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Scott Eric Kaufman
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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
My new column is up! And the title of it references a beloved Internet Tradition! Sample: What had, minutes earlier, been an audition for the role of “child” in a production of “family” has transformed into one for the role of “cog” in “drug enterprise.” The confusion created by placing these scenes back-to-back will resonate throughout the season, as Taystee must decide whether Vee is a caring mother figure or an exacting boss. Initially, at least, she seems to understand the difference—but as the episode progresses, the amount of emotional energy she invests in acquiring a job becomes increasingly excessive, making the stitching of these two scenes together seem increasingly meaningful. Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2014 at Acephalous
My latest Internet Film School column at the AV Club is open for business! Sample: The camera communicates a psychological state, but the logic C.K. follows here isn’t predicated on the uncertainty of dreams so much as the tedium of depression. Everything is the same visually, in terms of the shot selection, but the situation is growing worse. Louie is increasingly a show about the mundane yet fraught experience of depression, and this mood is reflected in C.K.’s direction. Continue reading
Posted May 22, 2014 at Acephalous
But only because the episode demanded it be. I don’t want to raise your expectations going forward too high, after all. Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2014 at Acephalous
Watch the podcast — which, and I’m not overstating it, may well be our best, or at least most entertaining, given that we were both in a state of hyper-informed quasi-delirium when we did it — below: Audio available here. Continue reading
Posted Apr 29, 2014 at Acephalous
I thought twice about checking in just to argue... You're always welcome here, Rich, and it's good to hear from you. I worry, you know. People read recaps for the same reason they read criticism of a book they've just read, to see if a reading of it by a critic will give them a different way of thinking about it, and point out things they've missed. I guess it's the genre -- a recap isn't really criticism, except in the passive way that all summaries necessarily involve a process of selection, i.e. what plot elements are considered important enough to worth mentioning or lingering on. so are you indicating tension about what you're writing, or what the format is constraining you to write? More the latter than the former. I always taught summary as the first step of criticism, so now that I'm a journalist, I'm starting to feel like I'm writing the first draft of history -- even if it is the history of a television show. Yes, that's all true, but haven't they gotten it already? Eye height and gaze direction, very important, used by directors to produce intended effects. I don't think so, or at the very least, people don't seem want to slow down themselves enough to produce the close-reading of a scene, but are more than happy to read a close-reading of one once I do it. In fact, they're clamoring for it -- my inbox is full of requests for me to break down the Purple Wedding in a Zapruder-like fashion to figure out whose gaze met whose and said what, etc. And I'm about half-way done with it, because it's incredibly complicated -- so on the one hand, yes, this is the sort of basic stuff that people intuitively understand, but on the other, the more complex the scene becomes, the more difficult it is to read intuitively, so breaking it down via eye-lasers becomes an exercise similar to what I did with the Keats almost a decade ago. it also did show that repeated interaction with interested people could lead to some progress in what you could talk to those people about. Writing for Raw Story and the AV Club necessitate thinking about audience differently. It helps that the AV Club is actually called "The Internet Film School," but I'm still being asked to develop the readings very slowly, so that anyone new to it can still understand what's going on. And the Raw Story is journalism, except for the recaps, but the recaps are their own animal, as discussed above. Ideally, I'd have enough time to do the basic breakdowns at Raw Story and the AV Club, then do more complex analyses that assume that people remember what I've written previously here and at LG&M, but I lack the energy at the moment. Doing nothing but sitting at a desk writing for nine or ten hour shifts makes one less inclined to want to sit at a desk and write -- especially when I'm working on a novel at the same time, and want to save some energy for that. And it's possible to have a really long argument about this, especially if you look in detail at what that Ember Island Players episode was trying to do, but it seems that you're writing in a place where that can't happen. I'm not going to say it can't happen, only that it hasn't yet. There have been some great comment threads at the AV Club, for example, ones that rival some of the best I've had anywhere online. I think once people come to expect my recaps at Raw Story, they'll start to understand what I'm getting at and start pushing me more, but that's just a matter of building an audience. That said, as sites as large as Raw Story, you sort of have the audience you have, not the one you deserve (or think you deserve), just as a matter of scale.
