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Howard Hughes looks askance...

So, this morning I'm reading an article online about the recent escalation of violent crime in many US cities, and there's this sentence here: After a night of dancing, Chiara Levin was shot in the head by a stray bullet from a gunfight as she sat in a Cadillac sport utility vehicle. Hours later she was dead. And all I can think is why the fuck are we being told what kind of car she was sitting in, what difference does it make in this chain of events, how is it possibly relevant to the story? Would her death have been perceived as less tragic, somehow, if she'd been sitting in a rusted out old Honda instead of a "Cadillac sport utility vehicle." Is this just another example of me not groking humanity, or is it me not understanding the peculiarities of journalism? Or is America now so status symbol/class conscious that the goddamn Caddy SUV is actually a point of interest for readers? It strikes me somehow deeply perverse, this specificity. It strikes me odd.

But then most things strike me odd.

I hate how May is fading so fast. I've hardly had a chance to notice it, and here June is almost upon us. My stupid birthday is almost upon me. Another year come and gone so fast it makes me dizzy.

---

The sun will rise soon, and I have not walked one step this entire night. I woke at twilight from a dream, a most terrible dream, and I have sat here all night, watching the moon in the river. It seems I have almost forgotten my reason for entering the bleak, accursed land, my purpose for leaving Lórien and Inwë, even my reason for taking up sword and shield those many long years ago. The dream has all but stricken me dumb, and should my pursuer or some wild beast have come upon me in the night, I fear it or he might have taken me with little struggle on my part. Here I have lost an entire night's travel, and I shall have to decide now whether or not to press on northwards through the heat of the day. I dreamt of a sky gone black with Crebain, as though the shadow of Sauron had returned again to haunt Mordor. And I sat here beside the Caranduin and knew that I was being watched. And then time seemed to slip quickly past me, not so differently from the waters of the river flowing down to the Núrnen, and I heard the noise of great battle and many men and elves dying and the sundering of blades, the smote and ruin of bone and flesh and steel. And I knew then that a new shadow had arisen in the west. And somehow — and I can only just bear to write this part down — I had forsaken my quest and all that which I hold dear in this world and become its lieutenant. The crows laughed my name upon the wind, and I rode a black steed of my own. I watched from the towers of Seregost as setsuled Kinslayer reforged dark alliances and built a fresh army of men and orcs to march, and in my heart I felt only gladness at the sight. Oh, Inwë, I felt his hands upon me. And I awoke screaming. It must be the unspeakable foul taint that remains upon this place, in the soil and water and upon the very breeze, has poisoned my mind and planted these visions there. This is what I tell myself, and yet I was unable to move and sat shivering while the moon crossed the sky. I do not know that I have ever felt so lost. I should not have been chosen...*

---

A decent walk yesterday, after another day of trying to write and not writing. I have spoken with my lit agent this morning, because it's good to be able to tell someone Outside when things have gone astray. Last night, we watched an episode of Nature about the various diverse ecosystems found along the Andes from Cape Horn north to the headwaters of the Amazon, and then we watched Steven Shainberg's Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus (2006). What a beautiful, brilliant film, a modern fairy tale that's equal parts Angela Carter and Lewis Carroll. I cannot believe it hasn't received more attention. I now have to say that there were four perfect films last year, and Fur takes its place alongside Children of Men, The Fountain, and Pan's Labyrinth. Nicole Kidman delivers one of her best performances, and Robert Downey, Jr. is so marvelously understated. I very strongly. strongly recommend this film, if you are the sort who looks at what most of the world deems grotesque and sees there beauty. I loved it.

Anyway, I must try to make something good and productive of this day, and try to redeem myself for having somehow managed to squander the last five.

* Is it possible that Setsuled and I have created some weird new species of tag-team fanfic? Oh course, MySpace readers have only been getting half of this. They may read the other half here.

