Monthly Archives: September 2008

William Davies King on the Psychjourney Podcast

September 10, 2008
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William Davies King on the Psychjourney Podcast

William Davies King, author of Collections of Nothing was interviewed yesterday by Deborah Harper for the Psychjourney website podcast. King’s book is an illuminating mediation on the author’s own habit of amassing the most unusual collections—everything from cereal boxes to nondescript loops of wire—things which many people might regard as junk, but which King finds that by collecting, he can imbue with meaning, even value.

In the podcast, Harper engages King in a discussion about his book, his collections, and his fascinating insights on the impulse to accumulate. Navigate to the Psychjourney website to listen.

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Derek Hyra on HUD and the housing crisis

September 9, 2008
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Derek Hyra on HUD and the housing crisis

To mark HUD’s birthday, we asked Derek Hyra, author of The New Urban Renewal: The Economic Transformation of Harlem and Bronzeville, to reflect on the future of urban development in the midst of the housing crisis:

September 9 marks the birthday of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which was established on this day in 1965. And HUD’s headquarters, the Robert C. Weaver Federal Building, is approaching its fortieth anniversary. These milestones, though, probably won’t be greeted with unqualified celebration. Once an embodiment of the Great Society’s reforming spirit, HUD has developed such a reputation for inefficiency, corruption, and incompetence that one prominent urban scholar recently recommended dismantling the agency and tearing down the Weaver building. But HUD doesn’t need to be razed. It needs to remodeled, rehabilitated, and reinvigorated with Presidential leadership and Congressional reform.

HUD and its affiliated local authorities have several critical responsibilities. The agency houses one million tenants in public housing and assists another 1.8 million households with rent subsidies. In addition to deploying $4 billion each year to cities and counties across the nation, HUD also houses the Federal Housing Administration, which provides federal guarantees on affordable mortgages.

As the HUD building enters . . .

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A new look at Dorothea Lange’s Depression-era photographs

September 9, 2008
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A new look at Dorothea Lange’s Depression-era photographs

Both the Times Higher Education and the New Yorker‘s book blog, the Book Bench have recently published positive reviews of Anne Whiston Spirn’s, Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange’s Photographs and Reports from the Field. Book Bench contributor Eliza Honey writes:

Daring to Look is a collection of photographs, many of them previously unpublished, taken by Dorothea Lange, in 1939, for the Farm Security Administration. Though Lange’s shots of Depression-era individuals and families are well known, many of her negatives of empty home interiors have spent the past decades in archives, until Anne Whiston Spirn, the editor of this volume, unearthed them. Like Lange’s portraits, her interiors are gentle reflections of a quiet and stark way of life.

Though the book looks deceivingly like it’s meant for a coffee table, Spirn’s accompanying text reveals much more. It’s so engrossing, in fact, that, had the book not been so heavy, I would have taken it to the park during my lunch break.

And from the THE:

This first presentation of Lange’s 1939 photographs with their accompanying texts provides a very valuable scholarly resource. Spirn’s personal contribution, for anyone interested in Lange, comes in the third and final section, which both brings . . .

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Tempests at Sea

September 8, 2008
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Tempests at Sea

As of posting time, the latest in a series of strong storms swirling in the Atlantic ocean, Hurricane Ike, was about 50 miles west of Cuba, and moving westward at 14 mph, according to the Weather Channel. Though with landfall, Ike had weakened to a category two storm, with winds near 100 mph, meteorologists predict the hurricane will strengthen as it moves into the Caribbean Sea. Current projections have Ike pointed toward the still-recovering Gulf Coast of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, with landfall possible this weekend.

The Gustav-Hanna-Ike chain of hurricanes comes just as Nature reports that hurricanes are becoming more virulent, and global warming may be the cause.

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The “coming home” of the black midle class

September 8, 2008
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The “coming home” of the black midle class

Julia Vitullo-Martin has an interesting review of Derek S. Hyra’s new book, The New Urban Renewal: The Economic Transformation of Harlem and Bronzeville, in Sunday’s New York Post. In his book Hyra looks at the nation’s two most important historic, urban black neighborhoods—New York’s Harlem and Chicago’s Bronzeville—to explore the shifting dynamics of class and race as these two iconic black communities undergo an unprecedented period of gentrification. From the Post review:

Hyra’s most fundamental concern: As these neighborhoods come back economically, what will happen to their poor residents? Hyra notes that both Bronzeville and Harlem are “revitalizing without drastic racial changeover.” In the last 10 years, Central Harlem’s white population increased to 2% from 1.5%, and the white proportion in Bronzeville increased to 4% from 2.5%.

