Monthly Archives: October 2008

When Roger met Martin

October 24, 2008
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When Roger met Martin

This Friday marks the beginning of the second week of the Chicago International Film Festival—the city’s largest screening of independent and foreign films—offering Chicagoans a unique opportunity to get a sneak peek at some of cinema’s best emerging new talent. In fact, over its 42 years the festival has introduced a number of films from now famous directors, not the least of which is Martin Scorsese, whose first film Who’s That Knocking at My Door screened at the festival in 1967 and marked the starting point of the director’s long and storied career. But another career in film was also shaped that day. Roger Ebert in the first months of his career was present at the screening, and wrote the first published review of a Scorsese film—beginning a back-and-forth between director and critic that Time Out Chicago’s Hank Sartin writes, was the occasion for “some of the critic’s most thought-provoking reviews.” In his new book Scorsese by Ebert Ebert offers the first record of his engagement with the works of America’s greatest living director chronicling every single feature film in Scorsese’s considerable oeuvre, from his aforementioned debut to his 2008 release, the Rolling Stones documentary, Shine a Light. The book . . .

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Why is John Kerry funny?

October 23, 2008
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Why is John Kerry funny?

Senator John Kerry is catching a lot of flak for the widely reported joke he told earlier this week at Senator John McCain’s expense. Reportedly, though, the joke generated “lots of laughter” in Kerry’s audience. Whether the crack makes you laugh or wince (or both), Ted Cohen’s Jokes: Philosophical Thoughts on Joking Matters can explain how this joke—-and others like it—work. For Cohen, jokes are complicated transactions in which communities are forged, intimacy is offered, and otherwise offensive stereotypes and cliches lose their sting—at least sometimes. In other cases, the sting just becomes more potent. Indeed, the fuss over Kerry’s joke is just the latest in a series of incidents that exemplify American humor’s increasingly embattled nature. Immersing us in the ranks of contemporary joke tellers—from Jon Stewart to Bill Clinton to Beavis and Butt-Head—who aim to do more than simply amuse, Paul Lewis’s Cracking Up explains how American humor functions in these contentious times. Stephen Kercher’s Revel with a Cause (excerpt), meanwhile, reminds us of the debt that comics like Stewart and Stephen Colbert owe to Mort Sahl, Stan Freberg, and Lenny Bruce—liberal satirists who, through their wry and scabrous comedic routines, waged war against the political ironies, contradictions, . . .

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Better than the bestseller list

October 23, 2008
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Better than the bestseller list

Some authors and publishers see the New York Times bestseller list as the ultimate validation of popular acceptance. But that is just so quantitative. Contrast Entertainment Weekly’s Must List. Here you’ll find Rihanna, extreme pumpkin carver Tom Nardone, director Mike Leigh, Desperate Housewives, Roy Orbison, and the fourth season of Supernatural on the CW. Excellence and eclecticism. Joining the pop cult pantheon this week: Donald Westlake aka Richard Stark’s classic noir mystery novels The Hunter, The Man With the Getaway Face, and The Outfit. Now you must read them. And read an interview with the author. . . .

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Chicago Audio Works Podcast: Episode 3

October 23, 2008
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Chicago Audio Works Podcast: Episode 3

Listen in as Steven Shapin, author of The Scientific Life: A Moral History of a Late Modern Vocation joins host Chris Gondek on the Chicago Audio Works podcast to discuss the cultural evolution of the scientific vocation from the early twentieth-century origins of corporate research laboratories to the high-flying scientific entrepreneurship of the present. How has this shift affected public perceptions of science? And what demands does this make on the individual character of scientists? Shapin addresses these questions and more in episode three of the Chicago Audio Works podcast. Chicago Audio Works is produced by Chris Gondek of Heron & Crane and the Invisible Hand. This and previous episodes of Chicago Audio Works are also available from iTunes and other digital media aggregators. See all audio and video available from the University of Chicago Press. . . .

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A Phoenix Poet goes to Paris

October 22, 2008
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A Phoenix Poet goes to Paris

Poet-critic Dan Chiasson, author of the verse collection The Afterlife of Objects and One Kind of Everything: Poem and Person in Contemporary America, a book of criticism, will join the Paris Review as a poetry editor. Congratulations to Dan on his new post! Celebrate by reading a poem from The Afterlife of Objects. . . .

