Monthly Archives: November 2006

In memory of Robert Altman

November 21, 2006
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In memory of Robert Altman

Robert Altman died yesterday at the age of 81. To mark his passing and his profound influence on contemporary film, we reprint Roger Ebert’s interview of Altman as published in Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert. Robert Altman Introduction I think I’ve interviewed Robert Altman more often than anybody else in the movie business. That has something to do with his method of making a movie, which is to assemble large groups of people and set them all in motion at once. There are always visitors on the set. Altman presides as an impresario or host. He likes to introduce people. I wonder if he dislikes being alone. Kathryn, his wife of forty years, is always somewhere nearby, a coconspirator. Once we both found ourselves at a film festival in Iowa City that was held only once. We both thought Pauline Kael was going to be there, which was why we’d agreed to come. Pauline later said she’d never been invited. Bob and I sat on a desk in a classroom and discussed the delicately moody Thieves Like Us, one of his most neglected films. Other times, I visited the sets of Health, A Wedding, and Gosford . . .

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The ultimate nosh

November 21, 2006
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The ultimate nosh

Don’t miss a chance to see some of the greatest minds of the century engage in fierce debate over one of the most enduring questions in human history: latke or hamantash? The 60th annual Latke-Hamantash Debate will be held tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Mandel Hall, 5706 S. University Ave. on the University of Chicago campus. The debate is free and open to the public. Tickets to the reception, where latkes and hamantashen will be served following the event, will be sold at the door for $5 each. The intellectual and cultural extravaganza that is the Latke-Hamantash debate has been a University of Chicago tradition for over sixty years. What began as an informal gathering is now an institution that has been replicated on campuses nationwide. Highly absurd yet deeply serious, the annual debate is an opportunity for both ethnic celebration and academic farce. Chronicling the delicious, not to mention humorous history of this debate, Ruth Fredman Cernea’s The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate collects the best of these performances, from Martha Nussbaum’s paean to both foods—in the style of Hecuba’s Lament—to Nobel laureate Leon Lederman’s proclamation on the union of the celebrated dyad. Both the latke aficionado and the hamantash devotee . . .

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Review: D’Amato, Barrio

November 20, 2006
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Review: D’Amato, Barrio

A recent review in the Chicago Sun-Times calls Paul D’Amato’s Barrio: Photographs from Chicago’s Pilsen and Little Village “a beautiful and troubling warts-and-all portrait of the city’s largest Mexican-American neighborhoods.” Chronicling the 14 years he has spent photographing Chicago’s “Latino strongholds,” Mr. D’Amato’s work is a profoundly empathetic vision of the human struggles of a community that might otherwise remain hidden behind cultural and economic barriers. Kevin Nance, reviewing D’Amato’s book for the Sun-Times seems to agree when he writes: Certainly few of the images here are likely to make their way into tourist brochures; Pilsen, the book’s ground zero, is shown as a gritty landscape of littered streets, dilapidated buildings, gang violence and spray-paint artists. At its best, however, the book transcends politics, offering images of the human condition—especially those having to do with relationships between the sexes—that penetrate the surfaces of ethnicity, class and geography. With a foreword by author Stuart Dybek that places D’Amato’s work in the context of the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods that Dybek has elsewhere captured so memorably, Barrio offers a penetrating, evocative, and overall streetwise portrait of two iconic and enduring Hispanic neighborhoods. . . .

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Review: Gossett, Divas and Scholars

November 17, 2006
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Review: Gossett, Divas and Scholars

Frankly, we don’t know what the late, great Chicago newspaperman Mike Royko thought about Verdi, Rossini, Puccini, or any of the other icons of Italian opera. (We’ll look through his collected columns.) But in a review of Philip Gossett’s Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera Marc Geelhoed from Time Out magazine draws a direct comparison between Gossett’ s first-hand account of the opera and Royko’s famously shrewd journalism. Geelhoed writes: Mike Royko had an instinctive love for the theory of how the deal went down, but what mattered most was seeing first hand how the theory played out in the real world. Musicologist Philip Gossett has spent his career at the University of Chicago, but his scholarship resides in the Royko school of street-smart reporting. Gossett isn’t content to leave a groaning shelf of unread books as his legacy; he’s gotten out into the Opera house and made a difference in the performing world. With Rossini’s operas in particular, opera houses have relied on Gossett’s expertise to coach singers and assist conductors with regard to style before a production opens. Opera lovers of all levels of musical knowledge should rejoice that his recollections are now available for their perusal. Enlivening . . .

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Meryle Secrest honored by the White House

November 17, 2006
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Meryle Secrest honored by the White House

On November 9, President Bush awarded Meryle Secrest the National Humanities Medal in a ceremony at the White House, one of ten writers and scholars so honored for 2006. Secrest is noted for her biographies of some of the seminal figures of modern art and music including architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and Joseph Duveen—the premier art dealer of the twentieth century. Secrest’s biographies combine her comprehensive and detailed historical research with engaging narrative that reviews in publications like the Economist and New Republic have praised for expertly drawing out the connections between the lives and the art of her subjects. Bringing her readers into intimate contact with the rich history of the arts, Secrest’s work is an invaluable contribution to the scholarly study of modern art. . . .

