Monthly Archives: August 2008

The costs of urban transformation

August 28, 2008
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The costs of urban transformation

In yesterday’s New York Sun Harvard economist Edward Glaeser reviewed Derek Hyra’s new book The New Urban Renewal: The Economic Transformation of Harlem and Bronzeville. Hyra’s book looks at urban gentrification in two neighborhoods—Chicago’s Bronzeville and New York’s Harlem—and its impact on various socio-economic groups, revealing a sharp divide between middle-income and less affluent residents in benefiting from such transformations. As Glaeser explains:

A dynamic private sector… has made New York and Chicago increasingly prosperous places over the last 15 years.… As these cities have done well, demand for space has exploded. We see rising demand in the skyrocketing price of space in Manhattan and in the cranes that seem to be a permanent feature of Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive skyline. Booming demand has also increased the desire among middle-class people to move to formerly poor areas such as Harlem and Bronzeville: Upwardly mobile urbanites, priced out of more expensive areas, have become urban pioneers “gentrifying” areas that used to be poor. But just as the real pioneers weren’t always such a blessing for the American Indians on the frontier, gentrifiers aren’t always a boon for the established residents of an area.…

Continue reading the article on the New . . .

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An American Comedy in Black and White

August 27, 2008
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The comedic duo of Tim Reid and Tom Dreesen bear the unique distinction of having been the first—and only—interracial comedy team in the history of show business. Getting their start in Chicago nightclubs during the 1960s, the pair took their show on the road, from the North to the still simmering South, developing routines that helped Americans confront their racial divide: by laughing at it.

And in their forthcoming book, Tim and Tom: An American Comedy in Black and White, they tell the fascinating tale of their groundbreaking careers together touring across America, inspiring both laughter and controversy.

Tim and Tom will reunite this September to promote the book at various locations across the States. Check our author events page for details. In the meantime, find out more about Tim and Tom by watching our YouTube book-trailer above, or visit the Tim and Tom website.

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Lennard Davis critiques Tropic Thunder

August 26, 2008
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Lennard Davis critiques Tropic Thunder

Tropic Thunder—a recent comedy starring Robert Downey Jr, Ben Stiller and Jack Black—has been at the center of a storm of controversy lately for the film’s abundant use of derogatory epithets aimed at the mentally disabled. Recently NPR’s All Things Considered broadcast several stories on the issue including a piece by Lennard J. Davis, professor of disability studies at the University if Illinois and author of the recent Obsession: A History. In the interview Davis argues that films like Tropic Thunder capitalize on cruelty, and result in the exclusion of mentally disabled individuals from a society into which many must already struggle to fit in. Listen to the archived audio of the interview on the NPR website.

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A Caesar for our own time

August 25, 2008
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A Caesar for our own time

An interesting review of Maria Wyke’s new book Caesar: A Life in Western Culture appeared in the August 18 edition of the Wall Street Journal. In the review, Peter Stothard praises the book for its insightful exploration of the various ways in which modern culture has invoked and appropriated Caesar and his legacy—from Mussolini, seeking a Caesarian mandate for this own grand ambitions, to Caesars Palace, Las Vegas:

Ms. Wyke’s concern is how we have created and adapted Caesar’s image and historical importance over the past 2,000 years… The principle behind this kind of study is known as “reception theory.” Its typical proponent is skeptical of how much we can know of what someone like Caesar and his contemporaries did and thought; a reception theorist is much more confident of how we have come to use and think about them ourselves. A comic book can thus be as important as a commander’s campsite. A bust loudly but unconvincingly proclaimed by its discoverer to be authentic is as significant as a newly interpreted paragraph from “De Bello Gallico.” The skill of a reception theorist such as Ms. Wyke lies in what she chooses to include and what she chooses to . . .

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Prison Intimacies

August 22, 2008
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Prison Intimacies

The August 21 edition of the Times Higher Education includes a review of Regina Kunzel’s new book, Criminal Intimacy: Prison and the Uneven History of Modern American Sexuality. The THE‘s Lynne Segal writes:

Being a product of “situational” aberrations, same-sex activity in prisons is of little interest to historians of sexuality, the psychiatrist and historian Vernon Rosario believes. He is quite wrong, according to feminist historian Regina Kunzel. In her latest book, Criminal Intimacy, Kunzel argues persuasively that the increasingly open secrets of prison life, although usually officially buried, expose the perennial fault-lines of many of our understandings of modern sexuality. As she illustrates, the hallmark of modern discourses of sexuality is the move from sexual acts, seen as decent or indecent, to sexual identities, seen as normal or perverse, generated from within. Sex behind bars, however, has always provided evidence that fails to mirror this account, leaving its occurrence apparently cut off in some anachronistic space all its own.

Read the review on the THE website.

