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Scott Eric Kaufman
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I neglected to post a link to this last week, but I thought some of you might still be interested in an article on the Internet even if it is almost one whole week old. Sample: This is where the inherent tension in the contemporary long take comes from: The director forgoes conventional editing to telegraph intended meaning, instead employing a technique that urges the audience to consider the subject of the shot to be increasingly meaningful. The long take also allows directors to use the standard magician’s ruse of having “nothing up his sleeve,” because the absence of cuts appears to indicate that there is neither time nor opportunity to insert special effects in a shot. Obviously this isn’t true — everyone unfortunately remembers Cloverfield — but the suggestion persists that a long take can’t be manipulated because some things can’t be faked in real-time. Which is why it’s interesting that the opening shot of Birdman — before the ASL has even been established — consists of Riggan (Michael Keaton) performing the oldest trick in the magician’s handbook: levitation. Continue reading
Posted Mar 9, 2015 at Acephalous
SEK needed to go to an ENT because his right ear is on the fritz. So he went to VERY YOUNG ENT's office in Prairieville, Louisiana, which may or may not have any bearing on what follows. VERY YOUNG ENT: (looking at -- but not reading -- SEK's medical file) This is a really thick file you have here. SEK: I do what I can. VERY YOUNG ENT: (putting down file) So what seems to the be the problem, man? SEK: My right ear is on strike. VERY YOUNG ENT: (puts otoscope in SEK's ear) Whoa, dude, how do you hear anything out of this? SEK: I don't at the moment. VERY YOUNG ENT: I mean, what about ever? SEK: What about ever what? VERY YOUNG ENT: What about how do you ever hear anything out of it? It's like your ear canal is upside down, man. SEK: It's not ideal. VERY YOUNG ENT: And what's up with your eardrum? SEK: (looking longingly as his unread medical history) There's a -- VERY YOUNG ENT: Giant hole in it, man. How'd that happen? I mean -- SEK: Tubes. Many sets of -- VERY YOUNG ENT: You don't need to tell me. That's giant -- like, giant. How are we even having this conversation? SEK: (resisting to the urge to say, "What conversation?") With effort. VERY YOUNG ENT: No doubt, man, no doubt. So it's not infected, it's just -- SEK: Weird? VERY YOUNG ENT: Very weird. Let me look something up. (leaves) And that's where SEK's story ends, at least for the moment, because SEK is still in the room where the VERY YOUNG ENT left him. After about 30 minutes SEK got so bored sitting in the room that he took out his laptop and wrote this. SEK isn't sure whether the VERY YOUNG ENT is coming back, or even if the VERY YOUNG ENT's offices are even open anymore. The rest of the story is available at Facebook because sorry, that's just where people "live-blog" stuff now. Continue reading
Posted Feb 27, 2015 at Acephalous
SEK was -- as you well know -- once a respected academic who hobnobbed with the people at the very top of his discipline. So he is accustomed to meeting people whose work he has invested days and months of his life into. But none of them were on the television and apparently that makes a big difference, as SEK learned at the Dallas Comic Con this weekend. SEK was wandering around in a futile attempt to keep up with one of the Con's organizers, Devin Pike, when he "accidentally" ended up in the "backstage" area where the talent hangs out when they're not signing or taking photographs. And before you ask -- if you give SEK media credentials he will "accidentally" end up a lot of places he's probably not supposed to be. That is the nature of SEK and even if he didn't do it deliberately the universe would oblige. Or possibly insist. So SEK was "backstage" and he walks smack into the preternaturally charming John Barrowman. SEK: (audibly gasps) ...! BARROWMAN: (reading SEK's name tag) And you! SEK: (trying to remember what words are and if they mean) ...! BARROWMAN: And where do you media, Scott? SEK: The Onion. BARROWMAN: I love The Onion! You should hire me, I'm hilarious! SEK: (losing his words again) ...! BARROWMAN: Great to meet you, Scott, gotta go! And then he danced out of SEK's life forever. SEK takes comfort in the fact that, at least, he got two words out in the face of Captain Jack's relentless charm offensive. In SEK's defense he did fare better here than the first time he met Gay Talese. That was an unmitigated disaster. Also, for those of you who amused by such things -- here was how to find SEK at the Con. He is nothing if not consistent. Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2015 at Acephalous
