Monthly Archives: April 2009

A Bo-dacious Reading List for the First Pup

April 13, 2009
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A Bo-dacious Reading List for the First Pup

News leaked over the weekend about the resolution of a months-long national debate: who would become the Obama’s First Dog? The answer arrived Sunday, resplendent in his fluffy black fur: Bo, a six-month-old Portuguese water dog. A gift from Senator Edward Kennedy, a Portuguese water dog enthusiast, Bo will not be officially introduced to the nation until Tuesday, but already, photographs of the newest chew-toy destroyer in chief have the country sighing “awww!” Given that the headlines dominating the news today have gone to the dogs (sorry), we thought we’d offer a canine reading list to honor and welcome Bo. Lest Bo should learn to dislike the national spotlight, he may take comfort in Roger Grenier’s conclusion that it’s not always easy to be a dog. On this literary dog walk, Grenier visits the great dogs of history and legend In forty-three self-contained and lovingly crafted vignettes. Beginning at the beginning, with Ulysses and his dog, Argos, the only creature to recognize him after years of absence, Grenier continues on to Virginia Woolf, who became the self-appointed biographer of Flush, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel, to André Gide, whose diary records his bemusement at his dog’s propensity to mount his . . .

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A New Series from the University of Chicago Press

April 13, 2009
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A New Series from the University of Chicago Press

Series Editors William G. Howell University of Chicago Jon Pevehouse University of Chicago The Chicago Series on International and Domestic Institutions will feature innovative books on how domestic political institutions influence foreign policy, as well as how changes in the international arena influence domestic political dynamics. The series supports research that is geographically and temporally broad, methodologically pluralistic, and that crosses boundaries by engaging theoretical traditions in American, comparative, and international relations. The series will include works that focus on either international political economy or international security—or both. Topics of interest include: • The interaction of domestic political institutions and interstate conflict; • The influence of interest groups on foreign economic policies, including trade and investment; • The interaction of international institutions and changing domestic political institutions. If you or a colleague has a project that you think would be appropriate for the series, please feel free to contact the editors at: whowell@uchicago.edu and pevehouse@uchicago.edu. You may also contact David Pervin, the Press’s senior editor for international relations, economics, and law, at dpervin@press.uchicago.edu. Read the press release. . . .

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Start your own recession garden!

April 10, 2009
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Start your own recession garden!

If the weather’s nice enough, this weekend will be one of the first opportunities for Chicago gardeners to get outdoors and begin preparing for the upcoming growing season (can you believe it snowed again just last week?). And with the recession making the idea of a small vegetable garden more appealing, many folks new to gardening will be hunting down information about their new-found pastime. On the off chance that you’re one of them, here’s a list of books to get you started. As any seasoned gardener will tell you, the first step to a productive garden is to make sure you’ve got healthy soil. The biological world under our toes is often unexplored and unappreciated, yet it teems with life. In one square meter of earth, there lives trillions of bacteria, millions of nematodes, hundreds of thousands of mites, thousands of insects and worms, and hundreds of snails and slugs—all of which help to produce the nutrients essential for healthy plant growth. But because of their location and size, many of these creatures are as unfamiliar and bizarre to us as anything found at the bottom of the ocean. Lavishly illustrated with nearly three hundred color illustrations and masterfully-rendered . . .

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Ruth Fredman Cernea, 1934-2009

April 9, 2009
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Ruth Fredman Cernea, 1934-2009

Anthropologist Ruth Fredman Cernea, the author of many books on Jewish culture and the former international director of publications and resources at the Hillel Foundations, died last week of pancreatic cancer at the age of 74. In an obituary that ran yesterday, the Washington Post noted that Dr. Cernea dedicated her scholarly career to the study and interpretation of Jewish culture and symbols. Her books included The Passover Seder (1992), an anthropological analysis of the Passover holiday and ritual; and Cosmopolitans at Home: The Sephardic Jews of Washington, D.C. (1982), the product of five years of research among Jewish immigrants from North Africa living in Washington. The Great Latke Hamantash Debate (2006) is a collection of “scholarly” presentations on behalf of the latke, the potato pancake traditionally served during Hanukkah, and the hamantasch, the triangular filled sweet pastry associated with Purim. The annual event grew out of a street corner debate one night shortly after World War II involving a rabbi, an anthropologist and a historian in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Unable to reach agreement, the rabbi suggested opening the question to eminences of the nearby University of Chicago. The mock debate continues, drawing more than a thousand spectators every . . .

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Cartography and the Mastery of Empire

April 9, 2009
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Cartography and the Mastery of Empire

The Times Higher Education recently published quite a positive review of The Imperial Map: Cartography and the Mastery of Empire. Drawn from the prestigious Nebenzahl Lectures at the Newberry Library’s Hermon Dunlap Smith Center for the History of Cartography and edited by the center’s director, James R. Ackerman, the book examines the maps of a range of cultures during the 17th to 20th centuries to illustrate the ubiquitous use of cartography by ruling bodies to claim their entitlement to lands and peoples. From Valerie Kivelson’s piece on the early imperial Russian mapping of Siberia, to Neil Safier‘s exposition on Portuguese mapping of its South American territories, as THE contributor Sarah Bendall notes: choices are excellent and his list of contributors impressive…. The essays all describe instances in which unequal power relationships between communities produced maps that represented imperial subjects for the exclusive benefit of the rulers. Together, the authors show that the picture of imperial mapping is complex, with religious doctrine, scientific exploration, commerce, ethnography, propaganda and administrative practice operating in different ways depending upon the context.… These are complex stories, but Akerman is to be congratulated on his editing. He has ensured that the reader is guided through . . .

