A Body Hair Experiment
A Body Hair Experiment: An Intimate Lens on Gender is a thought-provoking mix of visceral photographs and elegant prose. This exceptionally perceptive photo essay features photographs by O Zhang and text by Eli Cohen. Cohen reflects on the always tense relationship that body hair has with the human body and, via his experiment, highlights how body hair is acceptable on certain bodies and (mostly) unacceptable on others.
The experiment had Cohen completely remove all the hair on the left side of his body only, leaving the other half naturally hairy. He mentions that hairlessness was never an option for him, not even the rejection of it. His lines on how he had never viewed himself as a subject of desire make the readers question how society terms certain bodies as constitutive of being desirable and others as not.
Preceded by Zhang’s close-up of a man’s stomach (one hair-covered arm angled towards the tuft of pubic hair in presumably an act of concealment) and succeeded by spliced halves of a close-up of the nipple—one side completely hairless with the pores sharply defined and the other with wiry black-grey coils, the question of subjects of desire also gently extends in the reader’s mind to body parts significant of desire. Cohen’s wondering about the ‘feminine choices’ regarding body hair and the natural extension of perceptions of women who choose to make a feminine choice shows us just how insidiously notions of seriousness and frivolity are tied up with femininity.
I am giving A Body Hair Experiment: An Intimate Lens on Gender by Eli Cohen and O Zhang 5 out of 5 stars— Zhang’s gorgeous photography graphically brings home the reality of gender norms being broken and unsettles ingrained notions of gender-specific beauty practices. Cohen’s writing and his musings on what this act of deliberate part-hairlessness and part au naturel involves—from the physical sensation of smoothness, of hairiness, of the preparation, of the embracing, and of the disconcerting sensation of unevenness—invite readers to the possibilities of body hair while also highlighting the strong cultural notions it carries.
Posted in Book Reviews, Five Stars
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The Consort Conspiracy
Kaye Schmitz’s The Consort Conspiracy talks about an ancient cemetery deep in the Lowland of Georgia that has been there for over two centuries and protects the remains of the infamous murderer whose act of betrayal changed the history of the town and catapulted the descendants of the murdered victim into the nation’s highest political office.
Kate Covington, a thirty one year old intrepid journalist travels to Midway Georgia, the hometown of the current president Wilford Pennington, to film a documentary to help boost his favorability ratings after he could not keep his privates in his pants. The search for answers to her documentary brings her to the cemetery that has buried more secrets than bodies. But her curiosity almost gets her killed.
The book starts steadily but picks up the pace after the introductory. There are several story lines that are juggled and all are meticulously developed. Kaye Schmitz brings them together in surprising ways with twists that I didn’t see coming. I enjoyed the detailed writing style as well as the alternating perspectives, we even get to travel from the past to the present. All of it intricately weaving together story lines that seem to be separate but which culminate in a explosive piece full of suspense.
As Kate busies herself gathering information for her documentary, she unearths a secret about the first family that could lead to their undoing. The truth about the death of Dr. Aaron Pennington, a descendant of the president will also be uncovered. Mr. Wilford’s political career rests on this murder that happened more than two hundred years ago. This all lends to a thrilling joyride of a novel.
Kate has to deal with some highly emotional issues throughout the story, like when she discovers the truth about the death of her mother. A truth that will not only change the town’s history but Kate’s future as well.
The historical facts that have embellished the present tale and the vivid and compelling characters portrayed by the heroes and villains keep one turning the pages. You really can envision how the characters, as well as the locations, look through Kaye Schmitz detailed description.
When the two handsome men Dan Pennington and Joshua Warrington start competing for Kate’s attention the book becomes a can’t-put-it-down tale. By the end the outcome was both satisfying and unexpected. Just when you thought you figured it all out, you realize you don’t. It was well written and keeps one on the edge of their seat. It was one of those stories that you have to read word by word for fear of missing something crucial. It really was a page turner.
