Monthly Archives: June 2009

Sight reconsidered

June 15, 2009
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Sight reconsidered

Over the course of seven years, from 1998 to 2005, Chicago photographer Jed Fielding made nine trips to Mexico City to take pictures at four schools for the blind. Using the directive “Look at me,” Fielding got his subjects to turn their faces to his voice; the resulting images draw attention to (and distinctions between) the activity of sight and the consciousness of form. The photographs Fielding made in Mexico compose the new book from the Press Look at me and are currently on display at the Chicago Cultural Center through July 5. Michael Weinstein writes of Fielding’s work in New City: “An eerie brutality that is not entirely sadistic yet is deeply unsettling haunts Jed Fielding’s lucid and shadowed black-and-white portraits of blind children in Mexico, whose expressions run a gamut from joy, through tranquility, sadness, bewilderment and awe, to outright horror. In all cases, the subjects’ emotions are sharply delineated, seeming to lack self-conscious control over their release, and conveying a sense of vulnerability, which, of course, is fitting.” And Jen Hazen writes on Chicagoist.com: “Fielding’s human exploration of vision, perspective and vitality are captured by his acute detail to light and shadow, surface, and design, where documentary-style . . .

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Ahmadinejad vs. the Obama effect

June 15, 2009
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Ahmadinejad vs. the Obama effect

With the re-election of its controversial incumbent Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinijad, Iran has been thrown into turmoil as hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters rally against what they claim to be a rigged election—even causing the government to go so far as to shut down some communications channels in hopes of averting coordinated protests. Meanwhile, the international community, including the United States, remains circumspect in hopes of allowing the Iranian electorate to resolve the dispute on its own terms. Yet despite the White House’s perceived restraint, in an article by Sharon Schmickle published today on the website, MinnPost.com, William O. Beeman, author of, The Great Satan vs. the Mad Mullahs: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other, is quoted extensively arguing that Obama’s conciliatory diplomatic stance towards the Middle East has, in fact, had a powerful effect on the political climate of Iran. Here’s a quick excerpt: Even while personal liberties were sorely lacking in Iran, there was deep pride in a tradition of reasonably fair elections. Iranians often touted their process as superior to that in Egypt where elections are presumed to be phony. “So to risk that reputation would require some extreme sense of danger,” Beeman . . .

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Printers Row Lit Fest 2009

June 12, 2009
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Printers Row Lit Fest 2009

The University of Chicago Press once again participated in the Printers Row Lit Fest this year, taking our usual spot in Tent A at Congress and Dearborn. A number of volunteers from the press took turns manning the booth, selling a wide variety of books from Chicago and our distributed presses. The ever-popular $5 table was back, containing an assortment of thirty titles sold for only $5 each. At one point, a “$5 dance” may have been created by a couple of cold volunteers, as they tried to stay warm. Despite numerous warnings of dismal, rainy weather, we only saw a few minutes of very light rain on each of the days (nonetheless, a leak in the tent became brutally apparent). The very limited rain proved great for our sales and gave customers a chance to better browse the large selection of books we brought. 500 posters of our recent title The Chicagoan were given away for free and they were gone within the first two hours! Don’t worry, we’ll bring more next year. . . .

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Larry Jacobs interviewed about Class War

June 11, 2009
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Larry Jacobs interviewed about Class War

The revelation that top executives at companies like AIG — after receiving billions in federal “bailout” money—were given generous bonuses, even as millions of low and middle income Americans were losing their jobs, tends to cast public debate about wage and income disparities in the U.S. in black and white. In the light of much of the media coverage of the current economic crisis, it is easy to see America as a nation split into two opposing groups: uncompromising supporters of unfettered free markets and advocates for government solutions to economic problems. But in their new book Class War?: What Americans Really Think about Economic Inequality Benjamin I. Page and Lawrence R. Jacobs draw on nearly a century’s worth of accumulated polling data to demonstrate that American’s views about class are really much more complex and nuanced than commonly thought. In a recent interview on Minnesota Public Radio’s midmorning broadcast Jacobs explains that their data reveals a surprising unity in opinion amongst American’s at varying income levels and in both major political parties. According to Jacobs, the majority of Americans in fact embrace a type of conservative egalitarianism — a philosophy that prizes individualism and self-reliance as well as public . . .

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Changing history

June 11, 2009
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Changing history

Considering the future of the history profession, an article in yesterday’s New York Times notes that, to some, “there is no doubt that the days when diplomatic history dominated the profession are gone. — The shift in focus began in the late 1960s and early ’70s, when a generation of academics began looking into the roles of people generally missing from history books — women, minorities, immigrants, workers. Social and cultural history, often referred to as bottom-up history, offered fresh subjects.” A definitive account of this dominant trend in U.S. historical writing, The Cultural Turn in U.S. History showcases its freshest and most revealing examples, covering topics that range from nineteenth-century anxieties about greenback dollars to confidence games in 1920s Harlem, from Shirley Temple’s career to the story of a Chicano community in San Diego that created a public park under a local freeway. As Anthony Grafton observed when the NYT interviewed him for the story, traditional fields aren’t disappearing, they are shifting focus. Military history, for example, has switched from battlefield strategy to subjects like “the way soldiers thought about what they were fighting for,” he said. The Cultural Turn in U.S. History at once explains the origins and . . .

