Vizualize Your Health!*

Atlantic apple

Image from "Apple Cores Are a Myth" on 

One of my favorite things about yoga class is when the instructor, Iva, talks about how the various poses transform the inside of the body. In butterfly pose, she tells you about the rejuvenation of your spleen, kidney, and stomach meridians (i.e. channels of energy that run through the body according to Ayurveda). When you find yourself in a handstand, and it feels for a few seconds like floating, it’s probably because it’s one of the only times your organs get to hang upside down and all the blood in your body can recirculate. Twisting, as many a hungover yogi will know, detoxifies your body and wrings out your organs. Yoga instructors say these same things over and over, and after practicing for awhile, it’s hard not to believe them.

“Walking in the Footsteps of Edward Sheriff Curtis”: Jimmy Nelson’s Before They Pass Away

Image credit:

In my last post I wrote about viral internet photo collections of people from around the world with their possessions. Perhaps because of these photos, or perhaps because of a general cultural zeitgeist, another much older genre of ethnographic portraiture has been receiving renewed attention on the web: portraiture of “tribespeople” from around the world. The most prominent series in the revival of this genre seems to be Before They Pass Away, a long-term project from British-born photographer Jimmy Nelson.

Bathroom Stalls In Orange Is the New Black

 Poster for Orange Is the New Black. Various inmates look out at the camera from bathroom stalls without doors

Image Credit: Heroine TV


Given my fascination with what's visually acceptable and what's considered outré or even repulsive about women's bodies, I'm personally shocked that I haven't yet made time to talk about Orange Is the New Black, a semi-new Netflix Original Series. Season 1 appeared en masse on July 11, and I, for one, lost a few days of my life greedily devouring every single hour-long episode. The premise at first gave me pause. An upper-middle-class white woman, Piper Chapman, is incarcerated years after the fact for helping an old girlfriend smuggle drug money across some international borders. Trials and tribulations for her ensue in a women's prison. I was a bit concerned that the show would make light of its own topic and elide very real health, safety and human rights issues facing minority women serving time. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the thoughtful, sympathetic way with which the show attempts to deal with sociopolitical issues. The cycle of poverty, drug use and LGBQT discrimination all get decent airtime, and, though I'm a bit removed from the experience, I can't recall many particular moments that made me cringe (though I do plan on using a later post to discuss the show's treatment of abortion).


Overexposed to Natural Disaster?

Tacloban mass grave NYTimes

"Ravaged by Typhoon, Philippines Faces Threat of Serious Diseases" on 11.14.2013

I've struggled this week to come up with a topic for viz. It isn't easy to generate new, engaging content week after week. But I was scrolling through various social media platforms this morning, and checking the news, and it was all business as usual until I came across the image above of the first mass grave dug this week in the Philippines for victims of Typhoon Haiyana. 

In a time when it's easier and faster than ever to be informed about events across the globe, and when we confront images daily of places we will never visit or perhaps imagine on our own, I'm struck by how little I've seen from the Philippines this week. It's been a busy week, certainly, and a variety of local news stories (plus that "what-would-I-say" bot) have taken clear precedence on my Facebook feed. Still, I can't help but wonder if my limited encounter with images from this most recent weather disaster is a sign of something other than info glut.

Documentation of Loss – Observing Failure in the Modern Olympics

Shin A. Lam, olympic fencer from S. Korea, cries in the arena after a loss to her opponent.

Olympic fencer Shin A-Lam of South Korea remains in the arena to contest an unfavorable ruling without the expected stoicism.  Image credit: Korea Bang

What does it mean to document loss?  What is its rhetorical function?  Rhetoric of Celebrity student Iva Kinnaird assembles an archive of defeat from several Olympic games, tracing the intersections of celebrity and sportsmanship.  The documentation of loss, she asserts, commodifies defeat and makes it available for public consumption.  The result is a strange rhetorical landscape where the lines between winning and losing become less easy to determine.

