Monthly Archives: February 2009

Copy editing and the fine art of chilling out

February 26, 2009
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Copy editing and the fine art of chilling out

From this month’s Chicago Style Q&A:

Q. “The first of which is better.” I said this is a sentence fragment, but a student pointed out that it has a subject and predicate. Who’s correct?

A. You both are. A sentence fragment can have a subject and predicate, but it’s a fragment if it’s dependent on another clause. Your fragment can’t stand alone grammatically; it needs a main clause to lean on: “The choice is between a hamantash and a latke, the first of which is better.”

Thus, with an emphasis on negotiation and flexibility, Carol Fisher Saller, assistant managing editor at the University of Chicago Press and the unfailing wit behind the Chicago Manual of Style Q&A, has established herself as a subversive exception to the stereotype of the manuscript-editor-as-quibbler. And now, as Jennifer Balderama has noted in a recent appreciation for the New York Time‘s Paper Cuts blog, with her newly released book The Subversive Copy Editor: Advice from Chicago (or, How to Negotiate Good Relationships with Your Writers, Your Colleagues, and Yourself) Saller takes the next big step in advancing her mission to revolutionize the way people think about the dialectic of manuscript editing. From the Paper . . .

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Happy Birthday Kate Turabian!

February 26, 2009
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Happy Birthday Kate Turabian!

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The Science of Cute

February 26, 2009
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The Science of Cute

In the latest installment of the series “The Science of YouTube,” the folks over at Popular Science investigate why videos of cute things–sleepy kittens, fluffy puppies, and sneezing baby pandas—are so popular and compelling. It turns out that Konrad Lorenz, Austrian ethologist, Nobel-prize winner, and subject of Richard W. Burkhardt Jr.’s Patterns of Behavior: Konrad Lorenz, Niko Tinbergen, and the Founding of Ethology, had some theories about cuteness nearly sixty years before YouTube would become the internet’s repository of all videos prosh. Lorenz theorized that certain “infantile features”—like big heads, large eyes, button noses, and round bodies—trigger a nurturing response in adults. Evolutionarily, this makes us more likely to care for our offspring, but our preference for cuteness is so strong it spills over to other species. So, the next time you catch yourself browsing cuteoverload.com, remember, resistance is futile—you are evolutionarily hard wired to say “awwwwwww.”

For more on Konrad Lorenz and the science of ethology, check out Burkhardt’s award-winning book.

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The Aftermath of Rape

February 25, 2009
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The Aftermath of Rape

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Fashion in the crisis

February 24, 2009
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Fashion in the crisis

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The perdurance of the Paris Opera

February 24, 2009
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The perdurance of the Paris Opera

Last Thursday’s Times Higher Education contains a review of Victoria Johnson’s Backstage at the Revolution: How the Royal Paris Opera Survived the End of the Old Regime in which reviewer Brian Vick praises the book for its “unique, insightful and colorful perspective on the French Revolution and the Paris Opera’s early history.” Spanning academic disciplines to combine “early modern French cultural history with the theory of organizations and entrepreneurship” Johnson provides a novel explanation for how the Paris Opera not only managed to escape destruction during the French Revolution, but was protected by French revolutionary officials, despite its long association with the royal court and ostentatious displays of aristocratic opulence. Exploring beyond the context of the revolution itself, Johnson’s book uncovers the roots of the Opera’s survival in its identity as a uniquely privileged icon of French culture—an identity established during its founding one hundred years earlier under Louis XIV. Thus, Vick concludes, more than just an account of the revolution, “the work provides a full and persuasive history of the early Paris Opera…at once scholarly and for the most part engagingly written, the book could be worth keeping in mind as reading matter the next time one is . . .

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What does shooting a chimpanzee have to do with a stimulus bill?

February 23, 2009
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What does shooting a chimpanzee have to do with a stimulus bill?

