In recent years, I have seen a notable increase in well-groomed, sometimes waxed, facial hair. At a chain hardware store, I was taken aback when a skinny 20-something fellow turned to answer a question and was sporting a mustache that would not be out of place in a drinking establishment in the 1860s. It was rather glorious.
I was prone to dismiss this as an affectation, though: an outgrowth of rampant hipsterism. Ironic mustaches. However, the luxuriant hirsuteness and the loving attention paid to them by otherwise normal-seeming men put the lie to my reaction.
It’s probably also jealousy. While I have pictures of my ancestors with beards that would put the Messrs. ZZ Top to shame, I have a follicularly challenged chin, upper lip, and neck. The scraggly hairs that still leave patches of exposed skin cry out for a razor. The few times that I have let a mustache form, the phone starts to ring from the 1970s asking me to audition for low-production-value pornos.
Art Allen tells those of us with neither genes nor gender for beards that clubs devoted to the appreciation of bushy wonders aren’t the exclusive preserve of the bewhiskered. All are welcome and embraced.
“Bearding is something that happens even when the men doing the bearding don’t realize it,” he writes in Beard and Bearder, his chronicle of finding and creating community in a flood of facial hair. Organizing beard-offs allows Allen and friends — including a fair portion of women with faux beards — to bond not just over whiskers, but over the joyous celebration of life. Beards. Not just for farmers anymore. (More on that in a minute.)
Casey Hynes takes on all five senses in Seven Ate Nine, her account of discovering that she has — and how she lives with — a rare condition called synesthesia that she finds rather enjoyable on balance. Letters, numbers, and times possess colors and personalities for her. Everyone’s synesthesia is unique, however, and the reasons for this benign condition are essentially not yet understood.
In reading her article, I realized abruptly that I likely have a form of synesthesia! Since my earliest memories, every object has had a distinct personality and often a gender. When I interact with computers and other hardware, it’s always been on a friendly basis. Now I know why. I’ll be curious among readers whether you get a flash of recognition, too. Write us and let us know if you’d like to share.
In Zakia Uddin’s The Hunger Artists, we learn what vending machines can produce beyond cheap, processed sustenance. Vending machines are the inspiration and canvas for, as well as the dispensers of, art across geography and media. What does it mean to sell Renoir prints on demand? And when vending machines dispense snack foods based on global economic conditions, words like “surplus” take on an entirely new meaning.
Lifting the veil of a (geeky) modern marriage, Carren Jao’s Head Games explains the inextricable ties between her video game designer husband’s career trajectory and their relationship, the latter held together during years of physical separation by collaborative gaming. Carren certainly gives new meaning to the concept of leveling up.
Rounding out how technology truly and literally feeds our minds and mouths, writer and photographer Cara Parks spent time with several modern farmers around the United States, finding a passionate group of small-scale producers who work the land with tools they often have a hand in designing. In Hoe Down, we meet farmer-hackers, co-op worker-owners, and a former advisor to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization.
No one would dare suggest that farming isn’t difficult work. There’s much lip service paid to independent farmers and the community markets where they sell their produce, but less attention is given to the mechanics of their labor and how the tools of production have (and mostly haven’t) evolved. Cara also provided this issue’s gorgeous cover photo.
This beard-heavy note was co-written with the non-bearded Brittany Shoot, our managing editor.
We welcome your feedback on articles past and present; the summer has been hectic behind the scenes, and letters will return next issue. We hope the section will include a note from you, dear reader. Let us know what you like, what you don’t, and what you’d like to see.
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Glenn Fleishman is the editor and publisher of The Magazine, and contributes reguarly to the Economist, Boing Boing, TidBITS, and Macworld. The father of two, Glenn won two episodes of Jeopardy! in 2012, and he won't let you forget it.