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.