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It’s the only Game of Thrones recap worth reading even if you’ve already seen the episode. About which — I’m still not entirely sure why people like to read recaps of shows they’ve already seen, but people clearly do. I must be the outlier here. Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2014 at Acephalous
I suppose you could say Jeff VanderMeer was generous with his time when he agreed to do what turned into a 3,000 word-long interview about his new novel, Annihilation. A sample: SEK: The novel reads very much like the world it describes—utterly familiar, yet slightly off at all points. Was that your intent? (For example, on 59, you describe “Something like a body or a person,” which makes perfect sense, yet is incredibly disturbing. What is like a body or a person that’s not a body or a person?) JV: I hike a lot in North Florida, and from a distance, things look like other things. A bat can metamorph into a bird when seen closer. A creature on a log becomes just a stubby branch. A seeming tree trunk is actually a bear. You think you are going north, but suddenly, through some daydream of lapse of attention, you get turned around. These are, in a sense, reminders to us that the real world is stranger than we usually think. Imagine being able to spy on the processes going on around you while even walking down the sidewalk on your street—the plants employing photosynthesis and speaking to each other in chemical emissions, the ants with their pheromone trails, the fungi with their spores. Why, there’s still crowded and noisy cosmopolitan situation all around you, but you can’t experience any of it because your senses are these stunted, incomplete systems. You’ve got eyes that can’t see the whole spectrum. A cat would laugh at your stupid sense of smell. Your sense of taste is pathetic compared to many creatures. Your sense of touch is put to shame by your average gecko. So the world is in a sense laughing at you anyway, or on some level ignoring you completely, and your sole contribution is the ability to tread too heavily on a dandelion and break its stem. So if we’re honest the world should feel slightly off at times. The world should at times reveal some glint or glimmer of greater processes ongoing. Something like a body or a person. Something like a shadow or a creature. Something like a sudden clue… SEK: On page 111, you note that the pile of journals describing Area X will soon become Area X itself. This strikes me as a literal version of “contact narratives,” in which what an explorer writes about an area he discovers becomes how future generations understand it. (Describing cities of gold in the “New World” leading explorers to “discover” such cities, even though they only ever existed in print.) Are these books [in "the Southern Reach" trilogy] an exercise in, call it, “creative geography”? Re-shaping the world by describing it? JV: I must admit my minor in college was Latin American history, and I’m sure there’s a sedimentary layer in the back of my brain that, in soaking all of that conflicted and difficult chronology, has peeked out through some of the observations in Annihilation. I guess I... Continue reading
Posted Apr 26, 2014 at Acephalous
Child of a blood relative of SEK’s roommate, upon learning that SEK’s not a blood relative of his roommate: CHILD: So, do you have a last name? SEK: No, actually, I was born without one. CHILD: God let you do that? SEK: Yes. CHILD: Can you get him to take mine back? I want mine to be ‘Pouncing Cat.’ SEK: I’ll see what I can do. Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2014 at Acephalous
You can read my full recap here, but just in case you want to know where I come down on the episode’s most controversial issue: Speaking of still being alive, Jaime Lannister is, and he’s a man, and he has needs. In a reversal of the Jaime-is-becoming-a-better-human-being plot, here we have a sex-starved Jaime raping his sister over the body of their dead child — in other words, we have a return to the incestuous relations that make King’s Landing the city we love to hate. As for whether it’s a rape, director Alex Graves told Alan Sepinwall that “it becomes consensual by the end, because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle.” Which means, yes, it’s rape. So, there’s that out of the way… My podcast with Steven Attewell on the new episode of Game of Thrones is also available: Audio available here. Continue reading
Posted Apr 23, 2014 at Acephalous
Posted Apr 10, 2014 at Acephalous
...here. Since I don't actually read re-caps, I had to pretend I knew what kind of information they contain and the imagine the kind of attitude I would have toward it. Meaning, yes, I probably just channeled my not-so-inner asshole and made a sarcastic mess of it. But that's why you love me! Also available now is the Lawyers, Guns & Money podcast Steven Attewell and I did on the first episode. Enjoy! Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2014 at Acephalous
This revelation would’ve blown my mind back in 1992, but as it stands, I’m just glad I got to totally nerd-out on a former president. Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2014 at Acephalous
I'm waiting for a copy to arrive in the Onion's backend -- wow, that sounds awful, but you know what I mean -- but I do plan on writing something about it, have no fear.
