Saturday, April 12, 2008

What I See in Dick Cheney's Sunglasses



If you are reading this, I find it hard to believe that you haven’t seen this White House sanctioned photograph of Dick Cheney – Friday’s infectious internet entertainment (and of course entertainment becomes the news, or is the news: makes you wonder). Here is something from Wired.

Seems pretty clear to me that the reflections in the Veep’s shades are his wrists, maybe some knuckles. They bulge in such a way that led some (okay, many) to speculate whether or not Cheney had lied to his wife and instead of going fishing, got strippers (and who says that you can’t do both at once?). Upon further examination, everyone now seems to agree that there is no woman in front of Cheney (although those Bohemian Grove summer retreats sound pretty wild, but this was in Idaho).

This was the lede that circulated:

The Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese and the Illinois-shaped corn flake appear to have new competition for webbies' fascination . . .

Our relationship with the image is on a fast track to a destination that I can’t locate, though I’m certainly along for the ride. What’s really interesting about this Cheney picture is that people are studying and speculating about an image of a reflection (another image). They are not examining the actual reflection. The stories I tend to relate are about one person’s interpretation of a physical object marked in some way with a recognizable, iconic form, and how then that is disseminated into the culture.

This tendency to find meaning in the abstract, to see something and make it mean something, or want it to mean something, strikes me as a trait that makes us human. The conspiracy theorist tries to force in one more piece of the puzzle; someone down on their luck sees a just budding tree that makes life a little, or a lot, better; the carefree kid yanks a burnt Pop Tart out of the toaster, sees a sneaker logo and sells it on eBay. We invest meaning in the visual – for an array of reasons from the spiritual to the absurd – for the sake of recognition. What we see is how we place ourselves in this world.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted my 100th entry. It’s been more than a year of compiling these stories in the wake of the book, and I am floored by how they still draw me in because of how they mirror and reflect our world. I’ll be traveling for the next couple of weeks. I might chime in, I might not. But come May, I’ll be back, looking to spruce the place up a bit, trying to take all of these little stories and weave them together. It’s certainly something I do in Madonna of the Toast, but these stories don’t stop.

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