21 September 2008

[liff, news design] The Oregonian on WaMu: Irony In The Architecture


I'm not of a mind to wonder if there is a Supreme Being. I'm a fideist, in fact; to expect evidence of some thing that expects one to take it on faith seems to me to be missing the point of the while thing. I need no evidence of God; I need no evidence of not-God.

Why prattle on so metaphysically? Because on Thursday's Section A of our magnificent local daily-of-record, which I continue to insist on calling The Big O, there was a couple of elements which, why, if I didn't know better, might have been laid out with the assistance of the invisible hand of a cosmic intelligence with a real mean sense of humor and a razor-keen sense of the zeitgeist.

Here's the front page in question:

Page A1, The Oregonian, 18 Sep 08

Yes. You'll recognize, in the headline, ongoing coverage of the systemic financial woes which some say are the approaching Hurricane Ike to the Texas Gulf Coast which is the USA economy right now, which certainly need no introduction.

And the big photo of the OSP inmate barbering another inmate (I thought they didn't let them have blades in there?) was rather charming in a strange way. That's neither here nor there right now (well, it's there, and that's where we want it to stay, if you catch our drift).

This thing is a little more complicated than a Leno headline gag, so stay with me here. The article outlined in red refers to our own local "thrift" (it's hard not to stifle sardonic laughter when you refer to a savings & loan as a "thrift" these days, but there you are), the edifice we call Washington Mutual, latterly known by the chummy, Pokemon-like name of WaMu.

Here's a closeup of the article, which can be read more easily:

WaMu Article 18 Sep 08

It's looking kind of dicey for WaMu, no? A good operative passage from the above to carry forward in the mind as we move forward would be this:

As recently as Tuesday, Washington Mutual officals insisted the Seattle-based thrift had the capital and liquidity ... to ride out the storm. But facing billions of dollars worth of bad loans and seeing no near-term improvement in the housing market, Washington Mutual now seems prepared to throw in the towel.

The New York Times reported Wednesday afternoon that WaMu and its advisers at Goldman Sachs were courting JPMorgan Chase, HSBC and other potential buyers. News sources say the government is trying to organize a private buyout.

Yep. I'm no banker or finanical whizzo, but it's hard to read good news into that. As a matter of fact, it looks possible that, not too far down the road, the only thing "WaMu" might denote is a funny sound little kids make by pursing their lips.

Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

So, finding the story compelling we go ahead and turn to Page A8. But before we get there, derailing our headlong rush to the end of the story, a huge splash of color distracts us ... as a well-designed page-width ad should, placed by an institution whose continued survival seems a matter of reasonable doubt. Here you go:

WaMu ad 18 Sep 08 The Oregonian


Think about the near and the far.

That pop you just heard was your head. Asploding. And that sound you hear in the distance? The universe. Laughing at us.

Like I said, I'm a fideist. But if I was looking for evidence of a cosmic hand writing messages to us, this would rate right up there. Oh, the design of both the section and the ad are flawless ... I wish I could get in on that action.

But, seriously, think about the near and the far. Because WaMu advises it. And brother, should they ever know.

Whoo hoo!

Does anyone remember, back in the 80s, when The Big O tried a redesign and put the word BRIEFLY: in a black stripe right in front of a boldfaced summary paragraph to make the paper a quick read for those who needed to?

Yeah. Good times.

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