aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Pictures lie! Again.
One side effect of the pervasive camera is that we confidently believe we know more than we actually do. We apparently haven’t learned that pictures lie.
[T]here’s another taboo 9/11 photo, about life rather than death, that is equally shocking in its way, so much so that Thomas Hoepker of Magnum Photos kept it under wraps for four years. Mr. Hoepker’s picture can now be found in David Friend’s compelling new 9/11 book, “Watching the World Change,” or on the book’s Web site, watchingtheworldchange.com. It shows five young friends on the waterfront in Brooklyn, taking what seems to be a lunch or bike-riding break, enjoying the radiant late-summer sun and chatting away as cascades of smoke engulf Lower Manhattan in the background.
I missed it when it ran on Sunday; it was brought to my attention by David Plotz’s critique of it in Slate, Frank Rich Is Wrong About That 9/11 Photograph:
But wait! Look at the photograph. Do you agree with Rich’s account of it? Do these look like five New Yorkers who are “enjoying the radiant late-summer sun and chatting away”? Who have “move[d] on”? Who-in Rich’s malicious, backhanded swipe-"aren’t necessarily callous”? They don’t to me. I wasn’t there, and Hoepker was, so it may well be that they were just swapping stories about the Yankees. But I doubt it. The subjects are obviously engaged with each other, and they’re almost certainly discussing the horrific event unfolding behind them. They have looked away from the towers for a moment not because they’re bored with 9/11, but because they’re citizens participating in the most important act in a democracy-civic debate.
I had my upstairs neighbor down and cooked steaks on the grill in my Brooklyn backyard that night. A photograph might have given Rich reason to conclude that I was “not necessarily callous… just American.”
The photograph wouldn’t have shown that in those first moments after the first tower collapsed - when the city had already sealed all the bridges and tunnels and there was no way out, when traffic was gridlocked, and horns honked and people were hollering on my street - that I ran to the shower and filled pails with water; that I turned on the stove and cooked enough spaghetti (the only food in my house) to last me for days; that I knocked on my neighbors’ doors to say that we should all band together (they thought I was a bit nuts - I was) and then I went to the store and bought more food.
But back to the people in the picture:
Rich and Hoepker and I have all characterized what these five people were doing and how they were feeling, but none of us really know. Wouldn’t you like to hear from the five themselves? I would. If they’re out there and they’d like to respond to Rich or me, they can e-mail me at .
For my last example of a lying photo, see here.
BETTER RICH: Coming in the Times Book Review this weekend, a review of Frank Rich’s new book, The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth From 9/11 to Katrina.
The God poll
So USA Today has a story reporting on how your view of God can predict your political values:
A new survey of religion in the USA finds four very different images of God - from a wrathful deity thundering at sinful humanity to a distant power uninvolved in mankind’s affairs.
But answer me this:
Religion-themed movies and books have a vast reach: 44.3% of those polled saw Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ. More than one in 10 of all surveyed say they spent $50 or more in the past month on items such as religious books, music and jewelry.
Did 44% of Americans really see that film? That’s 131,010,221 people.
Buzz. Buzz. Buzz.
Good for Harvard
Harvard will be the first of the nation’s prestigious universities to do away completely with early admissions, in which high school seniors try to bolster their chances at competitive schools by applying in the fall and learning whether they have been admitted in December, months before other students.
Some universities now admit as much as half of their freshman class this way, and many, though not Harvard, require an ironclad commitment from students that they will attend in return for the early acceptance.
Wear a helmet, get hit by a bus!
Here’s one for the Freakonomics crowd:
CYCLISTS who wear helmets are more likely to be knocked off their bicycles than those who do not, according to research.
Motorists give helmeted cyclists less leeway than bare-headed riders because they assume that they are more proficient. They give a wider berth to those they think do not look like “proper” cyclists, including women, than to kitted-out “lycra-clad warriorsÃ¢â‚¬Â�.
Ian Walker, a traffic psychologist, was hit by a bus and a truck while recording 2,500 overtaking manoeuvres. On both occasions he was wearing a helmet.