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You’ll never guess who it is: Professor teaching class on vigilante justice is pepper-sprayed by vigilante seeking justice But of all the bloggers out there who aren’t me, he ranks high on the list of bloggers-likely-to-be-peppered-sprayed-by-a-troll. NOTE: Since I am writing thousands of words a day, I think I'm going to start posting links to them here. I mean, this is my place, I can do what I want, right? Continue reading
Posted Mar 27, 2014 at Acephalous
SEK'S NEIGHBOR: (standing beneath a tree, yelling into SEK's window) HEY, ARE THESE YOUR STICKS? SEK: (under his breath) Don't say "they're probably the tree's," don't say "they're probably the tree's," don't say "they're probably the tree's." SEK: (out his window) THEY'RE PROBABLY THE TREE'S! SEK'S NEIGHBOR: SO THEY'RE NOT YOURS? I CAN THROW THEM AWAY? SEK: YOU CAN DO WHAT YOU WANT WITH THEM! SEK'S NEIGHBOR: SO I CAN THROW THEM AWAY? SEK: SURE! SEK'S NEIGHBOR: BECAUSE I'M GOING TO THROW THEM AWAY! SEK: GO AHEAD! SEK'S NEIGHBOR: IN THE TRASH! SEK: GOOD JOB! SEK'S NEIGHBOR: THANKS! SEK: YOU'RE WELCOME! SEK'S NEIGHBOR: GOOD TALK! Continue reading
Posted Mar 9, 2014 at Acephalous
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How do you think Twitter reacted to the recently released trailer of the Will Smith-produced Annie remake? Pretty much as you'd expect... Continue reading
Posted Mar 7, 2014 at Acephalous
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"God, why did you create so many fucking idiots?" Given that I also write for The Onion, I feel I should point out that this article is not from The Onion. But if we were better people — did less of that awful sinning against the Lord and stuff — we could live in a world where it would be. Continue reading
Posted Mar 6, 2014 at Acephalous
My new "Internet Film School" column is up. Sample: Typically, romances rely on a small stable of predictable-but-effective techniques that convince the audience it’s witnessing the first, chemical blush of fresh love. The most basic of these techniques is the two-shot, in which the director places both prospective lovers in the same frame. A series of two-shots, stacked one after the other, has a cumulative effect on the audience, which begins to expect to see these two characters together in every shot. After a while, shots that only contain one of the lovers will strike the audience as oddly empty, even if the sole lover in it is centrally framed in a way that would make it impossible for the other to be in the shot. By manipulating audience expectations in this way, the missing lover becomes an absent-presence in the film, something the audience wants to see. If the director only includes one lover in shots for an extended period of time, the audience will begin to feel that something is “wrong,” because the director is confounding the expectation he or she created. When the director relents and fulfills that expectation with a two-shot of the lovers reunited, the frame suddenly seems somehow more “correct” to the audience. The problem Jonze faced in directing Her becomes obvious... Continue reading
Posted Feb 20, 2014 at Acephalous
GUY AT SEK’S DOOR: Hey friend, it’s windy, ain’t it? SEK: I guess. GUY AT SEK’S DOOR: Mind if I park in your driveway? SEK: A little. I might need to use it. GUY AT SEK’S DOOR: Thanks, I’ll just be a while. SEK: I didn’t say “Yes.” GUY AT SEK’S DOOR: You want me to park in the street? SEK: It’s not a heavily trafficked road. GUY AT SEK’S DOOR: It’ll just be a while. I won’t block you in. SEK: You will, in fact, be blocking me in. And what happens when my wife gets home? GUY AT SEK’S DOOR: Can’t she park on the street? The head SEK doesn’t have explodes. Finis. Continue reading
Posted Feb 14, 2014 at Acephalous
While at The Raw Story retreat last weekend in San Francisco, my colleague Arturo Garcia and I had a long conversation about the show that went something like this... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2014 at Acephalous
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Can be found here. It concerns "realism" in film, and how utterly awful the working definition of it is. Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2014 at Acephalous