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December 1, 2005

“Victory Plan” Theatre


As I’ve said before, I think the visual coverage of the White House has begun to incorporate the idea that the Bush Administration is a sitcom.

Of course, Bush’s plan in search of a plan; the “Victory” branding (including the neurolinguistic tactic of positioning “victory” as the opposite of “exit strategy”); and the imperial backdrop in Annapolis (including the ” Plan For Victory” term 15 times over) are all so “over the top” that the whole Iraq re-re-repositioning here more than overdoses on it’s own.

Still, I especially admired two images yesterday which more subliminally conveyed that things don’t add up.


The more you absorb this image by Jonathan Ernst, what stands out is the photographer passing in front of the stage, and the there, but-not-there camera man in the foreground.  (And don’t forget the photographer stage left shooting Bush from below.)  The message? It’s a show, baby, pure show.


And then there was this shot by Paul J. Richards.  Just fabulous!  (If you were expecting the pic showing the cadets sleeping in their seats waiting for Bush to finally arrive, you won’t find it here.  Way too obvious, way way too obvious.)

But this!  Someone please argue with me that this photo is “straight up” — meaning strictly laudatory.  Because it does read straight up; these kids are worshipful.

At the same time, however (and that’s what makes for great irony), this photo is a complete hoot.  The three heads just below the curtain (as if the stage was in front of us, not behind) is straight out of Python.  The guy in the middle?  Yeah, he’s transfixed.  But the stare is “over the top” again.  And the guy at the far right?  Even if it’s really not, that surely is a skeptical eye.  And what’s with the symmetrical one- eyed business at the edges, anyway?  That’s funny.  Just like those two heads framing the crazy Tom Cruise-guy in the center are funny — especially the crew cut one.

I can’t imagine what could be left by the time we get to Bush’s last year.  Can a person actually become a caricature of a caricature of himself?

(image 1: Chris Gardner/A.P.  November 30, 2005. Annapolis, Md. Via YahooNews.  image 2: .Jason Reed/Reuters. November 30, 2005. Annapolis, Md. Via YahooNews.  image 3: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters. November 30, 2005. Annapolis, Md. Via YahooNews.  image 4:  Paul J. Richards/AFP. November 30, 2005. Annapolis, Md. Via YahooNews.)

  • tuffy

    My God. That “Plan for Victory” backdrop looks like an old set from The Carol Burnett Show.

  • eva

    What struck me about the first photo is its resemblance to a classic puppet theater set. I found myself trying to imagine who was squatting there behind the skirt across the front of the stage, holding up the little puppet. A quick search on Google images for “puppet theater” brought it all home.

  • Phredd

    eva, great suggestion about googling puppet theater That’s exactly what I was missing to make sense of those top two photos.
    The third photo reminds me of school age children in grown-up theater seats trying to make sense of Wagner’s Parsifal.
    The incredible shrinking preznit.

  • Kevin

    Your “Tom Cruise guy” comment is brilliant. Suddenly Scientology and the U.S. Military become bizarre equivalents. Can we say “brainwash”, boys and girls?
    A friend’s son is a cadet there. He said they were all forced to attend, received no extra credit for it (though he thought they should have), and he spent all his time counting the number of mispronounced words and the number of times Bush looked down at his notes with that deer in the headlights look. He was not impressed. And his mother tried to watch the speech in order to catch a glimpse of her son in the audience, but Bush made her so nauseous she had to turn off the TV. She wants the twins sent to Iraq ASAP.

