Monthly Archives: October 2009

South Philly hoops

October 16, 2009
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South Philly hoops

Slam magazine’s Aggrey Sam has just published an article based on a conversation with Scott N. Brooks about his fascinating new book about Philly’s basketball scene in Black Men Can’t Shoot. As Sam notes, Brooks’ book is based on the author’s “firsthand experiences as a coach for the South Philly in the vaunted Sonny Hill League, mainly through his relationship with two up-and-coming stars in the city,” “Jermaine” and “Ray” (not their real names). Brooks’ narrative follows these young athletes as they navigate Philly’s hyper-competitive basketball circuit—where dreams are made and broken on a daily basis—and many an NBA hopeful must learn not only to manage their game on the court, but to deal with the social and economic obstacles to their success as well. As Sam explains: It seems pretty simple sometimes—the best players get the most shine. If you’re good and you work hard at your craft, you’ll get what’s coming to you. But with all the pitfalls along the way and the “business of basketball” trickling down to the grassroots level over the years, it’s a lot more complicated than that. Sam’s article goes on to discuss the network of “Old Heads”—neighborhood mentors that help guide young . . .

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Press Release: Mitchell, Seasick

October 16, 2009
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Press Release: Mitchell, Seasick

In September, President Obama’s Ocean Policy Task Force released its first report, recommending the creation of a new National Ocean Council to coordinate federal response to ocean pollution, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification, among other problems. With the creation of the NOC, the new administration is signaling that healthy oceans matter. But the task before the council is enormous, given that the sea is, well, sick. Veteran science journalist Alanna Mitchell reveals just how dire the situation is in Seasick. Here, she dives beneath the surface of the world’s oceans to give readers a sense of how this watery realm has been defiled—and what can be done to manage and preserve it, and with it life on earth. With Mitchell at the helm, readers submerge 3,000 feet to gather sea sponges that may contribute to cancer care, see firsthand the lava lamp—like dead zone covering 17,000 square kilometers in the Gulf of Mexico, and witness the simultaneous spawning of corals under a full moon in Panama. The first book to look at the planetary environmental crisis through the lens of the global ocean, Seasick takes the reader on an emotional journey through a hidden area of the planet and . . .

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Max as Migrant

October 15, 2009
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Max as Migrant

Tomorrow, the highly-anticipated big-screen collaboration between Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers, the feature film adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, opens in theaters across the country. Your correspondent has been eagerly awaiting the live action rumpus since the Arcade Fire-soundtracked trailer hit the web back in April, and now that the big day is nearly here, I thought I’d call on Press author Seth Lerer to see what he made of Max in the mutiplex. Lerer, the National Book Critics Circle award-winning author of Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter, offers here his thoughts on Sendak, Jewish literary tradition, Kafka, immigration and much, much more. The year Where the Wild Things Are came out, I turned eight. In the long afternoons between the end of school and dinner, I would kill time along the quiet Brooklyn street on which we lived. Sometimes, I would find a stickball game, and in the waning light my friends and I would hit the ball and run between the cars. One day I hit it into our landlord’s window, and his wife came out—a woman probably no older than I am now, but at the time, someone . . .

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Chicago Humanities Festival Day in Hyde Park!

October 14, 2009
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Chicago Humanities Festival Day in Hyde Park!

This Saturday the 20th annual Chicago Humanities Festival kicks off with 12 events in Hyde Park. Titled “Laughter” this year’s festival offers events that both analyze and enact humor in the humanities featuring among other events a special edition of the annual Latke-Hamantash debate with University of Chicago professors Philip Gossett and Ted Cohen—both contributors to Ruth Fredman Cernea’s The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate—along with James Shapiro and moderator Daniel Libenson. (12:00 pm Mandel Hall) Other events this Saturday include: a talk by comedy’s first and only black/white duo, Tim Reid and Tom Dreesen, authors of Tim and Tom: An American Comedy in Black and White (2:00 pm DuSable Museum of African American History); a talk titled “From Vice to Virtue: Molière’s Comedic Mission” by Larry Norman, author of The Public Mirror: Molière and the Social Commerce of Depiction (12:30 pm Court Theatre); and a talk about opera and laughter with Martha Feldman, author of Opera and Sovereignty: Transforming Myths in Eighteenth-Century Italy (2:00 pm Mandel Hall). For more info navigate to the Chicago Humanities Festival website. Also see an excerpt and recipes from Cernea’s The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate and this excerpt from Tim and Tom: An American Comedy in Black . . .

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Five years on, Derrida lives at the University of Chicago Press

October 14, 2009
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Five years on, Derrida lives at the University of Chicago Press

Over at the Cultural Capital blog (great name, by the way) of the New Statesman, Simon Reid-Henry reflects on philosopher Jacques Derrida on the fifth anniversary of his death. Reid-Henry laments that, “judging by how little noticed the fifth anniversary of his death has been, star has fallen a long way in the past five years.” But he also enthusiastically notes that the great thinker’s legacy is being kept alive by publications like the Press’s forthcoming The Beast and the Sovereign: “The lectures—which have been gathering dust for the past few years in the archives of the University of California-Irvine—hold out the promise of a more politically relevant Derrida, fit for our times, as they deal with questions of ‘force, right and justice’.” (He also alludes to “an interview with a fellow intellectual, Mustapha Chérif, shortly before Derrida’s death, he held forth on a range of matters, including Islam, secularism and democracy.” Those debates were published last year in the book Islam and the West: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida.) Despite his mostly gloomy forecast, Reid-Henry ends his remembrance on an optimistic note: “Derrida remains entirely pertinent to the moment.” And we here at the Press couldn’t . . .

