Monthly Archives: May 2009

Academia and the Wild Man

May 18, 2009
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Academia and the Wild Man

Michael Taussig is no stranger to attention from the New York press. A 2001 profile of the rogue Columbia anthropologist in the New York Times art section began: Among students at Columbia University, Michael Taussig has a glamorous reputation. An anthropologist who specializes in South America, he has hung out with shamans and tripped on yagé, a potent hallucinogen, dozens of times. He keeps an enormous rainbow-colored hammock in his campus office. And his lectures are famous for their dramatic flourishes; he once gave a talk with his head in a paper bag (a homage to a Dadaist artist). Not surprisingly, his classes are always filled to capacity. “He’s like a rock star,” said one graduate student in anthropology. “He’s the professor that all the students think is cool.” And late last year, Taussig was among the few academics/fashion models featured in the Times magazine’s feature “The Class Acts.” Now, with a new book just out, he is once again the talk of the town. Literally. The May 18 issue of The New Yorker features a short piece in the Talk of the Town on Taussig’s graduate seminar on the apocalypse (official title: “Preëmptive Apocalyptic Thought: The Angel of History . . .

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Press Release: Bass, Nature’s Great Events

May 18, 2009
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Press Release: Bass, Nature’s Great Events

In 2007, the landmark series Planet Earth made its American debut on the Discovery Channel, garnering massive critical acclaim and enthralling television audiences—and readers—nationwide. Featuring breathtaking sequences of predators and prey, lush vistas of forests from the tops of towering trees, and images of creatures from the ocean’s depths, Planet Earth brought unknown wonders from the natural world straight into our homes in high-def and forever changed the way we see the world. Enter the highly anticipated follow-up, Nature’s Most Amazing Events, which makes its television debut this spring along with its counterpart, Nature’s Great Events, the same documentary in illustrated book form. Exploring six of the most spectacular natural phenomena on our planet, this series and the book are epic in every sense, charting seasonal and annual events that transform entire ecosystems and the life experiences of the thousands of animals within them, from the largest mammals to the smallest microorganisms. Using groundbreaking filming techniques and state-of-the-art scientific and photographic technologies, Nature’s Great Events shows life in action and across the globe. The six events include the flooding of the Okavango Delta in Botswana, which turns sprawling swaths of desert into an elaborate maze of lagoons and swamps; the . . .

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Press Release: Bevington, This Wide and Universal Theater

May 15, 2009
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Press Release: Bevington, This Wide and Universal Theater

Now Available in Paperback— This Wide and Universal Theater explores how Shakespeare’s plays were produced both in his own time and in succeeding centuries. David Bevington brings Shakespeare’s original stagings to life, explaining how the Elizabethan playhouse conveyed a sense of place using minimal scenery, from the Forest of Arden in As You Like It to the tavern in Henry IV, Part I. Moving beyond Shakespeare’s lifetime, Bevington shows the lengths to which eighteenth- and nineteenth-century companies went to produce spectacular effects. To bring the book into the present, Bevington considers recent productions on both stage and screen, when character and language have taken precedence over spectacle. This volume brings a lifetime of study to bear on a remarkably underappreciated aspect of Shakespeare’s art. Read the press release. . . .

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Architectural history on the ground and between two covers

May 14, 2009
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Architectural history on the ground and between two covers

Whether we’re waiting for the El, reading virtually any local publication, or—of course—walking along South Michigan Avenue, Chicagoans can’t help but remember that the Art Institute of Chicago’s much-anticipated Modern Wing opens this weekend. But we are not, of course, the only ones paying attention. Joining the many stories that have already begun to appear about the event, New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussof noted in his review Wednesday that “the addition manages to weave the various strands of Chicago’s rich architectural history into a cohesive vision.” So what, exactly, are those strands? Whether you can talk about them endlessly or are still trying to sort them out, our deep list of architecture books will bring you up to speed on everything from our most iconic structures to alternative takes on the city’s architectural history. This weekend, for example, those lucky enough to try out the new bridgeway connecting the Modern Wing with Millennium Park might wonder about the history of this particular destination. Needless to say, we’ve got that covered. . . .

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Press Release: Shane, Madison’s Nightmare

May 14, 2009
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Press Release: Shane, Madison’s Nightmare

Though he campaigned on a theme of change, in his first months in office, Barack Obama has already asserted inherent presidential power in ways reminiscent of his Republican predecessors. While abandoning some of the Bush Administration’s more audacious claims, President Obama has asserted the state secrets privilege in national security litigation, resisted judicial review of enemy combatant detention in Afghanistan, issued signing statements suggesting constitutional reservations about bills he has signed into law, and pursued the Bush Administration’s Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq, even though it was never approved by Congress. With Madison’s Nightmare, Peter Shane shows how ambitious assertions of presidential power are the logical outcome of a decades-long trend that has seen presidents of both parties have waged an assault on the basic checks and balances of the U.S. government. Starting with Reagan and the elder Bush, continuing under Clinton, and culminating most spectacularly under the recent Bush administration, this “aggressive presidentialism” has diminished the role of the other branches of government and led to ideological, inappropriate, and sometimes downright illegal actions. If we want our government to work as the Founders intended, simply electing a new president is not enough: both liberals and conservatives must launch . . .