  • marysz

    What makes the backdrop behind the president look like it’s from an old TV show, as tuffy points out, is the attempted use of trump l’oeil–the fake drop shadows behind the pompous looking insignias and the banner reading “Plan for Victory.” The backdrop is also divided into three inexplicable panels delineated by more sham drop shadows. This cut-rate, fake backdrop signals the spuriousness of Bush’s remarks before he even opens his mouth. Maybe Bush needs to switch PR firms. The two folding panels in front of Bush’s dais are more fakery, as well as a way of barricading Bush from his audience.
    The soldiers in the audience remind me of that old 1984 Apple computer commercial with its voice over: “Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives. We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology. Where each worker may bloom secure from the pests of contradictory and confusing truths. Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause. Our enemies shall talk themselves to death and we will bury them with their own confusion. We shall prevail!”

  • lemondloulou54

    I like how they had to keep the commandant or whatever his title is up on the stage for the speech. Would the boys not have sat at attention other wise?
    And how many of our sailors are serving in Iraq anyway? Aren’t the marines and the army the ones taking the heat in this war? I suppose there are a fare number of Navy seals who are losing their lives, but the average sailor has it pretty easy by comparison, I believe. I’d like to see Bush try this one at West Point and see what kind of response he gets. He’s all buy ruined our Army after all.

  • Asta

    There’s something very surrealistic about it all. My first reaction was that I was looking at a doll house, Barbi’s Dream Home. The Plan for Victory sign — well, it’s just plain stupid looking. The whole scene is stupid. Stupid is as stupid does, I guess.
    It makes my eyes hurt. This is way too early in the morning to view the props of our insane administration.

  • Greg

    Tuffy, if that backdrop isn’t from the Carol Burnett show, it’s surely one of the backgrounds Marta drops during the “Lonely Goatherd” number in The Sound of Music.

  • smasher

    That third shot looks a lot like the Kilroy Was Here graffiti from WWII. See for more info about Kilroy.
    Very weird.

  • momly

    Ya suppose Bush’s plan for victory is something he saw in a window and just couldn’t resist?

  • mugatea

    Wow, it looks like King Friday’s set on Mr.Roger’s Neighborhood.
    Doesn’t Mr. Roger’s refer to that as the “Land of Make-believe?”
    Ding, ding … here comes the trolly.
    Sad. Very. I want to laugh at the buffoon but it’s just not funny, what he has done.

  • momly

    John Stewart referred to teh set as “Naval Jeopardy”. HEE!

  • momly

    Here’s the Daily Show link, if you’re interested.

  • Kevin

    Don Imus this morning said the set looked like “Wink Martindale” was coming out to give you a prize! Something like that, anyway. Loved the Wink Martindale reference.

  • gleex

    What a joke, what does he think he is King George holding court. I would wonder if that is supposed to play in the South (me thinks not). Then I figure nobody is going to watch this “major speech” anyway.
    Either things are working on the ground or they are not. That being said I am glad Murtha opened up the debate a bit and King George is finally (and to late) trying to open up dialog with the American street.
    To bad we are to busy rioting over who gets to buy a video iPod.
    That backdrop embarasses me and makes me want to puke. That is without considering the irony that he is unveiling a plan for victory 3 years in, with over 2,100 US soldiers dead in Iraq alone, over 15,000 wounded, and nobody even knows why we are there, why we went, or if victory is possible, or what victory is…but its a good thing they spent all that time and money on a gold leaf monarchs seal for the backdrop.
    I am starting to disbelieve (or maybe the correct term would be fail to comprehend both what I am seeing, and why it is being shown to me) what I see.
    To heck with the old show thing, that is the seal of a King. He thinks that he can start on his Manifest Destiny right now. That 20 years from now we are going to look back and be in awe of his speech and the backdrop.

  • black dog barking

    The set design looks a lot like a “standard” web page: three columns, banner heading, small print footer, drop shadows, nifty icons, recti-linear background texture, the visual contrast between the blues and the (all-Red, all-Green, no-Blue) gold highlights. This could be the front page for a well funded entity that wants to get in on the Internet’s attention but doesn’t really have anything worthwhile to say. A facade.
    Oh, and that tiny little thing in the center, that’s the President of the United States.

