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112 posts from February 2007

February 28, 2007

'Wounded Marine..." by Nina Berman

BAGnewsNotes asks readers to describe their first reaction to this photograph by Nina Berman, entitled A Wounded Marine Returns Home To Wed. The photograph won the 2007 World Press Photo prize for portraiture. Run by a non-profit group in the Netherlands, the WPP prize is the most prestigious press photo competition in the world.


I'm surprised the negative reactions the photograph elicited from some commenters at BAGNews. I think the photograph is brilliant. BagNews suggests that the full gallery, which features shots of the couple before and after the Marine's injuries, puts the portrait in an entirely different perspective. All the photographs in the series are wonderful, but I can't say that seeing the full array changes my initial interpretation of the prize-winning portrait.

Granted, the formal portrait doesn't provide much context about the relationship between Marine Ty Zeigel and his bride Renee. The full series makes it clear that the Marine and his fiancee are a loving couple whose relationship didn't die or fossilize just because the Ty was injured. Maybe, in isolation, this wedding photograph leaves open the possibility that an entire relationship has been reduced to empty formalities since the injury, but the full series belies that interpretation.

(C) Nina Berman.   

Why anyone would assume such a thing in the first place is beyond me, but there's no accounting for how viewers respond to art.

In any case, whatever we're seeing on the bride's face isn't just pre-wedding photo jitters, as some commenters have suggested. She looks haunted and overwhelmed in the candids, too.

In the portrait, the bride looks as if she's been caught in a split-second of barely suppressed panic. The most interesting thing about the photo is the divergent gazes of the bride and groom. The groom is looking at the bride tenderly. The thing is, you can't tell how well he can actually see her face. He appears transfixed by her, but it's as if he's unaware of the face she's presenting to the wedding photographer.

It seems as if the bride and the photographer might be exchanging looks that the groom isn't picking up on, maybe because he's looking down, or because he doesn't have much peripheral vision.

Or maybe he knows exactly what's going on, but we just don't know how to interpret his new face. The groom's ambiguous expression is a metaphor for the all the ways that war changes people. You wonder whether the guy's facial deformities are just a relatively superficial sign of much more profound changes. Does he have brain damage or PTSD? Maybe the Marine is literally a different person than he was when his finacee agreed to marry him. He certainly has a very different future ahead of him. Yet, she's standing by him, facing the unknown.

[You can see more of Nina Berman's work on her website, including her series on megachurches, Purple Hearts, and the rest of Marine Wedding. Her book of portraits of US soldiers wounded in Iraq, Purple Hearts, is available here.]

Done with jury duty

I'm officially done with jury duty. I got sent home without even being questioned. Unlike a lot of places, New York only makes you sit around for one day. If you haven't been assigned to a trial by the end of day one, you're off the hook.

The best part about jury duty is the introductory video. The video begins with an A&E-style montage on the history of juries. According to the voiceover, the ancient Greeks invented the jury. Then, the ancient Romans did away with jury trials--cut to Jesus in his crown of thorns. I guess that's a good way of illustrating what can go wrong without a jury trial. Then we see some more pictures of water torture and swords and stuff from the pre-jury days. Finally, Charlemagne invents the jury. Then Diane Sawyer explains we shouldn't feel bad if we spend all day in the waiting room because  sitting in the waiting room is an important way of participating in the criminal justice system. That's because there are disputants in courtrooms throughout the building who are negotiating better because they know alert citizens are on call, poised to become jurors at any moment.

Continue reading "Done with jury duty" »

Lindsay Beyerstein and Lowell Feld on Heading Left at 2:00pm

I'm going to be on BlogTalk Radio this afternoon with Lowell Feld, Jim Webb's netroots coordinator to talk about blogs, politics, and campaigns.

Tune in to Heading Left at 2:00pm EST, today.

Jury duty is turning out to be much less restrictive than I thought it would be.

Live from jury central

So, here I am on jury duty.

So far, I've been sitting in the cavernous central jury assembly area waiting to be called.

I'm delighted to report that the court provides Internet access for jurors while they're waiting to be questioned for cases.

Cfrost was absolutely right to recommend coffee. In fact, as I was lining up to go through security to get in, an official made an announcement: "Those of you who are here for jury duty are allowed to hang onto your coffees." Generally, there's no eating or drinking allowed outside the designated lounge areas, but they make an exception for jurors and coffee. It's officially recognized that justice requires adequate caffeination.

February 27, 2007

Get well soon, Steve Gilliard

Steve Gilliard is up for open heart surgery.

Jen here. About to tuck into the 10 PM news, a drink, and bed.