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Press Release: Miller, Watch

October 14, 2009
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Press Release: Miller, Watch

In Watch, Greg Miller describes a fresh purposefulness in his life and achieves a new level of poetic thinking and composition in his writing. Artfully combining the religious and secular worldviews in his own sense of human culture, Miller complicates our understanding of all three. The poems in Watch sift layers of natural and human history across several continents, observing paintings, archeological digs, cityscapes, seascapes, landscapes—all in an attempt to envision a clear, grounded spiritual life. Employing an impressive array of traditional meters and various kinds of free verse, Miller’s poems celebrate communities both invented and real. Read the press release. . . .

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Chicago’s biography

October 13, 2009
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Chicago’s biography

Several new reviews of Dominic Pacyga’s Chicago: A Biography have popped up on the radar recently, one in the Chicago Sun-Times and another on Drexel University’s online magazine The Smart Set. Both focus their attention on Pacyga’s book for reversing the usual top-down approach to the telling of Chicago history, letting the stories of ordinary people narrate this “biographical” account of city life. Thomas Frisbie quotes Pacyga in his review for the Sun-Times: “I try to look at everyday people as much as I can, at people in neighborhoods, how they build their community, how they survive, how they prosper or don’t prosper,” said Pacyga, who grew up in the Back of the Yards, attended De La Salle Institute and worked at the Union Stockyards when he was in college. There are sections, for example, on “Ted Swigon’s Back of the Yards” and “Angeline Jackson’s neighborhood.” Swigon was an altar boy at St. John of God’s Church and attended Quigley Preparatory Seminary before transferring to De La Salle. Jackson came from Mississippi to Chicago, eventually moving to Englewood. “ tells a lot about how that neighborhood went through racial change and how it went through physical change,” Pacyga said. . . .

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Press Release: Bogen, An Alegbra

October 13, 2009
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Press Release: Bogen, An Alegbra

An Algebra is an interwoven collection of eight sequences and sixteen individual poems, where images and phrases recur in new contexts, connecting and suspending thoughts, emotions and insights. By turns, the poems leap from the public realm of urban decay and outsourcing to the intimacies of family life, from a street mime to a haunting dream, from elegy to lyric evocation. Wholeness and brokenness intertwine in the book; glimpsed patterns and startling disjunctions drive its explorations. An Algebra is a work of changing equivalents, a search for balance in a world of transformation and loss. It is a brilliantly constructed, moving book by a poet who has achieved a new level of imaginative expression and skill. Read the press release. . . .

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The Birth of Black Hole Physics

October 12, 2009
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The Birth of Black Hole Physics

Black holes are undoubtedly one of the all-time coolest phenomena in astrophysics. With his theory of relativity, Einstein initially predicted their existence as the inevitable result of gravitation on some of the more massive objects in the universe. But according to Fulvio Melia’s new book Cracking the Einstein Code: Relativity and the Birth of Black Hole Physics, for more than four decades after the publication of Einstein’s ideas, this phenomenon, along with the rest of Einstein’s theory, remained a curious abstraction for most scientists who lacked the final set of equations that would allow them to empirically verify its principles. Then came Roy Kerr, the twenty-nine-year-old Cambridge graduate who solved the great riddle in 1963, transforming Einstein’s theory into an applicable description of how real objects in the universe actually behave—including black holes. As a recent review in the New Scientist notes: The most intriguing application of Kerr’s solution is in describing objects that are so massive and so dense that their gravitational field prevents even light from escaping. Einstein himself was skeptical that such “black holes” could exist in nature. Just as Kerr was developing his solution, however, the first compelling evidence for black holes was found. Today, black . . .

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Two local authors on Chicago Tonight

October 9, 2009
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For two consecutive nights WTTW’s Chicago Tonight has featured interviews with University of Chicago Press authors from our regional list. On Wednesday evening Dominic A. Pacyga was invited on the show to discuss his fascinating new chronicle of our fair city in Chicago: A Biography. A south side native who spent his college years working at the Union Stock Yards, in his new book Pacyga offers a comprehensive catalog of the city’s great industrialists, reformers, and politicians, while giving voice to the city’s steelyard workers and kill floor operators as well. And on Thursday, Liam T. A. Ford made an appearance to talk about his account of one of the most prominent of Chicago’s landmarks in Soldier Field: A Stadium and Its City. As Ford tells it, the tale of Soldier Field truly is the story of Chicago, filled with political intrigue and civic pride. More than just the home of ‘da Bears, Ford’s book traces the stadium’s multiple roles as both one of the city’s most important a cultural centers—drawing crowds of thousands for everything from rodeos and NASCAR races, to Catholic masses, and political rallies—to a bargaining chip for city politicians from the infamous Mayor “Big Bill” Thompson, . . .

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