  • Falling Leaves

    The backdrop looks like a bad cake decoration.
    Or as though it was inspired by a gold-leafed entry hall to one of Sadaam’s old palaces.

  • Darryl Pearce

    The backdrop looks uncomfortably like a church to me… but then, that’s just me.
    However, I found these fun:
    Thanks, BagNewsNotes!

  • PTate in MN

    I was reminded of the new Christian flag that we discussed here a while back.
    Perhaps this cluttered mess is another example of the coded aesthetic admired by right-wing authoritarians like GWB & his supporters. I believe the visual choices provide a window into their minds and thinking: fussy with irrelevant detail, missing the forest for the trees; concrete (rather than abstract); explicit (rather than implicit); superficial, not subtle, not making fine distinctions; boxed in, hierarchical; anxious, paranoid, struggling with scale and proportion. In a kind of pre-metaphorical thinking, simple codes are used in which an object is invested with power & meaning.
    The first thing to impress me was all the rectangles divided and subdivided into smaller rectangles of all sizes: I count at least nine sizes. It is the visual equivalent of using nine different fonts on a page. In addition, the proportions of the backdrop are flag-like. The little squares echo the stars and stripes. Finally, notice how everything is framed, controlled, closed in. No straying outside the lines here! It’s a claustrophic, right-angle world view.
    In addition, nothing is symbolic or abstract. Just in case you miss it, the message is spelled out. The closest thing to symbolic are the blue and gold naval colors and the reassuringly accessible Naval armorial shield. Its scale dwarfs the humans. The messages are repeated like a mantra: “Plan for Victory,” three times. The armorial shield, four times.
    We see it as a cluttered mess. His base sees it as clear coded reassurance that we are safer and victory will be achieved through military might.

  • Rafael

    Nice catch marysz! Then again all of Bush presidency spins my mind between 1984 and Fareigheit 411.
    I think the background should have been a nice deep purple or maybe a blood red. One that would either make Caesar or Mad King George III proud!

  • itwasntme

    This pompous, comic-opera set is designed to speak louder than the words coming out of The Idiot’s mouth. A good idea, since he can’t do public speaking and his handlers think we are stupid. Also, that small wall down front might be more important than it seems: I feel there might be federal agents hunkered down there with guns in case somebody tries anything (even with a pie). I laughed at the BAG’s “parody of a parody” but actually I’m crying. What the hell is happening to my country?

  • ummabdulla

    I don’t have much to add but I have to say how much I enjoy – and sometimes giggle through – everyone’s comments. Too bad it’s not just a joke…
    My first impressions were “over the top” and “cheesy”. But somehow it also reminds me of some of those oldish movies where there’s a guy selling some potion, and he goes from town to town setting up a stage and trying to con people.
    It also looks like whoever designed this thing has zero respect for his audience, either the cadets or the larger domestic and international audience. They’re assuming that they’re talking to morons.

  • jt from B.C.

    From Main Deck/ Top Gun /Mission Accomplished //to standing in front of a back drop of a ships grey hull complete with iron strapping, metal plates, rivets and unopened port holes which cry out Plan for Victory (he’s doing some touch up painting from his new scaffold position) I am looking at the TV where these objects stand out unlike the photo. I have replayed the speech noting that, “Iraqis know their people and the language”..“answer histories call”..“ they create chaos for the camera”..“bring justice to our enemies”..“they seek to sow, anger, hatred and despair”…“releasing unclassified version of Plan For Victory”… GWB lips were actually quivering when he read the last letter of Corporal Jeff Shaw (I did a number of replays to be certain) for which he received the loudest and longest ovation…the staging is a dogs breakfast but combining the voice & images I observed a return to The Theatre Of The Absurd, and what better script or actor could have been chosen ?

  • Jo

    Being so old it made me think of seeing the News on Germany as I grew up. I was born in the 30’s. What is it with these ‘rulers’ who like to get second class men designing their back drops?

