ReactorWeekend

Required Reading

by Hrag Vartanian on August 31, 2014

Comic book anatomy can be quite absurd when you try to make sense out of it. (via @lesmcclaine)

Comic book anatomy can be quite absurd when you try to make sense of it. (via @lesmcclaine)

This week, war photography and pop culture, breaking up the major museums, Hello Kitty is not a cat, video game sexism, criminalizing science, and more.

 The line between pop culture and the reality of conflict is blurring, and Tom Seymour explores the intersection:

Before he was killed in Libya, war photographer Tim Hetherington talked of “the feedback loop” – the self-perpetuating link between the reality of conflict and its portrayal in popular culture. But where such fictions were once tightly controlled, the internet has opened the floodgates, creating an ever-increasing circle that is seemingly more gruesome than ever before.

A few months before he died, Hetherington submitted to Vanity Fair a series of photographs of US soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. At the time, Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam epic Apocalypse Now was getting a re-release. The designers at Vanity Fair mixed the images up, mistakenly using Hetherington’s shots to illustrate a review of the famously conceptual rendering of war.

 I wrote an op-ed for Al Jazeera America about how museums should consider mimicking the decentralized models of public libraries rather than the centralized models of sports stadiums:

We need to break up the major museums. That may sound radical to some, but it’s an idea whose time has come. I’m suggesting not that museums sell off their collections but that more museums consider aggressively building outposts or prioritizing longer-term partnerships with smaller or newer institutions that could benefit from such relationships.

 Hell broke loose when Carolina Miranda of the LA Times discovered that Hello Kitty is NOT a cat:

Hello Kitty is not a cat.

You read that right. When Yano was preparing her written texts for the exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum, she says she described Hello Kitty as a cat. “I was corrected — very firmly,” she says. “That’s one correction Sanrio made for my script for the show. Hello Kitty is not a cat. She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She’s never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature. She does have a pet cat of her own, however, and it’s called Charmmy Kitty.”

I grew up with Hello Kitty everything and all I have to say is, MIND BLOWN.

She also has a follow-up post on the ensuing chaos.

 Videogame designer Pippin Barr has a self-reflexive moment and considers his own sexism when creating “The Artist Is Present” video game:

So much has happened recently with regard to people being massive assholes about the Feminist Frequency videos and their presenter Anita Sarkeesian (If you haven’t watched these videos, please do – whether or not you’re into videogames, they’re a really interesting deconstruction of a rather influential media thing.) At any rate, somewhat “in honour of” all this, I thought I might write down some thoughts about the issues Sarkeesian brings up as they apply to my own games, past, present, future, and pluperfect. This may involve me admitted to having been lame in the past with respect to gender, and it certainly involves me admitting (right now) that it may happen in the future despite my efforts to the contrary (sorry in advance), and absolutely that it’s something I’m finding challenging and that I think about.

 Feminist Frequency has published the second part of their Women as Background Decoration video series, and it is a must-watch:

 A good list from the “Black Art Project” of books, exhibition catalogues, and brochures with a direct focus on African American art. (h/t @blackcontempart)

 On the ALS ice bucket challenge and Ferguson:

As for the social ills (related, of course, to the structural, and likely more insidious and resistant), what I have in mind is just how much trouble Americans still have with dealing with difference of any kind. This, to me, is what connects Ferguson and the Ice Bucket Challenge most immediately. As individuals and as a society, in everyday life and in emergencies, we still have almost no tolerance for any kind of visible difference —be it physical disability or a darker skin tone—from a “normal” that is white and able-bodied (not to mention male and middle class). This intolerance, now as ever, is rooted in fear—be it fear of becoming physically incapacitated, fear of being a victim of physical violence, or, most basically, fear of having one’s habits of mind and behavior challenged or changed.

 Has Italy criminalized science? The story of the case against a group of Italian earthquake scientists is cause for concern:

Picuti’s case against the scientists built a pattern: Residents resisted their established habit of fleeing their homes during tremors because of an overly calming message from the distinguished commission. It was “disastrous reassurance,” as Picuti likes to put it.

The trial was consumed by testimony from injured victims and the bereaved. People spoke of relatives who stashed blankets and cookies by the door to grab before exiting in the event of a tremor, but had chosen to stay inside after seeing the TV interview. There was the man whose family had long since believed that tremors are followed by larger subterranean “replies”—and used the experts’ assessment to convince his pregnant wife there was no need to go outside that night. All of them, including their infant son, died when the couple’s home collapsed. There was the university student who was crushed to death, even though his friends had inquired about their dormitory’s seismic stability just a week before. Local officials had told them not to worry.

Assembling this testimony was essential to Picuti’s argument for manslaughter. He reasoned that the deaths were caused by things the scientists and engineers said and did not say. He cherry-picked past statements and snippets from scientific journals to argue that the scientists had known there would almost certainly be a major event. They couldn’t have known an exact date and time, of course, says Picuti. But they deliberately suppressed discussion of risk for the sake of reassurance.

 One of the most insanely thrill-seeking selfies you’ll ever see … from the top of a Hong Kong skyscraper:

 Ever wondered about the buying habits of people on eBay? This chart shows you the most popular item in each US state:

ebay-state-map-640

Here are some examples:

  • New York predominantly buys firearms (*gulp*)
  • California buys high-end women’s apparel and accessories
  • Illinois snags its home furnishings
  • Texas purchases tactical and hunting goods
  • New Jersey loves the online service for men’s fragrances
  • Pennsylvania seems to get their gaming supplies there
  • Wyoming stops by to buy art supplies

 Is Hollywood’s interest turning to the fast-growing Chinese market? The New Inquiry considers the issue:

Despite the promise of the Internet to revolutionize the entertainment industry, movies are still released according to a forty-year old financial model. Every year, Hollywood puts out a handful of “tentpole” movies, mega-blockbusters profitable enough to bolster and support the rest of the industry. But relying on individual tentpole movies is a high stakes game that sometimes fails. Last year was referred to as the “summer of doom” in Hollywood, when many tentpoles—TurboAfter EarthWhite House DownThe Lone Ranger, and Elysium (does anyone recall these titles?)—were financial disappointments. Last year’s biggest flop, R.I.P.D., starring Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds, cost $130 million to produce and earned back only $30 million domestically.

And yet, Hollywood studios didn’t shutter their doors. In fact, 2013 was another record year for ticket sales. How did this happen? Enter China, which has become the second largest movie market in the world, after the United States. China’s pull on Hollywood is a recent development. Between 2009 and 2012, the number of cinemas in China quadrupled. According to the MPAA, there are currently 13 new movie theaters being built everyday in China.

 And BuzzFeed looks at 44 Medieval beasts that “can’t handle it right now” (though some definitely look more fed up than others, but anyway … ):

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning EST, and is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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