Monthly Archives: April 2008

Press Release: Weiss, In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain

April 23, 2008
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Press Release: Weiss, In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain

Germany’s leading literary family during the 20th century was headed by Thomas Mann and composed of six talented children, the most accomplished of which were Erika and Klaus. Long obscured by the fame of their domineering father, Erika and Klaus were prominent writers and artists in their own right who led fascinating, unconventional lives that mirrored the tumult and chaos of their times. In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain is their story. Andrea Weiss’s remarkable biography chronicles Erika and Klaus’s equally remarkable lives. Openly gay during an era of secrecy and repression; defiantly anti-fascist during the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich; intimate friends with such luminaries as W. H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood, André Gide, and Jean Cocteau; performance artists before the phrase had even been coined, In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain is rich in anecdote and eye-opening details, sending the reader spinning and tumbling into the minds of these two extraordinary but neglected literary figures. Read the press release. Also read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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American exceptionalism and the “war on global warming”

April 22, 2008
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American exceptionalism and the “war on global warming”

John Louis Lucaites, author of No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy has posted an apropos commentary about the Earth Day themed cover image on today’s Time Magazine to his No Caption Needed blog. Detailing a photoshopped version of Joe Rosenthal’s iconic photograph of WWII troops on Iwo Jima’s Mt. Suribachi raising a giant conifer in place of the flag, Lucaites makes the image an occasion to deliver some interesting commentary on the history of the original photograph’s appropriation and the particularly fetishistic way that the Time Magazine editors have chosen to use it today. Lucaites writes: By most accounts Joe Rosenthal’s photograph of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima’s Mt. Suribachi is the most reproduced photograph of all time—ever!… Such reproductions have occurred not just in traditional print media, but on stamps (twice), commemorative plates, woodcuts, silk screens, coins, key chains, cigarette lighters, matchbook covers, beer steins, lunchboxes, hats, t-shirts, ties, calendars, comic books, credit cards, trading cards, post cards, and human skin, and in advertisements for everything from car insurance to condoms and strip joints.… All of this is to say that on the face of things there is nothing particularly noteworthy about Time‘s appropriation of . . .

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Lipson on Succeeding as an International Student

April 22, 2008
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Lipson on Succeeding as an International Student

The University of Chicago News Office has posted a podcast featuring Charles Lipson, author of Succeeding as an International Student in the United States and Canada speaking about his new book. In the podcast, Lipson addresses many of the hot button topics for foreign students trying to adapt to life in the United States and Canada, both in and beyond the classroom. From the norms of classroom participation to obtaining health insurance, Lipson covers what students need to know to have a successful and enjoyable adventure as an international student. To find out more listen to the podcast or see this special website for the book featuring reviews, info on institutional use, and an excerpt from the book, “Passports and Visas: A Quick Overview.” . . .

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Press Release: Greenberg, Of Prairie, Woods and Water

April 22, 2008
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Press Release: Greenberg, Of Prairie, Woods and Water

Chicago literature is rife with images of industry and unbridled urban growth. But the tallgrass prairie and dense oak forests that once comprised Chicago’s landscape also inspired local writers. In Of Prairie, Woods, and Water, naturalist Joel Greenberg gathers these voices from the land to present an unexpected portrait of Chicago. Often charming, sometimes heart-wrenching, this anthology of Chicago-area nature writing is scheduled for release on April 22nd—just in time for Earth Day. Of Prairie, Woods, and Water tells the story of a land in transition, one with abundant, unique, and incredibly lush flora and fauna—a natural history that is quite elusive today. From the journal of a frustrated pioneer who staked a claim in Kankakee marsh to Theodore Drieser’s plea for conservation of the Tippecanoe River, the sources included are as diverse as the nature they describe. Together, they traverse a wide area of the Midwest, from the Illinois River to the Indiana Dunes. This spring and summer, a series of performances called “Voices from the Land” will bring Of Prairie, Woods, and Water to life. The premiere performance takes place at the Garfield Farm Museum on April 27. For more on this event and others at the Chicago . . .

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Review: Lightman, Victorian Popularizers of Science

April 21, 2008
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Review: Lightman, Victorian Popularizers of Science

Bernard Lightman’s Victorian Popularizers of Science: Designing Nature for New Audiences is a fascinating study of the work of some of the most influential expositors of scientific doctrine during the 19th century—though they are rarely credited as such. The names of the popular science writers of the Victorian era are often overshadowed by those of the scientists they wrote about, but as Jon Turney notes in a recent review for the Times Higher Education, in his new book Lightman skillfully illuminates their cultural and historical importance. Turney writes: The Victorian explosion of print embraced a diversity of treatments of science and its significance that exhibits many of the tensions that still mark science in public. Who has the right to speak for science, to interpret nature or to have the final word on humans’ place in a universe in which God’s hand in creation is in question? As he catalogues the many contributors to the new popular scientific literature, and their works, Lightman illuminates how the different answers to these questions played their part in battles over science’s authority and cultural prestige.… Throughout, Lightman pays detailed attention to publishers and print runs, as well as to the authors’ lives and . . .