  • ummabdulla

    These backgrounds are really getting irritating; here’s Bush talking about World AIDS Day.
    (Seeing the Presidential Seal up close reminds me of that design for a new Christian flag, too.)

  • readytoblowagasket

    First, thank you to everyone for your good moods today and generosity with funny links. I laughed out loud many times. (Goatherd.)
    I’d like to extend some of PTate_in_MN’s comments a little further. I agree that the aesthetic of the stage set is hideous, but I don’t think “cluttered” or “mess” accurately describe it. The design is very rigid, regular, and (please forgive the alliteration) repetitious. There is clear-cut framing and everything is deliberately centered. These elements of the design give a feeling of control and calmness, all the better to convey the message that things are under control in Iraq, so let’s stick to our original plan. Also, the color blue is calming, and this particular blue (Air Force blue, for how we are moving into a stronger air campaign?) is very cool, almost silver (silver outranks gold in some military symbolism).
    Other elements the military audience can relate to: a stupid simpleton slogan (oops, a little editorializing slipped out — sorry!) on a background with gold stars (stars denote rank) to look like insignia, the flag (two makes for steadiness and balance in this case), the commander-in-chief in a suit that matches the seated officer’s, the chevron shape behind W (I don’t get that one beyond it’s divided vertically, but I’m sure it means something), even the curtains and stage “skirt” probably mean something. We’re going to have to wait for fotonique to fill in the blanks that I can’t. All I can figure out is the speech is not for us civilians, it’s a pep talk for the military.
    Whoever is in charge of these backdrop designs really loves a repeating pattern, no matter who the audience is. The antiseptic look to them always gives me a migraine.

  • readytoblowagasket

    breeder: You can tell they aren’t gay by how ugly the stage set is. If they were gay, the set would look A LOT better.

  • Cactus

    How scary is it that marysz can quote a 20-year old commercial? I spent my misguided youth ignoring them.
    On the other hand, it does sound a lot like a pseudo-Borg announcement.

