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.
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.
One of the best TED talks I have ever listened to.
Tokyo Compression is a photoset by German-born, China-based photographer Michael Wolf.
These pictures are tender portraits of hectic souls. Their emotions are carefully stowed away in favor their public persona, but glimpses of their feelings break through, especially in the photo above.
The rain droplets don’t touch her but leave snaking shadows across the planes of her face. Her mouth open and her eyes downcast, she seems occupied and introspective, so much so that she has almost forgotten to guard her own expression. That preoccupation that she embodies is a human condition–I see myself and my own conflicts reflected in the unknowable depth of her eyes.
So soon. I’m coming for you, China.
I have finally found a worthwhile internet site to teach me Chinese. Memrise is a site that appears to be mostly dedicated to Mandarin Chinese education, although since users are allowed to upload study sets full of vocabulary and phrases, French, Spanish, Italian, and German are also burgeoning.
Memrise illustrates Chinese characters with moving pictures that make it nearly impossible for you to forget the form of a character–interestingly, the pronunciation of each character is about twice as hard to remember than the pictures themselves. I think that gaining basic reading fluency wouldn’t be too difficult if you learned 15 characters a day for a few weeks (or, at the very least, you’ll be able to figure out whether you are pointing to fish or beef on a menu!).
The layout of the site is pretty intuitive, and is based on a strategy of continuous practice–they want you to learn and relearn the words/characters, committing them first to short term memory and then, perhaps 3 days later, to long term memory. It’s definitely working so far.
Duolingo is still working well–but I think that duolingo fits best if you’re starting from level one (as I did in German). It can be a little boring trying to pass through levels to get to the grammatical lessons at the very end. I will certainly be using it once it comes out with Portuguese (should be less than a month, if the internet is to be believed).
Things like this are just getting me unbelievably excited to study abroad in Beijing. Less than two months and I will be in completely foreign surroundings–exactly where I feel most at home.