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“Understanding a city of the haves & the ain’t-got-shit”

April 18, 2008
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“Understanding a city of the haves & the ain’t-got-shit”

Nicole P. Marwell, author of Bargaining for Brooklyn: Community Organizations in the Entrepreneurial City was recently interviewed on Brian Berger’s blog Who Walk In Brooklyn. Berger—co-editor of New York Calling published by Reaktion Books and distributed by UCP—engages Marwell in a discussion of the author’s experiences in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg and Bushwick neighborhoods studying the social impact of the community based organizations she writes about in her book. From the preface to the interview: Nicole gets deep into one of the most important & least glamorous aspects of understanding a city of the haves and the ain’t-got-shit, the mysterious—to outsiders—world of “community based orgnanizations” (CBOs). In Brooklyn, the best known of these groups is probably ACORN, and even their notoriety is due more to Bertha Lewis’ failed devil’s bargain with Bruce Ratner on the so-called “Atlantic Yards” project than any of their other, less disputable initiatives. Not all CBOs are alike, however, and because of this, Nicole spent years working with eight different groups in Williamsburg & Bushwick. Some were secular, some church-based. Both partook of a much less flashy but essential ground-level politics, a very far cry from that of the highly paid lobbyists whom an already-wealthy real estate racket . . .

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Custer and Native American Identity

April 17, 2008
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Custer and Native American Identity

Tuesday’s Los Angeles Times published a review of several recent books about the battle of Little Bighorn, George Armstrong Custer, and the deep impact that this most famous military defeat has had on America’s cultural consciousness. Discussing Michael A. Elliott’s Custerology: The Enduring Legacy of the Indian Wars and George Armstrong Custer the Times‘ Allen Barra writes: Elliott traveled from Custer’s childhood home in Monroe, Mich., to the Little Bighorn Battlefield in Crow Agency, Mont., and visited every related museum and monument in between. Particularly intriguing is a photograph of the mountainside memorial of Custer’s final foe, Crazy Horse, a work in progress, behind a model of the proposed completed sculpture. The fact that continued fascination with Custer in turn stimulates an increasing interest in Crazy Horse’s people is not ignored by Elliott. He writes that for English-born Custer re-enactor Tony Austin, “portraying Custer’s life means that one can resurrect an attitude toward American Indians that combines respect with combat, admiration with military opposition.” Custer himself, Elliott claims, “would have never believed that there would be Indians who thought of themselves as Indians in the twenty-first century.” Modernity, Custer and his contemporaries believed, would “crush the . . .

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Newton Minow on Eight Forty-Eight

April 16, 2008
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Newton Minow on Eight Forty-Eight

Newton Minow, the current vice chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates and author of Inside the Presidential Debates: Their Improbable Past and Promising Future was interviewed today on Chicago Public Radio’s Eight Forty-Eight. From his time as assistant counsel to Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson when Stevenson first proposed the idea of the debates in 1960, to his stints as cochair of the presidential debates in 1976 and 1980, Minow has played an integral role in transforming them into the major media events we know today. In the interview Minow delivers some fascinating commentary on the history of the debates and addresses some of the criticism leveled against them. You can find the archived audio online at the Chicago Public Radio website. Also see memorable moments from presidential debates and read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Clarifying the political debate

April 16, 2008
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Clarifying the political debate

The Nashville Scene ran an interesting article recently about John G. Geer’s, In Defense of Negativity: Attack Ads in Presidential Campaigns. Citing Hillary Clinton’s recent “red telephone” ad below, Paul Griffith writes for the Scene: According to Geer, democracy needs below-the-belt imagery like that of the Clinton ad, even if such characterizations can be painful to watch, because negative ads often provide more actual information than warmer, fuzzier bids for support. “For a negative appeal to be effective,” he writes, “the sponsor of that appeal must marshal more evidence, on average, than for positive appeals.” Griffith concludes: Someone should give Hillary Clinton a copy of this book, given recent Democratic calls for her to quit for fear her less-than-positive ads might disrupt party unity. Read the rest of the article at the Nashville Scene website. Also see a special feature, John Geer’s Attack Ad Hall of Fame. . . .

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Roger Ebert returns to the cinema

April 15, 2008
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Roger Ebert returns to the cinema

Roger Ebert is arguably one of the twentieth century’s most influential film critics, and since his departure from the spotlight several years ago, his presence at the helm of his award winning show At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper, or as the Chicago Sun-Times resident film critic, has been missed by film buffs the world over. Now, Ebert will finally make his return, even though, as the New York Time‘s A. O. Scott reports, he will be leaving TV behind: One of the guys… who made the crazy idea that movie critics could thrive on TV seem like a no-brainer, recently announced his departure from the airwaves. On April 1 Roger Ebert published a letter to readers of the Chicago Sun-Times that was essentially a farewell to the long-running, widely syndicated weekly program that has made him not simply the best-known movie reviewer in America, but the virtual embodiment of this curious profession. But the real news in Mr. Ebert’s letter was his return to regular written criticism. A recurrence of cancer of the salivary gland in the summer of 2006 might have left him unable to speak—a problem recent surgery failed to solve—but he has hardly lost his . . .

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