Additional criteria to help make it less obscene when a photo of an awful thing is a well-done photo

This is not exactly a conflict of interest I’m declaring. It’s a bias. I’m declaring a bias, or an agenda. The rules don’t say to do that but I think it’s fair.

the rules

It’s about that still shot of James Foley. I don’t often click through to stories about current events so it’s odd that that photo showed up with advertisements to the right of my feed. Ads for shoes, ads for design-your-own promotional products, and that photo. I’m assuming it showed up in everybody else’s feed too. So I don’t need to put it here. I don’t think it would be right to put it here, I’m thinking you know what I’m talking about. Also thinking we all made the same obscene observation that the composition was amazing. The colors, the way things were laid out with balance and symmetry and negative space.

negative space

His parents’ press conference was something. You are damn right that mom wore sunglasses the whole way through. She looked like Sophia Loren. You don’t get to see the eyes of that mom. Her eyes might be gone. They might be just burned-out holes at this point. I don’t think we get to see that.


The panel starts tomorrow morning. There’s a 30-minute orientation first, with refreshments. I don’t know if there will be time in there to talk about any of this. It’s the literary fellowship program so we probably won’t get into the principles of design, or what to do about that photo, like what kind of responsibility we should take for that photo being in the world. But there should be something. You can’t really sit around a table judging works of art without some accountability to a thing like that. Just some kind of nod to the fact that basic principles of design or beauty or whatever can be applied to all kinds of content, making all kinds of messages and leading to a lot of different ends.

So it’s a big deal to give or get funding to do your thing. To get a grant that pays your rent while you finish your memoir or whatever. It’s a big deal bigger than suddenly awesomely having your rent paid for a couple months so you can adjunct one less class. That’s my bias. I mean I’ll follow the rules and evaluate the applications according to the official criteria, for sure, but additionally, I mean we all have biases, I’m just saying this out loud, the applicants I’m going to love most will be the ones who write like they believe in the big deal.

It’s two full workdays of reviews which can get kind of long. So I think it would be helpful to have a reminder to glance at now and then. It’s just a guess that there will be juice in the mornings, orange and other flavors, probably in a bowl with ice. So that’s a start but it probably won’t be enough. It would take an amazing event planner to think of standing up just a few OJ bottles on ice in the bowl, and putting a tall black carafe next to that, and using sand-colored linens and painting the wall that gray-blue. The bowl of juice bottles would need to be low on the table. That’s what it would take. There might be someone on staff who did think of this but I doubt there would have been time to paint the wall or order new linens by tomorrow morning. So I won’t share this during introductions or anything but I’ll have it in my folder and we can probably make color copies if necessary.


mystic golden hanger

Post-script 9/1/14: Color copies were unnecessary, because that panel was a remarkable assemblage of reader/writers from around the state who cared more than you’d imagine about what it means to make art, not to mention what it means to award or to receive funding for making art. Including Wendy Skinner, 2014 MSAB fellowship recipient for her work about how wolves and the legalization of wolf hunting and trapping affect residents of northern Minnesota. Wendy will read from the project Nov. 13 at Open Book. I say we all go.

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