National Geographic Yellow
For as long as I can remember, National Geographic Magazine has captivated me with gorgeous photography and epic storytelling from exotic locations around the world in a vivid exploration of people, places and things. I can’t help but feel inspired to head out on my own to make photographs and write about my own experiences – which actually forms the basis of this blog.
The magazine’s alluring cover is always framed by that iconic yellow border which anyone with literary knowledge would recognize. Whenever I catch sight of an issue on a magazine stand, book shelf or wherever, I am sure to find it chock full of this wonderful photojournalism I have gotten to know so well.
I appreciate the tremendous amount of work that goes into each article by award winning journalists, accomplished writers spending countless hours on their research and the photographers shooting thousands upon thousands of pictures to create these magnificent pieces.
Now, I hate to point this out, but like the rest of us, however, National Geographic Magazine is not immune to those what the fuck moments that leave us regretting our poor decisions with a fiery passion.
Take the cover image of the September 2013 issue, for example. It features the Statue of Liberty standing in a waist high sea of globing warming, climate disruption, climate change or whatever the hell else you fancy calling it.
The image isn’t a real depiction of the robbed figure currently or historically, but shows a hypothetical scenario that which may or may never happen. As the common people have chosen to call image fakery, the photograph has been “Photoshopped” and it’s a complete insult to the photojournalistic integrity that I came to admire in the magazine.
At the moment, scientists measure sea level rise at 3-millimeters per year. But here we have National Geographic Magazine telling us it’s nigh impossible to relocate the statue from the pending doom that’s climbing towards it like a crippled sea turtle with the weight of a deranged pirate standing on its back. How many years would it take the salt water to reach the statue’s vagina as shown in the fictitious image? 23,000 years?
To run a manipulated photograph on such a prestigious magazine as National Geographic Magazine is so appalling it makes me want to spit. But the dark irony of the matter is how National Geographic has run photography contests in the past and has had to disqualify contestants for manipulating their image’s content.
A preposterous anecdote is needed to understand the absurdity of such a stupid cover image. So here you go.
Let us pretend, for a moment, you are a wealthy young man who has been renting a room at some incidental hotel out in the backwater boonies of Vermont for the past few weeks in an existential search of identity. Being a recent university graduate, you are determined to solve the riddle of what to do with the rest of your life, but each time you ponder the limitless possibilities, you come to a different conclusion. It is quite the bothersome affair.
What’s worse, there is hardly another soul to make conversation with since you are one of the few guests staying at the dreary hotel which time seems to have forgotten.
The decor reminds you of a Wes Anderson film – 1970s, clean and with a rotary telephone jingling once or twice during the day. The front desk is secured by a young woman with symmetrically attractive features yet she wears a dispassionate mask that remained stoic to the playful quips you gave during check-in. Your room is wallpapered in a light victorian print which complements the French furniture that you assume some local woodworker must have created because no hotel this far from the congestion of society could have afforded the real things. Lastly, the room only has a writing desk in place of a television box but you soon welcome the unusually quiet atmosphere and the solitude in which its absence offers.
Now in your search for meaning you take long hikes throughout the nearby hills and wooded areas to relish in nature’s beauty. The gentle breezes caress your face and your breath slows so you can listen to the wind rustling the broad leaves of sugar maple foliage like a peaceful dream. But the elevation changes of these hiking trails quickly make you huff and puff so you always partake in the lodging’s hot tub afterwards as a splendid treat.
The indoor pool and hot tub are housed in a large room carpeted in Persian orange with ivory colored tiles wrapping themselves around the water’s edges. A changing room stands alone to one side and an open space adjacent to the water had once been used for games of shuttlecock in years past but now only remains empty.
The humidity in the large room is thick and heavy, almost to an unbearable degree, but after today’s long hike you slide into the hot tub once again and let the bubbles crawl up your skin. Your eyes stare past the walls containing your existence and you wonder if you will ever figure out the dilemma of being human but quickly give up the task as your mind returns to its spinning thoughts.
After twenty odd minutes pass and the last bit of tension is boiled from your body, you step out of the tub and let the wet bathing suit cling to your deep crevices as you admire your own physique momentarily.
Then, from out of the wood paneling emerges Steve Buscemi with his own swim suit covering a pale, scrawny body – and old, he must really be old by now.
Your heart skips a beat and a smile widens on your face because you finally have another person to bounce ideas to and from. You decide to meet the well-known celebrity and cordially introduce yourself, extending your hand in customary fashion.
His expressionless face and deep-set bulging eyes only glance at your welcoming hand briefly, and you’re immediately left with the sense he bears no intention of returning the friendly greeting. But then it begins.
A finger on his hand twitches ever so slightly as the appendage begins to move, but only slowly, an inch per second perhaps. You think maybe he’s senile in his mature age but those remarkably sad eyes still show the faint glimmer of sentience.
Your arm remains cocked for a hearty handshake but your attention is drawn again to Steve Buscemi’s limb moving at glacial speed. Long seconds of awkward silence pass as you survey the trajectory of his wrinkled hand maneuvering itself towards you. And then it hits you. Good God! He’s going for your penis!
But you’re frozen to the floor, your legs rooted like large timber in an ancient forest. You feel catatonically inept to flee the threads of fate that has sent Steve Buscemi out to get you like some demonic ghoul.
Several more second pass, the decrepit hand has but half the distance left. Your mind races like wildfire through a paper mill. Panic stricken and unable to fly, the expression on your face mimics a deer mesmerized by oncoming headlights and the only question repeating in your mind: Why is Steve Buscemi here in a hotel – the middle of nowhere, for Christ’s sake – with his hand reaching out for your crotch in a vexing display of slow motion?
Another second, another inch the hand moves closer to your manhood. Your nerves shake in violent apprehension. This can’t be happening! Why can’t you move? It’s like your entire nervous system has gone rigid. Why Steve Buscemi!? Why!? Terror fills your head and hysteria wells in your throat preventing even a murmur of a scream. Images of disposable victims in black comedy horror films flash throughout your head and you can do nothing else but stand there with immeasurable fright and play the part.
You begin to notice the torrent of sweat cascading down the sides of your face, and when finally you cannot bear the distress any longer, the calamity ends abruptly with Steve Buscemi grabbing your wiener with a firm squeeze, those depressing eyes unfazed as if he were clasping an afternoon cup of tea. He gives it a firm shake then continues his walk towards the hut tub as if nothing had happened. His pensive voice offers a causal farewell, “Nice to meet you.”
But as horribly stupid as this awkward moment with Steve Buscemi sounds, it’s how National Geographic Magazine depicts us with this one manipulated image of Lady Liberty. That we as a species are too fucking stupid to get our junk out of the way from the molasses of doom creeping towards it at velocities slower than tectonic plates.