Yet while Hyra is very worried about the displacement of the poor, he argues that class antagonism is actually important to the redevelopment of formerly impoverished communities. Black middle-class values translate into effective political activity and organizations, including block clubs, planning boards and religiously affiliated community development corporations. The problem, as he sees it, is that the “coming home” of the black middle class will produce a neighborhood in which poor blacks are . . .

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Kurdistan—understanding the Middle East

September 5, 2008
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Kurdistan—understanding the Middle East

Last Wednesday the New York Times’ Papercuts blog posted a short article on the Kurds and their important role in the complicated culture and politics of the Middle East. In the post, Papercuts contributor Barry Gewen cites several useful books on the subject including Susan Meiselas’ Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History, Second Edition. Gewen writes:

The hour of the Kurds has come round again. They are the great success story of the Iraq war, what the Bush administration always hoped for across the entire country. They have a functioning, popularly supported regional government. Their economy is booming. Religion has little retrograde or divisive influence on their public institutions. Women are respected (there have been many important female leaders in Kurdish history) and Israel is viewed approvingly. Terrorism is generally unknown in the Kurdish areas of Iraq. What’s more, the Kurds are ready to defend themselves and what they have achieved. Anyone who wants to understand the future of Iraq and the Middle East in general has to take them into account.

Two new books help us to do just that. Actually, one of them isn’t new. Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History by the photographer Susan Meiselas first . . .

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The color of comedy

September 4, 2008
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The color of comedy

Thirty-five years after the comedy duo of Tim and Tom split up, they are a cover story in their hometown. This week’s edition of the Chicago Reader has an extended book excerpt about how Tim and Tom played to the tough crowd that gathered at Club Harlem in Atlantic City back in 1973. The online version of the article has a couple of video snippets, including a Chicago version of the bit featured in the book excerpt.

Tim Reid and Tom Dreesen are the authors of Tim and Tom: An American Comedy in Black and White, the story of the first—and last—interracial comedy team in show biz.

The Reader issue also includes a "Hot Type" piece by Michael Miner about their writing collaborator, Ron Rapoport.

Also see our book trailer on YouTube and an exhaustive listing of Tim and Tom events on our author events page.

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(Post) Summer Reading

September 3, 2008
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(Post) Summer Reading

In his August 28 article for the New York Times, “What I did this Summer,” William Grimes mentions his plans to “spend Labor Day with a sociopath.” Grimes writes:

His name is Parker, and he lumbers through the pages of Richard Stark’s noir novels scattering dead bodies like peanut shells.

Parker is a criminal. Cold-blooded and resolute, he experiences two or three emotions in the course of a novel and employs a vocabulary of about a hundred words. In a normal hard-boiled detective novel he would be the one left dead at the end. Instead he’s always the last man standing.

And although Labor Day has come and gone don’t let that stop you from engaging in some post-summer R&R with Richard Stark’s Parker novels. Books currently available from the press include: The Hunter, The Man with the Getaway Face, and The Outfit with more on the way in future seasons.

Read the rest of the NYT article here, or read an interview with the author.

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Press Release: O’Connell, The Elephant’s Secret Sense

September 3, 2008
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Press Release: O’Connell, The Elephant’s Secret Sense

New in Paperback—While observing a family of elephants in the wild, Caitlin O’Connell noticed a peculiar listening behavior—the matriarch lifted her foot and scanned the horizon, causing the other elephants to follow suit, as if they could “hear” the ground. The Elephant’s Secret Sense is O’Connell’s account of her groundbreaking research into seismic listening and communication, chronicling the extraordinary social lives of elephants over the course of fourteen years in the Namibian wilderness.

This compelling odyssey of scientific discovery is also a frank account of fieldwork in a poverty-stricken, war-ravaged country. In her attempts to study an elephant community, O’Connell encounters corrupt government bureaucrats, deadly lions and rhinos, poachers, farmers fighting for arable land, and profoundly ineffective approaches to wildlife conservation. The Elephant’s Secret Sense is ultimately a story of intellectual courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Read the press release.

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Press Release: Hyra, The New Urban Renewal

September 2, 2008
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Press Release: Hyra, The New Urban Renewal

Most of us probably think we know how urban gentrification works: rich young whites move into poor, non-white areas and gobble up cheap real estate, eventually forcing longtime residents to move to more affordable but distant locales. Since the late 1990s, however, a surprising new pattern has emerged as a handful of poverty-stricken black neighborhoods have evolved into residential hotspots boasting high-income housing, destination dining, designer boutiques, and even bed-and-breakfasts—all while managing to stay black.

No two neighborhoods in the country exemplify this trend better than Harlem in New York City and Bronzeville in Chicago. In this groundbreaking book, Derek S. Hyra—a resident of both of these neighborhoods—moves from the streets to city hall to corporate boardrooms, tracing the web of factors at play in the remarkable revitalization of these two historic enclaves.

Read the press release.

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