SEK is on his way from Baton Rouge to Houston. Outside of Scott, Louisiana he witnesses a bus try to switch lanes, clipping the car in front of him and sending it spinning into the median, where it finally comes to a halt on an incline, almost sideways. The bus just keeps on going. SEK pulls over, exits his vehicle, and walks back toward the car and peers into the car. SIDEWAYS GUY is slumped over unconscious on his deployed airbag. Then – MYSTERIOUS VOICE: Hello, are you OK? SEK (confused): Are you OK? MYSTERIOUS VOICE: Are YOU OK? SEK (still confused): I’m fine. Who are you? MYSTERIOUS VOICE: Who are YOU? SEK (still, yes, confused): I’m Scott. MYSTERIOUS VOICE: And where are you? SEK: (you guessed it) Scott. MYSTERIOUS VOICE: No, WHERE are you? SEK: (baffled) Outside of Scott, Louisiana. MYSTERIOUS VOICE: Don’t worry, help is already on the way. At this point, SEK FINALLY realizes he’s been talking to an OnStar representative and he hears sirens. The EMS and police arrive, and SEK points to unconscious SIDEWAYS GUY and starts talking to the cops. COP: Could you describe the vehicle? SEK: It was a bus. It had the [company name written] on the side and… COP: And what? SEK: It had a cartoon character on the side of it, and it was… COP: What was it? SEK: This is going to sound terrible, and you know I’m trying to be helpful, but… COP: But what? SEK: I’m pretty sure it was a cartoon pig dressed up like a cop. COP: A cartoon pig — dressed up like — a law enforcement officer? SEK: I’m pretty sure. COP: OK — you wait here. SEK then repeats his story to a few other officers, and is informed he will be contacted on Monday to be deposed, as he is the only witness to the accident. BUT THERE’S MORE — BELOW THE FOLD! First, about an hour and a half a few hundred miles later, SEK sees a bus pulled over and surrounded by cop cars and he feels jubilation because he makes for one BAD ASS eye witness, and… Second, here’s the logo of the company — does this not look like a pig in a cop’s uniform? Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2015 at Acephalous
It is 23°F and SEK is rolling home from the store with a car full of cat litter and sushi when he spots his HAT-HATING NEMESIS wearing a hat while taking out the trash. SEK: (to himself) The worm has turned! SEK slows the car down as he approaches his HAT-HATING NEMESIS. SEK: (to himself) This is gonna be great — I’m gonna nail his hat-hating ass for wearing a hat in the middle of winter. I’m gonna be even more Internet-famous now! HAT-HATING NEMESIS looks at SEK as he performs a patented “Prairieville drift” into 20 mph terrority. SEK: (to himself) Time to roll down the window and give that fucking hypocrite what he deserves. HAT-HATING NEMESIS raises his arm and politely waves at SEK. SEK prepares to roll down the window and give him the ol’ what-for when… SEK’S CAR STEREO: “Shouldn’t I have all of this — shouldn’t I have this — shouldn’t I have all of this and — passionate kisses!” SEK: (VERY ALOUD) FOR FUCK’S SAKE! SEK hits the gas and speeds off in shame. Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2015 at Acephalous
I know 2015 is only five days old, but I really think this one's going to be a contender. And lest you think that that headline wrote itself, consider The Daily Mail's version based on my story. Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2015 at Acephalous
…you shouldn’t be surprised when I choose Satan. Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2014 at Acephalous