On Thursday, the New York Post issued an apology for a cartoon “meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill.” Caricaturing last week’s police shooting of a chimpanzee in Connecticut, the cartoon caused an uproar after some observers felt the image was racist. Over at the New York Times‘ City Room blog, Press author Andrew Rojecki weighed in on the cartoon: “The cartoonist, whether he did this consciously or not, was drawing upon a very historically deep source of images about African-Americans that African-Americans do not have a lot of control over.”

Rojecki is an expert in racial patterns in the mass media and how they shape the ambivalent attitudes of Whites toward Blacks. In his book The Black Image in the White Mind: Media and Race in America, which he coauthored with Robert M. Entman, he uses the media, and especially television, as barometers of race relations, going beyond the treatment of African Americans on network and local news to incisively uncover the messages sent about race by the entertainment industry—from prime-time dramas and sitcoms to commercials and Hollywood movies. While the authors find very little in the media that intentionally promotes racism, they find even less . . .

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The end of car culture?

February 23, 2009
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The end of car culture?

A review of Brian Ladd’s Autophobia published in Friday’s Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune begins by noting the relevance of the book’s topic to the nation’s current economic crisis—a crisis spearheaded by rapid changes to our auto-centric culture like “volatile gas prices, car-oriented subdivisions in foreclosure,” and “an auto industry in free fall.” But then, wasn’t it just yesterday that this very same car culture was the driving force behind one of the biggest economic booms in our nation’s history? As reviewer Jim Foti notes, Ladd’s book offers up ample evidence that since its invention, the automobile has played an integral role in America’s successes, as well as its failures, provoking heated debates over whether they are sources of good or evil—markers of progress, or signs of the apocalypse. And while many might argue for the latter considering our current state of affairs, Foti notes that “as Ladd points out, so far the car’s doomsayers have been wrong every time.”

On Saturday, Chicago Tribune cultural critic Julia Keller also reviewed Ladd’s book, along with another insightful critique of America’s automotive culture, Cotten Seiler’s Republic of Drivers: A Cultural History of Automobility in America. Praising both books, she takes special . . .

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Shortlisted for the Diagram Prize

February 20, 2009
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Shortlisted for the Diagram Prize

We are bemused to note that our book Baboon Metaphysics is shortlisted for the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year, an annual competition conducted by The Bookseller in the UK. The Diagram Prize, perhaps the least-coveted award in the publishing industry, began at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1978 when it was won by the memorable Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice. Close to thirty books have since been honored. The Press is usually named as the publisher of the 1988 winner, Versailles: The View From Sweden, though we only distributed that book for its publisher, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. (And, no, the book was not about high-powered telescopes.)

Previous winners of the Diagram Prize have tended toward the obscure (The Theory of Lengthwise Rolling), the suggestive (The Joy of Sex, the Pocket Edition), and the obscurely suggestive (Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality). The current competition is no exception, including shortlisted titles such as The Large Sieve and its Applications, Strip and Knit with Style, and Curbside Consultation of the Colon.

The winner of the Diagram Prize will be decided by a public vote on The Bookseller website. Please vote early and vote often.

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Politkovskaya murder suspects acquitted

February 19, 2009
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Politkovskaya murder suspects acquitted

Several news agencies are reporting this morning on a Russian court’s acquittal of three men who had been accused of participating in the 2006 murder of Anna Politkovskaya, the renowned investigative journalist who reported on the brutal tactics used by Russian leaders to quell Chechen uprisings during the past several years.

A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya collects many of Politkovskaya’s articles and columns on Chechnya’s prolonged and bloody conflict with Russia, from which it declared independence in 1991. The book recounts the horrors of living in the midst of the war, examines how the war has affected Russian society, and takes a hard look at how people on both sides are profiting from it, from the guards who accept bribes from Chechens out after curfew to the United Nations. The result is a powerful and honest account of a dangerous and little-understood conflict. We have an excerpt from the book.

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