May 7, 2005

The Snappiest Place on Earth



Yesterday morning — with the LATimes and the NYTimes laying side by side on my kitchen table — I saw these two lead photos at the same time.

The LA Times story had a local angle.  The photo was titled: The Snapppiest Place on Earth.  The caption read:

Fans get the picture at the Disneyland gates as they await the opening for the Anaheim amusement park’s ongoing 50th anniversary bash.  Some camped overnight in cars for the event, which featured Art Linkletter, Julie Andrews and a revamped Sleeping Beauty Castle.

The NYTimes image accompanied a story about violence and kidnapping in Iraq, and how families are feeling the need to keep children under lock and key.  This caption read: 

Ansam Sadak holds a photo of Amir Ali Hamza, 8, her nephew, who was killed Sunday in a car bombing in Baghdad while watching cartoons. 

For me, the juxtaposition was particularly synchronous.  Of course, the photos were about photos, and about seeing and (hopefully) being seen.  Also, the captions share some strangely overlapping details.  I noticed some other connections, though — at least blog-wise.  For example, I had done a post just this week comparing photos of Islamic militants that, coincidentally, were taken against the backdrop of cartoons.  (One of them even featured Mickey Mouse — although a much more figurative one than the little boy with those mitts in the top photo, at bottom left.)  Also, the mashing of these pictures seemed to suggest themes that have been running through the comment threads.  Like the one suggesting that life gets priced more cheaply moving from west to east.  And the heavily recurring one about how the real motivation for the war (so, what else is new?) is the perpetuation of Western values, culture and living standards.

At the simplest level, however, isn’t it strange that American kids are sleeping in their cars for the sake of staking out cartoon characters, while Iraqi kids — for fear of getting snatched up in a car, or being blown up by one — are forced to stay in and kill time by watching cartoons?  Put another way, isn’t it weird to see Americans falling all over themselves to capture video of cartoon characters at the same time Iraqi kids are dying as captives to those characters?

For me, though, what these images really do is mix a country supposedly at war with a country supposedly liberated by one.  Put together, the war remains an abstraction — a blurry snapshot — in spite of every attempt frame to it.

(Revised: 7/7/05 7:45 PST)

(image 1: Mark Boster/Los Angeles TimesMay 6, 2005 in The Los Angeles Times, p. A1.  image 2: Christoph Bangert/Polaris. May 6, 2005 in The New York Times. p. A1)

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Michael Shaw
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