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Patent reform from software to genetics

May 14, 2009
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Patent reform from software to genetics

In an article published online Monday for the The National Law Journal Dan L. Burk and Mark A. Lemley, authors of The Patent Crisis and How the Courts Can Solve It, deliver an interesting critique of current patent law, arguing that because of the conflicting needs of different industries in the patent system, Congress should leave it up to the courts to dynamically interpret patent law on a contextual basis, rather than trying to tailor the statutes themselves. The need for patent system reform has become more visible recently because of the controversy over corporations’ ability to patent human genomes, a practice which was challenged in a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union Tuesday. The ACLU litigation cites the story of breast cancer survivor Genae Girard, who was denied a second opinion on her cancer diagnosis because only one company owns the patent on the genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer, prohibiting other corporations from developing similar tests, and stifling competitive innovation in the field. According to a recent article in the NYT, the company makes the counterargument that the current patent system already promotes innovation by giving companies a temporary monopoly that rewards their substantial investment . . .

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Press Release: Heap, Slumming

May 14, 2009
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Press Release: Heap, Slumming

Greenwich Village. Harlem. Bronzeville. Even in this freewheeling, globalized age, the names of these iconic neighborhoods still conjure up an atmosphere of glamour, excitement, and illicit thrills. But long before today’s teens or even yesterday’s beatniks wandered their streets, these neighborhoods exercised a powerful attraction for upright members of the middle class looking for dissipation and disreputable fun. With Slumming, Chad Heap brings these early havens of hip to life, recreating the long-lost nightlife of early twentieth-century New York and Chicago. From jazz clubs and speakeasies to black-and-tan parties and cabarets, Heap packs Slumming with vivid scenes, fascinating characters, and wild anecdotes of a late-night life on the borders of the forbidden. And while he doesn’t ignore the role of exploitation and voyeurism in slumming—or the resistance it often provoked—he argues that the relatively uninhibited mingling it promoted across bounds of race and class helped to dramatically recast the racial and sexual landscape of burgeoning U.S. cities. The unforgettable tale of an urban past that continues to resonate in our day, Slumming is a late-night treat for all urbanites and fans of the demi-monde. Read the press release or read the introduction. . . .

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The Man with the Illustrated Face

May 13, 2009
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The Man with the Illustrated Face

Last Fall, the University of Chicago Press began republishing the Parker novels, a series of hardboiled noir thrillers starring the eponymous one-named thief, by Richard Stark (one of the many pseudonyms used by prolific mystery writer Donald Westlake, who died last December). So far, the Press has nine titles, and more are in the pipeline. Everyone, from the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times to Time Out and Entertainment Weekly, has heralded the return of these books. Already immortalized in film by Lee Marvin, Gene Hackman, Robert Duvall, and Mel Gibson, now Parker is set to appear in a more graphic form. A graphic novel, that is. The Comics Reporter features an interview with artist Darwyn Cooke, who is converting the first Parker novel, The Hunter, into comic form. It’s a fascinating and broad-ranging conversation about collaboration, Westlake’s vast oeuvre, and how to draw Parker. After you check that out, read an interview with the late, great Westlake. And then get yourself a copy of The Hunter—or any of the Parker novels—and decide whether the mysterious thief looks more like Lee Marvin or Jack Palance for yourself. . . .

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Bankers need tough love, emphasis on the tough

May 12, 2009
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Bankers need tough love, emphasis on the tough

Benjamin Page and Lawrence Jacobs started writing Class War?: What Americans Really Think about Economic Inequality before we entered the recession that has made the wealth gap all the more visible. But their findings, of course, have manifold implications for today’s economic problems and how to solve them. In a lively discussion over the weekend at the Firedoglake Book Salon, Page had the chance to address some of the connections between today’s headlines and his and Jacobs’s sometimes prescient research. About the issue of executive compensation, for example, Page noted that they “asked several good questions before it become a hot issue.… It turns out that most Americans wildly underestimate the size of CEO salaries ($500,000 median guess vs. $14 million actual for S&P 500 companies). But even so, they want CEOs paid LESS and factory workers and clerks paid more.” When Salon host David Wakins noted that, in light of recent news stories, “people might estimate CEO salaries higher now,” Page attempted to put things in perspective: Yes, more, but I’m afraid they still have little clue, for example, about the five or so hedge fund managers who made more than $1 BILLION each in ’07. That is far . . .

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Do animals have moral intelligence?

May 12, 2009
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Do animals have moral intelligence?

Last week the Boulder newspaper The Daily Camera published an interesting article about Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce’s provocative new book Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals. The review begins: waste no time in getting to the point: “(W)e argue that animals feel empathy for each other, treat one another fairly, cooperate toward common goals, and help each other out of trouble,” they write in the first sentence. “We argue, in short, that animals have morality.” Advancing bioethicist’s arguments about the moral treatment of animals to posit animals themselves as moral agents, the author’s place moral behavior firmly within an evolutionary context demonstrating how a variety of species are in fact incredibly adept social beings, relying on rules of conduct to navigate intricate social networks that are essential to their survival. The Daily Camera‘s Clay Evans continues: Most of the species examined by the authors are notably “intelligent” and social. Hyenas, wolves, elephants and primates predominate, though other, “lesser” species like rats have their moments on stage. Bekoff is always a pleasant read, but the book’s tales of animal cooperation will bring a smile to many readers’ faces (or a tear to their eyes).… For readers hardened . . .

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