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Local books, global city

October 21, 2008
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Local books, global city

Noting that “cities bear the brunt of the world’s financial meltdowns, crime waves, and climate crises in ways national governments never will,” Foreign Policy has just unveiled its inaugural Global Cities Index of the “the 60 cities that shape our lives the most.” Developed in collaboration with the the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the management consultancy A. T. Kearny, the index ranks Chicago eighth among the world’s cities, according to its strengths in areas that include business activity, cultural experience, and political engagement. (Crain’s Chicago Business handily sums up the criteria.) Of course, UCP has chronicled Chicago’s significance—globally and locally—for decades. In addition to publishing the first major history of Chicago ever written, we’ve produced an entire library’s worth of books about our hometown’s countless angles. From Nelson Algren’s prose poem Chicago: City on the Make to Paul D’Amato’s photographs of Pilsen and Little Village, from the definitive history of Millennium Park to the definitive history of the AACM, from a guide to Chicago’s murals to the story of the Plan of Chicago, our local and regional titles paint an idiosyncratic portrait-in-books of one of the world’s most significant cities. Our newest addition to this growing list, The . . .

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David Berreby on identity politics

October 21, 2008
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David Berreby on identity politics

Especially in an election year, we sort sort ourselves into distinct social groups. But exactly how do we make those choices, and what external factors might affect our decision making process? To find out more about the associating and polarizing power of politics, science writer John Horgan conducted a timely interview last week with David Berreby, author of Us and Them: The Science of Identity for bloggingheads.tv. In the interview Berreby discusses several issues particularly relevant to the upcoming elections including “reality and illusion in racial concepts” and “McCain’s failure to exploit identity politics,” among other topics. Check out the complete interview at blogginheads.tv. For more timely social commentary from an award winning science writer navigate to Berreby’s blog at www.usthemblog.com. . . .

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The OCD world of politics

October 20, 2008
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The OCD world of politics

There are two important events you undoubtedly have marked on your calendars next month: November 3, the publication date of Obsession: A History by Lennard J. Davis, and November 4, Election Day. Though at first these two events may seem unrelated, they in fact have much in common. Davis explains: In the vice-presidential debate, Sarah Palin called for an end to “obsessive politics.” I don’t know about you, but obsessive politics is just about the only thing I’ve been engaging in this election season. I check blogs, online news sources, cable TV, radio, daily tracking polls, Facebook, and anything else that can provide me up-to-the minute information and commentary. I’ve entered the OCD world of politics, and believe me life in the fast click-lane is invigorating. I never did this before. In the past I was content to let the front page of the morning newspaper tell me the latest. But now the paper is so yesterday, and the latest news is so “an hour ago.” It turns out I’m not alone in my obsessiveness. . . .

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Review: Atkinson, Mean

October 20, 2008
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Review: Atkinson, Mean

Los Angeles Times book review editor David L. Ulin has written an approving review of Colette Labouff Atkinson’s new book of poems, Mean, for last Sunday’s edition of the paper. Remarking on what Ulin calls the “exquisite tension” between intimacy and distance in Labouff’s work Ulin writes: 43 vignettes add up to an emotional autobiography. In the title piece, Atkinson describes her husband’s former wife, a stripper. “He traded her in for me,” she writes. “To people I don’t know, I say she was a dancer. I watch them, puzzled, wonder how anyone could not love a ballerina. And you have to question a guy like that: trading in a sweet stripper for me.” The irony is that we are people she doesn’t know, but this is part of the book’s exquisite tension. Again and again, Atkinson reveals intimacies in an offhand way. “Gain” describes her great-uncle, a columnist for the ILWU Warehouse News, who “etween the lines, be wise—organize—”composes a fairy tale about a pony made of gold. “For God’s Sake, Get Out” recalls “The Amityville Horror,” then morphs into a meditation on how houses can be haunted by disappointment and loss. Read the review on . . .

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Kathleen Hall Jamieson on “Joe the plumber”

October 17, 2008
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Kathleen Hall Jamieson on “Joe the plumber”

An unlikely new media celebrity is flitting across the political stage. When Joe Wurzelbacher stopped presidential candidate Barack Obama on a campaign trip to Ohio last week, he probably didn’t anticipate becoming the centerpiece of a nationally televised debate on tax policy. But during last Wednesday’s presidential debate, both candidates made frequent references Wurzelbacher and his encounter with Obama, at times addressing him directly to frame their arguments, and propelling “Joe the plumber” to at least fifteen minutes of political fame. Last night Kathleen Hall Jamieson, an expert on the subject of political rhetoric and co-author of Presidents Creating the Presidency: Deeds Done in Words, was on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer to discuss style and rhetoric in the ’08 campaign, and deliver some insight on the significance of “Joe the plumber” in Wednesday’s debate. From the News Hour: Kathleen Hall Jamieson: Joe the plumber helped Sen. McCain control part of the agenda of the debate, but Joe the plumber also set up a very concrete example that both campaigns could now play through in the following days. And what we’re going to find out—as the fact-checkers sort the world out—is that, if Joe the plumber only makes $40,000 . . .

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