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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!

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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!

How to Subscribe to Lawyers, Guns & Money: The Podcast

[ 14 ] January 25, 2013 |

If for some inconceivable reason you prefer your podcast clean-shaven, you can skip watching Rob and I debate the merits of The Hobbit and download it in .mp3 format or listen to the lot of us discussing all sorts of things in the years to come by subscribing to the RSS feed for the new podcast (We’ll also slap a link to it in the sidebar shortly.)

The .mp3 is a little bare-bones at this moment—striking a balance between Hannity and NPR without sounding like the mutant child of Steven A. Smith and Ira Glass is exactly as difficult as it sounds—but I’ll be working on introductions and segues and reminders that unlike its competitors, Lawyers, Guns & Money is a user-supported blog that can’t continue to provide the coverage of whatever it is we cover without the continued support of readers like you. So if you have a used car that’s just sitting in the garage collecting dust, considering donating it to me because mine’s making this cluh-tunk-a-tunk sound every time I accelerate. Where was I?

That’s right: one danger of having the deaf guy in charge of the volume knob is that what sounds right to me might cause you immediate and permanent damage, but I think I’ve got the volume and volume-leveling of the .mp3 within the normal range. If not just drop me a line.

An Awesome & Mighty Thing, This First Ever Lawyers, Guns & Money Podcast Is

[ 66 ] January 25, 2013 |

It features Yours Truly and the Farley fellow you see primping there in preview—or wearing a hat, now that I had to re-upload the video—and we’re talking about The Hobbit. You’re … welcome?

It goes without saying that there are kinks to work out—if only because I’m in charge of the production—and that while many Internet Traditions are honored, some are violated. Case in point: the blog’s beloved ampersand is a monstrosity in the font the rest of the credits need to be in. (I promise that sentence will make perfect sense once you watch it.) An “enhanced” audio file will be available shortly, though I can’t vouch for the quality of said “enhancements” because we haven’t figured out what they’ll be yet outside of “enhanced.”

But fear not! You’ll learn many things in this podcast, including (but not limited to) which of you lot inspire us to invent gang signs just so we can throw some in your honor. And also many things about The Hobbit.  Enjoy!

[Rob] Apparently I make extremely effective martinis…

Fellowship of the Ring: Conventions of Genre, Sorta Kinda Part the Second

[ 181 ] January 24, 2013 |

(Actual Part the First can be found here.)

The answer to the question of why some films are more re-watchable than others seems, to me, a matter of unpredictability of shot selection. We can all watch episodes of Law & Order half-asleep because we all know that any close-up of one character’s face will reverse to a close-up of his or her interlocutor’s. (The possibility of deviating from the script-bible is basically asymptotic: the staleness of the formula makes it look increasingly likely but it can’t ever actually happen.) And despite my general objections to Fellowship I’ll admit that its iconic scenes are rightly remembered because Peter Jackson bucked his horror roots and embraced an unpredictability that verges on randomness. To wit, consider the scene-setting that preceded Gandalf’s most infamous exclamation, which begins half-way through the mines of Moria with a close-up on Gandalf:

Fellowship of the ring00004
Did I say “close-up”? I meant “extreme close-up,” because Jackson’s lopped off the top of his head. That might not seem so important, but consider it in more mundane terms, for example, if this were a picture you took of a friend at a party. How happy would your friend be with a photograph in which he’d been a “bit” beheaded? How would you feel about framing your friend’s face such that it shared the spotlight with a few lines of mortar and some unfocused negative space? This shot feels wrong because it violates the conventions that makes Law & Order and the like such successful soporifics. It’s an ugly and unbalanced shot, but I’d wager it’s meant to discomfit, if only because Jackson’s going to repeat it so frequently in the next three minutes that this is the last time I’m going to mention it. Just remember that it’s wrong to borrow chunks of people’s heads for rhetorical effect. From here Jackson cuts to Frodo:

Read more…

Damn it, Bill

[ 73 ] January 21, 2013 |

I defended Obama against Althouse et al.‘s unfounded and visually illiterate accusations, but I just can’t bring myself to back the Big Dog when he’s so obviously enjoying the view:

Because nobody has any other reason to read.

[ 43 ] January 13, 2013 |

LITTLE KID comes to SEK’s door to retrieve the basketball he launched onto SEK’s porch.

LITTLE KID: Hi. My basketball landed on your—WOW. You have so many books!

SEK: I know, I’m a tea—

LITTLE KID: ARE YOU A WIZARD?

SEK: Why else would I have so many books?

LITTLE KID: (turning around) MOM HE’S A WIZARD! I MET A WIZARD!

SEK: Let me get you your—

LITTLE KID: WIIIIIIZZZZZZAAAAAARRRRRRDDDDDD!

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