Monthly Archives: July 2010

The Latest Advances in 17th Century Science

July 16, 2010
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The Latest Advances in 17th Century Science

What’s in your garage? A car? Some bikes and boxes and bins? Boring. We know a guy that’s turning lead into gold in his. Or at least recreating Isaac Newton’s experiments. Meet the proud owner of the world’s only (that we know of) suburban alchemical garage, William R. Newman, professor of the history of science at Indiana University and author of, most recently, Atoms and Alchemy: Chymistry and the Experimental Origins of the Scientific Revolution. Discover magazine recently visited Bloomington, Indiana, to see Professor Newman’s unusual lab firsthand and noted: “ has recreated 17th Century laboratory conditions and experiments, including a homemade replica of Isaac Newton’s laboratory furnace in his backyard. Newman’s research shows that alchemists were not just tinkering blindly—they produced ‘A solid body of repeated and repeatable observations of laboratory results.'” Intrigued yet? (Boing Boing was. They linked to the story yesterday afternoon.) Want to learn more? Check out all of Professor Newman’s books on the history of alchemy, as well as George Starkey’s Alchemical Laboratory Notebooks and Correspondence, which Newman edited along with Lawrence M. Principe (who teamed up with Newman once before, to produce the award-winning Alchemy Tried in the Fire: Starkey, Boyle, and the Fate . . .

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Happy Birthday Josef Frank!

July 16, 2010
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Happy Birthday Josef Frank!

Yesterday you might have noticed that Google’s search page was adorned with a Google Doodle inspired by the textile design of modernist architect, designer, and theorist, Josef Frank. Until Google’s recognition of the artist on the event of what would be his 125th birthday, many were likely unfamiliar with his work, despite his status as one of Europe’s leading modernists and co-founder of the Vienna School of Architecture. Thus for those wanting to find out more about this widely accomplished, yet obscure figure of twentieth century art, we offer Josef Frank: Life and Work—the first study to comprehensively explore Frank’s life, ideas, and designs. Educated in Vienna just after the turn of the century, Frank became the leader of the younger generation of architects in Austria after the First World War. But Frank fell from grace when he emerged as a forceful critic of the extremes of modern architecture and design during the early 1930s. Dismissing the demands for a unified modern style, Frank insisted that it was pluralism, not uniformity, that most characterized life in the new machine age. He called instead for a more humane modernism, one that responded to people’s everyday needs and left room for sentimentality . . .

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Publicity News: Hot in Here Edition

July 15, 2010
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Publicity News: Hot in Here Edition

We’ve officially entered the dog days of summer: the heat index is conspiring to make it feel like it’s 100 plus degrees in Chicago today (and forecasters say we should get used to it—it’s not cooling down anytime soon). But the weather is not the only that’s hot around here. That’s right, the Press—and the publicity our books are garnering—is on fire! Check out the latest news from around the country and the world. “You Must Read”McKay’s Bees At least that’s what novelist Sue Miller said recently on NPR’s All Things Considered. As part of its series “You Must Read This,” Miller recommended the novel McKay’s Bees by the late Harvard University professor of mechanics and biology Thomas McMahon, a book “that makes you want to sequester yourself away from the dinner table or the cocktail party when you encounter the rare other person who’s read it, to wallow with someone else in comparing notes on its many delights.” The book is one of three novels McMahon wrote, and the others, Loving Little Egypt and Principles of American Nuclear Chemistry, are also available from the University of Chicago Press. Chicago Manual of Style Q&A comes with a “good dash of . . .

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Harvey G. Cohen discusses Duke Ellington on WNYC’s Soundcheck

July 15, 2010
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Harvey G. Cohen discusses Duke Ellington  on WNYC’s Soundcheck

Harvey G. Cohen, author of Duke Ellington’s America—a fascinating biographical account of Ellington and his tremendous influence on jazz and American culture—was a guest yesterday on WNYC’s Soundcheck. You can catch Cohen discussing his book and providing some insightful commentary on some of Ellington’s greatest classics on the Soundcheck podcast at the WNYC website. More about Cohen’s book: Few American artists in any medium have enjoyed the international and lasting cultural impact of Duke Ellington. From jazz standards such as “Mood Indigo” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” to his longer, more orchestral suites, to his leadership of the stellar big band he toured and performed with for decades after most big bands folded, Ellington represented a singular, pathbreaking force in music over the course of a half-century. At the same time, as one of the most prominent black public figures in history, Ellington demonstrated leadership on questions of civil rights, equality, and America’s role in the world. With Duke Ellington’s America, Harvey G. Cohen paints a vivid picture of Ellington’s life and times, taking him from his youth in the black middle class enclave of Washington, D.C., to the heights of worldwide acclaim. Mining extensive archives, many never before . . .

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The Book of Shells in the NYT

July 14, 2010
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The Book of Shells in the NYT

It’s summer time and for many that means hitting the beach for sand, sun, and, perhaps, some seashell collecting? If the latter happens to be on your list of activities this summer, it would definitely behoove you to pick up a copy of M. G. