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Anoukvandijk DC's Stau is the best thing ever.

Anoukvandijk DC's Stau is the best thing ever.

Oh my goodness, I’ve gone lax with my Snazz! Oh no! Well, allow me to make up for it, or try.

Reading:

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood- This continues to be at once fun and interesting, and full of characters I love and love to hate. Plus, Atwood seems to be having fun. Perhaps, once I finish it, I’ll have something more concrete to say here, but, for now, suffice to say that I recommend it.

Einstein’s Telescope by Evalyn Gates- Physicists now believe that most of our universe is made up of a substance we cannot even detect, which, if we can even call it matter, defies everything we know about matter. This substance is called dark matter (I will resist the temptation to launch into the Andrew Bird song). This book explores how physicists are making use of Einstein’s theory of relativity to use the universe itself as a telescope hoping to detect and study dark matter, and its crazy friend, dark energy. What can I say? I miss science. Can’t wait to start reading about it again.

Epileptic by David B.- I have to say that this is one of the best graphic novels I have ever read. Story aside, it uses the medium to perfection, building themes both through text and his innovative artwork. The novel works both as a story in itself, and as an attempt for the author to make sense of the inexplicable as he follows his family’s struggle with his older brother’s incurable epilepsy. Growing up in France in the 1970’s, David B.’s family turns to not only to conventional medicines, but the occult, the esoteric, and the homeopathic. What really makes the comic special is the way he integrates his childhood imaginative view of the world into his illustrations, showing his family as being haunted by the bird-like spirit of his grandfather, his brother being attacked by a twisting serpent, and the various gurus who attempt to help (or swindle) his family as anthropomorphized creatures. This creates an impressive visual vocabulary that works in tandem with the text to make the story incredibly unique. David spares us the lens of adult understanding until the end, instead focusing on how he felt at the time: the strangeness, the inability to understand, the anger. However,  because of this, I feel obligated to warn that a child growing up in a homogeneous community in the 70’s does not necessarily get much exposure to diversity, and a child’s mind does not always make acceptable free-associations upon encountering it for the first time. This aspect me at first, but, in the end, I think David B. uses it not to endorse or excuse racism, but as an attempt to recreate precisely how he felt at the time. I understand if this turns you off the comic, but if you’re willing to give it a try, I think you’ll be in for a treat.

Soon to be reading Aya by Marguerite Abouet and Queenpin by Megan Abbott (yay femme noir!).

Surfing

Goodreads.com– A social networking site for readers. I had a Library Thing account back in the day, but quickly lost interest because of their bookshelf limit. Goodreads is more like the iread facebook app—more about your “currently reading” and “to read” lists than your bookshelf. It also puts a strong emphasis on reviewing the books you read. Not quite sure how I feel about it yet, but I’m futzing with it.

Fun With Shorts– Since I know you all need more hilarious ways to waste your time on the internet, I feel compelled to recommend “Fun With Shorts.” Inspired by MST3K (that’s Mystery Science Theater 3000 for those not in the know), Josh Way rips apart the most terrifying instructional videos from the late 40’s and 50’s. God, the post-war era was even more traumatizing than I thought. Plus, it’s a good reminder of how cultural values (and medical research) change: did you know that bread and butter was once considered a food group?

Seeing

Stau– As a dancer myself, it really bothers me that modern dance so often gets a bad rap. People assume that it’s pretentious, inscrutable, and irrelevant to life. It’s such a missed opportunity–at its best, contemporary dance can be playful, mind-bending, fun, and incredibly full of life. Our culture tends to be afraid of the human body, and dance gives us a medium of art that is entirely about the body: about touching, moving, bending, giving a whole new meaning to “body language.” Stau, by Anoukvandijk DC, is a perfect example of what dance should be. I don’t want to give too much away in cause you get the chance to see it (surprise and disorientation is a major part of the experience.), but now only is the movement breathtaking both in content and the incredible precision and control the dancers manifest, but they blur audience in a performer in a way that’s fun, challenging, and pushes your comfort zone in the best of ways (Please do sit in the front row unless you have a strong objection to people invading your personal space bubble. If you’re willing to be pushed at all, let yourself be pushed.). See it.