Humanism and Global Portraiture: From Steichen’s Family of Man to Galimberte’s Toy Stories

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I’ve been seeing a growing trend on the internet for the past year or so: sites like Buzzfeed and Bored Panda advertising series like Gabriele Galimberte’s Toy Stories a.k.a. “Children from Around the World with Their Favorite Toys,” or, another popular one, “Families from around the World with a Month’s Worth of Food.” What is the source of our cultural compulsion to view these massive collections of human possessions? Moreover, why do we like to see all of the peoples of every nation juxtaposed alongside one another? Visual Rhetoric is not only the study of individual signs, images, and symbols, but also of the messages that images impart as a collective. In the era of the internet list and the online photo gallery, images are often presented in groups to form a broader thesis. So what exactly is the thesis behind these “People from around the World Holding X” or “Doing Y”?

In looking at these catalogues of humanity writ large, I’m reminded of an exhibit which made its debut long before the era of viral internet photo collections: Edward Steichen’s The Family of Man.

Misusing Miss Universe?

Miss Universe 2013 Gabriela Isler gives a thumbs-up to the camera

Image Credit:

There are some things that even I, in all of my high-minded preachiess, feel squeamish about approaching. The gender studies climate in my field has been influenced by critics who laud the values of embracing “girl culture,” celebrating personal gender choices, and moving away from blaming an insidious patriarchy for indoctrinating women. However, I can't help but notice that social and economic inequality still haunt gender divides, and, politically speaking, it might be responsible to keep harping on glass ceilings and body image issues until everyone acknowledges that sexism, like racism, is still a “thing” in American culture. How does one properly balance these two positions? I struggle with this question constantly. Take the Miss Universe pageant, for example.

Laura Palmer, wrapped in plastic

Ronette Pulaski from Twin Peaks

Image still from Twin Peaks episode two.

Inspired by Casey's Halloween post on gender in the horror genre, I'm continuing to riff on the same theme; I'll talk about boredom and violence, truck stop killers, and, of course, Laura Palmer.  

So I just finished watching Twin Peaks. I'm behind the times in tackling this one, but now the show is up there on my list of favorites. That said, while watching over the past few months, I couldn’t help but notice that the underlying message seems to be: Young Women who display independence and/or sexual curiosity will probably be murdered by a deep woods demon. Laura Palmer is only the first casualty. By the series’ end—no serious spoilers here—we have to wonder what will become of our various other heroines. Audrey Horne, Donna Hayward, Shelly Johnson. And of course there remains the question of questions: How’s Annie?

Robert Frank's The Americans and Magnum's "Postcards from America"

Image credit: Postcards from America Tumblr, Mikhael Subotzky

On a recent visit to the Harry Ransom Center’s exhibition "Radical Transformation: Magnum Photos in the Digital Age” I was inspired by how often Magnum photographers turned their lenses to capture that ever elusive “representative” photo collection of the U.S., as they do in their project “Postcards from America.” The concept behind the project is that a group of acclaimed Magnum photographers work collaboratively. In order to do this, they pile into a van and travel to different cities taking snapshots and uploading them directly to their Tumblr:

A New Kind of Castle: Disney, Feminism, and Romance

A scene from Disney's Snow White. A smiling prince carries the princess away in his arms

In 1937, Disney's endearingly helpless Snow White cooked, cleaned and sang her way into the hearts of seven protective men and then slept her way into a happily ever after. Giving due props for the breathtaking animation, Snow White's reliance on heroic male figures to solve all of the naïve princess's problems will naturally prompt eye-rolling from feminists still riding the ripples of wave two. Before unleashing angst and anger at Disney, don't we have to acknowledge that Snow White is surely a far cry from the hardworking grit and psychologically complexity of Tiana, the heroine of Disney's most recent “princess” movie? Even though Tiana has a song sequence that basically accompanies her cleaning up an old mill, she's inspired by her own ambition instead of by the saccharine goodness of her squishy heart. Disney has certainly attempted to respond to cultural shifts in how America understands gender roles and romantic relationships. The question is: have these changes been sufficient?


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