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Sunday, 26 October 2008


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Wow, plot thickens every minute :)

It's the same as virtually anywhere on the internet where you can post comments. Unless you see the original poster regularly responding (as in here, Strobist, John Nack from Adobe and a few others that I read) you never know who is actually READING the comments. Too often the comment box is used as a brain dump area for readers and that big empty space is just too inviting for those that must speak their mind, even if no one is listening (but not here, obviously!)

I CAN see why some don't read the comments to their own posts... they'd actually have to respond to their own criticism!

Sadly, this is all too common in the press, and the classroom. So many are quick to spout off on one topic or another, but few take the time to actually READ up on the issues in question. I suppose the sheer volume of data now available on many topics inhibits some who might conduct a little background checking. (Too much information too quickly can be intimidating to some). But, quite frankly, many people now do not have good reading habits. Look at college students these days: Give them a thirty page article on a specific topic, and they will choke on it.

When I consider even my own reading habits, I cannot help but feel the web itself contributes to this. We now have access to extensive volumes of information (of course, the quality does differ), but we are now a "click & scan" reading society. A couple of seconds here, a few there, and we are "informed." I sense that many do not read for extensive knowledge, but rather prefer "raid" web pages for snippets, and then move on.

Media critics sometime decry the sound-bite brevity of the mass media, but this approach to information is in many ways a reflection of media consumers for whom K.I.S.S. is element to their acquisition of the news. Hence, we get the farce Mike describes.


My own take is that the painting is surely based on the photo with her holding her coat. However, because of the aspect ratio of the stamp, the hand had to be repositioned. I'm betting that the artist did think "Davis - cigarette" and deliberately added a suggestion of holding a cigarette.

Seems to be a rather common problem online. People fail to read all attributed context, and stay on point with whatever slant or ideology they came to the party with. I'm certainly guilty from time to time.

I doubt Ebert ever reads these things. That is what his gaggle of interns is for.

PS People really really hate to be proven wrong.

I've often felt that the biggest downside to the net is that it encourages communication without information. I think the comments of Ebert's site support that view. People read the original post, ignore everything that comes after, and post their comments.
If you think of it, that's almost exactly the opposite of what happens here - possibly because you moderate the comments. Perhaps someone who reads more blogs than I do, could comment on the differences between moderated and non-moderated blogs.

Jason P,
I actually read every comment before I post it. I sometimes edit them (haphazardly but not exactly inconsistently--I am on the lookout for errors that would be misleading to the reader, more than just grammatical or spelling errors or sloppy punctuation), and I sometimes contact the person who wrote the comment asking for a clarification or to explain why I won't be posting the comment. And don't think I don't do this to everyone--I have emended or disallowed comments by Geoff Wittig, Ctein, Ken Tanaka and others who write for this site often and whose comments have often been featured.

Of course I can't be very objective about my OWN comments, but you can't have everything. [s]

Mike J.

Well, once a string of comments gets that long, I doubt most people even read more that the first dozen or so, so they probably don't even realize there's been a correction. And sometimes people just resist anything that might change their preconceptions. (Obama isn't a Muslim? That can't be right. He must be faking.)

I'd add that while this is a moderated board, that didn't prevent many of us from failing to check the facts and jumping to conclusions.

Reading a LONG list of comments is tedious, and I usually don't. But I do usually spot-check and jump down the list every dozen comments or so until I get to the end, as a mild sanity check. I didn't do that this time, on Ebert's site. I'm guilty, too. So's everyone else who posted in TOP as if Ebert's charge was true.

I'm embarassed. I hope my fellow sinners are, too.

pax / Ctein

It does appear that Ebert is/was reading and responding to comments. The notes in bold, preceded with "Ebert:" appear to be his direct response to those comments, though it looks like he stopped responding over a week ago.

It doesn't seem to me that Roger Ebert *was* wrong. It seems to me that the artist took the fur-coat photo and changed it to velvet or something less politically incorrect, then took the cigarette photo, flipped it, and repositioned the hand slightly, without the cigarette. In other words, it's the cigarette hand, without the politically incorrect cigarette. Isn't it?


Dear John,

No, Ebert was wrong. The change in coat is a standard painter's trick-- velvet is easy to paint (relatively) and looks very good in a portrait-- it's low key and non-distracting, but not flat and lifeless. You can invent a conspiracy of silence, sure... but velvet's a known fabric of choice for painting portraits, regardless of the original garb.

The hand is an amalgem. It has finger positions and poses from both photos (and possibly from other unknown source material). It is definitely NOT either hand in isolation.

There is no there, there. There never was.

pax / Ctein

'Dead wrong'? IIRC, you yourself, Mike, raised the question why the hand of Ms Davis was so strangely angled just as if she was originally holding a cigarette.

Looking at the two possible templates for the stamp I'd venture to say that the stamp is a combination of both. It uses the face of the one without cigarett but posture, stance, style and especially hand and arm of the one with the cigarette.

The combination of various sources into one new work of art is quite common with illustrators. The main reason should be obvious: create a typical image. All of us - provided we have any idea who Bette Davis is - have that image in our head, the image of Ms Davis holding a cigarette. Just like it is impossible to think of Humphrey Bogart without a fag.

Has the illustrator for the Bette Davis stamp retouched a butt? No, clearly not, since it has never been in the art work. Did he use a hand posture of her implying a cigarette? Yes, unequivocally. Did he put it in? No, most probably for PC reasons.

BTW, PC [which I usually call Newspeak] came up because politeness fell out of favour. People, particularly on the Internwt, still think swearwords are a sign of truth and honesty. No, they are just a sign of bad education and disrespect.

Apodyctical claims - 'dead wrong' - tend to make the utterer look a fool with an ego problem.

They should have replaced it with a fig leaf. -- Rich

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