Sunday, August 08, 2010

How To Raise and Train a Basset Hound!

Our book today is How to Raise and Train a Basset Hound, and although it's fairly short (not quite as short as “You can't, so don't bother trying,” however), it's still an exhaustive primer on the deceitful power of words, and the essential honesty of images.

In fact, this is one of those rare instances in which we need not consult the text of the book at all. Merely reading the photo captions will be exercise enough in the narrative's duplicity. Take this one, for example:

“to jerk the lead when correction is necessary” implies there will be times when correction is not necessary, and yet the picture itself belies this implication. Look first at the epicene young man holding the leash, neatly dressed, expecting a pleasant walk, perhaps a not-so-casual meeting with that strapping lad from the lumber yard. Then look at the misshapen little lump at the end of the leash. In the very photo which is meant to illustrate the occasional need for mild correction during a walk, the puppy is stupidly, mulishly fighting the very concept of forward movement. Look at the angle of the tail; look at the entirely occluded face – this is a puppy that does not need (and will not need, its whole life long) merely occasional correction. This is a blockheaded creature that will whine every single day to go for a walk – and then fight that walk with every flabby muscle in its body.

Then there's this photo:

“Very sociable” indeed – and yet, the picture says otherwise! One of the three bassets in question is licking his chops, obviously having just been bribed with a treat off-camera in the vain hopes that the bribe would produce good behavior while on-camera; another of the bassets is in what we unfortunate owners refer to as 'the zone' – a state that superficially resembles happy tranquility but is in fact a sign of near-total failure to comprehend any external stimuli of any kind; but the third basset tells the truth the photo caption would fain hide – that basset is poised for murder, stubby little legs spread apart, ears back, eyes wild with dimwitted rage, head thrown back in an adenoidal howl of defiant hatred. That basset is not interested in the brotherhood of all living creatures, as the book would have you believe.

Or what about this revealing shot:

Serious business indeed! But what serious business? Not the lie of the photo-caption, that's for sure! The text would have you believe the dog in question is taking his training seriously and therefore looks solemn and attentive. But look at the photo itself! The front left leg is poised (if that can possibly be the word) slightly behind the front right; the (immense) haunches are lifted ever so slightly off the ground; the pendulous mouth is ajar; the vacant eyes are almost crossed in concentration – this little basset has been photographed the instant before he lunges maniacally at the hand floating directly before his face. He is not 'seriously' taking instruction – he's pausing for a nanosecond before savagely attacking the caring, loving owner who dares to offer guidance of any kind. The duplicity of the text knows no bounds.

Sometimes, however, in How to Raise and Train a Basset Hound, the gap between words and picture is so great that words can only hang their head in shame. I'll leave you with this image. See if you can reconcile anything in it to the words “without help”:

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