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Scott Eric Kaufman
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You're probably tired of hearing me on Hamilton, but too bad -- my blog my rules. I was thinking about the live performance Lin-Manuel Miranda did at the White House in 2009 that drew attention to the then-unfinished project, not because it's spectacular -- even though it is -- but because of how it demonstrated the power of literary speech to upend utterly the mood of a room. And not just any room, but one in which half of the people in it were side-long glancing at the president trying to figure out the appropriate response to this politically charged subject -- Hamilton's not an uncontroversial figure, after all, especially in a country in the midst of a series of banking crises like we were in 2009. But initially it's all a joke -- the audience laughs along when it hears contemporary Democratic talking points about "self-starters" -- until Miranda hits what appears to be the punchline at 2:16, "His name is Alexander Hamilton," the camera cuts to the president and first lady getting the joke, and from there it should have been political theater. But Miranda immediately undercuts it, barely even letting that laughter linger, with the next line, "There's a million things he hasn't done, just you wait, just you wait." He turns that punchline -- "Hello, this is me making a rap about the Founding Fathers, you know, for kids" -- into what's essentially a threat, "just you wait, just you wait." The lyrics start to unwrite themselves, start to unravel, as it becomes clear that the lyric "His name is Alexander Hamilton" shares more with ODB declaring "I'm the original G-O-D" than Broadway fare. And then the whole performance, at least from the audience's perspective, goes sideways. Political calculus becomes impossible as Hamilton's becomes a human story about a 10-year-old bastard and orphan, a self-made companion to a suicide becomes the quintessential story of the kind that -- when not about Founding Fathers, of course -- conservatives loathe. The story of an autodidact, sans family, who earns a place in history on the strength of his flow, and as you watch Miranda's performance you can feel the mood of the room shift. Of course there's room for criticism -- it certainly doesn't hurt that Hamilton's a white man who is, almost literally, the face of American capitalism -- but there's sympathy in those devils snapping along with something they'd otherwise revile. By the time Miranda enjoins the audience that "the ship is in the harbor now, see if you can spot him/Another immigrant coming up from the bottom," you get the feeling even Donald Trump would be on board. Continue reading
Posted Oct 23, 2015 at Acephalous
Apparently YouTube changed its search algorithm, allowing access to material previously available only in theory, and because it's Saturday night, I thought I'd share some of what I've found that has an SEK twist to it. First, when I went to find the video of Hamilton's first cabinet rap-battle, I found a slew of videos of cast members entertaining those in lottery line for tickets. I was watching this one when I realized that the woman they pulled out was my friend Kendra! (Who you may remember from this podcast.) If you're wondering whether I freaked out when she appeared, wonder no more -- I freaked the freaking fuck out. Also, the following is a testament to the show's power, even when it's being performed a capella on the streets of NYC: The second item I stumbled into is truly TARDIS-worthy, given that it's an Uncle Tupelo show from 1994 in which 1) Jay and Jeff weren't actively engaged in fisticuffs and 2) I was in attendance. I'd never been to St. Louis before and didn't know who Uncle Tupelo were, but after that night, I was a fan for life. Somewhere in that crowd of bobbing heads is an 18-year-old SEK who has no clue what life's about to start offering him. It's a strange form of nostalgia, watching a crowd you know you're in and wishing the next 21 years doesn't happen to him too. Continue reading
Posted Oct 17, 2015 at Acephalous
My email was added to some conversation about whether or not Robert E. Lee was a racist or a patriot, the majority of the claims made therein were beyond ridiculous, but I ignored it because I’m not one to feed trolls who write things like “You sought to destroy the legacy of a truly great man, and you were called on by alpha males, so shut up and crawl back in the sewer you came from.” But the sentence that followed that was one up with which I could not put, because it was delivered with absolute seriousness: “Don’t mess with bulls, you’ll get the horns.” To which I responded, because as a child of the ’80s, I couldn’t not: I have no idea who any of you are, or why I’ve been included in this ridiculous ‘conversation’ — it doesn’t matter what one believes, but what one fights for, and however brilliantly he fought, Robert E. Lee still fought treasonously in defense of slavery, end of story — but I couldn’t let this pass: Don’t mess with bulls, you’ll get the horns. Because whatever ‘alpha male’ wrote that failed to understand the fundamental point of that statement, which was that it’s the sort of thing a person who mistakenly believes he’s an alpha male