Out of the series of Best American Comics series, this anthology was my least favorite. I resented being lectured by the author to “read it like a book… stop skimming,” when I was already following his insistent directions.
Highlights included an excerpt from Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson by Mark Siegel, and Canadian Royalty by Michael DeForge (I love everything that DeForge does, to be sure).
I had an issue with the presentation of Building Stories in the anthology–what is arguably the best graphic novel of the decade was formatted horrendously. It is an unconventional graphic novel, and any attempt to put it into a book format does it a serious disservice.
The Ama are predominantly female pearl divers from Japan, although their breed is dying out–although new Ama continue to be trained, it is now seen as a grandmother’s job. In a tradition purported to be 2,000 years old, the Ama dived in nothing but a loincloth up until the 1960s. Today, they wear a wetsuit at most. Although this is generally not one’s only job, it is a job that lasts a lifetime–the older divers are reputed to be able to dive the longest.
More can be read about them here, although I prefer to study the images of the Ama through the lens of photographer Yoshiyuki Iwase:
The nude female form in these photographs is presented with awe; their musculature seems asexual in this photo–almost a meditation on human strength. Whereas this:
is a dead ringer for contemporary Western pinup photography. It’s an interesting, mismatched photo series as a whole.
See them all here.
Shenyang’s Oddball Architecture: As I gear up for a year studying the history of Chinese architecture in Beijing, I love reading articles like this (if only to satiate myself!). There’s a great many ‘oddball’ buildings in China–it’s being treated like an architect’s wonderland right now, often with few limits on funding or structure. Sometimes this results in great works of architecture, such as (IMHO) the CCTV tower by Rem Koolhaas/OMA, but then you have the case in point of this article, the Feng Yuan building, a misguided attempt to fuse international modern architecture with Chinese aesthetics.
‘Selma’ Costumes Reveal Class and Consciousness of the Movement: I desperately want to see this movie! I really love seeing costume designers vividly display their characters’ fears, desires, and ambitions in the way they dress themselves.
“Okay. I was walking to the store, and I saw this man on a park bench. He said, ‘come here please.’ So I went over to him. I said, ‘what do you need?’ He grabbed me by the shirt, and he held a knife to my throat and told me he was going to cut me. I told him — I said, ‘go ahead and cut me.’ And I said, ‘I’ll be coming back, and I’ll hunt your ass.’ Oops. Am I supposed to say that? I’m sorry… I wasn’t afraid. And for some reason, he let me go. And I went home.”
The original story was featured on this week’s episode of Invisibilia (NPR), which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Social Issues–A Woman in Uniform: Being a police officer in contemporary America is fraught with issues–it’s a tough life to lead as a man, but I would argue it’s even tougher to occupy that role as a woman. This is an interesting exploration of both one woman’s experience as a NY police officer, as well as an examination of what the literal uniform means to her.
Buzzfeed’s Great Middle California Architectural Road Trip: If I ever get back to my home state, I would love to actually complete this trip. I’ve read about the Watts towers and are desperate to see them! (Check out the comments–seems like everyone who has visited thinks it’s pretty cool, too.)
Best American Nonrequired Reading 2014: This group of stories/plays/peoms/podcasts/what-have-you was chosen by a select group of high-school-aged kids from around the US. The result is an eclectic (and wonderful) mix of literature. My favorites: ‘An Interview with Mona Eltahawy’ by Yasmine El Rashidi, ‘Embarazada’ by Andrew Foster Altschul, ‘The Saltwater Twin’ by Maia Morgan, and ‘Joy’ by Zadie Smith.
Olikoye: Okay, not a book, but rather a (very) short story, from one of the authors I have heard a lot about in recent months. I’ve been excited to read Americanah by this author (Chimamandah Ngozi Adichie), and this was a great story in and of itself. It tells a family history of sorts through naming rites, shedding light on both the family in particular as well as Nigerian culture.
