Picture this

I really don't mean to keep writing about images of war but the subject does, understandably, keep cropping up in the media.

Following the allegations that a freelance photographer for Reuters manipulated photographs from Lebanon, Peter Caddick-Adams at the superb BBC News Magazine looks back at the visual history of fighting and asks does it matter if iconic images of victory have been staged?

Worth considering that that, today most people's reactions to conflict are based on emotions rather than logic or true comprehension. Images, as it happens, are a particularly good way of manipulating people's emotions and the permanent record that is photograph can even manipulate our view - and understanding - of history.

Speaking of photography, the ever excellent Tony Long at Wired News, meanwhile, defends the art of inhaling disgusting but strangely addictive chemicals in this paean to the photographic darkroom.

Seeing as how I'm rounding up things that I've touched on before, Liz Hoggard at the Independent writes about goth culture. Though largely concerned with music and fashion, Hoggard quotes one callow spokesperson for the fiend-core scene as saying: "They tend to be the middle-class intellectual kids who have started to view the world differently. They spend a lot of time in their bedrooms reading, but they also love films like Donnie Darko, or TV shows about death and horror such as Buffy or Six Feet Under."

I agree with the middle class bit anyway. Intellectual? I think not. Conflating a lack of social skills, poor taste in television and your parents' bank balance with cognitive ability is a new conceit, even to me.

As witness to my highly controversial theory that wearing black lipstick doesn't mean you are intelligent (or unintelligent, for that matter) I offer Dita Von Teese as a case study.

I first heard of Ms. Von Teese while watching Jonathan Ross declare himself to be her biggest fan and was flabbergasted. By her name.

How does it speak of this youth culture's self-professed intelligence that a burlesque performer has to call herself Dita Von Teese so that they, a significant chunk of her potential audience, understand that her act consists of her taking her clothes off. Slowly. If she was a quicker getting her kit off would she change her name to plain old Dita Von Stripper?

Andrew Eldtricth, frontman with The Sisters of Mercy, knows all about goths. It's a tag he's been trying to shake off for over twenty years. Here is an illuminating quotation about popular culture from the man himself:

Leonard Cohen tells me he would no longer bother to write a song about Isaac, because people wouldn't know what he was on about. That doesn't only diminish the vocabulary of songs, it has wider implications. If the reference points for our whole belief system are forgotten, we find it that much harder to understand a shared belief system, or even to disagree coherently with a shared belief system. We end up in a vicious circle of incoherent, half-baked individual utilitarianism where nobody has any belief system at all and we lose the ability to communicate with each other. I think that's one reason why football is so popular again - it's a game which the citizen can focus on, where the rules are defined. Unlike his life. The citizen is becoming a pawn in a game where nobody knows the rules, where everybody consequently doubts that there are rules at all, and where the vocabulary has been diminished to such an extent that nobody is even sure what the game is all about. Hence the concomitant rise of fads like astrology, spiritualism, and generic "I want to believe"-ism. I'm a humanist. I believe people should be able to sort themselves out, as does the Judeo-Christian tradition, obviously, but for rather different reasons. Even for Western-European humanists, it's helpful to know about Isaac and Abraham for any discussion of belief/hope/obligation, especially if we wish to join a discussion which has been developed over two thousand years. It's a bit tedious to have to start the discussion from scratch every time by mulling over yesterday's soap-opera with the few people who actually watched it.

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