"[This book] embodies the Buddhist wisdom about change, life, and the
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Robert Stone

January 2008 Archives

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January 31, 2008


Now come charges, supposedly laid out in the forthcoming book by respected Times journalist Philip Shenon, The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation, that during the 9/11 Commission’s machinations, its executive director, Philip Zelikow, kept up back-channel communications with Karl Rove. Please check out the alarming report at this link to Washington Decoded.

When it comes to the 9/11 Commission, as Sontag and others have posited about photographs: Nothing shocks us any more. In 2004, historian Ben DeMott had already laid out, in a scathing Harper’s piece, that the report was, on balance, a “whitewash.” And I point fingers in Watching the World Change, insisting that the commission proved toothless in the end by making recommendations that were half-measures and by refusing to bring charges against Bush administration officials who were derelict of duty: “[Where is] the culpability of Congress, which, through its bipartisan 9/11 Commission, ended up letting the executive branch off the hook despite systemic, catastrophic lapses”? (page 242)

My main worry, though, is that Shenon’s revelations, once they gain momentum (as they surely will in the coming days) will give the 9/11 Truthies/Truthers/Truthists all the more ammo, further taking everyone’s eyes off the main target (that bull's-eye being al Qaeda, as many tend to forget - not the Bush administration, despite its infinitely inexcusable ineptitude).

On the Primary Front….FAREWELL, SWEET RUDY!….We hardly knew ye….Your fall from grace was steep and swift, for which we thank the forces of karmic gravity.

Citizen Photojournalist? You might want to visit this alpha site: Flixwagon.com.

….And, for grins, please check out this week’s blog post, “Unsubscribe Me…Please!” by yours truly, at VanityFair.com.

January 26, 2008


This morning's New York Times has another in a series of anti-Giuliani pieces, a beaut by Gail Collins. Filing from Fort Lauderdale, she monitor's the ex-mayor's last-gasp swing through Florida on the eve of the Republican presidential primary and observes:

"Giuliani has turned hurricanes into nature's way of saying Al Qaeda. ('All of us are subject to the impact of natural disasters . . . and of course acts of terrorism, which I remember living through.')"

Talk about running on the fumes of 9/11.

For more on Giuliani, check out yesterday's post on VanityFair.com, by yours truly.

...And while you're at it, sample my post about New York Times obituaries.

MEANWHILE, ACROSS THE POND...There's a large take-out in Saturday's Times of London on the upcoming exhibition at London's National Portrait Gallery, Vanity Fair Portraits, 1913-2008. Worth a gander.


January 21, 2008


A fascinating Web site called APhotoADay.org purports to have its finger (or, rather, computer cursor) on the pulse of all things photojournalistic, providing insightful tidbits about the current state of documentary photography in the digital world. And it delivers. Just today, browsing the site, I learned that:

--The popular photo sharing site Flickr has embarked on a deal with the Library of Congress to begin providing digital access to some of its collections.

--Lucas Oleniuk, of the Toronto Star, has produced an eye-opening study of global warming by creating a time-lapse video composed of 20,000 black-and-white photographs.

...And while we're on the subject of global warming, mosey that cursor over to photographer James Balog's incomparably chilling (pun intended) Web site, Extreme Ice Survey, a comprehensive look (partially in time-lapse) at what The National Geographic has dubbed The Big Thaw.


The New York Times today lends credence to the recently whispered rumor that gargantuan Getty Images may be on the block with a theoretical asking price of a sweet $1.5 billion. For years now, Getty has been doing the gobbling -- and has lately been in the midst of cutbacks and restructuring. But who, pray tell, save a company such as Google, or Mr. Gates himself (whose Corbis has been, for the most part, out of focus since shortly after its founding, in 1989), will have pockets deep enough or enough complementary businesses to make an acquisition digestible, sensible, and potentially profitable for the long term?

Photo District New Online is a bit skeptical in its assessment. But the Times's Andrew Ross Sorkin is usually right on the money in his reporting. I say, Where there's smoke, there's fire.

January 16, 2008


Today, VanityFair.com launched a "group blog," called VF DAILY, including an essay by yours truly -- an Iraq War Death-Toll Timeline.

Please check out the site. For the foreseeable future, I'll be posting there every Wednesday.


January 7, 2008


In 1998 photographer Dirck Halstead launched a Web site called The Digital Journalist (for which I write occasional columns and articles, as a contributing editor). In short order, it became a must-click destination for the photojournalism community.

This month, to honor the site's 10th anniversary, Dirck has posted some of the classic pieces produced by TDJ over the past decade, including two features dear to my heart: 20 Years: Photography & AIDS (which in 2001 was named the best story produced by an independent Web site, as determined by the Online Journalism Association) and Seeing the Horror (images by, and interviews with, photojournalists who covered the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath), to which I contributed an essay, "America's Darkest Day."


Please stop by the Web site this month and revisit the early intersection of photojournalism and compelling online storytelling.

...MISCELLANY. A quote from New York Times media-business columnist -and-oracle David Carr in today's paper:

"The downside of being able to shoot and store all the photos you want at little or no cost is that you can shoot or store all the photos you want. (Experts are suggesting that the average number of times a photo is viewed is dropping from one toward zero very rapidly.)"

January 1, 2008


As the year closed out, Benazir Bhutto’s death underscored the fragility of the situation in Pakistan and the border regions of Afghanistan. The assassination also revealed, yet again, how public lives – and public violence – are relentlessly documented in photographs. No sooner had photojournalists’ cameras caught the suicide-bomb explosion that was triggered to assassinate Bhutto, than an image surfaced showing a would-be assassin with his head wrapped in a shawl (below, top), and another showing what was purported to be a man firing a gun at Bhutto just an instant before the bomb was detonated (middle). And yesterday came another photo – equally murky and subject to misinterpretation as the other two: an x-ray of Bhutto’s skull (bottom).

Even unto death, our days are parsed out in pictures.







...CLICK HERE for previous posting on the impact of news photographs on the situations in Pakistan and Burma.


My son, Sam, is off to New Hampshire to volunteer for Barack Obama, as he did this past summer in Obama’s Chicago office. Over New Year’s break he made this rap clip, “Get Down to the Booths,” which has been getting its modicum of clicks on YouTube.


Here’s to the video going viral.