Culture


There was a bit of a brouhaha yesterday when Clerks director Kevin Smith was told by Southwest Airlines that he was too big to fly in a single seat. The details are available for anyone interested enough to type “kevin smith” and “southwest” into Google. However, I thought this was interesting. This morning, CNN’s newsroom blog posted an item on the issue, including a photo of Smith. Here is a screen capture of the page.

Stretched image?Is it me, or does that photo of the admittedly portly Smith look like it’s been significantly stretched on the horizontal axis?

Every course I’ve ever taken on journalism ethics has emphasized the idea that unduly manipulating photographs is verboten. Consider the case of the infamous TIME Magazine cover of O.J. Simpson’s mugshot, which was desaturated and otherwise altered, presumably to make Simpson appear more menacing.

CNN’s post this morning might not be quite as odious as TIME’s gaffe, but it’s certainly a cheap attempt to make Smith look larger than he actually is.

UPDATE: Looks like they’ve fixed it. Compare the current version with my screen capture.

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You won’t catch me dead outside today, because it is the artificial (think “Secretary’s Day”) event known ominously as “Black Friday,” which – for the benefit of any international readers – is when Americans swarm shopping malls and department stores country-wide, sometimes trampling each other to death in the pursuit of $100 USD savings on HD TVs, Nintendo Wiis, talking Sesame Street characters, and pallets of lard.

I’ve never been much of a shopper to begin with, so it’s difficult for me to imagine what exactly it is that possesses people to participate in this new holiday kick-off tradition – the same way it’s difficult for me, as someone who has never been a soccer fan, to understand why riots seem to break out any time a major match is played around the world.

This year is a little different, however, given the context of America’s high unemployment (perhaps 17 percent, by some estimates) and year-long economic slump. However, it’s difficult to really predict what effect this will have on actual Black Friday shopping practices. Will the weak dollar and high level of unemployment depress sales this year, or will people who have held out on major purchases this year boost sales on this “door-buster sale” day, when there are major discounts to be had?

That’s an impossible question to answer at the moment, but I have no doubt that there will be newsmakers ready to voice opinions on the matter, and, based on these, predictions about how the rest of the holiday retail season is going to run. My advice is to ignore all of this, good and bad, since by definition it’s grounded on unsteady assumptions.

On that note, I must leave and retreat into my “study zone,” as I have exams Monday. I will not be heard from at least until they’re over, and if they go badly, perhaps never again.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin deservingly took heat for having allegedly made Wasilla rape victims pay for their own “rape kits” — the package of tools required to perform a forensic examination on a rape victim to confirm an attack and collect DNA evidence.

Turns out, it wasn’t just a weird Alaskan thing. The great State of Texas, which has recently made it clear that it reserves the right to secede from the union, makes a point of charging rape victims who cooperate with police for the forensic investigation tools, too. And since everything’s bigger in Texas, the price tag is usually around $1,800.

Jezebel reports that victims who won’t or can’t pay up face ruined credit and debt collectors.

Is there another situation in which the victim of a crime — even an alleged crime — is made to pay for the instruments needed to investigate the allegation and construct a prosecutorial case? I spent some time covering police agencies and criminal courts, and I’m at a loss to think of an example.

The only conceivable reason this could be happening is this: to 1) make marginal budgetary cuts by taking advantage of the humiliation and shame already suffered by rape victims and 2) to discourage rape victims from reporting rapes in the first place.

Sickening.

This from our “friends” in the Middle East:

Saudi judge: It’s OK to slap spendthrift wives

Happy Mothers’ Day.

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve gotten into a few arguments with Catholics upset at President Obama’s upcoming commencement address at Notre Dame University (scheduled for Sunday). There’s a petition you can sign online to “stop the scandal,” and prevent the president from giving the address.

Their argument is basically that since Obama supports abortion rights, it is therefore evil for him to speak at a Catholic university.

My argument has been that it isn’t, and it’s in fact a positive overture for the president toward American Catholics, as well as a significant honor for the Notre Dame class of 2009.

(more…)

If the newspaper industry is going to survive, it’s going to be because of stuff like this:

Amazon.com: Kindle DX: Amazon’s 9.7″ Wireless Reading Device (Latest Generation): Kindle Store.

Poll: Americans Support Harsh Interrogations, Don’t Want Investigation – The Atlantic Politics Channel.

This is unfortunate. I suppose this puts me in the minority, since I think “harsh interrogation techniques” is a newspeak term-of-art for torture.

Meanwhile, the normally-hawkish Christopher Hitchens applauded the president for citing Winston Churchill’s “no torture” stance during the Nazis’ bombing of London during the second world war in this article in Slate.

The disparity between the supporters of “enhanced interrogation” and “torture” underscores the efficacy of a good PR campaign.

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