So the Raleigh News & Observer ran a Page One note Friday, warning their readers that they would find nudity in that day’s paper. It read:
Today’s Life, etc. section includes a photo of a famous fresco by Michelangelo that includes nudity. The headline was, “Advisory to Readers.”
Here’s the fresco:
Yup, that’s nudity, all right.
Actually, as often happens with these things, I’m wondering something else, that is, who felt the need to describe the image as “famous.” It’s certainly true, but is such a trite and tinny modifier that it’s more amusing than accurate. And yet, I can imagine the near-unconscious impulse that put it there: Already nervous about the shocking transgression of putting a 500-year-old image of Adam’s wenis in a family newspaper, the mind seeks justification. “Important?” Nah, sounds too eggheady. “Glorious?” Nope, that would be editorializing. I know, I know — “famous.” That’s the ticket. If anyone objects, we’ll just point out how famous it is. Paris Hilton is famous, after all, and that’s why we put her in the paper.
It might also have been inserted by the copy desk. There’s a wide streak of pigheaded literal-ness on the desk that would insist on the modifier, because otherwise why use the image? The story’s about how different religions depict God, so why use this one? Because it’s FAMOUS.
OK, OK. I’m jesting because if I stop I will start to throw things. (This is a throwin’-things kind of Monday; be forewarned.) And how’s this for a tin-eared engagement with the readers? From the ombudsman’s blog:
Well, we’ll find out just how sophisticated an arts community this is with reader reaction to today’s Life Etc. front page.
Oh, is that what this is? A test of sophistication? Just shut UP.
Guess what the second graf of that entry says: Displayed across the page is the famous Michelangelo fresco… Famous!
I think it’s really pretty simple, and I think Mitch Harper nailed it:
The newspaper is either filled with unworldly and unsophisticated rubes or it is a window on how the newspapers views its readers. I suspect it is the latter. The newspaper shows what disrespect it has for its readers but is also a measure of the disrespect they have for the quality of their own product.
Yup. Yup. Yup.
I was offline most of the weekend, and when I came back I found the Pope had provoked Muslims. That is, the Pope quotes from a 14th-century dialogue between two forgotten scholars, and the Religion of Peace responds with angry demonstrations, death threats, effigy-burnings, possibly the murder of a nun and other peaceful acting-out. In the Free Press a local Muslim is quoted saying, “Our religion is the most peaceful religion.” Noted.
Life imitates “The Wire” in this NYT piece on a local body collector, local being Detroit, bodies being “the ones found lying around the city.” A nice detail:
Do not judge him. A happy attitude is necessary in his profession. It keeps the mind from shattering, salts one’s sanity. Call the job dirty. Call it 14 bucks the hard way — $14 a human body, $9 an animal. He said he made $14,000 last year. He made most of it at night.
UPDATE: There’s an outstanding video version of that story on NYTimes.com, too.
Back later. Be peaceful.
brian stouder said on September 18, 2006 at 9:49 am
I was struck by
“White people kill themselves. Black people kill each other. Chinese people don’t die.�? “True, true,�? shouted one young pilgrim, though no sighting of a white or Chinese man could be made within a 20-block radius of the porch.
That – and the sad comparison of 1950’s Detroit versus 2006 Detroit, with the population reduced by 50%
Danny said on September 18, 2006 at 10:52 am
Q: How many Muslims does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Shut UP, infidel! That is not funny!
alex said on September 18, 2006 at 1:59 pm
What’s making them uncomfortable must be the pathetic size of Adam’s thang.
mary said on September 18, 2006 at 2:24 pm
I noticed that too, Alex. I’ve known lots of Italian men, and I can’t believe an Italian painted a guy with a small wee wee.
Dorothy said on September 18, 2006 at 3:49 pm
It looks more like a wayward caterpillar than a wee wee.
brian stouder said on September 18, 2006 at 4:17 pm
So the ‘advisory to readers’ should have said
Today’s Life, etc. section includes a photo of a famous fresco by Michelangelo that seems to include a wayward caterpillar where one would otherwise have expected to see a proud Italian tool of manhood.
