Friday, January 15, 2010


A Uighur skips school and gets drunk at Qiemo's dry levee. Many young Uighurs can't get jobs because of racism and language requirements, and their traditional jobs as traders and farmers have become unprofitable. Photo by David Degner

Cindy Terasme screams after seeing the feet of her dead 14-year-old brother Jean Gaelle Dersmorne in the rubble of the collapsed St. Gerard School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010. Photo by Gerald Herbert

Cindy Tersme weeps for her 14-year-old brother, Jean Gaelle Dersmorne, who is amid the rubble of the collapsed St. Gerard school. Photo by Carol Guzy

While scanning today's news, I'm reminded of the crazy barrage of images available for one's eyes and the subsequent limits of digesting that sheer volume. Then there's the way you intake the could read the same newpaper at home that you'd read while on a plane or in the place it was written, and have totally different interpretations. The same for reading images. Laptops and web-enabled phones are particularly crazy in that respect...internet almost anywhere? How do you give priority to urgency while standing in line at Starbucks? Reading the news in bed lands differently than at a train station, at the dentist... I remember Noam Chomsky pointing out the value one places, by sheer placement in the newspaper, on the content one is reading. A brazier ad next to an investigative article about the Swine Flu hype to make pharmaceutical companies rich or Pottery Barn's new couch next to 47 killed in a bomb blast? And geez, what about phone conversations? I talk to my Mom while sitting on that couch, while at the Space Needle observation deck, in the car. Are we becoming completely disembodied and mass desensitized, incapable of calibrating urgency?

The Kuleshov Effect in film speaks to this phenomena in a way, and was a pretty interesting experiment for the time. Though sometimes, I think the effect is absolutely everywhere, just in various shades of gray, and we're continuously toggling our priority switches off and on.

The Washington Post had a great article about the blunt imagery showing trauma from Haiti: "...the cruelty and anguish of this disaster are also incongruously large compared with the usual, crude metrics -- the reading of the Richter scale or the body count -- we use to assess earthquakes. The images may be stronger and more visceral because they are already in argument with the bland ranking the history books may record."

And a fantastic essay by Errol Morris: Thought Experiment