  • HOWARD Roberts

    Howard Roberts
    A Seven-point plan for an Exit Strategy in Iraq
    1) A timetable for the complete withdrawal of American and British forces must be announced.
    I envision the following procedure, but suitable fine-tuning can be applied by all the people involved.
    A) A ceasefire should be offered by the Occupying side to representatives of both the Sunni insurgency and the Shiite community. These representatives would be promised safe passage, to any meetings. The individual insurgency groups would designate who would attend.
    At this meeting a written document declaring a one-month ceasefire, witnessed by a United Nations authority, will be fashioned and eventually signed. This document will be released in full, to all Iraqi newspapers, the foreign press, and the Internet.
    B) US and British command will make public its withdrawal, within sixth-months of 80 % of their troops.
    C) Every month, a team of United Nations observers will verify the effectiveness of the ceasefire.
    All incidences on both sides will be reported.
    D) Combined representative armed forces of both the Occupying nations and the insurgency organizations that agreed to the cease fire will protect the Iraqi people from actions by terrorist cells.
    E) Combined representative armed forces from both the Occupying nations and the insurgency organizations will begin creating a new military and police force. Those who served, with out extenuating circumstances, in the previous Iraqi military or police, will be given the first option to serve.
    F) After the second month of the ceasefire, and thereafter, in increments of 10-20% ,a total of 80% will be withdrawn, to enclaves in Qatar and Bahrain. The governments of these countries will work out a temporary land-lease housing arrangement for these troops. During the time the troops will be in these countries they will not stand down, and can be re-activated in the theater, if both the chain of the command still in Iraq, the newly formed Iraqi military, the leaders of the insurgency, and two international ombudsman (one from the Arab League, One from the United Nations), as a majority, deem it necessary.
    G) One-half of those troops in enclaves will leave three-months after they arrive, for the United States or other locations, not including Iraq.
    H) The other half of the troops in enclaves will leave after six-months.
    I) The remaining 20 % of the Occupying troops will, during this six month interval, be used as peace-keepers, and will work with all the designated organizations, to aid in reconstruction and nation-building.
    J) After four months they will be moved to enclaves in the above-mentioned countries.
    They will remain, still active, for two month, until their return to the States, Britain and the other involved nations.
    2) At the beginning of this period the United States will file a letter with the Secretary General of the Security Council of the United Nations, making null and void all written and proscribed orders by the CPA, under R. Paul Bremer. This will be announced and duly noted.
    3) At the beginning of this period all contracts signed by foreign countries will be considered in abeyance until a system of fair bidding, by both Iraqi and foreign countries, will be implemented ,by an interim Productivity and Investment Board, chosen from pertinent sectors of the Iraqi economy.
    Local representatives of the 18 provinces of Iraq will put this board together, in local elections.
    4) At the beginning of this period, the United Nations will declare that Iraq is a sovereign state again, and will be forming a Union of 18 autonomous regions. Each region will, with the help of international experts, and local bureaucrats, do a census as a first step toward the creation of a municipal government for all 18 provinces. After the census, a voting roll will be completed. Any group that gets a list of 15% of the names on this census will be able to nominate a slate of representatives. When all the parties have chosen their slates, a period of one-month will be allowed for campaigning.
    Then in a popular election the group with the most votes will represent that province.
    When the voters choose a slate, they will also be asked to choose five individual members of any of the slates.
    The individuals who have the five highest vote counts will represent a National government.
    This whole process, in every province, will be watched by international observers as well as the local bureaucrats.
    During this process of local elections: a central governing board, made up of United Nations, Election governing experts, insurgency organizations, US and British peacekeepers, and Arab league representatives, will assume the temporary duties of administering Baghdad, and the central duties of governing.
    When the ninety representatives are elected they will assume the legislative duties of Iraq for two years.
    Within three months the parties that have at least 15% of the representatives will nominate candidates for President and Prime Minister.
    A national wide election for these offices will be held within three months from their nomination.
    The President and the Vice President and the Prime Minister will choose their cabinet, after the election.
    5) All debts accrued by Iraq will be rescheduled to begin payment, on the principal after one year, and on the interest after two years. If Iraq is able to handle another loan during this period she should be given a grace period of two years, from the taking of the loan, to comply with any structural adjustments.
    6) The United States and the United Kingdom shall pay Iraq reparations for its invasion in the total of 120 billion dollars over a period of twenty years for damages to its infrastructure. This money can be defrayed as investment, if the return does not exceed 6.5 %.
    7) During beginning period Saddam Hussein and any other prisoners who are deemed by a Council of Iraqi Judges, elected by the National representative body, as having committed crimes will be put up for trial.
    The trial of Saddam Hussein will be before seven judges, chosen from this Council of Judges.
    One judge, one jury, again chosen by this Council, will try all other prisoners.
    All defendants will have the right to present any evidence they want, and to choose freely their own lawyers.

  • Cactus

    In that last photo, WHERE is the photographer shooting from? Behind the blue drapery? Is there a space between that and the stage? And why no apparent flash if it’s shot close-up? Depth of field seems to be shallow. Or was it shot before the event started when the house lights were up?
    I agree about the boxing in of W. The two verticals on either side; his head surrounded by boxes within the chevron shape; he’s behind the podium which is behind the panels.
    All in all, the setting reminds me of totalitarian propaganda art. All message, no meaning.

  • error27

    The picture of the cadets makes me cross-eyed. Most of the space is used to show a bunch of out of people in the background and that makes my eyes bug out.
    The symetry is disturbing. It’s only in the military where people line up so perfectly. Here they’re sitting down but they still line up.
    Tom Cruise’s ears stick out. The way his head is poking over the curtain, he reminds me of a rabbit.
    These are all pretty young guys. It’s sad that they will be in danger in Iraq.