The editors should have either spiked the ‘advisory’ or else cropped the caterpillar without further comment!
nancy said on September 18, 2006 at 4:24 pm
And to think, this was the rootstock for the entire male population. No wonder Eve was so easily led astray by that…snake.
mary said on September 18, 2006 at 6:04 pm
Isn’t “God” sort of feminine looking? I mean except for the beard. It’s the pinkish dress and the pose, maybe.
alex said on September 18, 2006 at 6:55 pm
There was a great greeting card in the urban novelty stores a few years back utilizing that image. God had a cartoon bubble coming out of his mouth that said “Pull my finger,” and one coming out his ass that said “Pfffft.”
brian stouder said on September 18, 2006 at 9:23 pm
The video version of that story was indeed outstanding; thanks for the link
basset said on September 18, 2006 at 10:25 pm
I have to disagree. Terrible camera work, worse storytelling… example: the body snatcher’s neighbors come to his porch at night to hear his tales, but we’re not privy to that conversation, we just see them lit with a single flood while someone talks about what they’re doing… this piece done right would have made us feel we know the guy, this way we just got to watch him for awhile. no insight, no connection.
on the other hand, this “video journalist” business is supposed to be the coming face of tv news, so what do I know…
alex said on September 18, 2006 at 10:53 pm
Must be time to dump my old iBook. I went away for a half hour and the durned video was still trying to load.
nancy said on September 18, 2006 at 11:03 pm
I see your point, basset, and acknowledge there was a lot about the report that was distinctly unprofessional, at least the way we define “professionalism” in TV news.
Here’s what I liked: The writing was punchy and writerly, and the editor obviously tried to go a step beyond with what he had, which I suspect was a small palm-size DV camera. I know that if the same guy were interviewed on one of the local stations, we’d see:
1) several reaction shots of the reporter;
2) a much shorter report;
3) an insufferable intro and outro standup;
4) maybe some on-the-set commentary from the anchors.
Maybe the word I wanted was “refreshing.” Anyway, different.
basset said on September 19, 2006 at 12:06 am
Having put in my time in local tv news, I can sure agree with you on the reaction shots, unnecessary standups and so forth, and I’m not saying your local Action News Team or whatever would do it any better – it’d just be a different kind of bad.
Poor technique is sometimes excused for social reasons – if you see a piece of video described as “edgy,” “independent,” or “groundbreaking,” it usually means someone can’t shoot worth a damn, but it sure is new and hip, so that makes it better. “Writerly” I’m not so sure about , but I thought the guy was overwriting something fierce – sometimes it’s best just to shut up and let the audience listen to what’s going on rather than trying to describe what’s already on the screen.
I posted a link to the story on a tv news photographers’ board earlier tonight, once some good quotes gather I’ll drop a few in here.
Stephanie said on September 19, 2006 at 9:12 am
I feel compelled to draw attention back to your somewhat unbalanced comments about Muslims. (I’m like that with only a half cup of coffee in me. Onery.) Lets get the facts out here. Firstly, the Pope didn’t just provoke them. He said I quote “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman…” (Pointing out that he was quoting a scholar is not relevant unless The Pope was contrasting points to prove how wrong the scholar was, which he was not. It would be like quoting Hitler and being surprised that people might find that anti-semetic.) I can think of a few Christians or Jews who would go completely out of their stinking gourds if you said that about them.
If this were said about any other faith, that Jews were evil, that Christians were inhuman, that their prophet or God were the source of these things, do you think that the reaction would be peaceful? Of course not. We have Jewish radicals behaving badly outside of Jewish ideals, we have Christians blowing up Abortan Clinics or shooting doctors because they are all wound up about not killing. Yet, when Muslims are having their Mosques attacked, when they are beaten in the streets by Christians, when they are being “corrected” in the middle east by another country, with a minimum of 43 000 Iraqis dead (many civilians and children), and then the most powerful religious figure in the world quotes a text marginalizing them, somehow, bizarrely, when a miniscule fraction of them go crazy with anger about that, we stand around saying that we have no idea why they are being so uppity and chastizing them for not being peaceful enough.