Comments

( 21 comments — Have your say! )
stephenhsegal
May. 21st, 2007 05:35 pm (UTC)
>>>Is this just another example of me not groking humanity, or is it me not understanding the peculiarities of journalism? Or is America now so status symbol/class conscious that the goddamn Caddy SUV is actually a point of interest for readers?

I suspect it is a case of a reporter who knows he ought to write an actual scene-based narrative but only has space/time (pick one) to offer a single paragraph "painting the picture." Those two lead sentences represent the reporter's (arguably lame) attempt* at showing a real human scene that might evoke an empathic response from the reader before getting on with the news analysis of statistics and quotes from officials. My guess, in this scenario, is that the reporter probably would have said "a rusted old Honda" if it had been one.

(*Or, to be fair, they could also represent what was left after the editor chopped a whole bunch out.)
stephenhsegal
May. 21st, 2007 05:48 pm (UTC)
Whoops, premature post-clicking. I meant to add: It is indeed interesting that the reporter (or editor) seems to feel that "she had just graduated from college," "she had been out dancing," and "she was sitting in a car" constitute sufficient shorthand to visualize a human life. But, you know, those daily deadlines are a real bitch.

There is awesome journalism conducted in America. But the best of it these days is rarely found in the dailies.
(Deleted comment)
greygirlbeast
May. 21st, 2007 06:17 pm (UTC)

Frankly, it probably wouldn't kill us (har har har) to be able to, as a society, view all deaths as either common or as equally tragic - whether old/young, male/female, black/white, rich/poor, etc... Just a thought there.

Yeah. Iraqis and the American soldiers who have no business being there, for example.
stephenhsegal
May. 21st, 2007 06:33 pm (UTC)
Yeah. One of the creepiest and most infuriating things about the media today is the way that, overseas, CNN International quite readily airs footage of horribly wounded Iraqi civilians, because it's understood that those images will "play" to audiences elsewhere -- but here in the States, CNN will never, ever, ever show that footage and risk alienating American viewers.

Absolutely indefensible. A complete abrogation of journalistic responsibility.
headhouse
May. 21st, 2007 06:13 pm (UTC)
I'm more annoyed by the grammar, myself.

"Chiara Levin was shot in the head by a stray bullet from a gunfight"

She was hit in the head, the bullet didn't do the shooting. *twitch*

Though the Cadillac thing, I dunno. Maybe the reporter himself has a pattern of assigning relevance to brand names? It's a media-driven society...
greygirlbeast
May. 21st, 2007 06:16 pm (UTC)

She was hit in the head, the bullet didn't do the shooting. *twitch*

Well, yeah, there's that, too.
headhouse
May. 21st, 2007 08:05 pm (UTC)
Sorry. I usually wind up being "that guy" in the thread. :)
ex_blue_verv849
May. 21st, 2007 06:13 pm (UTC)
Mentioning the Cadillac...
Shorthand for:
This was a white girl, a member of the middle class, just like you (if you're our target audience then, yes, just like you, white, middle class America), who thought she was safe in her big SUV that her upper-middle class parents bought to protect their precious little girl, recent graduate, hope of the future, out for a little bit of harmless fun in the city. But then, she was shot down by a black man (well, we think he's black. We might even check on that...) and now you need to demand more cops, stricter sentencing, and, you know, panic, because those "urban" people (and you know which ones we mean) are going to be shooting your neighborhood next, if we don't throw them all in jail first.

But I'm a cynical hobbit...
stsisyphus
May. 21st, 2007 06:24 pm (UTC)
Is it possible that Setsuled and I have created some weird new species of tag-team fanfic? Oh course, MySpace readers have only been getting half of this...

On the latter point, that's what they get for running through myspace. But how have you. On the former, this actually reminds me of some RP by email sessions I've seen/done. Quite entertaining to see ya'll's (bleak) perspective on Tolkien's Middle Earth...
(Deleted comment)
chris_walsh
May. 21st, 2007 06:34 pm (UTC)
I've been enjoying it, and I've meant to comment on it, but another part of me felt that commenting would break the mood.