  • momly

    Jesus’ General has a pic of the midshipmen waiting for the show to start.

  • Patti Flanagin

    I think the backdrop looks like those used for old game shows, appropriately enough.

  • JRD

    Hey, after years of teaching junior high, I know that front-and-center cadet’s expression: he looks gung-ho, but he’s actually asleep.

  • acm

    I think the visual coverage of the White House has begun to incorporate the idea that the Bush Administration is a sitcom
    jeez, this set looks like a gameshow!!
    and just what is that weird shieldy thing in the middle?!

  • bg

    Reagan had Hollywood People, Clinton had Hollywood People, Georgie has got no Hollywood People (well, Arnold, but we’ve seen his latest props, no good). Georgie needs some Hollywood. Not gonna happen.

  • Baze

    Putting the actual content of the Lying Shrub’s most recent Orwellian “Victory is at Hand,” Insurgency=Terrorist, “I’m speaking at the Naval Academy where no one will boo me” speech aside, I noticed press photographers are getting better at shooting him (forgive my choice of words) WITHOUT the standard White House repeating message photo-op background (IN this case, “Plan For Victory” all over the place looking like a stage set from a bad summer stock theater).
    Check out Pics 1 and 2 for some of the “Mission Accomplished” style pics the WH would no doubt have preferred to see in the papers.
    Note the center white shield-like shape centered directly behind him is filled with repeating “Plan For Victory” logos designed so that a headshot (again, forgive my choice of words) would almost have to show them.
    A cursory scan of online news and print editions the day after showed a LOT more of the pics like these:
    Photos like pics 3 and 4 were shot intentionally with sharp angles and/or extremely short “depth of field,” meaning the area in focus is very shallow–just Shrub, nothing in front of or behind him. [hmmmm....shallow...Shrub...hmmm]
    Shallow depth of field (which you get by shooting at a very fast shutter speed and opening the lens wide open) is a standard photo technique used to make the subject “pop” and exclude extraneous background (propaganda backdrops, for example). An interesting photographic choice, and editorial choice.

  • fotonique

    For the most part, I’ll second RTBAG’s earlier comment that this event was speaking primarily to the military.
    Consider also that the stage and backdrop design adds up to a gesture of respect for Bush’s immediate audience: the midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy.
    Perhaps the BAG has been a little too selective again in his POV? In a closer shot of Bush at the podium (taken with a wide-angle lens), you can see that the official Naval Academy seal was clearly a dominant visual symbol for those attending.
    The seal’s significance is explained in a Naval Academy Admissions FAQ:

    The coat-of-arms, or seal, consists of a hand grasping a trident, a shield bearing an ancient galley ship coming into action, an open book (representing education), and a banner with the motto “Ex scientia tridens,” meaning “from knowledge, seapower.” Designed by Park Benjamin, Naval Academy Class of 1867, the seal was adopted by the Navy Department on Jan. 25, 1899. The event which led to the adoption of the design was the construction of a new University Club in New York City, on the exterior of which the coats-of- arms of American colleges were being placed for decoration.

    (The USNA seal is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Registration Number 1,810,681.)
    Viewing the stage setting in its overall visual context, the USNA seal counterbalances—or even outweighs—the “Plan for Victory” text:

    • Although it doesn’t appear in most news images, a huge gold seal is mounted on the curtains above the President.
    • Two large gold seals appear on the backdrop on both sides of the President.
    • Two medium gold seals appear on the inner panels around the podium
    • Two grey seals appear behind the “Plan for Victory” text on the outer podium panels.

    Note that all of the seals are significantly larger than the Presidential Seal mounted on the front of the podium.
    The larger “Plan for Victory” text looks a little better closer up. This text is also repeated twelve times in small ovals within the white pentagonal outline (an echo of the pentagonal white outline inside the seal) on the backdrop. However, the text is not very legible in other photographs due to limited depth of field.
    The backgrounds of the backdrop and podium panels are a checkerboard of small gray rectangles, but I haven’t found an image that shows what’s in the rectangles. Anyone?
    The chinless midshipmen shots are eye-catching, but it looks like the photogs near the podium could simply have stood up (if they were allowed to do so) to shoot normal full-face views.
    What you see depends on your point of view.

