Monthly Archives: March 2010

The words and will of Tony Judt

March 9, 2010
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The words and will of Tony Judt

Over the course of his career historian Tony Judt has become one of the nation’s most “famously tough-minded and combative” public intellectuals, writes Wesley Yang for the current edition of New York Magazine. The director of NYU’s Erich Maria Remarque Institute, author of eight books on the history of politics and ideas in Europe, and a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books, “all in all, he is one of the most admired and denounced thinkers living in New York City” says Yang. In 2008, Judt was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and is now paralyzed throughout most of his body. But as Yang’s article points out, through an extraordinary act of will, Judt has maintained a constant stream of output, producing articles for the NYRB, lecturing, and working on a new book—a follow up to his most famous work Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945—which has already received a glowing review in The New Yorker. Robert Silvers, editor of The New York Review of Books remarks that Judt’s recent work has been some of his best: “The pure intensity of effort and courage needed to arrive at the ability to do it is something . . .

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The real Hurt Locker

March 8, 2010
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The real Hurt Locker

Last night, Kathryn Bigelow took home the Oscar for Best Director (the first for a woman) and her film, The Hurt Locker, topped a field of ten Best Picture nominees (beating out the highest grossing film of all time, directed by Bigelow’s ex-husband, Avatar). The suspenseful and moving film, which New York Times critic A. O. Scott called the best American feature film yet made about the war in Iraq, was praised for its gritty realism, emotional intensity, and apolitical narrative. Though little-seen (it is the lowest-grossing Best Picture winner in history), its depiction of modern warfare, insurgency, and camaraderie make it unforgettable. For those still thinking about The Hurt Locker on this morning after the awards ceremony (or its director—how can a women that young looking be pushing 60?), we recommend paging through Ashley Gilbertson’s Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: A Photographer’s Chronicle of the Iraq War. While Bigelow’s film dramatized the war, Gilbertson’s photograph depict the harsh and violent reality. He took great risks to document the bravery of others, whether dodging sniper fire with American infantry, photographing an Iraqi bomb squad as they diffused IEDs, or following marines into the cauldron of urban combat. But Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is . . .

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Life behind a badge in Chicago

March 8, 2010
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Life behind a badge in Chicago

John Kass’s column in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune discussed Chicago police officer Martin Prieb’s forthcoming book The Wagon and Other Stories from the City—an authentic chronicle of life behind the badge on the gritty streets of Chicago. As Tribune columnist John Kass writes: about the real Chicago, the city of tribes, the city many of you know, not that fictional metropolis sometimes offered in magazines and TV shows.… There are no blonds in red dresses. No detectives with cleft chins.… And if there’s a hero, the hero is an intelligent man trying to figure things out. And from his first assignment driving the police wagon that hauls away the dead, to his run-ins with gangbangers and drunk yuppies while patrolling his beat on Chicago’s North Side, the perceptively crafted stories in Preib’s new book offer a uniquely insightful account of both the life of a Chicago cop and the city itself. For more read Kass’s article on the Chicago Tribune website. The Wagon and Other Stories from the City will publish May 2010. . . .

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Ronald Searle at Ninety

March 5, 2010
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Ronald Searle at Ninety

Ronald Searle, the master of modern caricature who, since 1995, has plied his sardonic trade on the coveted op-ed pages of the French daily newspaper Le Monde, turned ninety last Wednesday. To mark the occasion Searle gave the Britain’s Channel 4 News his first interview in over thirty years which you can view below. The interview offers a brief history of Searle’s prolific career as well as an interesting look around the artist’s studio. But for a fuller look at his work check out the press’s 2002 publication, Ronald Searle in Le Monde—offering more than a hundred of his cartoons from Le Monde that range in topic across politics, the new Europe, the nature of the contemporary economy, social games, and more. Find out more about the book, or view this sampling of five cartoons. . . .

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Culture is Essential to Human Evolution

March 4, 2010
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Culture is Essential to Human Evolution

How has drinking milk changed the human genome? It used to be that humans switched off the gene that digests lactose shortly after being weaned from their mothers’ milk, but Northern Europeans keep the gene switched on until adulthood. How did that happen? It’s a direct effect of culture shaping evolution. The theory that human culture can play an evolutionary role is relatively new; it used to be thought that human culture slowed or stopped evolution. Two of the earliest proponents of this new approach to genes and culture coevolution are Robert Boyd and Peter J. Richerson, and they were the centerpiece of a recent New York Times article on the theory. The idea that genes and culture co-evolve has been around for several decades but has started to win converts only recently. Two leading proponents, Robert Boyd of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Peter J. Richerson of the University of California, Davis, have argued for years that genes and culture were intertwined in shaping human evolution. “It wasn’t like we were despised, just kind of ignored,” Dr. Boyd said. But in the last few years, references by other scientists to their writings have “gone up hugely,” he . . .