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The definitive take on Bigfoot

April 8, 2009
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The definitive take on Bigfoot

Do a quick Google search for “Bigfoot” or “Sasquatch” and near the top of the results you’ll find more than a few links to websites like this one, dedicated to the “scientific” exploration of the Bigfoot/Sasquatch mystery, offering everything from geographical data and personal accounts of the latest sightings, to some of the coolest t-shirts money can buy—evidence that Bigfoot mania still grips some not insignificant segment of the American population. But while other folks might consider serious inquiry into the existence of the Sasquatch to be an exercise in futility, as Sumit Paul-Choudhury notes in a recent review for the New Scientist Joshua Blu Buhs’ new book investigating the social significance of the myth itself proves quite worthwhile. Paul-Choudhury writes: That belief in mythical animals is a product of social change is central to Bigfoot, an exhaustive study of wild-man myth-making in the 20th century. Buhs’s book starts out… suggesting that the Himalayan legend of the yeti became “folklore for an industrial age” because it meshed well with Britain’s post-colonial concerns and drew on popular fascination with far-flung places.… Buhs goes on to describe how the search for Bigfoot and Sasquatch was dominated by the concerns . . .

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Wedding Bells for All

April 8, 2009
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Wedding Bells for All

Gay-rights supporters are celebrating momentous victories this week in the fight for marriage equality. Following a ruling in Iowa by the state’s Supreme Court that a law limiting marriage to a man and a woman was unconstitutional (paving the way for same-sex marriages to begin by the end of April), Vermont became the first state to legalize gay marriage with a legislature‘s vote, overturning Governor Jim Douglas’ veto, and the Washington, DC, city council voted unanimously to recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere (many of which may now take place in Iowa because that state does not require marriage license seekers to prove residency). Given the historic rulings and unprecedented momentum (even dictionaries are adapting to the times), we thought it would be a good time to offer a same-sex marriage reading list. The Politics of Same-Sex Marriage brings together an esteemed list of scholars to explore all facets of this heated issue, including the ideologies and strategies on both sides of the argument, the public’s response, the use of the issue in political campaigns, and how same-sex marriage fits into the broad context of policy cycles and windows of political opportunity. With comprehensive coverage from a variety of different approaches, . . .

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Mapping Danger

April 7, 2009
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Mapping Danger

After disasters like Monday’s earthquake in central Italy, attention often turns to the puzzle of predicting and preparing for such tragedies. Maps, Mark Monmonier points out, play an important role in this process. In Cartographies of Danger, he explains that maps can tell us a lot about where to anticipate certain hazards — but they can also be dangerously misleading. California, for example, takes earthquakes seriously, with a comprehensive program of seismic mapping. But as 1994’s Northridge earthquake demonstrated, even reliable seismic-hazard maps can deceive anyone who misinterprets “known fault-lines” as the only places vulnerable to earthquakes. How should we go about making the safest decisions? Upon the book’s publication, NBC News recommended that “no one should buy a home, rent an apartment, or even drink the local water without having read this fascinating cartographic alert on the dangers that lurk in our everyday lives.” We recommend that you start here, with Monmonier’s list of Ten Risky Places. . . .

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Books for Opening Day and Tournament Time

April 6, 2009
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Books for Opening Day and Tournament Time

Today marks the beginning of one season and the end of another, at least in the world of sports. Baseball is off to a chilly start (the threat of snow has postponed the Chicago White Sox opener against the Kansas City Royals and more delays seem likely) but inclement weather won’t stop the NCAA from crowning a basketball champion tonight, when Michigan State takes on Obama-favored North Carolina in Detroit. In honor of this momentous day, the Press brings you a brief Opening Day/”One Shining Moment” reading list, suitable for quick browsing between TV time-outs and the seventh inning stretch. For those of you out there who are more comfortable at the lectern than on the pitching mound, Edward Amenta’s coming-of-middle-age story will have you rooting for the underdog. For this short, wild-haired, bespectacled professor, playing softball in New York’s Central Park is one last chance to heal the nagging wounds of Little League trauma before the rust of decline and the relentless responsibilities of fatherhood set in. As rookie manager of the Performing Arts Softball League’s doormat Sharkeys, he reverses softball’s usual brawn-over-brains formula. He coaxes his skeptical teammates to follow his sabermetric and sociological approach, based equally on . . .

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Art Deco & The Chicagoan

April 3, 2009
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Art Deco & The Chicagoan

In 1926 a new magazine graced Chicago newsstands. With its pages filled with witty cartoons, profiles of local personalities, and a whole range of incisive articles, The Chicagoan was a hit, on par with its east coast counterpart The New Yorker, which it was clearly an attempt to emulate. Yet while the New Yorker would grow to achieve a national readership, after only nine years The Chicagoan was defunct and forgotten—that is, until its serendipitous re-discovery in the stacks of the Regenstein Library by University of Chicago Professor of History Neil Harris. Now, Harris has brought the magazine back into the spotlight with The Chicagoan: A Lost Magazine of the Jazz Age—a collection of covers, cartoons, editorials, reviews, and features from the magazine. Although the book overflows with a variety of historic material from one of the most fascinating eras in the city’s history, perhaps the most interest has been generated by its lavish reproductions of the magazine’s Art Deco covers and illustrations. We’ve received more than a few requests for poster-sized prints of the book’s art, and recently the Chicago Art Deco Society Magazine even ran a feature article—written by one of the book’s contributor’s, Teri Edelstein—that focuses on . . .

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