An article for those of us who are not physically perfect

In my younger days, if buxom wasn’t your thing, I had a figure to die for.  Two children and a few years later and . . . well, I’m trim, but it takes a lot of work.  Given the realities of child bearing, age and gravity, there’s nothing more irksome to me than a picture of some Hollywood woman, slim and smooth in a bikini, boasting about how she went back to her original figure within just three months of having a baby because she did intense workouts and ate a bizarre diet.

The good news is that those ladies can’t lie with impunity anymore.  Two scientists have created a computer program that measures the amount of photoshopping involved in any given image.  I think every single woman and teenager in the land should read this article.  It wouldn’t hurt to have the guys read it either, just so that they too can know how the media manipulates them.

Two presidents in their milieus — and how photos can lie *UPDATED/CORRECTED*

Presidents get photographed hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of time.  Each photograph captures a mere moment.  Some are flattering; some less so.  Many, however, go on to become iconic.

My generation, the 1970s generation, is deeply imprinted with this photo of Richard Nixon flashing the victory sign:

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Then there is this 1932 photograph of FDR, which exemplified the buoyant self-confidence that was so attractive to frightened Americans during a shatteringly deep depression:

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As a counterpoint to Roosevelt’s jaunty assurance, I kind of like this picture of Barack Obama, caught unawares [UPDATE:  FunkyPhD clues me in to something I didn't know -- the photo is a fake.  I'll keep it here, but add another immediately after of Obama smoking, just to keep the balance.  Incidentally, while the newly added photo is old, the fact is that Obama can't seem to kick the habit.]:

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Frankly, whether one looks at the doctored photo or the genuine one, each freezes just a moment in time, but both seem to capture so completely the essence of the man (or lack of essence, if you will).

Steve Schippert, who writes at Threats Watch, stumbled across a couple of photos that seem to get to the heart of Bush and Obama, by showing each man in a milieu in which he clearly connects with his audience. The photos make a lovely matched set (and don’t I love those matched sets?) because each is informal and, in each, the President holds a bullhorn, reaching out to his audience.

The first photo shows George Bush, at Ground Zero with rescue workers, shortly after 9/11:

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It is, in its own small way, another iconic moment.  9/11 was the turning point in Bush’s presidency and, for at least 8 years, in America’s relationship with the world.  Bush connected deeply with middle America, the America of people with traditional values and a reverence for American exceptionalism.  This is not a chauvinism that demands the degradation of other nations.  It is simply a recognition that we are what we are — and we like it. And the rest of the world hated Bush for his unreserved love for and protective feelings towards America.

The second photo shows Barack Obama, also with a bullhorn, speaking to adoring multitudes in Kenya:

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He looks so pleased and comfortable.  This crowd that unabashedly loves him.  They don’t care where he was born, they don’t ask about his grades, they aren’t worried about his past associations, they don’t look askance at his slender employment record dotted with promotions that appeared to be due to connections, not merit.  The picture captures perfectly a mindset that the American media sold to American voters in 2008:  Out in the world, away from America, Obama doesn’t have to prove himself.  He just is.  He’s Obama.

But things are never that simple, are they?  As Obama seeks world peace by cuddling up to bad actors in an effort to disarm them (think Chamberlain and Hitler), people of good will around the world are getting worried.  Certainly Poland and the Czech Republic have reason to fear; Israel fears; South Korea fears; everyone within rocket or suitcase range of Iran fears; Venezuela’s neighbors fear — this is a man who prefers the peace of the grave to the hurly-burly of freedom.

The world is realizing that it’s not enough just to “be Obama.”  The cowboy insult bestowed on Bush might have been an unwitting compliment.  After all, it was Bush who was willing to ride into town and, at great risk to himself, clean up the bad guys.

The Kenyan image of Obama is especially ironic, because Africans and other people concerned about Africa are waking up to the fact that it was George Bush, whitest of white presidents, not Barack Obama, sort-of-black poster boy, who was a real friend to that imperiled continent.

Honi soit qui mal y pense

Britain’s famous Order of the Garter bears upon it the motto “Honi soit qui mal y pense” which is Old French for “shame upon him who thinks evil upon it.”  The order came into being in the mid-14th Century, during the reign of Edward III.  There are several stories about its origin, with the following being the most famous:

Various legends account for the origin of the Order. The most popular legend involves the “Countess of Salisbury” (probably either his future daughter-in-law Joan of Kent or her former mother-in-law, Catherine Montacute, Countess of Salisbury). While she was dancing with or near King Edward at Eltham Palace, her garter is said to have slipped from her leg. When the surrounding courtiers sniggered, the king picked it up and tied it to his leg, exclaiming, “Honi soit qui mal y pense,” (“Shamed be the person who thinks evil of it.”), the phrase that has become the motto of the Order.

This story — about evil thoughts being in the mind of the beholder — floated into my brain when I read a story about of England today.  A man went to a public park with his family, where there was one of those big, inflatable bouncy slides.  The boys were having fun, so the dad did what any self-respecting man with a camera would do — he took pictures.  Where this story veers wildly from an American outing, and becomes uniquely modern British, is the response to his picture taking:

The 39-year-old rubber consultant and father-of-three from Reedswood, Walsall, was with wife Tracey at the Wolverhampton Show when their sons asked to go on an inflatable slide.

He said: ‘I started taking photographs of them having a good time. Moments later the woman running the slide told me to stop.

‘She told me I could not take pictures of other people’s children. I explained that I was only interested in taking photographs of my own children and pointed out that this was taking place in a public park.

‘I then showed her the photos I had taken to prove my point.

‘Then another woman joined in and said her child was also on the slide and did not want me taking pictures of the youngster. I repeated that the only people being photographed were my own children.

‘She then said I could be taking pictures of just any child to put on the internet and called me a pervert.

‘The incident took the gloss off the day and left a nasty taste in the mouth.’

He added: ‘The two police officers confirmed that I had been perfectly within my rights to take photographs of my own children in the park.’

Britain shows every sign of being a deeply unhealthy society.

It gets ever harder to take the press seriously *UPDATED*

The press continues to shape public perceptions, but people are starting to wise up to the fact that the press often has no idea what it’s doing (especially when it comes to military matters) and that it either outright lies or misrepresents through omission.  The Confederate Yankee just found a photographic example in which the AFP was probably guilty of all three sins:  military ignorance, affirmative misrepresentative and outright lies.  Wow!

UPDATE:  Turns out AFP got it right in the first instance.  It was AP that lifted the photo and gave it a new, and entirely erroneous, caption.