Talked to Gilly this PM. Contrary to what one of his doctors said to my face yesterday, they now think that he has another valve infection. The exact term is "vegetation near the valve," which I guess is what they say because "infected snot" isn't a medical term.

Seriously, I'm pissed off. Gilly is somewhat passive about this--I'm trying to tell him to go through with the full chest CAT scan that he's slated for, just to double check that a) it really is the heart valve that's leaking and b) that it is the locus of infection, not something else that is infected (and his valve is just catching shit like a lobster trap).

And, of course, they still haven't clued him on the results (if any) of the antibiotic sensitivity threat that they allegedly ran.

As of right now, they are slating surgery as soon as they can.

Gilly thinks he'll be out a week after surgery. The last time he was in, he did at least 2 weeks in the ICU and even more in rehab.

So, readers, please have patience with this blog. He won't be back at the keyboard for a while.

To his BlogAd clients: Also please have patience; he's locked out of his emails and it may take a while to get him verification to get him back in.

To our writing folks: Please by all means continue to submit articles; we need the content. I have a fulltime job and can't post from work, and I'm trying to run my own life out here while taking care of what I can on Gilly's side. So please keep those articles coming! I will update everyone as I can.

And, special props to Jim our Webdude for tagging up our guest posts.

Bless you all and thanks for your continued good thoughts and wishes.

I knew Steve was sick, but I didn't realize he was up for heart surgery. I've been so buried with my own work that I've scarcely even been reading blogs.

Best wishes to Steve for a speedy recovery. Many thanks to Jen, his co-blogger for holding down the NewsBlog in addition to her demanding full-time job. 

I can't tell you how much I respect and admire them both.

Jury duty

Turns out, I've got jury duty tomorrow after all. Any tips?

U2 "Window in the Skies": Video

A cool video, courtesy of my cousin Nurse Lebo.

Amanda Marcotte, live at The Tank in NYC

Amanda Marcotte will be speaking on a panel on Saturday, March 3 at The Tank in New York City:

Saturday, March 3
The Tank <>
279 Church Street between Franklin and White

PANEL: CAMPAIGNING, BLOGGING AND FIGHTING BACK: Netroots Activism in Presidential Politics

Amanda Marcottte
Amanda Marcotte is a writer and a feminist blogger who writes for and manages <>.  She hides out from the world with her computer in Austin, TX.

Scott Shields
After contributing to grassroots group blog Dean Nation, Scott Shields joined the editorial staff of in 2005. In 2006, Shields was recruited to join the Menendez for Senate campaign as the Director of Internet Operations. He currently sits on the Netroots Advisory Council for the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy and recently founded White Horse Strategies.

Ari Melber
Ari Melber is a regular contributor to The Nation and a contributing editor at the Personal Democracy Forum.

Moderated by Nancy Scola.
Nancy Scola is a Brooklyn-based writer and activist. She has, in the past, worked for former Virginia Governor Mark Warner's Forward Together PAC and on the Democratic side of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Nancy is currently a weekend blogger at MyDD.

Happy Hour with free drinks & drink specials

I've been invited to field questions during the discussion period after the main panel.

Come on out! A good time will be had by all.

Scalping and the right wing blogs

Ann Althouse remarks on this passage in my Salon piece about the Edwards bloggers:

What Bob didn't seem to realize is that the right-wing blogosphere was going to try to get Edwards' bloggers fired no matter what. Unlike the liberal netroots, the right-wing blogosphere is capable of exactly one kind of collective political action. They call it "scalping" -- they pick a target and harass that person and his or her employer until the person either jumps or is pushed out of the public eye. Whoever blogged for Edwards was signing up for a lot of bad hair days, and it wasn't going to be me.

Andrew Sullivan insists that he's never the word "scalping" to describe this practice. Whatever. (Below the fold I've got a few examples of Marcotte and McEwan's enemies using the term "scalping" to describe the campaign against them.)

Ross Douhat writes that he, too, "must have missed the memo" regarding the terminology. However, his interpretation the passage about right wing scalpers in my essay is exactly right:

But re-reading Beyerstein, it's possible that her "unlike the liberal netroots, the right-wing blogosphere is capable of exactly one kind of collective political action" line wasn't meant to suggest that left-wingers don't scalp, but that they do other things as well, whereas right-wingers don't. This is an overgeneralization, obviously, but it gets a lot closer to an interesting truth about the blogosphere, which is that the lefty blogs have become way better at doing political things - raising money, raising issues, and influencing elections at the grass/netroots level - than most of the right-wing blogs.

The right wing blogosphere approaches political activism as a sequence of take-downs. They measure their success by the number of people they get fired.