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Milton Friedman, 1912-2006

November 16, 2006
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Milton Friedman, 1912-2006

We have just learned of the death today of Milton Friedman. Friedman’s contributions to economics and the public economic policy of the United States were extraordinary. Stephen Chapman wrote in the Chicago Tribune: “It is a rare professor who greatly alters the thinking of his professional colleagues. It’s an even rarer one who helps transform the world. Friedman has done both.” Friedman’s analysis of the Great Depression transformed not only our understanding of the causes of the economic turmoil of that era, but current monetary policy as well. The policies of the Federal Reserve Bank are guided by Friedman’s theories on the linkage between inflation and the money supply. His analysis of currency markets prompted the practice of floating exchange rates. He was a principal founder of what has come to be known as the Chicago School of Economics. He was, as well, a great public champion of laissez-faire capitalism, influencing the economic policy decisions of every U.S. president of the last 30 years, as well as economic policy in governments around the world. Friedman won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 1976. In 1962 we published Capitalism and Freedom one of the most influential books, in any subject, . . .

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John Hope Franklin receives the John W. Kluge Prize

November 15, 2006
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John Hope Franklin receives the John W. Kluge Prize

An article in today’s New York Times reports that historian John Hope Franklin has been awarded the John W. Kluge Prize for lifetime achievement in the study of humanity. The Times calls the million dollar award “the prize that Alfred Nobel forgot … specifically intended for areas that the Nobel Prizes do not cover like history, political science, sociology, and philosophy.” Franklin, currently emeritus professor of history at Duke University, will split the prize with Yu Ying-shih, a professor of Chinese history at Princeton. The New York Times writes that “Franklin is widely regarded as among the first scholars to explore fully the role of African Americans in the nation’s history.” Some of that scholarship was published by the University of Chicago Press. We published Racial Equality in America (1976), George Washington Williams: A Biography (1985), and Reconstruction after the Civil War, now in a third edition. This is the third year that the Kluge Prize has been awarded by the Library of Congress. Franklin is the fourth UCP author to receive the prize; previous winners include Jaroslav Pelikan, Paul Ricoeur, and Leszek Kolakowski. . . .

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Review: Smith, The Plan of Chicago

November 14, 2006
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Review: Smith, The Plan of Chicago

Last Sunday’s Chicago Tribune featured a prominent review of Carl Smith’s new book The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City. Writing for the Tribune, Lois Wille—a journalist and historian of Chicago—praises Smith’s account of Daniel Burnham’s sweeping plans to remake the city of Chicago. Wille writes: The story of Burnham’s plan has been told many times before but never in a more appealing or succinct style than in Carl Smith’s modest little book.… What sets this book apart from other Burnham histories is Smith’s attention to the filthy, miserable, 19th century city that repelled and motivated Burnham, and the extraordinary promotional effort led by the Commercial Club of Chicago, that sold his plan to the public. Delivering a comprehensive examination of the most influential document in the history of urban planning, Smith’s insightful book is an indispensable addition to our understanding of Chicago, Daniel Burnham, and the emergence of the modern city. Lois Wille is the author of Forever Open, Clear, and Free: The Struggle for Chicago’s Lakefront. . . .

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Review: Ebert, Awake in the Dark

November 13, 2006
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Review: Ebert, Awake in the Dark

In reviewing Roger Ebert’s new book Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert for the online magazine Blogcritics, blogger Nick Dirga poses the question, “can you be America’s most well-known movie critic, a television star and household name, and still be kind of underrated? If you’re Roger Ebert,” Dirga contends, “quite possibly.” Though Roger Ebert is one of America’s most popular movie critics, Dirga’s review points out that Ebert’s fame often overshadows his important critical contributions to American cinema. According to Dirga, “Awake In The Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert, serves as a fine way to remind us that Ebert is but “first and foremost, a gifted writer.” Dirga continues: “Some of the strongest writing in Awake In The Dark is a look inside Ebert's thoughts on the nature of film. ‘A movie is not about what it is about,’ writes. ‘It is about how it is about it.’ His celebrity may overshadow what a fine teacher he is.” Awake in the Dark is a treasure trove not just for fans of this seminal critic, but for anyone desiring a fascinating and intelligent critical discussion of contemporary American cinema. . . .

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Press Release: Halpern, Norman Rockwell

November 13, 2006
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Press Release: Halpern, Norman Rockwell

One of the most popular artists of the last century, Norman Rockwell specialized in warm and humorous scenes of routine small-town life. His countless illustrations of ordinary middleclass Americans for the Saturday Evening Post are still among the most indelible images in all of postwar art. Today, opinions of Rockwell vary from uncritical admiration to sneering contempt, but those who love him and those who dismiss him do seem to agree on one thing: his art embodies a distinctively American style of innocence. Norman Rockwell: The Underside of Innocence reimagines Rockwell as an American Freud, or a canny and remorseless diagnostician of the purity in which we bathe ourselves. Richard Halpern here argues that Rockwell’s works might look like innocent portraits of everyday life, but if you look a little bit closer and probe beneath their banal veneer, you’ll find a lot of them teeming with perverse acts of voyeurism and sexual desire. For Halpern, Rockwell is an artist who we have not yet dared to see for the complex creature that he is: a wholesome pervert, a knowing innocent, a kitschy genius, and an unexpected influence on more contemporary visual artists such as John Currin, Frank Moore, and Eric . . .

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