  • readytoblowagasket

    Thanks, fotonique and Baze, for your outstanding research! I especially appreciate fotonique’s link to the WH website’s “Edict from on High” view of this event and Baze’s links to close-ups of Bush. I wonder if the white stripes on Bush’s blue tie have tiny “Plan for Victory” logos set into the regimental pattern.
    From about tie colors:
    “Blue ties — blue is the colour of eternity, symbolizing integrity, peace, and anyone wearing a blue tie is clearly honest, quiet and like the colour has a peaceful effect on his environment.” Yup, that would describe Herr Shock-and-Awe.

  • jt from B.C.

    fotonique …and a point of view
    from a novices awareness of PR & marketing techniques
    whether for selling dental floss or democracy
    I check the specific product history by asking
    How does the image and message relate to reality ?
    What is the record of the manufacturer and his past products ?
    One question, one example:
    1) Why did the Administration wait until September to make its case against Iraq? White House chief of staff Andrew Card told The New York Times last week, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” September 12, 2002 By William Schneider. CNN Senior Political Analyst.
    The many defective products and deceitful advertisements since September 12, 2002 from this manufacturer have been overwhelming, shaped my point of view which is again confirmed by the latest snake oil and stage craft exhibit at Annapolis.
    Is there an expiry date on this new product as well, what’s your point of view ?

  • momly

    I’m not sure how seeing the huge seal hanging over Bush’s head is supposed to make the entire set seem less cheesy, but if that’s what you want to see, okay.

  • amanuensis

    Thanks fotonique, I found that link with the “big seal” in the background intriguing. Not because of one more big symbol, but it gave us a new view of the set. That back panel looks to be a trompe l’oeil. Bush, the trompe l’oeil president.

  • fotonique

    BAZE said:

    Photos like pics 3 and 4 were shot intentionally with sharp angles and/or extremely short “depth of field,” meaning the area in focus is very shallow–just Shrub, nothing in front of or behind him…
    Shallow depth of field (which you get by shooting at a very fast shutter speed and opening the lens wide open) is a standard photo technique used to make the subject “pop” and exclude extraneous background (propaganda backdrops, for example). An interesting photographic choice, and editorial choice.

    In this case, the photographer’s choice of a wide open lens aperture was likely due to sheer necessity, not to any particular illustrative/editorial slant. There probably wasn’t enough stage light on Bush to use a smaller f/stop (with a shutter speed fast enough to freeze his movements.) Since this was a live speech, I imagine the use of flash was prohibited.
    If there had been enough light to use a small lens aperture (to increase the depth of field and sharply render the small “Plan for Victory” text blocks), photographers/editors probably would have included that bit of story context in the images.
    JTFBC said:

    Is there an expiry date on this new [Plan for Victory] product as well…?

    Let’s certainly hope so: endless war is not something that we want to contemplate (or pay for in lives and money). However, all plans for such a complicated mess like Iraq are subject to revision and repackaging. Like Helmuth von Moltke said, “No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.”
    Momly said:

    I’m not sure how seeing the huge seal hanging over Bush’s head is supposed to make the entire set seem less cheesy…

    True, the set elements could have been designed better for TV, but my point is that a closer examination reveals symbolic elements favorable to the live USNA audience (and as RTBAG commented, perhaps to a military TV audience as well).
    Besides, “cheesy” is largely in the eyes of the beholder.
    Amanuensis said:

    That back panel looks to be a trompe l’oeil…

    Sure: the USNA backdrop and podium panels are just big inkjet banners stuck on rigid boards. The graphic designer tried to create some 3D interest by photoshopping soft shadows under the text and other panel elements. If they could have paid more attention to trompe l’oeil, the set would have been more effective, but who knows how much time they had?
    You don’t get soft shadows under a stage’s hard lighting. The panel shadows are washed out under the glare of the stage lights, making the set appear flat and featureless. Compare the hard-edged shadows on the big seal above Bush: although it’s carved/molded in relief, it’s clearly a real three-dimensional object.