But someone has commented positively.
greygirlbeast
May. 21st, 2007 06:52 pm (UTC)

But someone has commented positively.

My bad. I tell you, the memory's going fast...
chris_walsh
May. 21st, 2007 07:07 pm (UTC)
You can call it a "brain fart." Everyone has 'em.

Oh, right: you ladies don't fart from anywhere. *ducks the slap-hand and runs*
ex_blue_verv849
May. 21st, 2007 07:21 pm (UTC)
*sniff*
:p
greygirlbeast
May. 21st, 2007 06:30 pm (UTC)

On the latter point, that's what they get for running through myspace.

True enough.

Quite entertaining to see ya'll's (bleak) perspective on Tolkien's Middle Earth...

It's good to know that someone is enjoying it. I believe you're the only person who has commented to that effect (or commented on it all all, actually).
stsisyphus
May. 21st, 2007 07:51 pm (UTC)
Well, as people have come out of the walls, I guess my comment that some people have commented on it over at Set's LJ is going to be someone meaningless.

I will say that I hesitated for fear of spoiling the magic of the performance with our plebian hurrahs. "Please save all applause until the curtain," and all that.
greygirlbeast
May. 21st, 2007 08:17 pm (UTC)


I will say that I hesitated for fear of spoiling the magic of the performance with our plebian hurrahs. "Please save all applause until the curtain," and all that.


Makes sense. I just have this crippling fear of silence=bored readers.
tjcrowley
May. 21st, 2007 06:50 pm (UTC)
Come on, you know the drill -- you gotta paint a picture with words to tell the story. Journalists are weird because they stick to the facts. What people do with that picture in their heads is not their fault -- you've gone and extrapolated a lot in your own head from just the words "Cadillac sport utility vehicle".

They also probably picked a victim that would bring out strong emotions either way in folks who read the article. Nobody is talking about the hundreds of people in this country hit by stray bullets every day, because it's just too overwhelming. The mentality is to pick one that most people can "relate" to, I believe. The fact that you can't relate to her seems to be working for them as well by getting you to talk about the story. In the end, the point is not who was shot but that this happens a lot more these days. Sadly, jorunalism offers no solutions to this problem. It just reports the facts.
avarwaen
May. 21st, 2007 07:10 pm (UTC)
In my excitement, I neglected to mention here that I've been enjoying the tag-team fanfic immensely. (I left an odd comment to that effect in setsuled's journal a while back.) It has grown so fluidly, it's hard to believe it wasn't planned.

Chiara Levin was shot in the head

At least they're not saying "shot in the face". Our local news uses those very words day and night for different reports, and it seems to strip the deceased of their dignity. Are they trying to shock us more, or do they not realize that it sounds like a crude joke when presented that way?
sovay
May. 21st, 2007 07:29 pm (UTC)
Is it possible that Setsuled and I have created some weird new species of tag-team fanfic?

I have no idea of its taxonomic classification (and I suspect it does not obey the laws of this universe anyway), but I'm enjoying it greatly.
greygirlbeast
May. 21st, 2007 07:55 pm (UTC)

I have no idea of its taxonomic classification (and I suspect it does not obey the laws of this universe anyway), but I'm enjoying it greatly.

It's definitely a sort of alternate Middle Earth reality.
spacecoyotevega
May. 22nd, 2007 10:37 pm (UTC)
* Is it possible that Setsuled and I have created some weird new species of tag-team fanfic?

Whatever it is, it kicks quite a large amount of ass. The fact of your apparent existence in a sphere of reality overlapping mine has been in large part redeemed. I cannot speak for other parts of the Venn diagram; but then I am also not entirely convinced that these posited external realities exist in any relevant sense; they can therefore get sucked. Good stories are one of the few redeeming features of continuing sentient existence. In conclusion: y'all kick ass, and may continue to do so, or not, at your own pleasure. Laters. :)
( 21 comments — Have your say! )