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Poet Peter Balakian on the Armenian Genocide

March 3, 2010
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On Sunday, 60 Minutes featured a segment on the forced deportation and massacre of more than one million Christian Armenians in Turkey during the first World War. The Armenians refer to it as their holocaust, but the Turkish and United States governments have refused to call it genocide. In the piece, 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon takes a trip to what is now Syria to a mass unmarked grave, which contains the remains of nearly half a million Armenians. There, he digs at the dirt and turns up dozens of bone fragments—relics of a disputed past. Accompanying Simon is the writer Peter Balakian. Though perhaps best known for his memoirs and non-fiction work on the Armenian genocide, Balakian is also an accomplished poet, and this fall he will join the Press’s prestigious Phoenix Poets list with his first book of verse in nine years. Ziggurat explores loss, war, love, and art in a new age of American uncertainty. Whether recalling the ride up the elevators of the World Trade Towers, walking the ruins of the Bosnian National Library in Sarajevo, meditating on Andy Warhol’s silk screens, or considering the confluence of music, language, and memory, Balakian continues his exploration of . . .

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Ocean Change and the Extinction of Life on Earth

March 2, 2010
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Ocean Change and the Extinction of Life on Earth

Good science doesn’t always tell you what you want to hear. So while the message at the core of Alana Mitchell’s Seasick: Ocean Change and the Extinction of Life on Earth, might be particularly hard to swallow, it is nevertheless a much needed medicine for our ailing oceans. As Rick MacPherson notes in a recent review of the book for the latest edition of the American Scientist: In Seasick: Ocean Change and the Extinction of Life on Earth,… Mitchell trawls the oxygen-depleted oceanic dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, counts the days after the full moon in Panama to figure out when to search for signs of coral spawn, questions what a souring ocean chemistry holds for the future of marine plankton communities, and recounts the actions that have depleted global fisheries, documenting the toll that one frightening assault after another has taken on our ocean. Their cumulative effect has pushed us across a threshold. It appears that global systems may already be unable to return the ocean to its former state and are beginning instead to interact to create a new, far less hospitable state. Find out more about the book on the University of Chicago Press website, . . .

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Free e-book of the month: Jokes

March 1, 2010
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Free e-book of the month: Jokes

Ted Cohen’s funny and fascinating philosophical exploration of the nature of jokes in Jokes: Philosophical Thoughts on Joking Matters, is now available for free download at the University of Chicago Press website. About the book: Jokes is a book of jokes and a book about them. Cohen loves a good laugh, but as a philosopher, he is also interested in how jokes work, why they work, and when they don’t. The delight at the end of a joke is the result of a complex set of conditions and processes, and Cohen takes us through these conditions in a philosophical exploration of humor. He considers questions of audience, selection of joke topics, the ethnic character of jokes, and their morality, all with plenty of examples that will make you either chuckle or wince. Jokes: more humorous than other philosophy books, more philosophical than other humor books. Check back each month for more free e-books from the University of Chicago Press or for all our currently available e-books, see our complete list of e-books by subject. E-books from the University of Chicago Press are offered in Adobe Digital Editions format for Mac, PC, and a number of mobile devices such as the . . .

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Ben Hecht’s “Journalism Extraordinary”

March 1, 2010
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Ben Hecht’s “Journalism Extraordinary”

Yesterday was the birthday of Ben Hecht. Though best known for his second career as a Hollywood screenwriter (he won an Oscar for 1927’s Underworld and wrote or contributed to some of the most beloved films of all time), Hecht cut his teeth as a Chicago journalist before he headed west. Writing for the Chicago Daily News, he penned an enormously popular column called A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago, which was assembled into a book in 1922 that bought Hecht his first dose of fame. A timeless caricature of urban American life in the jazz age, Hecht’s book captured 1920s Chicago in all its furor, intensity, and absurdism. From the glittering opulence of Michigan Avenue to the darkest ruminations of an escaped convict, from captains of industry to immigrant day laborers, he embodied many voices and many lives. As the New York Times wrote, “Mr. Hecht is attempting to do for Chicago something of what Dickens did for London; he stands appalled before the spectacle of the streets with their tumultuous, mysterious throngs.” The Press reissued A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago last year. Featuring sixty-four columns illustrated with striking pen drawings by Herman Rosse, our new . . .

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The Supreme Court and the Chicago gun ban

March 1, 2010
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The Supreme Court and the Chicago gun ban

With the Supreme Court due to hear arguments tomorrow in a suit challenging Chicago’s ban on handguns in the city, Chicago Public Radio’s Eight Forty-Eight aired the second of a two part special on the history of Chicago’s ban this morning. On the program contributor Robert Loerzel walks through some of the major events—including the tragic assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the ensuing riots on Chicago’s South Side, the assassination of J.F.K., and even the attempted murder of Pope John Paul II—that helped to gain public support for Chicago’s handgun ordinance. But despite the mountains of negative publicity that guns have received, especially in the nation’s urban centers, the question of whether allowing people to own or carry guns deters violent crime still remains. Back in 2000 the University of Chicago Press published one of the most influential and controversial books on the issue, John R. Lott, Jr.’s More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws. Slated for an updated third edition later this month, Lott’s book employs some of the most rigorously comprehensive data analysis ever conducted on crime statistics and right-to-carry laws to directly challenge common perceptions about the relationship between guns, crime, and . . .

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