Archive for September, 2010

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This Ain’t Crayola: Manhood Restoration ca. 1885

19 September 2010

From the age of quackery, the 6th edition of Manhood Perfectly Restored: Prof. Jean Civiale’s Soluble Urethral Crayons as a Quick, Painless and Certain Cure for Impotence, Lost Manhood, Spermatorrhea, Losses, Weakness and Nervous Debility.

figure as described in caption
Fig. 7.
Exact Size and Shape of a Civiale Soluble Urethral Crayon.
(Inserted into canal of organ.)

These Crayons shown here are small, soft, smooth, perfectly flexible, and dissolve as soon as they are pushed into the urethral canal, thus bringing the remedies directly in contact with the ulcerated and eroded parts, it even running down the ducts into the seminal vesicles themselves.

The growth, vigor and future prosperity of every nation depend upon the strength and energy of its young men, and if the places of the robust and healthy are to be filled by effeminate, weakened, nervous and physically drained youths, such as the terrible vice of masturbation is yearly giving us, the results cannot be other than disastrous. The advice, warning and guidance of parents and guardians must be looked to for prevention; the method and remedies of Lallemand and Civiale for a cure.

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American Tragedy

18 September 2010

The American, Anton Corbijn’s new film about an assassin-spy who hides out in Italy while he tries to finish his final job, has received very mixed reviews.  The slow pace and minimalist script has thrown a number of people expecting to see another George Clooney thriller.  Others, however, have recognized the fantastic cinematography and the impressive acting from a cast of relative unknowns.

What hasn’t been discussed as much is the classification of The American as a modern tragedy.  Jack (George Clooney) cannot escape his past; neither can he seize his future.  Attempts at honesty and romantic love are thwarted by his dark occupation.  Only in the last ten minutes of the movie – spoiler alert! – does he try to get to Clara to tell the truth about him, and reaches her only as he dies.  She has come out of her cocoon.  But he is a stillborn butterfly.

The movie can be understood as commentary about the traditional male, I think.  The opaque lives we live often never way to transparency.  A desire to love is always handcuffed by mistrust and self-defense.  Clooney’s wordless acting in that final stretch of road captures the tragic dynamic so well.  He will die before he has the chance to love and be loved.

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Men, Travel and Sexism

13 September 2010

Ben Brazil’s recent article “Eat, Pray, Trash: What the Critics Don’t See” makes a provocative statement, that travel (and with it, spiritual liberation and the genre of travel stories) has been reserved for men.

Whether or not you find authenticity culture narcissistic, it’s not hard to see how the idea of travel works to support it. American literature and film celebrate few concepts as thoroughly as the open road. In Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road,” Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, and Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild (to name just a few), travel becomes a means to free the sacred self from the mundane and to experience the joys of a world that suddenly seems to sparkle with divinity.

Of course, this has typically been understood as a male freedom. Gilbert flips the gender assumptions—she’s the one who leaves a spouse because she needs freedom—and some find the reaction against Eat Pray Love to be rooted in that sexist legacy.

I’m not sure Eat Pray Love is quite so dramatic as, say, Thelma and Louise, but Brazil’s article makes an interesting point. 

For me at least, it gets me wondering about the importance of travel for men.  Why is it that Campbell’s monomyth is described in terms of the hero’s journey?   Why has that language caught on in men’s groups?  And why, despite the unholy nature of plane travel these days, do so many men claim it as their lifestyle?

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Men in Their Medium: Mel Spinar Exhibit

4 September 2010

Those of you around the Sioux Falls area would do well to head to the Washington Pavilion this autumn for the Mel Spinar visual art exhibit.  Spinar has had a lengthy and influential career in this region, and has taken several approaches to representation of his world, but none is more arresting than his portraits of men in the 1970s and 80s.

Spinar’s images of men capture men – real men – at ease and unassuming.  They reflect a masculine confidence, though several of the portraits, I think, betray a note of anxiety of the age.  The 1970s and 80s were turbulent times for gender, and the flamboyant designs men wore in this period suggests this.  Spinar catches these men performing their lives, working, playing, smoking, befriending, lounging, even flirting.  The intimacy one would hope for in portraiting comes through, the love of the sacred commonplace.  There is something of the spirit of Walt Whitman in the gallery.

At the Washington Pavilion through November 10, 2010.

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Mythopoetic Men’s Movement Book Review Available

2 September 2010

For those of you interested in the mythopoetic men’s movement and the dynamics of “new men” in small group interactions, my review of Eric Magnuson’s Changing Men, Transforming Culture: Inside the Men’s Movement is available online at the Journal of Men, Masculinity and Spirituality (4:2).