Monday, February 8, 2016

a picture is worth a thousand words -- a digression

In the morning while i'm getting my all-important coffee intake, i read on my ipad from the internet ... or if there's nothing appealing, i revert to whatever Kindle book with which i read myself to sleep the night before.  This is why i often get inspired to write a piece after the caffeine kicks in -- something gives me a good idea or pisses me off to the point that i MUST express myself in a longer exposition than twitter allows.

And where am i coming from, today?  Memes.  People decry them for being facile -- well, that's my interpretation of their more colloquial expressions.  ;-)  Yes, i AM a snob about how ideas are expressed....

The richness of the American version of the English language, drawing on so many others as it does, gives us NO excuse for saying things imprecisely.  ...Except when we try to express ourselves in 140 characters or less.  Using a tiny little keyboard, inappropriate for our chubby little digits.  Makes sense, that we should augment the written word with pictures which add not only a basic visual, but potentially-unlimited connotative content.

I saw it coming decades ago, when bumper-stickers took off.  I ❤️ U -- here we go, i thought, regressing from LANGUAGE to elementary hieroglyphics....

Facebook memes take that much further, what with favorite characters in video stills being the basis for short screeds, passed around endlessly by people with whom they resonate.  I've fallen into the habit of using them, but i like to think that in my case the cause is less "intellectual laziness" but that one cannot capture another person's attention in that medium without visual-aids ... and often audio-augmented ones as well.

A couple of years ago, i was searching for an epitomical cookbook from some area of the world previously unexplored by me;  i always do this by googling "best _____ cookbook" and then visiting Amazon to read the reviews of the recommended works.  One highly-recommended choice was criticized for "no pictures."

Funny, i've always thought that offering a photograph of EVERY recipe was a space-wasting technique, covering up the paucity of content....  But right and left in the recipe world, books and websites are lauded for the "beautiful photographs."  :-P  Even a favorite blogger on my list has the APPALLINGLY bad habit of including not just one but MULTIPLE almost-identical pictures of her finished product.  Why?  Multiple in-process photos make a certain degree of sense, but some of hers are obviously the SAME PHOTO cropped differently;  the picture which cuts out the tabletop, napkin and fork isn't even a proper close-up, so WHY?

I might as well confess, i never grew out of the "WHY?" phase of intellectual development.  I want to know "why?" about EVERYTHING.  I search my own conscious mind first for reasonable hypotheses, and then i dig deeper.  WHY do people sometimes have no interest in word-pictures, and tend to skip over them until a visual arrests their attention?  Naturally, i have to assume that some of the issue is lack of imagination, but that's not the whole situation.  Why is visual illustration so indispensible?

Damn good question, and i can't answer it definitively.  But it's undeniable that we have become a video-centric society.  We've also become a short-attention-span society, and i think the two phenomena are closely related.  I think it's a pity.

We're disinclined to ponder ideas -- our national characters are less based upon what we THINK than on how we FEEL.  A knee-jerk reaction to a picture defines our beliefs, and that is not a good thing.  We prefer pretty, "likable" people to deliver the evening news rather than the journalists of yesteryear who had thought-(and worry-)wrinkles on their foreheads.  Distracting characteristics take away from the substance of the messages offered us.

I won't stop using memes myself, because they ARE a quick-and-dirty means of attracting the attention i think an important idea deserves.  However, i WILL try to be a lot more cognizant of the quality of the image....


  1. A digression for this digression:

    I dislike internet recipes with a dozen photos and paragraphs of backstory about the recipe. I don't care about the time someone had an AMAZING dish, went home, made it TOTALLY PALEO (except for the butter), it filled the house with warmth, laughter and peace on earth, and cured them of their autoinflammatory bad skin and irregular periods and even got their husband, who took the whole paleo thing a step too far, to take a bath. Then there is a photo of the chicken, butter, onions and spices (just in case you don't know what those look like) and several others of mid-preparation (in case you've never chopped onions or melted butter) and then (scroll, scroll, scroll) the finished product.

    Twitter is a right step in the editing direction. In fact, I'd like to see Twitter recipes: directions in 140 characters or less.

    1. Lol -- agreed! MDA has a pre-preparation photo of the ingredients, and i've always wondered what that was meant to accomplish, but i suppose it might just be reassurance to some of the dense muscle-heads to whom he is a hero, that there aren't TOOOOO many different things in the recipe. ;-) Like you, melting the butter, chopping the onions, and cooking the two together seem to me a rather unnecessary step to document. And all the little dishes with unidentified spices -- even if he were offering his recipe to the non-reader, it ain't gonna help much.

  2. I finally displayed a few organizational skills (sadly atrophied) to create my own "keto cookbook": a simple scrapbook of my widely-scattered recipes... Most from Craig at RuledMe, but a few of yours Tess as well as that WONDERFUL salmon bisque recipe w/celery I got from you Lori!!!
    Anyway, as you say a major obstacle was that many took up PAGES w/extraneous photos; some of these were tossed, or jotted down on ye good ol' fashioned 3X5 index cards. Nothing fancy but hopefully more of an impetus for me to get back in the home-cooking habit. (I was intrigued by one theory that obesity epidemic really spiked when we began eating a greater proportion of our calories OUT, w/much more vegetable oils, additives, preservatives & so forth... I'm sure you saw Ted Naiman's meme that "FOOD GOT TASTY" ;-)

    1. I definitely agree that restaurant food is part of the problem! It's POSSIBLE to eat out cleanly, but it's much easier to do so at home. Do you have Dana Carpender's 15-minute-recipe cookbook? Some of the items are "duh" things like eggs, but there are quite a few very quick recipes with minimal ingredients, and the ones i've tried are very tasty. NICE to be able to whip up a fast and comparatively easy but delicious dinner....

  3. I just heard on the radio how to prepare tofu:
    1. Throw the tofu in the garbage.
    2. Put a pizza in the oven.

    1. :-D Years ago when i tried semi-vegetarianism (i never made myself give up seafood), i worked with tofu a bit -- talk about way too much trouble for what you get out of it! I WOULD rather eat a frozen (gluten-free) pizza than do that again!