June 21, 2006

Cadmium has Moved

I've moved Cadmium over to my own website. No disrespect to blogger, but I had the webspace, and I figured it was time to use it for something. If you've looked at Cadmium here, and found it interesting, why not check it out at its new home? I'll be updating daily from now on, so there will be lots of new material for you to peruse.

Thanks for looking in!



June 15, 2006

Self-Documentation by Rio Street Children

Under the Lapa Arches by Sandrino

The BBC website has photos today from a new "exhibition of photographs taken by street children in Rio de Janeiro".  The idea of the project is to give these children the means to document their own lives, thereby providing a perspective that affluent professional photographers would miss.  The organizers also plan to use this exhibition as a springboard for a job center. 

This one in particular caught my eye.  These nearly-skeletal teenagers are pictured in an embrace that is tender and joyful, but also suggestive of strangulation and hanging because of the the girls upright posture, the angle of her chin, and the boy's position around her neck.  The off-kilter alignment of the monumental white arches  is reminiscent of a capsizing ship. an impression that is reinforced by the wires strong across the poles at the top.  Given the precarious lives that these children face in Rio, it's not too much of a stretch to compare this image to cinematic images of young lovers embracing as they face danger or death.  This is Winslet and DiCaprio on the Titanic, except that this couple faces real and daily threats to their lives.

June 14, 2006

Keep the Adoring Troops Behind the Barrier, Please

White House photo by Eric Draper

Nice shot by Bush's personal photographer from the recent surprise Iraq visit. How many "surprise visits" does that make? I've lost track. Bush gave a surprisingly unmangled speech (at least according to the official transcript), covering very familiar ground. He knows it's tough being on a long deployment (not first hand, but whatever). He thinks the Iraqi government is doin' a heck of a job. And, oh yeah, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11. Except he doesn't say "9/11", he says "September the 11th". No cheap vernacular phrases for this president. This is a man with gravitas.

So after giving his boilerplate speech, Bush goes out amongst the troops to press a little flesh. Yeah, right into the midst of that handpicked throng of well-wishers. Except, wait, what's this? A waist-high concrete wall, erected in the middle of what looks like a ballroom, is getting between Bush and the crowd. How did that get there?

Someone has realized that Bush among the troops doesn't look so convincing if he's straining to reach people's hands over a cattle barrier. But that's what secret security guys are for, right? So if we put this guy with the blue shirt right in front of Bush, and a couple others sort of off to the side, and shoot it with a fisheye lens to sort of expand everything that surrounds the focal point, well it kinda looks like he's in the middle of the mob. Sure, you can still see the barrier if you look for it, but anyone giving this image a cursory glance will probably miss it.

This is a perfect example of Bush's ambivalent relationship with our people in uniform. He needs them to implement his neocon foreign policy strategy. He also goes out of his way to identify himself as a military man at every opportunity (think "flight suit"). But his own military service was more like an extended spring break than a combat situation. He also doesn't want to get too chummy with the families of soldiers here at home, because that's an inconvenient reminder of the human costs of war. He definitely doesn't want to do anything like honor our war dead by showing up at a military funeral, because that sends the wrong message.

June 13, 2006

Turd Blossom Slips Through

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has apparently decided that he does not have sufficient evidence to pursue a criminal case against Karl Rove as part of the investigation into the outing of Valerie Plame as a covert CIA agent. As shown above, Rove was positively giddy about the decision. It's unclear at this point whether Fitzgerald plans to pursue the Plame investigation any further, but this is a pretty good sign that Scooter Libby is likely to be the last administration official to face prosecution in this matter.

It's unkind to judge people based on the face their genetic heritage has given them, but Rove has rarely looked more piglike than he did this morning. Maybe that's because he knows that the folks at TruthOut are going to have some explaining to do over their allegations that Rove had actually been secretly indicted last month. They claim to have gotten the story from someone with inside knowledge about the case, which probably means someone from the White House. At this point it seems likely that this was a ruse on the part of someone in the administration designed to discredit a group of vocal critics. This may seem like conspiracy theory, but petty vindictiveness is not something that this White House avoids. Rove in particular has been known to take revenge for even the most minor slights.

Whatever the truth of the matter, this certainly frees Rove up to take a more hands-on approach to the management of Republican strategy in the upcoming elections. Many Republican legislators are going to fight hard to retain their seats this time around, and with Rove back in play, you can look for them to fight dirty as well.

June 12, 2006

Images of Presidential Isolation

I love the White House website. They can release any official images they like to the public, and this is the one they choose. And this is a White House that employs over two thousand people to implement its public relations strategies.

Let's go through this in a bit more detail:

1. The tiny little figure near the end of this impossibly long table? That's Bush. you know, the guy who's supposed to be running things around here. Presidenting is a big job, by God, and to do it right, you need a ... munchkin?

2. Not only does Bush look tiny, he also looks far away. There's a technique in painting called atmospheric perspective, which means suggesting distance by rendering objects in a grayish haze. Now, this room can't be more than thirty or forty feet long, but doesn't Bush seem slightly obscured by a sort of misty veil? He's so far away, you can barely hear see the expression on his face. was this intentional? Was he having a bad case of the smirks that day, and the press office wanted to conceal it?

3. Finally, the press in the foreground, made huge and threatening by the fisheye lens the photographer was using. They surround the table, surging forward like savage dogs ready to pounce on this poor, beleagured, tiny little man. The look so much more alert and engaged than Bush, who languishes in the misty reaches of the other end of the table. He scarcely looks able to defend himself. He barely looks like he cares.

It's often said about Bush that he isolates himself from the outside world, avoiding the news and discouraging dissenting opinions. Certainly, when he speaks in public, he very often does so in front of a military audience, who are required to be respectful of his office if not his leadership. The White House Press Office is aware of this impression of Bush as a semi-recluse, and has made some effort to discredit it. But they don't do themselves any favors
by publishing this kind of image. This is Bush portrayed exactly as his harshest critics envision him, aloof and impotent, lost in the fog while the nation looks to him for a way out into the clear air.