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03 OCTOBER, 2011

People Who Became Nouns: The Music Video

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Boycott, Maverick, Guillotine, Shrapnel, Cardigan, Sandwich, Silhouette, Zeppelin, Leotard, Lamborghini.

Finding your name in the dictionary as a noun is a sure-fire litmus test for having made a impact on culture and history. Just look at OED-approved fine folks like Charles Boycott, Samuel Maverick, Joseph-Ignace Guillotine, Henry Shrapnel, and Lord Cardigan. But there are unsuspected downsides to being reduced to a noun — just ask suffragette and women’s rights pioneer Amelia Bloomer, now equated with a baggy pair of women’s underpants.

Now, thanks to NPR‘s Robert Krulwich and Adam Cole, there’s a delightful music video about them.

Semi-relatedly, this reminded me of a lovely illustrated children’s book called If You Were a Noun.

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30 SEPTEMBER, 2011

A Map of Woman’s Heart: Appalling Victorian Gender Stereotypes, in Illustrated Cartography

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From coquetry to selfishness, or what the Sea of Wealth has to do with the City and District of Love.

Nineteenth-century ideals of womanhood and beauty expressed as much about women as they did about the society in which they were germinated. At a time of radical sociocultural and economic shifts — rapid urbanization, new modes of transportation and communication, increasing mechanization of industry — the expectations for women’s role in society shifted as well, with an idealized version of what was known as “True Womanhood” underpinning pop culture representations of women in everything from newspaper advice columns to art.

A Map of the Open Country of a Woman’s Heart was a map created by D. W. Kellogg circa 1833–1842, in the tradition of these maps of the human condition you might recall, subtitled “Exhibiting its internal communications, and the facilities and dangers to Travellers therein.” Though it mostly depicts Woman as a sentimental, selfish, and superficial being driven by vanity, it places Love at the center of her heart, with Good Sense, Patience, and Prudence at its tip — or bottom, depending on the interpretation.

For a fascinating look at the expectations of True Womanhood, marvel at Bernard O’Reilly’s 1883 classic The Mirror Of True Womanhood: A Book Of Instruction For Women In The World.

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30 SEPTEMBER, 2011

Celebrating the Art of Competitive Beard and Mustache Grooming

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A lament for patience by way of Garibaldi, or what partial beards have to do with instant gratification.

We’ve previously celebrated the power and glory of the mustache and have marveled at championship chickens, but what about championship ‘staches? A living testament to the ethos that everything is a canvas for creativity, the World Beard and Mustache Championships have been celebrating the art of competitive facial hair grooming since 1990. Beard is Austin-based photographer Matthew Rainwaters’ quest to document the finest of these hairy specimens and the curious characters who tend them in a stunning series of stark, visually articulate portraits. Alongside the formidable chops, bristles and whiskers, ranging from the classics to freestyle fare, are essays by prominent competitors that crack ajar the door to a fascinating subculture.

In many ways, these magnificent creations are a charming homage to a fast-fading era, a time when patience was indeed a virtue and slow, meticulous growth — be it literal or metaphorical — was valued more highly than the instant gratification that fuels today’s aspirations.

Jack Passion, San Francisco, CA

Natural Full Beard 1st place winner, 3rd place overall winner

John Price, Atlanta, GA

Garibaldi Full Beard, 3rd place winner

Stuart Wilf, Colorado Springs, CO

Freestyle Partial Beard, 1st place winner

Playful and poetic in a delightfully offbeat way, Beard is at once a portal to a weird and wonderful alternate reality and an invitation to revisit, with a smile and a wink, our relationship with patience, character, and nonconformity.

Images courtesy of Matthew Rainwaters / Chronicle Books

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