Because it’s my birthday and I have the God-given right to behave insufferably on it, I’d like to complain about this otherwise excellent list of the top 50 comic book artists that Brian Cronin at Comic Book Resources has put together. Obviously, there are problems with objectively ranking art and what-not, but despite a bit of presentism, the list is mostly solid. My complaint is with the analysis — or more accurately, the lack thereof. For example, Cronin includes this sequence of panels from Amazing Spider-Man #230: And says this about them: “Amazing. His character work is different now, but his page designs are the same and they’re still excellent.” I know Cronin’s capable of more — and again, because I have the right to be insufferable today anddemand more — I’m going to provide more. Want to know why this sequence by John Romita Jr. warrants his inclusion in any top 50 list of comic book artists? Panel 1 is open — that is, without defined borders — and that openness is used to indicate that events depicted within it don’t have a predefined outcome as of yet. This kind of non-panel paneling is often used in splash pages at the beginning of epic tight-filled battles, with hundreds of dozens of characters spilling over each other in a mad rush to do justice. But here, despite the openness of the panel, Romita Jr. opts for intimacy — not only are Spider-Man and the Juggernaut the only two characters in the open panel, but they’ve been transported into a Beckett play. There literally is no world beyond their struggle and the words they have to say about it. In Panel 2 — properly bordered as the outcome becomes more clear — the Juggernaut is still the dominant figure, and his defiant words occupy the bottom half of the panel. But as Spider-Man starts to get the upper hand in Panel 3, the compositional balance shifts. Peter Parker’s thoughts start to crowd the action further down the panel, and no matter how hard the Juggernaut tries to pound him off — as indicated by the little stars dancing around Spider-Man’s head — Parker’s indomitable will is proving to be the decisive element in this fight. In Panels 4 and 5, Spider-Man’s thoughts about responsibility are allowing him to subdue his much more powerful opponent. The weight of those thoughts is allowing the slight web-slinger to defeat a man who goes by nom de guerre “Juggernaut.” Romita Jr. is using these first five panels to compose a stunning tribute to the power of will to triumph over brute strength — or it’s just a set-up. Panel 6 is a close-up of the Juggernaut’s gums, which had stopped flapping for a few panels there, indicating that he’s having mobility issues. Given the way the world fell away in Panel 1, the close-up in Panel 6 works like the final beat a comic holds before delivering the punchline — which in this case is... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2014 at Acephalous
SEK’S LESBIAN FRIEND: Crap — just realized I won’t be able to make your birthday party. SEK: That’s fine. I didn’t want to play any Indigo Girls songs anyway. SEK’S LESBIAN FRIEND: You were the one who introduced me to the Indigo Girls! Just play your favorite so I can attend in spirit. SEK: Fine — I’ll play “The Wood Song.” SEK’S LESBIAN FRIEND: Your favorite Indigo Girl’s song is “The Wood Song”? SEK: Yes. SEK’S LESBIAN FRIEND: “THE WOOD SONG”? SEK: What? It’s gorgeous. SEK’S LESBIAN FRIEND: “THE WOOD SONG”? SEK: Fine — “Romeo and Juliet” then. SEK’S LESBIAN FRIEND: WRITTEN BY A MAN! SEK: How am I losing this argument? SEK’S LESBIAN FRIEND: God damn straight people. Continue reading
Posted Dec 20, 2014 at Acephalous
So I almost landed an interview with Kirk Cameron about why he thought his new film was the lowest rated movie on IMDB, but I heard back from his people and apparently he found something I wrote yesterday “terribly disappointing” and called it off — which I found weird given that I didn’t work yesterday.* But in case you’re wondering what it’s like to be vetted by Kirk Cameron’s people, it goes something like this: SEK is being interviewed by Kirk Cameron’s Handler (KCH) for a potential article. KCH: Kirk wants to know if you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, Christ the Savior. SEK: I attended CCD for a few years and studied Latin in college. I translated a lot of the Church Fathers — Augustine, Aquinas, and the like. KCH: That’s really interesting, really. So you know about sin? SEK: I know more than anyone cares to about the danger stealing pears from your neighbor can pose for your soul. KCH: So you were raised Catholic? SEK: Catholic and Jewish. KCH: You know Hebrew? SEK: Passably. KCH: Kirk’s a big fan of Hebrew, big fan. SEK: It’s the only dead language to be revived. KCH: I didn’t know that, did not know. That’s really interesting. Are you gay? SEK: I am not. KCH: Good, good, just need to dot those “t”s. Have you ever been gay? SEK: I have not, but I’m not sure how that’s relevant to my ability to discuss film. Did you read the links I sent? KCH: I did, and they were great, great. Loved them, loved. But some of the language was not