Tuesday, March 02, 2004

"Get the picture? Yes, we see!"
We were knee deep in the staff Monday morning newspaper critque/self-criticism/re-education session and it was looking like fellow barbarian coworker Jeff and I might get out of there within an hour with minimum damage.
Third in command Paul had finished his torturous, syntax-wracked fulsome praise of the way the SZ Daily had faithfully reprinted the latest propaganda screeds from Shenzhen city hall and Beijing and wrapped it neatly up with his routine diatribe about America's latest atrocities and Taiwan's "illegal puppet government." (Since only 28 governments, 14 of which are in Central and South America, recognize Taiwan, I've often resisted the urge to ask Paul if it's Paraguay, or perhaps Ecuador, who is pulling Taiwan's strings.)
Reporter John Woo had pompously addressed three editing "errors" in his thumbsucker of a story promoting a "four star" hotel's Mardi Gras night - none of which, Jeff and I were happy to point out, were errors at all. They were corrections to grammatical and factual errors he had made in the story.
For instance, were you aware that "Mardi Gras was founded in the 1963 and is a traditional American holiday in the spirit of the Christmas in which all families throughout the U.S.A. get together to sing songs and eat turkey and spicings'?
If so, that must of been news to the bead-bedecked human swine who were projectile vomiting their breakfasts of King Cake, gumbo, Jax and Hurricanes on Bourbon Street last month.
"Perhaps you would prefer just to bypass the copy editors?" I finally asked as calmly as I could. "It is difficult, I know, when native English speakers cannot match the wealth of knowledge found in Chinese dictionaries, almanacs and hotel press releases representing a 5,000 year old culture."
"Perhaps we will move on to another subject," interjected second in command Alex, anxious to avoid a Sino-U.S. diplomatic crisis.
The other subject concerned a photograph we'd run of a recently disgraced ex-governor of a nearby province who had been bounced from the party and was facing a prison term - or worse- for taking bribes.
Neither Jeff nor I saw anything wrong with the simple file photo - a head and shoulders color mug shot of a guy sporting oversized black frame glasses like those worn by Chinese President Hu Jintao (requisite eyewear for vision-impaired, ambitious party bigwigs and wannabes), but we were soon educated. There was a detail we'd overlooked.
Behind him, signifying his once exalted status, was a solid red background. But it wasn't the proper backdrop for a man who'd since fallen from party grace.
"It is a mistake show him with a red background," top editor Jeffrey said solemnly. "A small error, but the color should have been changed to perhaps gray or white."
There was a general murmur of agreement and a vow to photoshop in a neutral color should his sorry puss ever have to be reprinted again.
I wonder if they'll change the glasses, too. Some Elton John specs circa 1976 might be nice.

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