I knew the right wing blogs were going to see the Edwards blog as a target-rich environment, no matter who the blogger was. It didn't help that Amanda had long-running feuds a lot of influential right wing bloggers.

It's funny that the right wing blogosphere didn't notice Amanda's alleged  anti-Catholicism until the Catholic League offered to get their cause celebre on television. Over the years, Amanda has been attacked for any number of things, but her atheism and religious imagery were never that a big deal in blogworld. The right wing's beefs with Amanda were about sex, gender, and family law. None of the right wing bloggers cared about her religious beliefs one way or the other. Yet, suddenly when the Grown Up Right Wing Noise Machine wanted to make this fight about anti-Catholic bigotry, the right wing blogs fell right in line.

Ann Althouse says the left takes scalps, too. Maybe, but I can't think of many examples off-hand.

Not every public outcry is an example of scalping, even if someone ends up losing their job. When Ben Domenech got fired from the Washington Post it was for plagiarism, not for political speech. Jayson Blair got fired for making things up, Domenech got fired for stealing other people's work.

The most clear-cut examples of scalp-taking are coordinated attempts to silence someone by threatening their livelihood--like what the anti-gay zealots are trying to do to Amanda's co-blogger Pam Spauling.

Uproars over campaign hires are slightly different simply because all campaign operatives more or less forgo the distinction between public and private life. Part of the reason our current politics is so insipid is because every staffer's entire biography is considered a potential reflection on the campaign. It's fair to ask whether Amanda was the best person to do outreach for a campaign that needs to appeal to an electorate that's much more conservative than she is.

However, right wing blogosphere made a calculated decision to bring Amanda down. They obviously weren't squawking because they thought Amanda's hiring was a bad strategic decision for Edwards. They wanted to get Amanda fired for their own political reasons--partly to get even with a blogger who has been a thorn in their sides for years, partly to embarrass Edwards, and partly to counter the growing influence of the left wing blogosphere in mainstream politics.

The scalp-taking metaphor is apt. Not only do right wing blogs swarm to get people fired, they cherish trophy as a symbol of their collective power and a warning to their enemies. That's the really insidious part of scalping as a political strategy. It's all about intimidation: Piss us off, and we'll get you fired. Look what happened to Eason Jordan. He criticized the U.S. military and suddenly found himself out of a job because the right wing blogs didn't want to hear what he had to say. A lot of other journalists probably thought twice about criticizing the war or the military in light of what happened to Jordan.

I've heard Gannon/Guckert expose incorrectly cited as a left-wing scalp job. That wasn't a scalping. John Aravosis and other bloggers exposed a mole in the White House press corps. The mole lost his job when it was revealed that he was there illicitly.

So far, scalping isn't a big problem in the lefty blogosphere. It doesn't happen very often, and I'm grateful for that. However, I am seeing more and more lefty bloggers and commenters grumbling about how the left should start "fighting back" against disruptive and malicious right wing bloggers by alerting their bosses to their online activities.

Bad idea.

Trying to shut people up by threatening their livelihood is despicable. Furthermore, if we further entrench the precedent that your private political speech can get you fired, the left will suffer much more than the right. The right wing is smart enough to fund infrastructure for its bomb throwers. There are lots of grants and think tank jobs and consultancies for good Republican surrogates. Most high-profile lefty bloggers are still trying to make a living in the free market.

Continue reading "Scalping and the right wing blogs" »

February 26, 2007

What's up with Club B.E.D.?

This one goes out to the New York hivemind...

Does anyone know exactly what's going on with Club B.E.D. in Chelsea? Citysearch lists B.E.D. NYC as temporarily closed, but various NYC blogs say the place is closed for good. In any event, as of yesterday afternoon there was no sign outside the club to indicate whether the place is closed, or for how long.

B.E.D. has reportedly been shuttered since a fatal elevator accident at the club on February 3. The host/manger Granville Adams has been charged with criminally negligent homicide in connection with the death of Orlando Valle. The criminal complaint alleges that Adams shoved Valle into the hoistway doors of the 6th floor club, forcing the doors open and sending Valle tumbling to his death. Adams' attorneys allege that he threw Valle off his back in self-defense after Valle jumped him from behind during a melee in the bar.

I've already filed one piece about the case for Chelsea Now. (I'll post a link when the story gets published.) I intend to keep following the case. Right now, I'm trying to learn as much as I can about B.E.D. and the people who worked there. If you've got tips, please leave comments below, or send me an email.

The $64,000 question is this: What's the name of B.E.D.'s coat check girl? I'd love to interview her. Please don't post any contact information for her in the comments, just send me an email.