occurred, then repeat steps one and two.

You may notice that despite the intense cold and vigorous oily massaging, the area above the ring becomes increasingly swollen. This is normal. God designed the human body intelligently: when you unsuccessfully attempt to remove a ring from a swollen finger, your body responds by further swelling the finger. It may also turn begin to turn dark as more and more blood rushes to into the injured finger. Now would be a good time to consult the Internet. Find the Ask MetaFilter thread on “ring removal” and proceed to Step Four:

4. Do what the jewelers do: spray Windex on the finger and twist and pull. Do it again. Then again. The trick is to do this repeatedly so as to unlock the magical lubricative power of Windex. Then consider the probable reason jewelers use Windex: a jewelery shop consists almost entirely of display cases and Windex is sort of wet. At this point it will be past midnight. There is nothing more you can do. Put away the Windex and have the ring-bearer proceed to Step Five.

5. What you need to do now, ring-bearer, is drink enough vodka to catch a few hours of restless sleep in which you alternate between dreams in which you are Hans Brinker, son of a sluicer, and Hans Brinker, son of a space station captain. Alcohol is a diuretic, which should help with the swelling. Eat some pistachio nuts too, since salt absorbs water. There is also the chance that your finger may mysteriously unswell during the night.

6. You will awake to discover that your finger has not mysteriously unswollen during the night. That it has, in fact, swelled larger and darkened ominously. You should consult the Internet to learn that 1) fingers are naturally more swollen in the morning, 2) your body responds to a) alcohol-induced dehydration and b) the massive amount of sodium found in pistachio nuts by swelling. Now panic.

You may want to panic for a good long while. Remember, this is your right ring finger, and although you are ambidextrous, relearning how to do everything with your left hand will still be unthinkably inconvenient. Once you can breathe again, go online and learn what you need to do for Step Seven:

7. Elevate the hand above your heart for 15-20 minutes, then repeat steps one and two. When that fails to work, place a bucket of ice water on a chair, sit on the floor, then elevate it into the bucket and repeat steps three, one and two in that order. Pine for the mangy days of yore, then consult the internet again and proceed to Step Eight.

Step Eight will require string or dental floss, but have no fear, for it is endorsed by The Harvard School of Medicine.

Step Eight, Part the First:

“Pass an end of fine string or dental floss under the ring. With the other end, begin tightly wrapping the string around the finger. Ensure that the string is wrapped evenly and smoothly past the lower knuckle.”

Step Eight, Part the Second:

“With the end that was passed under the ring, begin unwrapping the string in the same direction. The ring should move over the string as the string is unwrapped.”

It should, but it will not. In fact, the act of wrapping the fluid-engorged finger will cause pain the likes of which reasonable people compare to birth-pangs. This will make your move to Step Eight, Part the Third particularly daring.

Step Eight, Part the Third:

Repeat variations of Step Eight, Parts the First and Second with packing tape, then Saran Wrap. When you regain consciousness, consider picking up the telephone and calling your local jeweler or emergency room. Exhausted interns and jewelers both keep one of these handy for just such an occasion.

Now pony up the $35 it costs for the jeweler to repair it, and resume plucking the hairs from your beard one at a time. If your wife complains, remind her of what happened the last time. If she insists on reminding you about your mother’s favorite story—about the time you got your head stuck in a toilet seat and the rescue squad had to be called in, and since your father drove an ambulance with that very squad, all the paramedics knew you and teased you  as they used the jaws of life to extricate your head,[*] and did your mother mention she has a picture of you bawling, the toilet seat around your head, which she took while she waited for the paramedics to arrive, because she does and it is around here somewhere—if she insists on reminding you of that, turn up the television and pretend you can’t hear her, because you can’t win this one.

Of course Obama is Satan.

[ 183 ] March 18, 2013 |

Whether you believe that Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni, the man portraying Satan in the Hitler Channel’s adaptation of The Bible, looks like President Obama depends on a number of factors, foremost among them your familiarity with people of other races. If, like many white conservatives, the majority of your interaction with people darker than you occurs when you watch the evening news, you see this image and are shocked by the similarity:

Just look at his skin! The deep set eyes! The wide nose! His ears aren’t visible but surely they’re identical too! Except they aren’t. This is why I force my students to pay very close attention to the actual frames they’re analyzing instead of relying on an uncritical sense of what’s being represented on screen. To wit:

I chose this comparison because it’s the one in which the likeness, such as it is, seems greatest. It’s important to note that it’s from the conservative Newsbusters site, meaning that it’s been selected in order to heighten the featural similarities between them. The President’s lips aren’t always pursed, and choosing an image in which they are creates some features that wouldn’t otherwise be there, but for argument’s sake I’ll pretend this is how the President always looks.