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The 1968 Democratic National Convention Revisited

August 21, 2008
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The 1968 Democratic National Convention Revisited

This week’s edition of the Chicago Reader is running an interesting review of Frank Kusch’s Battleground Chicago—an unconventional look at the 1968 ‘police riots’ at the Democratic National Convention. The event has become infamous for the brutality of the police in attempting to control the groups of anti-war protesters demonstrating at the convention. But Kusch’s book goes beyond this stereotypical image using seldom heard accounts of the event from the police’s point of view to arrive at a more nuanced understanding of how and why they acted as they did. The Reader‘s Barry Wightman writes:

Kusch… constructs his narrative from interviews he conducted with 80 former Chicago policemen who were on the street during the convention. These are regular guys who fought in World War II and Korea, lived in the bungalow belt, and found themselves on the fault line during one of the tectonic shifts of the period. And every time one of them is quoted, the story comes alive.…

Read the review from the Reader. Also read an excerpt from the book.

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Finding Our Place in the World

August 21, 2008
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Finding Our Place in the World

Conventionally, people tend to thing of maps as useful tools with which to physically orient ourselves within a landscape, yet in their recent book, Maps: Finding Our Place in the World, editors James A. Ackerman and Robert W. Karrow demonstrate that throughout the ages maps have had a much greater range of utility. The August edition of the The Art Book features a review of Maps that praises the editors for their insightful exploration of maps’ varying purposes—from maps that orient us geographically, to those that orient us historically and even culturally. From the Art Book:

essays by distinguished contributors break the boundaries of chronology and the limitations of conventional Western geography to consider instead a cluster of maps’ varying purposes.…

The extensive first essay, ‘Finding our way’ by Akerman (organiser of a splendid Newberry exhibition on American road maps), addresses most observers’ experiences of maps, i.e. as instructions for directed travel.… Allegorical pathways, clearly charted for religious or fantasy realms, are reserved for a fine later essay, ‘Imaginary worlds’, by Ricardo Padron. Another fascinating essay, on the conceptual or thematic use of maps (including geological or astronomical maps), often with statistical graphs to convey data, is . . .

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Review: North, Cosmos

August 20, 2008
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Review: North, Cosmos

The August 16 edition of the Guardian published a short but positive review of John D. North’s Cosmos: An Illustrated History of Astronomy and Cosmology. The review praises the book for its comprehensive exploration of these two sciences, and their integral role in helping mankind to define his place within the universe. From the Guardian:

At nearly 900 pages, this is a suitably monumental book about the biggest subject of all: the cosmos.… From Stonehenge and ancient China, where sunspots were first recorded in 28BC (European astronomers didn’t spot them until the 17th century), to today’s search for dark matter, Machos and Wimps, this remarkable work brings together the global history, theories, people and technologies of astronomy to tell a story that “has very few intellectual parallels in the whole of human history.”

See the review on the Guardian website.

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The problems and possibilities of human intimacy

August 19, 2008
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The problems and possibilities of human intimacy

Yesterday’s Financial Times ran a positive review of Leo Bersani and Adam Phillips’ psychoanalytic exploration of human intimacy in their new book, Intimacies. Summarizing the work the FT‘s Salley Vickers writes:

Taking the form of a conversation between this congenial but not necessarily like-minded pair, Intimacies explores the pitfalls and possibilities of human intimacy and the damage that a zeal to know ourselves and others can wreak. The exchange of views reflects the authors’ philosophies: differences are the source, not the stumbling blocks, of intimacy; distance should enhance not diminish pleasure in others’ company; and it is disastrous to take things personally.

Read the full review on the Financial Times website.

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Press Release: Maloney, Chicago Gardens

August 19, 2008
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Press Release: Maloney, Chicago Gardens

After pulling apart the peonies and deadheading the last of the mums, gardeners will take a long look at their backyards and head indoors to plan for next season. And as the hostas yellow and wilt outside, nature enthusiasts can take shelter with—and inspiration from—the stories in Cathy Jean Maloney’s beautiful new book, Chicago Gardens: The Early History.

Maloney has spent decades researching the city’s horticultural heritage, and her latest book reveals the remarkable story of Chicago’s first gardeners. Challenged by the region’s clay soil and harsh winters, Midwestern pioneers were forced to find imaginative uses for prairie plants, pounding salsify into gravy and grinding grain into coffee. Innovative nurserymen and florists would later develop a market for local fruit and flowers, in part by naming their varieties after Chicago’s well-known: the Mrs. Potter Palmer Carnation, for example, as well as the well-grown: the Bridgeport Chicago Drumhead Cabbage, in honor of the neighborhood’s Irish inhabitants. Gardening was no longer simply a way to fill one’s belly, but also a way to line one’s pockets. By the late 1880’s, Chicago had become the nation’s produce hub.

Today, Chicago earns the limelight as a leader in “green” cities. Chicago Gardens unveils . . .

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