says to a bunch of misfit teenagers in order to put them under his thumb, and his ploy fails spectacularly. It saddens me that some poor soul watched that film and that was the lesson he took away from it. Because what a sorry excuse for a life that person must live, always thinking he’s the bully because he’s not smart enough to realize just how ineffective his bullying is, strutting around declaring himself to be ‘winning’ before an audience that exists only in his mind. Feel free to delete my address from future replies, because I’m not sure I can bear much more of this sad masculine charade. I was merely killing time while the file I still need to transcribe before bed was uploading, but of course, he responded and I’m incapable of not doing likewise, at least not tonight: I’m your worst nightmare prick. Now get back in the men’s room with the other girls. You’re nothing of the sort. You’re a sad, insecure man spouting his nonsense on the Internet, unaware that he’s making a spectacle of himself by quoting masculine lines that anyone with half a brain would understand were meant to emasculate the character in context. It’s a distressing display, as I noted, so I guess you are my worst nightmare — I’d hate end up as pathetic as you clearly are. I thought that’d be the end of it, but no: Go tell mommy. You seem quite fond of talking about other people’s mothers, which makes it abundantly clear that you have issues with your own. Would you like to talk about them? Did you she not applaud your feats of masculinity adequately enough? Because that would cause... Continue reading
Posted Aug 13, 2015 at Acephalous
I'm fucking terrible at writing headlines, so I hired me a cocksucker who can: This one stares, with his fucking big-boy beard & what some Yankee cocksucker mistook for a fucking fashion statement — The Swearengen Times (@swearengentimes) August 13, 2015 Nurse your fucking wounds, New York. They're a sovereign fucking country & you don't even have a fucking navy @Salon — The Swearengen Times (@swearengentimes) August 13, 2015 Invisible accusations emanating from invisible sources, or what some people think of as fucking progress. via @Salon — The Swearengen Times (@swearengentimes) August 13, 2015 Get a fucking haircut, you loopy fucking cunts. It looks like your mother fucked a muppet. — The Swearengen Times (@swearengentimes) August 13, 2015 Continue reading
Posted Aug 13, 2015 at Acephalous
As those of you who follow me on Facebook know, this is a sanitized version suitable for public consumption, but I’m damn proud of it anyway. (It still reads to me like someone took a 5,000 word draft and chopped it down to 1,500, but since that’s what I actually did, I’m sure I’ll always feel that way.) Continue reading
Posted Jun 7, 2015 at Acephalous
Bet you never saw that one coming -- but I have proof! Not only did I not come out on top, I didn't even inform the audience who I was. The panel was running late and I was so eager to get it started for the audience that I just whizzed through my introduction -- including the part where I told them my name and theirs -- so I'm sure I offended them, and I hate that. I only hope the thoughtful, respectful nature of my questions made up for the initial awkward/awfulness. But in all seriousness, I doubt that I'll ever interview three people with the global standing and reach of these three men. Point being, this is the blog's greatest moment -- "peak Acephalous" if you will -- so we ought to cherish it. Or something, I'm not sure, even watching it again, I'm a bundle of nerves. Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2015 at Acephalous
You can read the whole thing here, but here's a taste: “Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War” is a remarkable achievement both as a work of history and visual literature, providing a broad overview of the complex circumstances that gave rise to the bloodiest conflict in American history, while simultaneously making those deaths meaningful by capturing fleeting moments amid the slaughter in panels so beautifully wrought as to beggar description. The book is a collaboration by Penn State historian Ari Kelman, who won the 2014 Bancroft Prize for “A Misplaced Massacre,” about the unecessary 1864 slaughter of the Cheyenne at Sand Creek, and Jonathan Fetter-Vorm, whose 2012 graphic novel “Trinity” worked as both a detailed history of the building of the first atomic bomb and a philosophical meditation on its impact on humanity. In short, it would be difficult to imagine a creative team better suited to capturing the tragic magnitude of the Civil War on an intimate and harrowing scale. Its engagement with actual history is on par with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s engagement with fictional history in “Watchmen.” If I still taught visual rhetoric, I could easily see pairing the two books and discussing the way in which, for example, Kelman’s stunningly concise summaries of the troop movements and Washington politics impact the reader’s experience of the pages that immediately follow. Consider, for example, what Kelman told me was his favorite sequence in the book, which begins with an update on the war’s progress via an ersatz edition of the Harrisburg Bulletin... Continue reading
Posted May 24, 2015 at Acephalous