quite Christ-like. SEK: I can adapt to my audience — we’ve been talking for twenty minutes and I haven’t cussed once. KCH: That’s true, true. Good. What are your feelings about “gotcha” interviews? SEK: They get you one good moment, but burn your reputation for being fair-minded to people you disagree with. KCH: So you don’t like them? Hate them? SEK: I can’t do my job if people don’t trust me to treat them fairly. KCH: That sounds fair, really fair. How do you think this is going? SEK: Pretty good. KCH: I think so too. I think we can make this work. I like you. SEK: Thanks. I like to be likable. KCH: Which is why I’m worried about the state of your soul, but we can talk about that later. SEK: Do I need to be saved to do the interview? KCH: Kirk would definitely be more comfortable, definitely. SEK: ? KCH: Definitely. SEK: ? KCH: Let me pass this on to Kirk, and I’ll let you know. *I did however write this on Facebook and I suppose he could’ve found that offensive. Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2014 at Acephalous
I spent two glorious hours on Graphic Policy Radio last night ostensibly talking about NBC's Constantine, but as the title of this post indicates, we got a little digressive. You can listen to the entire podcast below: Check Out Pop Culture Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with graphicpolicy on BlogTalkRadio Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2014 at Acephalous
In the summer of 1998 or thereabouts -- dates are difficult to differentiate in the whorl of undergradute years -- I found an orange kitten huddled underneath my back porch. It was winter and the kitten seemed starving, so I did what I could to introduce it into my household, which at the time consisted of one very angry and possessive woman who was having none of this interloper, so when my neighbors mentioned having lost their kitten the next day, it was better for everyone involved that he return home. Two years and two kittens later -- the latter having been semi-almost-successfully integrated into the household -- my wife and I were returning from an ill-timed trip to the grocery store. The Louisiana rain did as Louisiana rain does, soaking everything beyond the telling of it and as my wife and I shuffled our groceries out of the car and into the house, a wet orange ball followed us in. Without even bothering to introduce himself, the cat who would be Finnegan walked over to a food bowl and began eating. His silence -- as we would soon learn -- was unusual. He had, it seemed, been hungry for some time, so we took him in for the night. I checked with the neighbor the next day to see if she had misplaced her orange cat again, only to discover that my neighbor had moved. Finnegan had not been welcome there anymore for reasons anyone who ever knew him would be incapable of understanding. Granted, he did enjoy chewing through wires -- and the more expensive the equipment they were attached the better. But the attention being paid to the noises in the headphones was better spent on him and he needed you to know that. But he wasn't sure you did -- so he asked you questions. Finnegan always asked everybody questions, his voice rising into an interrogative with every subsequent mew. Because he was never satisfied with any answer and would engage you in an endless interrogation into matters only he understood fully. I mention this because the house is so quiet and unquestioned since his passing. I walk around wondering why the world's allowed to just exist and am reminded of the absence of its inquisitor. Most of the time I think he was asking whether this or that inedible substance was edible. We sometimes referred to him -- with love -- as "the Finnegoat" because he would eat anything and did so with evident relish. It was his waning appetite that clued us in to the fact that something was wrong, and that something, as is often the case with elderly cats, fell to his kidneys. We managed his condition with medication for almost five months -- five months in which I should have spent more time with him -- but in the end he let us know his time had come with his silence. The bright boy who once questioned the world quieted his... Continue reading
Posted Nov 28, 2014 at Acephalous
