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Mar 18, 2007

The Conservatives' Undertaker


Four years ago, shifting the focus of The BAG to concentrate solely on news images, my sense was that pictures would soon take on a much higher role in political media and advocacy.

On Friday, Pentagram had a wonderful spread on the TIME redesign.  Reviewing the pages, we see how the magazine is cutting back the words;  morphing more into a web adjunct; and delivering a larger part of the story in a form we're more regularly familiar with around here.

Design notwithstanding, however, let's not overlook the visual dynamics of this particular issue.

How pathetic for McCain.  The campaign hasn't even gotten going yet, and he's framed as the poster boy for a suddenly drowning movement.  Given the comparative size and symmetric relationship between the "How The Right Went Wrong" title and the candidate himself, McCain gets slammed as both product and culprit.

If you view the lead article (also on the cover, and referenced in the McCain caption), however, the candidate is visually dealt a more devastating blow.  Noting how Reagan, himself, held up McCain to the nation as a conservative model, TIME has specifically turned McCain (looking akin to an undertaker) into the Gipper's crying shame.

(image 1: Joe Pugliese.  TIME via  image 2: David Hume Kennerly.  Tear by Tim O'Brian.  TIME. Mar. 26, 2007.


I haven't seen Time's redesign. I cancelled my subscription immediately after the fawning Ann Coulter cover issue.

We like visuals, and a picture worth a thousand words, but will the sacrifice of the printed word contribute to the "dumbing down" of the news? Will we get news only in the form of photo captions soon?

And yes, McCain is the funeral director for the moribund conservative movement. His official website also adopted a stark, gloomy black-and-white motif.

Both the Time cover and the photo of McCain in the inside spread show visually what's wrong with the American right. Its primary constituency is aging (and/or embittered) white men. The tear on Reagan's cheek on the cover photo reminds me of the Alzheimer's he started to develop while he was still in office. And think about the speculation that Cheney's suffering from some sort of dementia brought on by his heart problems (not to mention his selfishness and greed). Right wing=senility?

On another topic:
Please comment on the coverage (or lack thereof) in the Times today of the
demonstrations yesterday.
If I had not been looking online at the AP wire photos, I would have had
no idea that there were large anti-war demonstrations in Denmark, Hungary,
Madrid, Valencia, Spain, England and other locations around the world.
The only photo of the March on the Pentagon was on page 17, of a lone
demonstrator being arrested.

Even the AP wire photos would have one of the large demonstration...but from a level where you couldn't see the size of the crowd, and then there would be a photo of the if they were equal in numbers ...alternating one and then the other.

[I personally believe that a photo taken of the crowd from a helicopter and displayed prominently on the front page of the Times could do more to end the war than almost anything I can think of.]

in many ways the new Time layout, and the image you chose to illustrate it, especially ~ reminds me of McLuhan's 1970 work, Culture Is Our Business : here we see the increasing importance of whitespace and font/type-set as purely visual blocks; ie., "packets" (?) or packaged text context.

“The future of the Book is the Blurb”

So, i don't see this oldtime "layout" as particulary "new Time" {grin}. imho it is the rôle of text itself that is changing the most ~ not the images or their page:layout...

Here we begin to see sentence structures such as, "On the campaign trail in Iowa." (iow, the text is diminished to caption ~ it has no OBJECT without the accompanying visual(s)...

...we (especially here on the BAG) are accustomed to asking the question: "what is the purely visual meaning of this image, without any text context ? "

as TRUTH becomes truthiness, and we begin to live in this brave new world where REALITY is nothing more than declarative statements ~ and NEWS is assertion by rhetorical question (Barack Obama: Did He Attend A Madrassa?) we must ask ourselves thus: "what is the purely literal meaning of these words, without any visual context ? "

Moment of Zen => Artwork in the Age of Its Mechanical Reproducibility

Oh, goody. The DK effect hits Time.

One more reason not to bother "reading" it.

Oh, "DK" is Dorling-Kinserly - the people who seemed to get their start destroying children's books with white space, and have moved into publishing all kinds of what I refer to as "blank books".

I hated them when my kids were little, and refused to buy them.


I loved "Artwork in the Age of its Mechanical Reproducibility" -- especially the bubbles, and the German.

Liz, Kevin Hayden from American Street sent me an interesting image of the demonstrations from today's NYT. Barring anything bigger or shinier popping up, I'll bring it.

I think the intent of the photographer was to emulate Avedon with the white space gobbling up McCain's icky head. Avedon's work was so minimal. He put his subjects in an inhospitable photographic environment and allowed them to demonstrate something from within. This image (by someone who must have been deeply influenced) is a case in point.

McCain holds his hands as if to say, he has too many worries like a Oklahoma Dust Bowl farmer's wife. He is not like the Fred Thompson shot, ready to pick a fight. He is hunched over, a bit tired, and at that moment, reveals, perhaps, he is not as healthy as he would like to project. His slide long glance to his left says he is hoping for someone to give him direction.

Interesting, The text column looks like the World Trade Center, or just one of the towers.+ Mc Cain looks like he is lost.