Thanks to my new job, I not only have weekends off -- I also have money! And one of the things I have purchased with this money -- so many of those words feel really odd to type -- is an iPad and a subscription to Marvel Unlimited, which allows me to read every Marvel comic with the exception of the most recent six months of publications. Given that I haven't read comics regularly in a decade or two, I don't think that's much of a problems. Point being, I'm now having many thoughts about comics and I thought "Why SEK, you have a blog, why don't you write about them?" So I think I'll make this a regular Sunday feature, starting today with a few "panels" from Ms. Marvel: Jake Wyatt's been rightfully acclaimed for his work on this book, but this page in particular is fascinating. At first I felt it was partly enabled by the new technology of comic book-reading, inasmuch as it's "directed" by an algorithm that moves you from area-to-area within a panel. For example, on the iPad that page would look something like this: Followed by this: Followed by this: Like I said -- a "directed" reading. But it quickly occurred to me that I was wrong, at least partly, because the page really is playing with traditional comic book and basic reading conventions. There's a real tension between the text and the image in this, beginning with the fact that the first "panel" -- and I'm using scare quotes for the obvious reason that there are no traditional panels on this page -- is in the lower left-hand corner of the page. That's not where the eyes of English readers begin, so the first difficulty in understanding this page is simply one of figuring out where to start. Your eye has to search the page, replicating writ small the difficulty Ms. Marvel and Wolverine are experiencing as they try to navigate out of the sewers. But even if they find a way, it's not going to be easy, as the barely pubescent heroine who's still discovering the limits of her powers is forced to haul a cranky 300-year-old man with an adamantium enhanced skeleton. How would an artist represent the difficulty of this endeavor? With words. There's an up-down conflict built into the text-image relationship. As they struggle up through the sewers, your eyes follow the text down the page. In effect, the images are hoisting your eyes up the page while the text pulls them down -- a near-perfect replication of the struggle being depicted on that page itself. Continue reading
Posted May 10, 2015 at Acephalous
I can't think of a better way to win friends on social than to write an article in which I bag on Louie and defend beat cops: As any television critic will tell you, there are two constants when it comes to televised drama, “cops” and “doctors,” and the current moment is no exception. For example, you have a wide selection of police procedurals to choose from: old hats like “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”; more family-oriented fare like “Blue Bloods”; shows that are only tangentially about cops, but are still police procedurals, like “Elementary” or “Person of Interest” or “Bones”; and you even have comedies that work within the trappings of the police procedural, like “Brooklyn 99.” Except none of those are actually “cop shows,” because they’re all about detectives. (Which is, yes, technically a rank, but is conventionally depicted as entirely different profession.) In fact, the majority of shows aren’t about cops at all — they’re about individuals too intelligent or talented to be lowly patrol officers, who have transcended the beat and work in the rarefied world of investigation. That is not to say that uniformed officers don’t make an appearance on these series, because they do, but when they’re not relegated to bit players at crime scenes — the blue drones in the background collecting evidence or being asked to canvas a neighborhood — they’re inevitably fucking up. This dynamic was neatly encapsulated on a recent episode of “Elementary” — CBS’ loose adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes– in which Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) is asked by the daughter of the New York Police Department’s Captain Thomas Gregson (Aidan Quinn) to assist her in breaking up a ring of thieves hitting up local drug stores. Hannah Gregson (Liza Bennett) is just a lowly uniformed officer, so she seeks out Watson’s help — and Watson isn’t even an actual detective, she’s an assistant “consulting detective” — in order to discover the identity of the thieves, a problem that’s been vexing Officer Gregson for weeks. Two scenes later, Watson has not only discovered who the thieves are, but how to use them to infiltrate a much larger prescription drug smuggling operation. She hands Officer Gregson a file containing everything she needs to initiate what could be a career-making bust, and what does the beat cop do? She immediately arrests the low-level operators, thereby allowing those running the criminal enterprise to go to ground. Why does she do this? According to her own father, Captain Gregson, it’s because she’s not that bright — she settled for the small score because her beat-cop-brain isn’t capable of conceptualizing the abstract connections required to take down a smuggling ring. “She is what she is,” Captain Gregson tells Watson. “I love her, but I love this job too, the people who can actually do it.” And on that note, the episode fades to black, as if it’s a fact of precinct life that current uniformed officers just don’t have what it... Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2015 at Acephalous
