Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Faces and Places

Reading a magazine yesterday, I came upon a photograph of multi-billionaire Warren Buffett.

I was reminded of the time not so long ago that a woman said that I looked like Mr. Buffett.

“No,” I replied, “I don't have his looks; I have his money.”

A few years before that, I was at Carnegie Hall when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was another woman with an idea of someone I resembled. “Are you the Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky?” she inquired.

“I'm not Russian; I'm not a baritone; and I can't carry a tune,” I replied.

It must have been the hair.

The earliest alleged resemblance that I can recall at this late date was to the actor Oskar Homolka.

It must have been the cigar.

Other places, other questions.

On streets in cities from Montreal to Buenos Aires and from Los Angeles to London, I have routinely been asked by strangers for directions. It must be the urbane cosmopolitanism of my looks and demeanor makes people believe that wherever I may be that I am native there and to the manner born (to slightly revise Hamlet).

Then again, there might not be anyone else around for them to ask.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Ahead of the Times

Just the other day (March 30, 2014) Jesse Sheidlower writing an op-ed in the New York Times urged that old gray lady to shed her Victorian corset, bob her hair, roll her stockings, and join the Jazz Age (or at least the early twenty-first century equivalent). “The Case for Profanity in Print“ claimed the headline.

The impetus for the op-ed was the reporting (or should we say “non-reporting”?)—not only by the Times, but also by the Washington Post, Time magazine, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, the Associated Press, and the Los Angeles Times—of the actual remarks (characterized by Sheidlower as “some impolitic comments”) by Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland during a telephone call with the ambassador to Ukraine. Ms. Nuland used a word that those bastions of prudishness could only handle at prissy tongs-length by substituting asterisks or dashes for letters or euphemizing the offending language, such as calling it “a blunt expletive” (LA Times). The New York Times really topped them all by merely saying the Secretary “profanely dismissed European efforts in Ukraine as weak and inadequate.”

The DRNORMALVISION blog dealt with the issue of the faint-hearted media way back in September 2012 (http://drnormalvision.blogspot.com/2012/09/smelling-salts.html). Little fish that we are, we did not expect the supposed paper of record to notice our insightful prose and to mend its lace-curtain ways. However, having a writer on its own pages urge the paper “to print exactly what we mean” gave us hope that change was here. Who were we kidding?

The article itself is a textbook example of the Times’ approach to the profane. “Even in this essay, I am unable to be clear about many of my examples” of words “necessary to the understanding of a story,” Sheidlower claims. So the article resorts to the “euphemisms or coy acrobatics that make stories read as if they were time capsules written decades ago, forcing us all into wink-wink-nudge-nudge territory”: “F-word,” “N-word,” “barnyard epithet.”

When the media do not tell us the truth, says Sheidlower, we learn “that something important happened, but that it can’t actually be reported.”

Which would seem to contradict the posturing of any news organ pretending to be a paper of record.