Random Content from Around the Internet:
Monolith Controversies: The award-winning Chilean entry into the Venice architecture biennale 2014. This exhibition is about the prefabricated concrete block and how it came to shape residential space in turbulent 1970s Chile (during that era, Chile faced a 180 degree political turn from the communist policies of Salvador Allende, to the conservative, religious dictatorship of Pinochet via coup).
I am so close I can almost taste it. I am enchanted with Mandarin Chinese, Chinese folk history and song, but I still feel as if I know nothing about the country’s pop culture–I still can’t help but think of the damning word foreign when I imagine China.
In explanation: I am spending four months in Beijing, my first travel destination outside of the Americas and Europe… and my first destination where I will not be able to read the signs or barter with locals (not yet, anyway). I will participate in an intensive 3-week language training before I start my 3 class civilization sequence (in English), and I will live on the Renmin University campus with a Chinese roommate.
To ensure that I get the most out of my experience, I have a list of personal goals to meet:
1. Engage myself with the art of Beijing and its residents.
2. Learn as much Chinese as possible–focus on your bartering tactics!
3. Take pictures every day. Even if it’s just one.
4. Update your blog daily (hi!).
5. Don’t waste time napping–get out there and live!
6. Be the 20-year-old female version of Andrew Zimmern. Eat a bug, a snake, whatever–as long as it’s edible and not poisonous, it’ll be a good story.
and the slightly less sensational:
7. Remember to go to the gym. 3 months without running is physically painful.
Alt. Latino, a podcast on NPR hosted by Argentinian Jasmine Garsd and Mexican-American Felix Contreras, is one of the best podcasts I have ever listened to–it is full of colorful music and voices, providing a developed cultural background for each of the new artists that they cover.
Today I listened to the Ana Tijoux interview, an artist which I previously mentioned in my post about Café con Música (the CD that I bought from a local Starbucks). Throughout the course of the podcast, Ana told her life story through music, including a thorough explanation of her issues of national identification which served as an inspiration for many of her songs: the daughter of Chileans exiled from Pinochet’s reign, she was raised in France, where issues of xenophobia and immigration are hot-button topics even today.
Give it a listen–no Spanish necessary!
One of the best TED talks I have ever listened to.
When I first returned from Paris and arrived in Louisiana, I was determined not to lose my French–it has diminished somewhat at this point in overall fluency, but I got myself a tutor and am currently back on the track to learning.
From my meetings at the local Starbucks, I have discovered a few morceaux that are just incredible:
This song, from American crooner Nina Simone, is easy to understand and heart-wrenchingly beautiful (although not in French, I highly recommend you check out the song Strange Fruit, a slow, deep lament for the lynchings of black Americans–lyrics and story here).
This 1968 song by Jacques Dutronc seems like it’s sung by an upbeat and French Bob Dylan–the cool factor remains, check out this picture:
I learned it because it has a lot of verbs conjugated in the imperative tense (orders), but I kept listening because of his incredible voice–listen to the last 30 seconds of the song and you’ll really see what I mean. (P.S. This song is a long list of commands given to a young child, in case you realize the subject matter sounds strange)
Je Veux by Zaz is a throaty love song in which she proclaims that, essentially, her love don’t cost a thing. I love her oddly-direct traipse through craft markets in this video, cellist in tow.
The Ring was recently installed in Place Vendôme in Paris–it was formed as a way to interact and distort the area around it, and as a result causes passerby to restructure their thinking about their surroundings.
I only wish that I had known about this when I was in Paris a month ago–from the pictures, it seems like something out of a dream sequence.
What I like about this statue is that the structural beauty of its surrounding architecture is what makes the statue come alive; it draws upon and interacts with history, reflecting the high art of Haussmanian buildings (literally) in a new era. The sculpture reminds me of the hall of mirrors at Versailles in both the way that it elongates the space around it as well as the sheer luxury that the flawless mirror seems to embody. The Ring is a manifested “illusion” of grandeur, its material pulling in the blue from the sky as if laying claim to everything that it reflects.