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Monday, Nov 29, 2010
Let's Bring Back: An Encyclopedia of Forgotten-yet-Delightful, Chic, Useful, Curious, and Otherwise Commendable Things from Times Gone By, by Lesley M. M. Blume [$19.95]

Author Lesley M. M. Blume is on a mission: to bring back the elegant, mysterious, and delightful trappings of bygone ages. Based upon her popular Huffington Post column of the same name, this delightful encyclopedia of nostalgia features witty, insightful entries on long-gone cultural ephemera, such as Potbelly Stoves, Organ Grinders, Attention Spans (you’re still paying attention, right?), and even includes the original Girl Scout cookie recipe. Yum.


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Tuesday, Nov 23, 2010
Please Take Me Off the Guest List by Nick Zinner [$15.95]

Please Take Me Off the Guest List is the fourth collaboration between the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner and fellow New York City artists Zachary Lipez and Stacy Wakefield, following No Seats on the Party Car, Slept in Beds and I Hope You Are All Happy Now. The book combines Zinner’s photographs from the road with Lipez’s essays recalling his adventures as a bartender, drug abuser, and relentless skirt chaser. For those who’ve always wanted to live like a rock star, this may help you appreciate your day job.


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Friday, Dec 18, 2009
Herblock - W.W. Norton [$35.00] and Dr. Seuss & Co. Go to War - New Press [$29.95]

Social strife, dirty politics, gadawful war—none of it’s funny, dammit. At least not ‘til some eagle-eyed, tongue-in-cheek talent comes along and nails current events and its players to the seemingly simple format of a single panel cartoon. We check ‘em out, grain of salt held firmly between our back molars, and chuckle at the absurdities of human nature, and marvel that we survive as a species at all. 


Not all political cartoons intend to evoke laughter, but they certainly aim to provoke thought, poke holes in things deemed sacred, and ideally, capture a moment in our historical timeline that will speak volumes to future generations with, maybe, just a few words. Herblock: The Life and Work of the Great Political Cartoonist, showcases Herblock’s 72-year career under 12 presidential administrations, Herbert Hoover to George W. Bush. There’s a lot of history captured between these pages and in the accompanying DVD. The work speaks volumes, as well, about what was in the American headlines, in its editorial pages, and on everyone’s mind during some of the most tumultuous years of the 20th century.


The man who instructed an entire generation on how to behave, Theodore Seuss Gisel, aka Dr. Seuss, had his hand in editorial cartoons covering World War II during his career as a political cartoonist for the New York daily newspaper, PM. The man of morals makes no bones about what he thinks Americans on the brink of war, and largely resistant to getting involved, should do. In the company of fellow progressive cartoonists Al Hirschfeld, Arthur Szyk, Carl Rose, Mischa Ricter and others (the ‘& Co.’ of the title), more than 300 cartoons spanning six years of the war are provided, here. This makes a nice companion book to Herblock for the history buff.


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Friday, Dec 18, 2009
Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression - Morris Dickstein - W.W. Norton [$29.95]

Cultural history is one of the abiding passions of PopMatters, and in that spirit we heartily recommend picking up Morris Dickstein’s new study of the music, theatre, film and literature of the ‘30s. This ambitious text is the result of 30 years of research and writing, a work of consummate scholarship that is perfectly timed, given the ongoing economic malaise worldwide and the recent near-return to “depressionary” times. Thoroughly interdisciplinary in scope and focused on the expressions of creative individuals of the time, Dancing in the Dark convinces that these artistic “responses should resonate with us again today as we go through the stresses and anxieties that remind us too much of the Great Depression”.


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Friday, Dec 18, 2009
The Map As Art - Princeton Architectural Press [$45.00] and Strange Maps - Penguin [$30]

Who hasn’t pored over a map, totally absorbed, oblivious to the passage of time? You are Here, for the time being, and ‘Here’ is you, in all the cultural, political, and geographical interpretations of that phrase you care to consider. If you’re inclined to such daydreaming, The Map as Art will intrigue, delight and perplex you, as you browse through 160 contemporary artists’ interpretations of mapping the world.


Your understanding of what comprises a map will get a luxurious stretch, as you slowly page through this delightful book (a sequel to the best selling You are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination, also by Katharine Harmon), and thus your comprehension of the world will expand. Many of the maps, like us, are designed to fade quickly on this geographical timeline (the wind will take them away); others, no matter how well preserved, will disintegrate more slowly as all objects of art do. Nothing remains fixed, not ourselves, and certainly not our world. You’ll want to find some of these in poster format, if possible, as many of these maps are quite beautiful.


An excellent companion piece to The Map as Art is found in Viking Studio’s Strange Maps. Here the map as concept is turned on its head, or inverted, as the cover art implies.  For example in section III. Artography, artist Frank Chimero depicts the state of California as a stubbed-out cigarette—and that’s one of the more readily comprehensible maps. “In cartography, precision is essential.  But imagination can be an entertaining substitute,” says the introduction to part I. Cartographic Misconceptions, which playfully depicts maps of, well, creative assumption, which were typical resources prior to the age of satellite imagery.


Author Frank Jacobs calls this collection, derived from his popular blog, Strange Maps, an anti-atlas in its scope of curious cartography that—consider yourself warned—is not meant for navigation. Well, not physical navigation, anyway. Your imagination will wander freely throughout these interpretations. This is a collection of odd maps that are, well, kinda hard to pin down. Readers of this book will wear a bemused smile throughout—and they’ll never look at the state of California the same.


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