Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bitter fruits

Today's Times reports that Hillary Clinton has openly joined John McCain and the Republicans in attacks on Democrats.

Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain separately criticized him as being out of touch with the middle class...
Mrs. Clinton issued several statements criticizing Mr. Obama, including ones that contained criticism from Republicans.

Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for Mr. McCain, issued a similar response.

Do people still question my observation that she is a Republican? Yes, yes, I know they do, but you'll see that it will become increasingly more difficult to deny as the election approaches.

You know, I read Bob Somerby and Eschaton and follow the links enough to know that Chris Matthews and Tim Russert are irredeemable clowns, but until recently had never actually seen them. Since getting cable, I've done reasonably well at ignoring the bad cartoonish political coverage, but have to confess that I've paused and watched in horror on occasion.

The other night I saw what must be the most jaw droppingly stupid conversation I've ever seen in my life. Matthews and Russert were discussing when Hillary would drop out of the race. They discussed the conventional wisdom that she would drop out if she didn't win Pennsylvania by a wide margin or if she got trounced in North Carolina. Believing that she would drop out in either of those scenarios is ludicrous enough, but one of them went on to predict that she would drop out after winning Kentucky and some other state in landslides, so she could go out with some victories. I'm not joking. One of those cretins actually predicted that.

I guess it's remotely possible that she would quit the race if she started losing every state by more than 20 points, but I doubt it. If she can't win, she'll stay until the bitter end (and it will be bitter) in order to inflict as much damage on the Democrats as possible. And if the unimaginable happens and she is not allowed to play Kang to McCain's Kodor, I wouldn't put it past her to pull a Lieberman and run as an "independent."

Nice picture

This photo was taken by Phil Mansfield for The New York Times. It is an excellent example of good composition in photojournalism.

It nails pretty much every traditional rule of composition. Note how there are three sets of parallel lines going from left to right and expanding outward across the image. Following those lines from right to left leads your eye straight to the subject, which is placed in one of the prime aesthetic spots. The subject is well-lit and the reflection is a nice touch.

From a photojournalism perspective, when you look at the actual content of the picture, it does a good job of illustrating the story. That, and it tells some other stories on its own.

Personally, if I were looking at it as art rather than photojournalism, I would consider removing the car. The argument for removing it is that it is distracting. The argument for keeping it is that it points right at the subject, further helping to frame it. I'd need to actually do the work to remove it and compare before deciding.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Inklings of a glorious future

I made an unfortunate joke the other night at the dinner table. We were discussing American Idol and how bad the winners were and trying to remember their names and in what order they had won and that led to the revelation that none of us could remember the name of the big fat gospel singing black guy.

I asked if he had died? No, I was assured, he was still alive, just no longer on television. Well, I said, he’s probably reduced to singing at churches on Sunday for fried chicken.

My teenaged daughter gave me a fairly severe degree of “the look.” What? It’s just a joke. Get it? No, I don’t get it. Well hon, you’re just 16. Perhaps it was a bit too sophisticated for a young’un?

That brought about the 16-year-old drama queen stomp off to the room scene, which we see quite often. The rest of us finished dinner, retired to the living room and continuing discussing the mysteries of Paula Abdul.

A few minutes later, the teenaged one stomped into the living room with a thin sheaf of papers. Do you know what this is? she asked. Paper? Yes, obviously, but what is on these papers? Words? I’d guess. Right, she said and threw them down on my lap. This is Barak Obama’s speech on race! You should read it!

I have read it, I said, it’s a great speech. Why do you want me to read it now?

You are making fun of a black man eating fried chicken! And the obese and churchgoers, too!

Ah, of course. I realized right away what she was talking about. The racists’ fried-chicken eating nigger stereotype. I had forgotten about that.

You must understand, although I was raised in a racist environment (as are we all), I was not raised with that particular stereotype. When I was growing up, our family, and just about everyone we knew, went to church on Sunday morning and ate fried chicken at grandma's after church. If the church had some kind of event after the service, they always served fried chicken. So you see, I don’t associate eating fried chicken with any racist claptrap. I associate it with going to church.

Hon, I patiently explained, life would not be worth living if we can’t make fun of fat people and church goers. Then I told the above story of my fried chicken eating childhood and pointed out that my ability to make fun of an obese black church goer eating fried chicken without a smattering of racist intention was evidence that I was already living in a post-Obama speech world.

That led to another dramatic exit, but she left Obama’s speech. I tossed it on the coffee table and we went back to our conversation about Simon Cowell’s hand gestures.

Anyway, back to the big picture. Based on that anecdote and similar stories I’ve read about young people heckling their parents in the name of Obama, I believe I’ve seen a hint of the future. It could very well play out along the lines of what’s happened in our home.

A few days later, the family was gathered around the television watching Hell’s Kitchen, which featured a fat black guy among the contestants. That guy is a joke, said my wife. Aha! I picked up Obama’s speech and threw it at her. You should read that!

Since then the speech has been put to good use every time one of us mentions anything remotely race related. We saw a short guy on the news robbing a convenience store with a machete. Probably a Filipino, said my daughter. Whack! My wife hit her with the speech. I made a disparaging comment about McCain being a tired old white guy. Whack! My son hit me with the speech. And so on.

So you see, this is how Obama’s speech could lead to a politically correct utopia. As the years progress, more and more people will hit each other with the speech when anything that could remotely be viewed as race related is mentioned. Everyone will carry their own copies of the speech to whack people with. Marketers will produce whacking speeches for every target audience. Small children will have Nerf speeches. Teens will sport them like IPods in a veritable rainbow of colors. The intelligencia will carry theirs in pockets of suede while business people carry theirs in leather briefcases. A cult of purists will whack themselves with the speech whenever the name of a color crosses their mind. They will have special thorn laced speeches. Spies and assassins will carry razor edged speeches that they can throw at their enemies, chopping off their heads. The secret police will carry hard edged speeches to whack suspects who will later be made to confess with water soaked speeches shoved down their throats, making them feel like their drowning.

All may not be well, but at least race classification and hatred will be a thing of the past. Everyone will have to content themselves with making fun of fat people and churchgoers. Well, maybe we can include foreigners and the poor.