Pages: 331 | ASIN: B071G89PBW
Posted in Book Reviews, Five Stars
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The Life and Crime of Ruby McCollum
Dr. C. Arthur Ellis talks with The Monster about his new book Hall of Mirrors which comments on the various short films and documentaries developed to examine the life and crime of Ruby McCollum.
“Ruby McCollum (August 31, 1909 – May 23, 1992) was known for killing a prominent caucasian doctor in 1952 (whom she accused) that he had abused her and forced her to have sex and bear his child.” – Wikipedia.org
You’ve written many books about the case of Ruby McCollum and the true crime story that shook the south. How does Hall of Mirrors differ from your other works?
I first completed the annotated transcript of the trial of Ruby McCollum, which contained comments on each day of the trial, based upon my direct knowledge of the case. Commentary included various relationships among the key players, including attorneys and witnesses, who were known to me. I was motivated to create this work since various academic publications, including the first edition of Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters by Karla Kaplan, maintained that Ruby McCollum was not allowed to testify at her trial when she actually did testify.
I then published a true crime novel of the story, written from the 1st person perspective of Zora Neale Hurston, the famous African-American anthropologist who reported on the trial for the Pittsburgh Courier, and then the omniscient narrator voice to tell the backstory leading to the murder.
Hall of Mirrors differs from these first two publications in that it comments on the various short films and documentaries developed after my work, as well as on the academic publication, The Silencing of Ruby McCollum, written by Dr. Tammy Evans. I considered all of these works to be without any foundation in fact, and developed with what appeared to be various biases that slanted the truth of the case in order to make political or personal statements. Further, all of these accounts were developed by people who never knew the key characters in the story. Hall of Mirrors presents primary research, not secondary opinion, to allow readers the freedom to develop their own take on the story.
What is your connection to the story of Ruby McCollum?
I was delivered into this world by Dr. C. Leroy Adams, Jr., the murder victim, in the front bedroom of our family home in Live Oak, Florida, just a block from the McCollum home. My father worked with Dr. Adams at the Suwannee County Hospital, and my mother was friends with Mrs. Adams. I knew every other character in the story, some of whom were my relatives.
Do you think Ruby McCollum’s case was instrumental in the struggle for civil rights and do you think her story is still relevant today?
I think that Ruby McCollum’s case was instrumental in the struggle for civil rights since it was the first documented case in which a woman of color was allowed to take the witness stand in her own defense in a trial charging her with killing a white man. In Hall of Mirrors, I place this trial in context, beginning with a similar trial prior to the Civil War, continuing to a case prior to McCollum’s in the Jim Crow South, and ending with the McCollum trial. This establishes a clear path of progress toward equal justice in America’s courtrooms.
I think that the public is witnessing many trials today that continue this march toward social equality, and the McCollum case is a clear benchmark on the timeline of that social progress.
The debate over the Ruby McCollum’s case has continued through the years in part because Judge Adams placed a gag order on Ruby. Why do you think the judge silenced Ruby?
Had Ruby McCollum been allowed to speak freely with the press, Live Oak, Florida would have been a feeding ground for IRS treasury agents, and the white community would have been equally convicted of tax evasion, illegal gambling, racketeering, illegal liquor sales and many related offenses. The judge himself stated that he issued the order to “protect the community,” and this is actually quite true. This being said, Ruby McCollum was visited by a reporter from the Jacksonville Times when she was in the Florida Prison at Raiford and refused to talk with him. This is in a letter written by McCollum and published in Hall of Mirrors. It is likely that McCollum had been advised to avoid the press, should they be able to reach her.
C. Arthur Ellis Amazon Author Page
Hall of Mirrors is the most thoroughly researched work on the Ruby McCollum story published since the work of William B. Huie. Written by the author who first published the annotated transcript of the murder trial, this work explores recent attempts to revise Ruby McCollum’s story to suit the motives of various authors, academics and film producers. Hall of Mirrors avoids confirmation and presentist biases and presents this captivating story in its proper historical context.
Posted in Interviews
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