We’ll start our comparison with the forehead: not only is Ouazanni’s deeply furrowed, the muscles above his eyebrows are far more defined. Moving down to the glabella — the bit between the eyebrows — Ouazanni’s contains both vertical and horizontal furrows, whereas the President’s is smooth. Both have deep-set eyes, but Ouazanni’s are hooded and appear almost rectangular, whereas the President’s are almond-shaped. Beneath both of their eyes is a pronounced lower eyelid furrow which combines with an intraorbital furrow to create downward facing triangles on their cheeks. In this image, they both also have well-defined nasolabial furrows descending from the tips of their nostril wings out and around their lips to their chins, both of which are squarish. There are significant differences: Ouazanni’s cheeks are sunken, whereas the President’s are puffed; the shape and presentation angle of their nostrils is completely different, etc.

In other words, a simple description of the features of their face makes it possible to believe that they look somewhat similar — or that, as many on the right are arguing, Ouazanni looks like an older version the President. Except they don’t. The number of specific features a viewer needs to overlook — or be race-blind to — in order to claim a holistic similarity between the two is just too high.*

If you want to see a connection, enough featural similarities exist for you to do so, but only if you make a conscious decision to equate an image of Satan in a hoodie with the President. The number of distinctions you must overlook is equaled by the number your cross-racial identification bias prevents you from seeing. Factor in whatever intuitive model of aging you use to crease the President’s forehead and wrinkle his cheeks and it’s clear that quite a bit of cognitive processing has gone into the “intuitive” association between these faces. Which means you ought to ask yourself:

Why do I want to overlook these distinctions and age him in this way? The answer, obviously, is that you want to see what you think you see, and are probably upset that I’ve demonstrated how your “plain observation” has been filtered by political and racial recognition biases. So much so that your rebuttal will amount not to a refutation of the features I’ve identified, but by linking to the image again and insisting that anyone with eyes agrees with your holistic judgment. As Allahpundit admits, he now has “a new front-page thumbnail for when Obama pushes an especially terrible policy.” That’s all he really wanted in the first place.

*I’m not saying there’s no resemblance. Only that judgments about human faces are highly susceptible to suggestion, as analyzing them in detail, feature by feature, demonstrates.

Steven Crowder and his “funny” rape “jokes”

[ 44 ] March 18, 2013 |

CPAC supporters are very upset that The Huffington Post lied” about  “comedian” Steven Crowder’s criticisms of Ashley Judd. Here’s the “funny” rape “joke” that caused the fuss:

As you know, Ashley Judd has recently been heard equating both mining and purchasing Apple Products to “rape.” So my commentary at CPAC on her stupid, and insensitive comparisons was exactly this “This just in, Ashley Judd just tweeted that purchasing apple products is akin to rape … from her iPhone.”

Crowder was, according to himself, “Clearly taking aim at Ashley Judd for her stupid rape comments.” Which is all well and good, had the comments Judd made remotely resembled the ones Crowder attributed to her. Before getting to Crowder, let’s look at our favorite Confederate’s defense of him:

By tagging Crowder as a “Fox News contributor,” the writer of the HuffPo item signaled to liberal readers that the young comic is a hate-object.

It’s wrong to call Crowder a “Fox News contributor,” according to McCain, because it “signal[s]” something to liberal readers. You know who that criticism should be aimed at? The person who runs “” and identifies him “FoxNew’s brightest, funniest young Conservative mind.” Doesn’t that person know what he’s signalling?

His affiliation with Fox notwithstanding, Crowder’s comment is clueless for the simple reason that Judd never claimed that purchasing an Apple product was “akin,” metaphorically, to rape. She said, according to that bastion of liberal propaganda, The Daily Caller:

I am financing mass rape as I enjoy these ridiculously Global North ultra-efficiencies and conveniences, for large scale rape is the preferred predation mining interests use to humiliate and terrify local populations, in order to control resource areas.

The relationship she describes there isn’t one in which purchasing an Apple product is “akin” to committing rape, but one in which purchasing material something built with “conflict minerals” makes one complicit in the brutal tactics of the regimes who mine them. The difference between Crowder’s summary and Judd’s actual statement couldn’t be more stark: he thinks she equates all evils with “rape,” you know, like liberals do; whereas she’s specifically identifying how rape is used in a particular cultural context to “convince” people to work for slave-wages.