SEK wanders out of THE BAR after saying many fond farewells one of his oldest friends only to find THE COP hunched over the side of his car in what appears to be a puking position. SEK: Are you all right? THE COP: Fine, fine -- just had a bad Sprite. SEK: I don't think that's a thing. THE COP: Must have been bad. SEK: Are you sure you're alright? THE COP: (grabbing his side) Yeah sure -- you can just -- I can -- SEK: Bad Sprite's not a thing. When my wife grabbed her side like that she had to have her appendix re -- THE COP: I'll be -- I'm -- just you -- SEK: I'm calling 911. (calls 911) I'm with a police officer and he's in a lot of pain -- 911 DISPATCHER: Where are you located? SEK: I'm at [location] THE COP'S CAR: Officer [In Extremis] are you OK? THE COP: (moans) 911 DISPATCHER: Is the officer OK? SEK: He doesn't seem to be. Should I tell the person in the car that? THE COP: I'M OK! SEK: He's not. Don't listen to him. 911 DISPATCHER: Keep him still -- help is coming. SEK looks at THE COP, who is now moaning on the ground in pain not borne of bad Sprite. SEK: I'm -- on it? 911 DISPATCHER: This is on you now. Keep him talking. SEK: So tell me more about this bad Sprite... Continue reading
Posted Apr 22, 2015 at Acephalous
Here's my first long-read culture piece for Salon -- and not surprisingly, it's about something extremely nerdy. Excerpt: The larger argument the show makes is about the nature and necessity of different kinds of heroism — and the kind of social responsibility they entail. “Daredevil” almost never strays from Hell’s Kitchen, an area of New York City which, the audience is repeatedly told, was effectively demolished by the events in Joss Whedon’s first “Avengers” film. The Avengers were responsible for repelling an alien invasion, which is highly commendable, don’t get me wrong — but someone has to pick up the pieces of the society that’s shattered by the collateral damage, and that’s what shows like “Daredevil” are explicitly about. In fact, all of the shows Marvel will be producing with Netflix take place in this same small slice of the Marvel cinematic universe — and all of them address the human cost of having your city host a Hollywood action sequence. This is something Hollywood itself has never done, and television only rarely. Even the closest, the third season of “Battlestar Galactica,” had the feel of a reconstruction happening elsewhere, due its visual and narrative references to Iraq. Daredevil’s certainty — and the desire for it — isn’t a reflection on the world the audience lives in, but in the large cinematic one Marvel is creating. Which is, I acknowledge, something of a cop out. The work is produced and proving to be quite popular in a historical moment rife with divisions between the authority of those who govern and the people they are supposed to protect — but in traditional noir fashion, the show is quite critical of the established authorities. “Daredevil” does not encourage viewers to kowtow to police, as the NYPD is institutionally and irrevocably corrupt... Continue reading
Posted Apr 14, 2015 at Acephalous
For a long time now I've teased y'all about my theory that Mad Men is really all about Sally instead of Don "The Dick Whitman" Draper. Here's my attempt to prove it once and for all. Because it's something I wrote, I don't find it nearly as compelling as it should be, but if nothing else it's a means of starting to reevaluate an ensemble show that's -- understandably -- tied to the idea that its lead character is a dapper silhouette of a man. Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2015 at Acephalous
I grant you — no pun intended — that the image there is probably the least Flash-y image of Barry Allen I could find online, but I assure you that you’ll enjoy the hour-and-a-half Amanda, Arturo and I spent talking about the CW’s hit series. We covered all the angles as only the three of us could — meaning that Amanda and Arturo said very smart things about race and class and gender while I just cursed once in a while to remind people I exist and how I roll. In all seriousness, though, I hope you enjoy listening to this as much as we did producing it. Download and listen to the podcast here. Continue reading
Posted Apr 6, 2015 at Acephalous
So my soon-to-be-former Raw Story cohort Arturo Garcia and I decided we had things to say about the sixth season of Community, and what better place to say them then in a podcast?* It contains spoilers for all episodes up to the fourth as well as rampant speculation as to how the season would conclude in an ideal world. *I say "soon-to-be-former" because I got a new gig as a staff writer/assistant editor at Salon and my thinking is, "life-altering announcements are always best made in footnotes." I start in mid-April and will have more details about what I'll be doing there in the next few weeks. Listen to the podcast here. Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2015 at Acephalous
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