  • jt from B.C.

    fotonique, quote
    Like Helmuth von Moltke said, “No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.”
    “False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.” Plato (427 BC – 347 BC), Dialogues, Phaedo.
    The question is not about surviving contact with the enemy or a battle plan(there never was one)its about GWB staying afloat on a sea of false words, convincing those up to their necks with him that the tide is going out…good luck, about his soul I’ll leave that to a higher power. I knew that false words were bad but never thought of them as being evil. When I hear his next rant about evil doers I’ll think of ‘false word doers’ perhaps that will give me a different perspective…Hope lies in declaring victory and leaving in the best Orwellian manner, a method much in vogue since day one of this fiasco.

  • readytoblowagasket

    fotonique said: “Sure: the USNA backdrop and podium panels are just big inkjet banners stuck on rigid boards. The graphic designer tried to create some 3D interest by photoshopping soft shadows under the text and other panel elements. If they could have paid more attention to trompe l’oeil, the set would have been more effective, but who knows how much time they had?”
    I think the designers actually had plenty of time. Though the set is not my aesthetic, it is well thought-out, visually complicated, and professionally produced, possibly by an exhibit-design company that creates large-scale backdrops and sets for conventions, trade shows, corporate clients, and now, the federal govt. This set is eye-catching but not Hollywood, impressive in scale but not suspiciously glamorous. To us it appears to have the subtlety of a Mack truck and the sophistication of community theater, but to the intended audience — the military — it works on a subliminal level with all its encoded symbolism. It is a form of hypnotic advertising. Just because we at BnN don’t respond to the message doesn’t matter. We are just as duped by not figuring it out as if we were taken in by it.
    Looking at the WH web image again, I notice something new that can’t be observed from the head-on images. Seen from the side and below stage level, the podium panels create a 3-dimensional effect suggesting the bow of a ship, with W in dress uniform on deck (standing watch, of course). The curtains and stage skirt would then represent water, so in fact, many details were considered. Much more clever and subtle (because it’s not obvious) than we’ve given the designers credit for.

  • jt from B.C.

    readytoblowagasket, you have stolen in your last paragraph my recent illumination, I was thinking first the deck landing for MA then, taking over the helm in The Plan For Victory is really the most impressive and heroic pose of the lot, symbolically suggesting the commander in chief is really in control. I’m definitely on board with your other observations as well.

  • readytoblowagasket

    jt from B.C.: Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends (at BnN). Without the thoughtful discussions here, I would never see half the things I am learning to really examine. Plus, it’s always interesting to consider what others see (and know) as well. I’m glad you saw the ship and captain too. Although I’m afraid it means we’re sunk.

  • Duros62

    No one has commented on the photo of the 3 cadets, so here goes my critique.
    One cadet is perfectly centered. the 2 on either side are both cropped at the nose, divided almost perfectly in half, much like the country is today. The majority of the audience is in the background, unclear and without focus/purpose. Much like the country is today.

  • Duros62

    Another thing I just thought of. Earlier someone mentioned that the cadet on the right (the middle cadet’s left) had a skeptical look while the cadet on his right looked almost in awe. Much like the country is today. If we assume as a nation, the position of the cadet in center, looking up at the Powers that be, we would have the skeptical left-wing (divided) and unquestioning right-wing (also divided

  • John

    Just an FYI everyone, the young men and woman at the USNA and the USMMA are Midshipmen, not cadets as said above. Cadets go to the USMA, the USAFA and the USCGA.

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