I know that was short, but, to be honest, I’ve been spending more time writing than… media absorbing lately. Plus, the March pollen influx has killed my brain. Curse you, Pollen! In any case, tune in next week, when I shall present the Snazz (hopefully) on time!

What’s been rocking your world lately?

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The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Combining innovative architecture and some of the best theater in the country in a hub of frat-boy manliness?

The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis: Combining innovative architecture and some of the best theater in the country in a hub of frat-boy manliness?

Hello, everyone.  Just letting you know that I am still breathing, and, not only that, I intend to keep this blog breathing (or at least spewing out words). I’ve just been hunkering down and working on internship writing samples/searching for places that might be interested in taking me on as an intern. Life gets in the way of blogging sometimes, which is, I suppose, as it should be.

In any case, I figured I’d leave you this little snack (ha. ha. ha.) that I found via Shakesville. I think it not only serves to illustrate how marketers are trying to package manliness, but the danger of not asking where your information comes from.

Mars Brand Snack Foods, in order to promote their COMBOS® brand cheese-filled snack, did a pseudo-scientific ranking of the Manliest Cities in the US (See the article on Marketwatch.com). You see, a city’s “manliness” can apparently can be determined by its concentration of sports bars, professional sports teams, hardware stores, and BBQ restaurants. Perhaps the most telling criterion of a city’s manliness though, is “manly salty snacks consumption.” In other words, cities where more people eat cheesy Combos snacks (and watch NASCAR, which Combos sponsors), are skewed to be more manly.

Therefore, those men who live in such effeminite cities as Portland or San Francisco (#47 and 48, respectively, out of fifity. I feel a strange surge of pride here.), can save their masculinity by buying more Combos cheese pretzels:

“As the ultimate hearty snack, COMBOS(R) created the Ultimate Man Zone Sweepstakes to give guys the opportunities to improve their favorite hangouts,” said Craig Hall, general manager, Mars Snackfood US. “Through our COMBOS(R) ‘America’s Manliest Cities’ study, we want to let guys know where their hometowns stack up against their brethren coast-to-coast when it comes to manliest.”

While it’s too late for men to raise their city’s manliness ranking this year, men from every city still have the chance to raise the level of their man gear by entering the COMBOS(R) Ultimate Man Zone Sweepstakes at www.COMBOS.com. The entry deadline is May 31, 2009. (From the Marketwatch article linked at the top of the post)

Being just out of college, I feel disgusting quoting something without explaining what I’ve just showed, but, really, I can only offer this simple translation: Eat our cheese pretzels or be a woman!

Yet I’ve seen this “study” quoted various places (not just the ones that Shakesville lists, such as The Chicago Tribune), that do not qualify it with the fact that it is a marketing ploy. The whole thing is about marketing, not manliness.

I’m tempted to launch in to a discussion of the geographical bias, and possible “coastal effeminate urban intellectual” bashing implied in the study, but I promised I’d keep this short.

Also, as someone who went to school in Minnesota (one of the most underrated states in the nation, I must say,) I have to laugh that they rank Minneapolis as #18. They clearly didn’t take into account the city’s incredible theater scene (one of the best in the nation), modern dance scene (again, incredible.), famous art museums, and other such less-than-manly (by their definition) institutions such as The Mall of America (though I guess that’s technically outside the city. Not that I believe that these things are necessarily effeminate—I’m just going by their standards.

The moral of the story is that marketers seem to be clamping on to current anxieties surrounding masculinity. They are also getting sneakier with their viral marketing, in this case disguising it as social science. And when people claim to do demographic surveys, find out who conducted them, and what questions they asked. Please.

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From the Cracked Mirror is a blog about culture, both high and low, including art, literature, film, food, and advertising from a progressive and feminist perspective. I’m here to critique, elucidate, wonder, and gush...

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