November 26, 2012

The Best Little Fake Town in Washington

I know I’m supposed to hate it—the oom-pah music, the lederhosen, the shops with names like Die Musik Box and Haus of Angels, Etc. Over the next three weekends the mountain town of Leavenworth, Washington, will host its annual Christmas Lighting Festival, where the buildings on Front Street twinkle like life-size gingerbread houses and the nutcracker/cuckoo clock/strudel quotient rockets straight off the charts.

I know it’s completely and utterly a faux-Bavarian fabrication. I know I’m supposed to hate it. But here’s the weird thing: I don’t. (more…)

November 11, 2012

Somebody’s Son and Brother

After this Veterans Day essay appeared in The Seattle Times, my father and uncle both told me they thought their Uncle Wilmot was a WWI soldier suicide, not a battlefield casualty. If they’re right, that was a detail my grandmother never mentioned. It was an early lesson for me in the slipperiness of family narrative.

No matter how Wilmot died in 1919, the essential truth of the essay remains the same.


 Read “Somebody’s Son and Brother” on the Seattle Times web site



November 3, 2012

Color Me Uneasy


Abraham Lincoln made the cover of Time magazine last week. Well, technically it was actor Daniel Day Lewis portraying Lincoln, on a cover that simultaneously honored the 16th President and promoted Steven Spielberg’s new film about the man. The cover shot, solemn and pensive, was artfully printed in black-and-white, conjuring the look and feel of a photo from Lincoln’s own time.

But authentic photographs of the real Abraham Lincoln apparently were too boring. When it came to using historic images on the inside pages, Time commissioned Swedish photo editor Sanna Dullaway—a whiz with Photoshop special effects—to turn black-and-white into color. No somber Civil War pictures here. In Time’s re-imagined Library of Congress photographs, grass glows dill-pickle green underfoot and Lincoln sports a blue tie.

I do not fault Ms. Dullaway. She is entitled to her own artistic vision every bit as much as Spielberg is to his. I don’t think I would have minded if Time had published her doctored shots as a separate photo essay, along with a clear bit of narrative explaining what they were.

There is, however, an important distinction between artistic vision and history. By running “enhanced” historic photographs alongside a factual essay, editors at the news magazine thoroughly muddied that line. (more…)