April 10, 2008

Serpentine Days

Petr Advice

This was  yesterday’s “last visual word” on the Petraeus testimony offered up by the NYT.

Since I’m currently in Rochester, participating on a panel at the RIT Kern Conference on Visual Rhetoric, I had the occasion to gather some thoughts on the image from a crackerjack team of visual academicians, including Northwestern’s Bob Hariman and Indiana U.’s John Lucaites (co-authors of No Caption Needed), and Cara Finnegan from University of Illinois and first efforts.

In the dead-tree edition, in which you can see all the shoes on the floor, John’s first take was: “boots on the ground.”

As for the committee, they saw the General representing the serpentine head of of a military institution which has been cut off but for the one spokesman, who is marginalized and dislocated.  Checking out the hands under the table, the school boy quiescence demonstrates that assessment has been silenced.  Also noted was the fact that Petraeus’s mug is actually blocking a symbol of one of the service branches on the wall — more evidence that Petraeus has become a branch unto himself.

With that, Lucaites slithered in the direction of the biblical, coming back with: “Anyone for an apple?”

Iraq’s Military Seen as Lagging (NYT)

(image: Brendan Smialowski for The New York Times, April 9, 2008. Washington. nytimes.com)

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Michael Shaw
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