Hey Joe & Palin, my dog has written a book too – but then, she’s cute and knows English!

OMG!

Here’s Palin’s response, after Matt Lauer asked her when she knew the election was lost:

“I had great faith that, you know, perhaps when that voter entered that voting booth and closed that curtain that what would kick in for them was, perhaps, a bold step that would have to be taken in casting a vote for us, but having to put a lot of faith in that commitment we tried to articulate that we were the true change agent that would progress this nation.”

I missed that one. Discovered it in this wonderful update by Timothy Egan – Typing Without a Clue – in the NYT today on Joe the non-plumber and Sarah the PalinDrone and their publishing venture. It begins:

The unlicensed pipe fitter known as Joe the Plumber is out with a book this month, just as the last seconds on his 15 minutes are slipping away. I have a question for Joe: Do you want me to fix your leaky toilet?

I didn’t think so. And I don’t want you writing books. Not when too many good novelists remain unpublished. Not when too many extraordinary histories remain unread. Not when too many riveting memoirs are kicked back at authors after 10 years of toil. Not when voices in Iran, North Korea or China struggle to get past a censor’s gate.

Bravo! Well put! And there’s more, much more.

i like this, but . . .

Most of the writers I know work every day, in obscurity and close to poverty, trying to say one thing well and true. Day in, day out, they labor to find their voice, to learn their trade, to understand nuance and pace. And then, facing a sea of rejections, they hear about something like Barbara Bush’s dog getting a book deal.

Writing is hard, even for the best wordsmiths. Ernest Hemingway said the most frightening thing he ever encountered was “a blank sheet of paper.” And Winston Churchill called the act of writing a book “a horrible, exhaustive struggle, like a long bout of painful illness.”

. . . well, it’s not that hard! I found writing a novel great fun. (Yeah, I know, I didn’t publish it and it probably isn’t publishable, but I did write it and I did have fun and some of my family seemed to like it. 😉 Oh yes, and for 10 years I did write every day for a living and after that I published many articles in high-circulation magazines, so I think I can call myself a writer. But I do share Egan’s frustration with how notoriety seems to be the main credential for too many non-writing “authors” today. One big exception is Obama, as he notes, and one of my other heroes, Teddy Roosevelt. (BTW – I voted for Obama because he can think – not because he is black and not because he is a liberal.)

The idea that someone who stumbled into a sound bite can be published, and charge $24.95 for said words, makes so many real writers think the world is unfair.

Our next president is a writer, which may do something to elevate standards in the book industry. The last time a true writer occupied the White House was a hundred years ago, with Teddy Roosevelt, who wrote 13 books before his 40th birthday.

Oh yes – about the headline – Eliza has written a book on her experiences as a pet therapy dog and she writes very well – though she gets some help from Bren – and a few people actually asked for – and bought – copies of it. But she hasn’t gotten a big advance from a publisher yet, though Bren is still trying to give her some help on that task as well. Anyway, I get the feeling she contributes more to our society than Joe or that Alaskan mangler of the English language.

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The camera lies – oh my, does it lie!

Hey – a picture is a two dimensional representation of a three dimensional scene – so yes, it is its own reality only representing another reality in a loose way. And no, a picture is not worth a thousand words – except when you choose it very carefully. Problem is, while a picture can convey a lot of information, it is frequently very imprecise, meaning many different things to different people.
mccain
Kevin knows this is near and dear to me, so he sent me this link to this wonderful NPR story examining the ethics of photo journalism. Ouch! Does this ever strip the varnish off of the press – particularly press photographers. It begins:

Every now and then, photojournalism gives rise to ethical questions. For instance, why was O.J.’s image digitally darkened on the cover of Time? Did tight shots of Saddam’s statue being toppled by Iraqis intentionally obscure the U.S. Marines’ role in the incident? Did newspapers whitewash the horror of war by suppressing images of corpses? Were famous photos from World War I and the Spanish Civil War actually reenactments?

There are clear rules that supposedly govern such situations, sometimes observed, sometimes not. But, as Bob reports, one category of mass media photography operates with hardly any rules at all.

But don’t just read this – the best way to appreciate it is to listen to it – same link – and at the same time watch this slide show of the pictures they’re discussing which are on another site. The pictur eof McCain above is the one used by the Atlantic – I think it’s quite heroic. But go to the slide show and see the photo that wasn’t used.

wchurchill_by_ykarshThis famous photo of a scowling Winston Churchill came about when photographer, Yousuf Karsh, took the cigar out of Churchill’s hand and immediately snapped this shot.

One year I taught English 101 at UMass Dartmouth and I focused a healthy segment on how words are used to slant things. But that’s easy. TV and still images can do much more and in amuch more subtle fashion. This story is one hellua a good, brief lesson on how images are used to manipulate our view of the news and newsmakers. My only caveat is please remember that while the photographer might of had a precise idea about what they were trying to convey, the end result can hit different people very differently. I learned that lesson many years ago when I planned to use the photo of a bonfire – part of a rally before a football game – on the cover of our Admissions Bulletin. It was a terrific shot and I and the photographer thought it captured a very positive spirit of campus life – but I tested it on faculty and staff first. The reactions I got included:

  • it looks like devil worship
  • it reminds me of the Watts riots
  • what a great shot – those kids are really having fun!

I used a classroom scene instead – or maybe it was the typical – seldom happens, but looks great – outdoor scene of teachers holding class under the trees on a spring day 😉