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Back and forth on Bigfoot

June 10, 2009
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Back and forth on Bigfoot

Brian Switek’s Laelaps blog ran an appreciative review of Joshua Blu Buhs’ Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend last Monday, noting the book’s cultural analysis that seeks to understand the how and why the beast has sparked such unflagging interest amongst the American public. As Buhs explains, the most devoted of the Sasquatch devotees appear to have been “white working class males.” According to Buhs, during the social upheaval of the sixties and seventies, these men gravitated towards the myth in response the perceived threats of consumerism, civil rites, and feminization.” For them, writes Switek, “Bigfoot often represented the elusive vestige of ‘true’ masculinity that could only be found in the wild.” But as time went on the myth of Bigfoot—once a symbol of resistance towards the establishment—was appropriated by mainstream consumer culture and employed, as Switek writes, as “a desexualized symbol used to purvey goods from beer to beef jerky.” And with that one might think the story of Bigfoot mania would have come to an end. Yet, two men in rural Georgia announced last summer that they had killed Bigfoot and drew instant, feverish attention leading to more than 1,000 news stories worldwide. And for further . . .

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Happy (Belated) World Oceans Day!

June 10, 2009
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Happy (Belated) World Oceans Day!

Monday, June 8, was the inaugural observance of the United Nations’ World Oceans Day. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said about the celebration, “The first observance of World Oceans Day allows us to highlight the many ways in which oceans contribute to society. It is also an opportunity to recognize the considerable challenges we face in maintaining their capacity to regulate the global climate, supply essential ecosystem services and provide sustainable livelihoods and safe recreation.” It’s hard to believe, but for thousands of years, the world’s oceans were considered unimportant—at most a means of global travel and a source of food, at least a dumping ground for trash. We now know that the ecosystem that makes up 99 percent of living space on Earth is our life-support system, regulating the planet’s temperatures, climate, and key chemical cycles. With this global commemoration of our planet’s most fragile ecosystem, the world oceans are at last getting the attention they need and deserve. The University of Chicago Press has long recognized the important role our oceans play in our planet’s health. In honor of World Oceans Day, we present this maritime reading list. Four billion years old, the oceans formed as the Earth’s scorching . . .

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Frank Lloyd Wright’s lost masterpiece

June 9, 2009
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Frank Lloyd Wright’s lost masterpiece

Following up on SXH’s recent post commemorating the anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday, another fascinating article on the life and career of the Midwest’s iconic architect appeared last month in Newsweek. In her article, contributor Cathleen McGuigan writes on the two buildings bookending the great architect’s life work. It is widely recognized that New York City’s Guggenheim Museum, the last major work undertaken by Wright in his lifetime, provided the capstone to his career, but Buffalo’s Larkin Building, “Wright’s first large scale project,” is too often forgotten. Why? McGuigan writes: “revolutionary in the world of business, and within its mighty brick walls, it expressed the optimism of an era, and the excitement of a booming city.” … Outside, the imposing building was a fortress against its grimy industrial neighborhood. But inside it was airy, planned around a skylit, sun-filled, five-story atrium. The executives sat there together at long desks, not in private offices, so the 1,800 clerical workers could overlook them from the upper-floor balconies along the sides—an arrangement that symbolized the openness of the Larkin corporate culture. On the building’s exterior was inscribed the motto: HONEST LABOR NEEDS NO MASTER. But Larkin’s . . .

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The good, the bad, and the naked

June 9, 2009
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The good, the bad, and the naked

In a contest based on the results of 8.6 million passenger surveys covering 190 airports, South Korea’s Incheon International Airport emerged today as the winner of the World Airport Awards, which aim to evaluate traveler experiences in 39 different areas, from check-in and arrivals to departure at the gate. The BBC reports, for example, that “Dubai had the best duty free shopping; Hong Kong the best dining; Helsinki the best baggage delivery, and Kansai in Japan the ‘cleanest airport washrooms.'” The stark practicality of such rankings underscores the difference between today’s airports and their earlier cousins, which were once the backdrops for jet-setters who strutted, martinis in hand, through curvilinear terminals designed by Eero Saarinen. In Naked Airport, his cultural history of the airport, Alastair Gordon traces the institution’s many incarnations from its origins in the muddy fields of flying machines to its role in the fight against international terrorism. If you’re unlucky enough to be stuck on your next trip in one of the many global airports not lauded for their quick check-in times or great duty-free shopping, a copy of Naked Airport is sure to offer a bit of solace—or at least a needed reminder that the place . . .

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A Frank Lloyd Wright Reading List, On the Occasion of His Birthday

June 8, 2009
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A Frank Lloyd Wright Reading List, On the Occasion of His Birthday

Today is the anniversary of the birth of a man who needs no introduction, at least around these parts. On this day in 1867, Frank Lloyd Wright was born in Wisconsin and went on, over a long lifetime, to create some of the most enduring icons of American architecture. One of Wright’s most celebrated buildings, the Robie House, sits just a few block from the Press building, and indeed, Wright’s prairie-style homes dot the landscape of the South Side and all of Chicagoland. So it is only appropriate, given our proximity to so many of his landmarks, that the Press has issued its share of books on Wright. What follows is a Wright reading list, in honor of his 142nd birthday: Indispensable for anyone with a passion for Wright’s standing architecture, William Allin Storrer’s The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: A Complete Catalog is now available in an updated third edition. Fully revised, Storrer’s guidebook features full-color photographs of all extant work along with a description of each building and its history. Storrer also provides full addresses, GPS coordinates, and maps of locations throughout the United States, England, and Japan, indicating the shortest route to each building—perfect for Wright aficionados . . .

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