Monthly Archives: August 2006

Review: Castronova, Synthetic Worlds

August 3, 2006
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Review: Castronova, Synthetic Worlds

If you’re reading this then you’re probably already aware of how much digital technology has insinuated itself into our daily routines. But just how much could we, or should we, devote to our online lives? The weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal recently ran a review of two books about the increasing popularity of “virtual realities” including our own Edward Castronova’s Synthetic Worlds: Mr. Castronova’s Synthetic Worlds argues that virtual reality is a thriving place with millions of inhabitants world-wide. And it bears close watching… Synthetic Worlds explains the trend, obvious to anyone who has dipped into the online subculture over time, that virtual worlds are populated differently now than they used to be: they began as the province of nerds and outcasts but are now approaching the mainstream—as reflected in recent media reports and the increasing share of quotes in such coverage drawn from the housewife and married-dad demographics. Read an interview with the author, or check out his blog. . . .

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An endangered species of publishing

August 2, 2006
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An endangered species of publishing

An article in the August 4 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education quotes Susan Bielstein, our executive editor for art and architecture: “The art monograph is now seriously endangered and could well outpace the silvery minnow in its rush to extinction.” Publishing art monographs is financially challenging, for the author and for the publisher. To obtain an image of a work of art suitable for reproduction, the author usually has to pay a permission fee to the owner of the work—a museum, say—even if the work itself is in the public domain. An author might shell out tens of thousands of dollars for such fees. Costs are high for the publisher as well, what with color illustrations, coated paper stock, and the durable binding needed for a hefty, oversized book. The CHE article discusses the state of art-history publishing at several university presses and a forthcoming Mellon-funded report, “Art History and Its Publications in the Electronic Age.” The article concludes: “All parties agree that it is harder than ever to navigate what Ms. Bielstein calls ‘the ecosystem of rights publishing.’ What’s fair use? Should a museum be able to charge for a reproducible image of an out-of-copyright object in . . .

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Alchemy rediscovered

August 1, 2006
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Alchemy rediscovered

Today’s New York Times carries an article by John Noble Wilford on the revival of academic interest in alchemy. The article was occasioned by a conference late last month, hosted by the Chemical Heritage Foundation and organized by Lawrence M. Principe. The Times article discusses the research presented at the alchemy conference including a paper by William R. Newman. Newman spoke about Issac Newton’s fascination with alchemy: “his notebooks contain thousands of pages on alchemic thoughts and experiments over 30 years,” reports the Times. Chicago has published a number of books that reflect the new interest in alchemy. Principe and Newman collaborated on Alchemy Tried in the Fire: Starkey, Boyle, and the Fate of Helmontian Chymistry, which argues that many of the principles and practices characteristic of modern chemistry derive from alchemy. They also edited a key alchemical text, the Alchemical Laboratory Notebooks and Correspondence of George Starkey. Newman is the author of the recently published Atoms and Alchemy: Chymistry and the Experimental Origins of the Scientific Revolution, in which he challenges the view that alchemy impeded the development of rational chemistry. Newman also wrote Promethean Ambitions: Alchemy and the Quest to Perfect Nature, an investigation of the how alchemists . . .

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Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

August 1, 2006
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Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

The July 28, 2006, issue of Financial Times ran a review of John Gennari’s Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and its Critics in which resident jazz critic Mike Hobart doesn’t hesitate to rain praise on Gennari’s latest work: This is a book about jazz in which the music is in the background, for John Gennari’s main concern is a critique of jazz criticism from the 1930’s to the present. Densley researched, broadly partisan and compiled with a wry sense of humor, Blowin’ Hot and Cool still manages to reveal much about jazz, and more about the lives of its musicians than many recent hagiographies.… His account opens in the 1930’s, with two patrician figures of great infulence: John Hammond and his English acolyte, Leonard Feather. Negotiating a racially segregated world of thrill seekers, jitterbugs, and the communist party’s popular fronts, they fought for racial integration and jazz as an art, yet fell out over the authenticity of modern jazz. In the process they discovered Count Basie and Billie Holiday, recorded Bessie Smith, and persuaded Benny Goodman to drop schmaltz. Our excerpt from the first chapter talks more about Feather and Hammond. Gennari also outlined a soundtrack for the book. . . .

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