Not quite, Spike -- I just wrote an Internet Film School column about the Thanksgiving episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer for the AV Club. Sample: Thanksgiving is a holiday that allows filmmakers to get back to the medium’s theatrical roots. No elaborate sets are required — just a table and some people who know each other so well they decided to come together once a year rather than interact regularly. It is a chance for film to scale back its visual ambitions and look like a play without stumbling into the stodgy stage direction of an old episode of Masterpiece Theatre. Only unlike those film adaptations of dramatic works, there is a natural quality to the limitations placed upon a film that happens on Thanksgiving. Everyone looks like they’re in the same place not because the theater couldn’t afford better sets, but because everyone is trapped in the same confined spaces by strained familial bonds. Because if ever there were a time and a place for families to fall apart, it’s Thanksgiving. Families fall apart all the time — I consider “families falling apart” to be a genre, and Noah Baumbach the current king of it — but never as spectacularly as they do during Thanksgiving. Perhaps as alluded to above, it is because of the artificially pressurized atmosphere the holiday creates. People who don’t particularly like each other are yet again forced to make extended displays of false joviality in order to please the one family member who actually cares about everyone. Sometimes that character is a doting mother, sometimes a dying father, or in the case of the “Pangs” episode of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, an empty-nested Chosen One whose surrogate family is on the brink of collapse... Continue reading
Posted Nov 24, 2014 at Acephalous
I believe if you start reading here you’ll be able to see exactly what I’ve been dealing with tonight…but that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m writing this because some people — who can not be proven to be the people involved in that conversation — are threatening to tell my employers that I’ve been accused of sexual harassment and am therefore an enemy to “true feminists” and “feminism” everywhere. They’re also claiming that I failed to act appropriately in another awful incident and this, I admit, is why I’m angry enough to write this post. All of which tells me everything I need to know about them who would doxx me — I say let ‘em, as I know y’all remember things I’ve done that are far worse or more impolitic. Right? Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2014 at Acephalous
On the Japanese version of Ringu and why she's having so much fun up there. Sample: The most interesting visual element in this shot is the perspective implied by the camera placement. By partially obscuring the view of Reiko Asakawa, Nakata suggests that this might be a point-of-view shot, thereby planting in the minds of the audience the idea that perhaps she’s being watched—and that the audience might be sharing the perspective of whoever (or whatever) is doing the watching. The fact that the camera is perfectly still here adds to the unease, because that lack of movement alone suggests the watcher may (or may not) be in plain sight, yet is undetected and wishes to remain so. In classic horror fashion, Nakata wants his audience to inhabit the mind and perspective of a stalker. And you know what? Being a stalker is dull... Continue reading
Posted Oct 30, 2014 at Acephalous
COP: Have you noticed anything unusual this morning? SEK: Not to my knowledge. COP: Nothing at all? Not even a…suspicious dump truck? SEK: A suspicious dump truck? I’ve seen a lot of dump trucks across the street, at the construction site, but I don’t know what would make one suspicious. COP: You know, like one that didn’t look like it…belonged with the other dump trucks. SEK: Sorry, they look like a happy little dump truck family to me. COP: I understand. Just keep your eyes peeled, and call me if you see anything suspicious. SEK: Will do. Continue reading
Posted Oct 22, 2014 at Acephalous
It is 4 a.m. I am alone downstairs, when all of a sudden, in the kitchen, I hear someone saying, “Hello? Is anybody there? Hello?” “Hello,” I reply, and walk in. No one is there — except for my cat, Virgil, who is sitting on the counter. I shoo him away, think it must have been the thunder, or the early hour, that confused me. Then my roommate’s phone rings, and goes to voice mail. Rings, and goes to voice mail. Rings, and goes to voice mail. Finally, I walk into the kitchen, grab his phone off the counter, and say, “Hello, this is my roommate’s phone. Can I help you?” “Is everything OK?” a man asks. “Why wouldn’t it be,” I reply. “I got a call, heard strange noises, then a muffled voice calling for help.” I assure him that everything is OK, and he seems satisfied. As I place the phone back on the counter, I realize: GOD DAMN IT VIRGIL YOUR ASS JUST SCARED THAT POOR MAN HALF TO DEATH. THE END Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2014 at Acephalous
