Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, May 05, 2006

Six Hundred Words or One Picture?

by Kerry Blair

They say one picture is worth a thousand words. I don’t believe it. Come to think of it, “they” say a lot of things I don’t believe, but I’m particularly skeptical about that picture thing.

Case in point: We returned from San Antonio this week with a fistful of postcards. I showed one to a friend. He was unimpressed by my photo of a rundown old building. I turned it over so he could read the paragraph on the back. There he learned that within that 300-year-old mission a small, courageous band of volunteers sacrificed their lives for their country. “Oh,” he said after reading about one-tenth of a thousand words. “Wow.” Wow, indeed. A photographer had taken a stunning picture, but it took a writer to tell my friend that his house is in Arizona today instead of Mexico because of what happened at the Alamo.

(Speaking of Mexico, Feliz Cinco de Mayo! I hate to tell you this, but those pictures you see on the Internet of sombrero-clad chihuahuas aren’t telling you much about the Battle of Puebla. But if you’re craving authentic Mexican – or at least the best black bean salsa in the universe – you’ve come to the right place. Drop me a note and I’ll send you my recipe.)

To return to my thesis, I’ve been thinking about writers since our trip. The big hype at Sea World San Antonio is a new and improved Shamu extravaganza called “Believe!” I was excited to see it. I’ve been a Shamu fan ever since I was toddling around San Diego clutching a stuffed killer whale in my chubby little arms. Believe me, I was the first one in the stadium for their newest show.

Spoiler Alert! Sea World hasn’t trained orcas to do anything their ancestors weren’t doing when they jumped over the deck of Noah’s ark. Shamu still jumps, still swims with people, still ingests vast quantities of fish, and still soaks everyone within fifty feet of his giant dorsal. Yet this year was different for me. This year I marveled at the creatures’ intelligence and cried at the awesomeness of it all. I wasn’t moved because the “new” show was something I hadn’t seen a dozen times before. I was moved by the recorded narration that accompanied it. Some writer somewhere knew what an orca is and what it can do. From that knowledge (s)he wove a dazzling web of words that captivated my heart and mind. I’m an old Shamu fan from way back, but I came to love and appreciate him more after forty minutes than I had in the previous forty years. “Believe!” was everything Sea World claimed it was – but only because an anonymous writer had spun a thousand incredible words that made it so.

Unfortunately, “anonymous” seems to be the keyword. At Sea World we appaulded animals and trainers, but not the people who wrote the scripts that pulled the stunts together and made us laugh and cry. Everywhere we went postcards were displayed with the pictures facing outward. While I carefully read every historical plaque we passed in San Antonio, I never found out who wrote them so succinctly. (Talk about talent!) I read brochures and the back of postcards, too, and wondered why photographers (and orcas) always get credit, but writers never do. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Shamu. He’s very talented for a whale. And some of my best friends are photographers. But I wrote this blog to thank writers – whoever and wherever you are. It is you wordsmiths who keep our past alive and so eloquently explain our present. You are my heroes. It is your thousands of words that most enrich my experience and bless my life.

On the other hand – anybody want to see a picture of me and Shamu?


At 5/05/2006 2:47 PM, Anonymous Melissa said...

I saw "Believe" when I went to Seaworld in Florida, it was amazing! And I agree with you Kerry, let's give those writers some credit! :)

At 5/05/2006 3:10 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Great blog, Kerry. Next time I read a plaque explaining a historical event, I'm going to stop and think about the anonymous person who wrote it--and be grateful for their words.

And please, please send me the black bean salsa recipe.

At 5/05/2006 7:12 PM, Anonymous Marnie Pehrson said...

I want to see that picture of you and Shamu! I think you need to add it to your web site. I'm sure your webmaster would be happy to do that for you. :)

At 5/06/2006 10:12 AM, Blogger Sweebler said...

Great point! All those nameless authors deserve to be honored, at least by those of us who read their work.

At 5/09/2006 9:09 PM, Blogger annegb said...

Yes, good point. I know a guy who writes for a reality show. Think about that one.


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