Finally, 22% of the worlds population is Muslim. That means that every fourth or fifth person walking this planet with you is a member of Islam. That’s more than a billion people. There are more than six million in the US, where they can’t even take an airplane without being harrassed and badly treated, and I bet you can’t even tell who they are, such are the numbers of the peaceful.
It does not, in this writers humble pre-coffee opinion, serve the worlds interest very well, or inspire peace among those who would be fighting, to refer to an extraordinarily small group of Muslims who respond violently to bigoted statements as though they represented the whole of Islam. It is, in the end, as unfair as judging Germans by Hitler, American National Guardsmen by Robert Yates or Christianity by the Christians who tortured and beat Matthew Shepard to death for being gay, or the multitude of faithful who got in their cars and drove to Laramie Wyoming to chant, picket, disrupt the funeral, berate his mother and dance on his grave.
It is unfair to characterize an entire religion by it’s zealots. None would fare well.
brian stouder said on September 19, 2006 at 10:53 am
Alrighty then – better sip that coffee!
Stephanie – I agree that the Pope certainly erred in what he said.
And when you say It is unfair to characterize an entire religion by it’s zealots., I agree with that, too.
It is worth noting that the (inept) Pope has apologized for his remarks, repeatedly and in many languages.
I think it is also worth noting that we have an example of a high-ranking Christian religious figure saying something stupid and hateful, and then apologizing –
as opposed to various high-ranking Islamic religious and political figures who unapologetically make stupid and hateful remarks, and who remain brazenly UNapologetic.
Honestly, I think that all human institutions need to have accountability; Islam hasn’t got the equivalent of a pope that can define what their true teachings are; and/or who can apologize for mis-steps, or twist the arm of an errant co-religionist
Nominal Christians disagree with one another (hence ‘protestant’) and have reached a point where they co-exist peacefully (at least more or less); yet one gets the feeling that the hottest fury amongst Islamic radicals is reserved for other Muslims (look up the concept of ‘takfir’).
(No small part of the genesis of al Qaeda/al Jihad is the driving ambition of educated people like Ayman al Zawahiri to re-establish the Caliphate across central Asia and Europe; and they have killed many Muslims along the way)
Danny said on September 19, 2006 at 10:57 am
I can think of a few Christians or Jews who would go completely out of their stinking gourds if you said that about them.
Yes, but they would not be flying planes into the World Trade Center. Furthermore, if anyone wants to argue about lone Christian or Jewish loonies acting out in violent ways (e.g. attacking abortion clinics), it should be noted that these actions are abhorred and denounced immediately and forcefully. Christiandom and Judaism do not prescribe nor accept violence or irrationality as a means to any end.
Contrast this to the current state of Islam, the “peaceful” religion, where violence is preached in the mosques of every major western city and vocal or, at the very least, tacit approval is given for acts of violence.
Though it is correct to say that it is unfair to characterize a whole religion by its zealots, the silence from moderate Muslims is deafening. What is the world to make of this?
And as a follow-up, I must say that I particularly liked the Pope’s non-apologetic apology and how he noted the irony of the violent reaction. Obviously, the “Muslim-street” has a diminished sense of irony along with their many other charming characteristics.
Jim from Fla said on September 19, 2006 at 12:00 pm
Benedict is obviously an intelligent man. He was a college professor before becoming a cardinal, any you don’t get to be Pope without a fair amount of thoughtful and prayerful thinking.
That said, it seems odd to me that the leader of the largest Christian church in the world would recite such a quote about Mohammad without realizing that the quote would incite certain followers of Islam. Especially when the Mohammad cartoons did the same thing.
Rich B said on September 19, 2006 at 12:12 pm
Christians don’t have to fly planes into buildings. They’ve got daisycutters.
Kirk said on September 19, 2006 at 12:28 pm
Organized religion is the plague of the planet. All the major faiths have plenty of blame to share.
basset said on September 19, 2006 at 10:49 pm
Back to the dead-body story for a minute… 238 views on a news photographers’ site, ten responses before they started sniping at each other, most of ’em didn’t like it. no quotes, email me for the site address if you want to go look at ’em yourself.