Monday, August 10, 2009

Cancer cured! Mideast at peace!

If you're still hoping to be a contender in the Ineptly Executed Bogus 1A Centerpiece of the Decade contest, be advised that the bar has just been raised a few notches. Let's get right to the tape:

Kwame Kilpatrick sits before the judge, his hands clasped in a triangle beneath his chin and his finger tops pressed to his lips.

It’s a photo snapped during one of the many court hearings the ex-Detroit mayor appeared at during the text message scan­dal. And, according to an expert in body language and facial expressions — who also is the inspiration behind the TV show “Lie to Me” — it was a clue that Kilpatrick wasn’t telling the whole truth.

As Kilpatrick faces new allegations that he had yet another affair — this time with the federal monitor overseeing the city’s police department — Fox is gearing up for its second season of the TV show.

Given the Freep's extreme no-jump policy, we're more than halfway through the word part of the centerpiece already. What have we learned? Well, the ex-mayor had a scandal, and now he's accused of having had another affair, and Fox is preparing for another season of a fictional crime program. Surely there's a local angle?

Michigan law-enforcement officials say there is some fact to go along with the show’s fiction.

“There’s a lot of behavioral clues in body language,” said Detective Sgt. Eric Schroeder of the Michigan State Police.

“People say how they feel about a lot of things without using words.”

Those other three guys in the CP? Glad you asked! "Cheney" could be the "Dick Cheney" mentioned in the story, whose mug shot was apparently flashed on the screen to illustrate "scorn" (no indication of whether it's the same mug we're seeing). Nobody named "Clinton" or "Hussein" shows up at either the online or e-edition versions. If you do manage to follow the longer version of the story inside, you'll find that the Kilpatrick photo (I'm guessing that by "the image of Kilpatrick" they mean it's the same one) was "used to illustrate self-hush­ing — suggesting the former mayor was keeping himself from speaking the whole truth." No word on what that might have to do with "contempt."

The full story doesn't do a lot to make sense of the jumbled ideas in the CP. Not much more on "body language," though the local cop gets to talk a bit about the social encounter of interrogation. A legal scholar gets to point out body language isn't much of a science, and the star of the piece -- the guy whom the "Lie to Me" character is based on -- adds that yeah, the show does tend to, um, fictionalize stuff. ("Sometimes they show things that are contradicted by my findings, because they think it is very useful for a dramatic point.")

There is a graphic inside, giving some details on the Ekman-Friesen Facial Action Coding System, but no indication of how basics like "fear" or "disgust" might be put together into constructs like "shame," scorn" or "contempt." (That's on the off chance the story might want to talk about the people or concepts illustrated on the front -- go ahead, call us old-fashioned.) And if you're wondering whether the Stupid Question on the front -- "How do you spot a liar?" -- is ever answered, don't. It isn't, and as more or less everyone in the story suggests, that's probably a good thing.

The inside hed sums it up pretty well: "Don't believe all you see, human lie detector warns" (you'd like to think Dr. Ekman would tell you that goes for terms like "human lie detector" too). We have a story that isn't really sure what it wants to say about a show that doesn't really have much to do with real life. It's an excuse to run, yet again, a filer from the endless sex-n-text scandal, but even that doesn't entirely know what it's illustrating. If there's a way to spin more journalistic irrelevance out of less substance, I'd like to see it -- but not in print.


Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

I watched a few episodes of that show before giving up. The Clinton and Hussein pictures are from the title sequence. This whole thing is monstrous hybrid of personal attack and show promotion. Sheesh.

The captcha is "peckagra" which actually strikes me as a great word for this sort of story!

12:51 PM, August 10, 2009  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

PS - that picture of Clinton always looks more like "perplexity" than "shame"...

6:21 AM, August 12, 2009  
Blogger fev said...

If I ever start a giant agribusiness conglomerate, I'm going to call it "Peckagra." Owe you royalties on that one.

10:19 PM, August 13, 2009  

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