I’m not saying that Judd hasn’t made outlandish statements in the past, but this strikes me as Crowder doing what John Nolte and Jeff Goldstein and every other anti-political correctness crusader loves to do: telling jokes that white men are forbidden to tell by the dark and womanly multicultural establishment. Because it’s just as bleeding edge now as it was in ’77.

Don’t invite strangers into your home, it’s not safe. Neither is this puppy.

[ 22 ] March 17, 2013 |

Remember that commercial I mentioned last week that some thought an outright fabrication, others an episode of Too Cute seen through a zolpidem scrim ? It’s worse than I originally intimated:

Call him now, or the puppy gets it! What are you waiting for? Unsafe strangers from the Internet?

The Racists & The Shoe-Shine Boy

[ 223 ] March 16, 2013 |

I’m still waiting for reputable conservatives to repudiate Scott Terry’s statements, but I understand if they’re reluctant because I couldn’t prove that the Scott Terry whose reading list I linked to is the same Scott Terry from CPAC. Now I can:

Many of you are visiting this blog due to the recent CPAC controversy, where my friend Matt Heimbach and I, made national news by showing up and asking (in civil, articulate tones, mind you) a few simple questions.

What was our main concern?

There is a lot of rhetoric in the conservative movement about reaching out the mestizo demographic, or reaching out to the homosexuals and blacks.

Our question: why not reach out to whites?

In case you had any doubt about whether his concerns were racialist or racist in origin, here’s how he answers that question:

This is exactly what the GOP needs to do, as a matter of fact.  Steve Sailer and the guys at VDARE have done an excellent job in pointing this out.  Please educate yourself about the Sailer Strategy.

It’s not that he hates black people, he’s merely upset that

The GOP wants us all to blend together into a mocha-colored, capitalist utopia!

And he’s working on more reading lists! Here he is trying to define the “Kinist” canon. What’s so bad about that? So long as you also believe that God ordained the social order and advocate that man’s first duty is to “love one’s own kind,” absolutely nothing! And Terry takes “lov[ing] one’s own kind” very seriously. Just look at his alarm clock:

A beautiful white girl was slaughtered while taking a ride in the top of a double-decker school bus; the cry was heard:  “Wake up!”

Another beautiful white girl, the more beautiful because she was in the late stages of a pregnancy, was attacked by a gang of twelve savage animals.  A white lawyer stands in passionate defense of one of the animals.  The sane yell “Wake up!”

If I were a professor of rhetoric, I might have something to say about Terry’s choice of unnecessary adjectives here, if only because he seems as obsessed with the deaths of “beautiful white girl[s]” as a latter-day Nancy Grace. But that’s not to say Terry doesn’t have culture. He goes to the theater to see

a half-descent [sic?] portrayal of a group of Godless pagans, prancing around in their celebration of the downfall of Western Civilization.

Is that a pun or one of those Aryan-equivalent-of-Freud’s slips? Doesn’t matter. This man, with his belief in the separation of races and the divinely ordained social order (which he just so happens to sit atop), is clearly an outlier in the modern conservative movement. No real or respectable conservative holds these beliefs, or at the very least, no real or respectable conservative would air them this unabashedly.

A real or respectable conservative like National Review‘s Jillian Kay Melchior would write a paean to “[t]he simple shoe shine” in which, through great effort, she managed to avoid using the word “boy.” She would write nothing of the divinely inspired social order, but instead  let the accompanying photograph say a little something about it:

And unbeknownst to Mechior, this shoe-shine man, Dino Wright, knows exactly which game he’s playing when he “creat[ed] this entrepreneurial activity”:

CPAC and events like it boost business for Wright. He says he thinks it’s because he “provides a very important service to this very image-conscious group.”

You’d have to be as dense as Melchior to believe the “service” he’s paying to “this very image-conscious group” has anything to do with shining shoes.

You can tell Scott Terry’s a liberal plant

[ 147 ] March 15, 2013 |

Because he claims to have studied literature:

Or maybe not. Maybe he’s this “Southern gentleman and blogger,” also named Scott Terry and also from North Carolina, who is “working toward a degree in Philosophy and English, likes long walks on short beaches, fishing and breaking liberal talking-points into tiny pieces (then spreading nasty rumors about those pieces!).” Because they seem to have quite a bit in common. Both, for example, are very concerned about “standing up for our [sic] heritage as Christian white men.” Even if that’s a different Scott Terry, I will say this about the self-professed “Southern gentleman”: it’s about damn dime someone created “a conceptual ladder” that prevents Christians from “betraying [their] God and Father” on “[a]ll of [their] positions, from abortion to alien abduction.”

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