I am a disaffected (and awakened) former fan of McCain, but this is truly pathetic, he looks like an old man lost in a Mall's parking lot at closing time on Sunday looking for his car.

On word comes to mind, incorrect as it maybe at all levels, pity....

MonsieurGonzo, I don't know how many people are going to follow your references without a little more help. (Except for maybe weisseharre, who may have read "Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit" in the original German.) So, if you'll allow some footnotes, thus:

"The essay was written by Walter Benjamin and published in 1936, but not translated into English until 1968 as 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction'. It's a complex essay, with a series of overlapping arguments and references that clearly relate to the time and place of its own production (post-Weimar Germany). So why is it considered so important?

"Benjamin's central thesis is that the meaning of art changes with the character of its technical reproduction. It was written in a time of intense political upheaval and at a time of significant technological change. He considers such changes for their specific technical and cultural qualities whilst managing to avoid disdain for the products of mass culture (something his contemporaries in the Frankfurt School did not do). The advent of 'mechanical' reproduction meant that all attempts to create self-contained unique and autonomous work of art were now, for better or worse, hopelessly out-of-date.

"These developments, it is argued, will bring art closer to people and make art less authoritarian in character; in other words, these 'new' technologies are inherently more democratic.

"Most importantly, the essay emphasises a politics of art."

Probably it's simply an effect of the black-and-white photograph on a white background but McCain seems to have a lot less hair in that photo than I remember his having. In any case he looks considerably older than usual. I wasn't even quite sure it was McCain at first glance.

three points:

1) Don't mind the white space. But I also don't mind the DK books... when appropriate. The question always is: is this amount of white space appropriate? At least its better than the mid-90s style of MUST FILL EVERYTHING -- USUALLY WITH FLORESCENTS.

2) However, in this case, it just looks like Parade Magazine trying to look like the New York Times magazine.

3) For all the "McCain looks lost" comments -- this is still a flattering image of McCain. It's in the "Black and White" motif that most compliments his extremely mottled and marked skin ad it's shot from below which de-emphasises his bullfrog-sized cheeks and chin. Look at his uniquely grayscale website or most of his campaign lit. There's definately an Ansel Adams agenda in his public image.

4) Remind you of the cover? He's looking away -- in the same direction as Reagan in the cover.

What will be telling will be when McCain's images start being truly unflattering -- in color, in a crowd(so he'll look short, with camera shots looking down on his Nixonian pear-face, bald/white scale and lights that will show all the various shades of white, pink and brown that make up his face.

It almost feels mean. But when it's all said and done, I think this will look like a Tiger Beat spread.

5) I actually meant 4 points. Er, now 5.

Eric is right, this is still essentially flattering to McCain. But the expression is not that of a winner. I don't expect McCain to do better than maybe a VP nod at this point.

I don't discount Jeb Bush showing up and "saving the day" at this point. All of the Repub candidates are extremely weak, to the point where it's odd. Maybe paving the way for Jeb, who will run on a platform of not being his brother. I don't know.

TIME has been, for years, the news magaizine for people who don't actually like to read. It's written on a fourth or fifth grade level, and and is made to sit in hospital and dentist office waiting rooms. It must be by now completely irrelevant.

Maybe the new, even sparser articles mean that the wait at the doctor will be getting shorter in proportion. That would be nice.

Thank you for the link to the Pentagram article. I had not seen the inside of the redesigned Time yet, and at this point I think it's unlikely I'm going to. I look at those page speads and all I see is, "Pentagram Pentagram Pentagram, PENTAGRAM, Pentagram Pentagram." (Like that bar scene in "Being John Malkovich".) This is the look that means "grownup information design" these days, and I can't take it anymore.


nobody sees the resemblance to the cheney pose from last weeks cover?

Paul Krugman wrote

The current cover of Time magazine shows a weeping Ronald Reagan, and declares that Republicans “need to reclaim the Reagan legacy.” But Republicans shouldn’t cry for Ronald Reagan; the truth is, he never left them. There’s no need to reclaim the Reagan legacy: Mr. Bush is what Mr. Reagan would have been given the opportunity. . . . . Unlike Mr. Bush, Mr. Reagan never controlled both houses of Congress — and the pre-Gingrich Republican Party still contained moderates who imposed limits on his ability to govern badly. . . . . But what this tells us is that Mr. Bush, not Mr. Reagan, is the true representative of what modern conservatism is all about. And it’s the movement, not just one man, that has failed.
-- Paul Krugman
Krugman's imprecise about the cover picture. It doesn't show a truly weeping Reagan, it shows a 3/4 profile of Reagan with a single photoshopped teardrop, akin to the famous picture of Iron Eyes Cody (the "Crying Indian") telling Americans not to litter.
Hmmm. Maybe Reagan with a single photoshopped teardrop really is the accurate image of the conservative movement in relation to the Bush Administration.

Perhaps I see through the filter of bias, but aging right-wingers often appear either dour or addled to me. Here, McCain attempts the pose of 'humble reverence' (for what, for whom?), but only manages to come off as apologetic and penitent. In other words, he looks weak.

The phrase "reclaim the Reagan legacy" sends chills up my spine, although I have the impression that they have already eclipsed that "legacy".

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