So, as noted yesterday, I went on Graphic Policy Radio and discussed the series of premier of Gotham, which you can listen to here: The more serious discussion concerned how a show whose conclusion is foregone can actually survive -- after all, even though Gotham is going to focus, somewhat Wire-like, on the internal conflicts of the police and various criminal organizations, in the end we all know that the situation's going to deteriorate to the point at which the only answer is a wealthy orphan patrolling the night in a fetish bat outfit. Still, that leaves room for a good 10 or so seasons of watching the city fall apart, and that could certainly be gratifying, but only if the series creators understand what they have and how to use it. Which brings me to the second David Simon reference in this post, because I think the show's ceiling could be something like Homicide: Life on the Street. Consider how that show began, with Tim Bayliss catching the Adena Watson case, and how it haunted him through all six-ish seasons. In a similar fashion, you know the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne are going to haunt Gordon, and you know that he -- like Bayliss -- is going to form an unhealthy attachment to both the case and those left in its wake. Do I think Gotham is going to reach these heights? In all likelihood not. But do I think that it has a higher ceiling than most quasi-procedural cop dramas currently on television? I most certainly do. On a side note, we also established the most appropriate possible context for one of those Internet traditions I started awhile back: SO JUMP OFF THAT BUILDING YOUR THE GODDAMN BATMAN You know -- because he is. Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2014 at Acephalous
I’ll be on Graphic Policy Radio again tonight discussing Fox’s new Batman-related show Gotham. The show begins at 10 p.m. EST and you’re more than welcome to call in, tweet at me, or drop me a line on Facebook if you have something you’d like to add to the program — or if you’d just like heckle or berate me. The choice is yours! Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2014 at Acephalous
If you're interested in what I have to say about Guardians of the Galaxy, I was a guest on Graphic Policy Radio radio talking about it last night. I made a number of claims about the film, foremost among them its indebtedness to mid-period Marx Brothers films. I also said quite about something I kept calling "old-school sci-fi wonder" -- though I have no idea why I became so wedded to that phrase -- and Parks and Rec, because anytime I have the opportunity to discuss Parks and Rec, I will. UPDATE: I forgot many of the interesting tangents we went on, e.g. What would a science fiction film that wasn't anthropocentric actually look like, and would it ever get made? (For example, can you imagine a film version of an Iain M. Banks novel?) AND ALSO: All of the "Bert Macklin, FBI" stuff on Parks and Rec -- his deep commitment to his flights of fancy -- always reminded me of what Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes would've grown up to be like, so Guardians of the Galaxy struck me like a "Spaceman Spiff" serial. Check Out Pop Culture Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with graphicpolicy on BlogTalkRadio Continue reading
Posted Sep 16, 2014 at Acephalous
Posted Aug 21, 2014 at Acephalous
SEK went to the supermarket to pick up tuna fish for his elderly cat who now only eats food that also contains tuna. As tuna is on sale, he purchases twenty cans of it and is on the checkout line in front of POLITE DRUNK MAN. POLITE DRUNK MAN: You don’t eat all them cans, now? SEK: Wasn’t planning on it. POLITE DRUNK MAN: TV say they full of Menicillin. SEK: Mercury? POLITE DRUNK MAN: Menicillin, bad for the children, real bad. SEK: I promise not to share it with any kids. POLITE DRUNK MAN: Menicillin’s terrible, make ‘em have miscarriages. SEK: The kids? POLITE DRUNK MAN: Ain’t even get a chance to be kids, they born miscarried, or with arms. SEK: I’ll keep that in mind. POLITE DRUNK MAN: Dead babies with arms, that’s what Menicillin do. Best watch out. SEK: I will, promise. Continue reading
Posted Aug 8, 2014 at Acephalous
SEK takes his car to TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN in order to make sure it won’t explode and kill him when he makes a road trip next week. TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: You just put a new battery in it? SEK: That I did. TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: Means your electrical is reset, our computer can’t do a lot of the tests. SEK: So long as its fluids are replenished and it doesn’t have murder in its heart, I’m fine. TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: So when do you need it by? SEK: I have a meeting at 2 p.m. TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: I don’t think I can have it done by 1:30. SEK: No a problem, I work online. Just need to be back home and I live around the corner. TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: What do you do? SEK: I write online. TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: People do that? SEK: As long as they pay me to. TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: I thought that was computers did that. SEK: ? TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: They don’t have that shit programmed out yet? Our computer tells us what happened with a car, figure it was the same with what the President said and shit. SEK: I don’t think they have a computer that can do that. TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: Couldn’t be worse than what they’ve got. Continue reading
Posted Jul 15, 2014 at Acephalous
Being that I’m the kind of person who has his own film school and what-not, I decided to read Esquire’s interview with the now-not-but-soon-to-be-again-retired Stephen Soderbergh. “Could be edifying,” I thought to myself — and it was, especially this passage: A real litmus test for me is how people treat someone who is waiting on them. That’s a deal-breaker for me. If I were on the verge of getting into a serious relationship and I saw that person be mean to a waiter — I’m out. That’s a core problem. You’re being mean to someone who’s helping you. What is that? Everyone knows who the assholes are, and I avoid them. Because it’s a funny story, but in the ’90s I actually waited on Steven Soderbergh quite a bit, and if that’s his litmus test, he didn’t pass it. Not even remotely. Because as memory serves, when Soderbergh was a regular at the used bookstore/coffee shop I worked at, his treatment of me then would’ve been a deal-breaker for him now. One particularly memorable conversation involved his then-obsession with Ambrose Bierce. I’d placed the special orders for the books myself, so I knew they’d just come in the week before Mr. Ambrose Bierce Expert saw me reading Mason & Dixon behind the counter. He proceeded to excitedly tell me, at length and with some volume, that I was wasting my time reading Thomas Pynchon, because Ambrose Bierce was where it’s really at. He went on and on and on, enthralled by his own love of Bierce — which, after I became an Americanist and read him, I believe is totally justifiable. But the point is, Soderbergh wouldn’t just have failed his own criterion for the measure of humanity, he would have done so spectacularly. Which, as a friend on Facebook noted, might be the point. He might have chosen his worst character trait as the defining characteristic of humanity because it’s something he had to overcome, and given the depth of charity to the underprivileged and unvoiced evident in his work, I’m tempted to believe that. Because as much as I despised him as a patron when I had to deal with him, I can’t help but admire — however begrudgingly — what he’s done with himself in the years since, especially Che. I know I’m defending the film against an idiot of an ideologue at that link, but even if I had to defend it against Roger Ebert himself, I’d do so with the same vehemence… …despite how I feel about the man personally. He’s just that talented, damn it. There’s a real humanity to his late-period work, especially in the films that everyone hated because they dealt with unsavory subjects like prostitutes or viral pandemics or Che. So on behalf of all the baristas and book-store employees he berated before he came to understand this truth as being self-evident, I’m just going to go ahead and forgive him. Continue reading
Posted Jul 9, 2014 at Acephalous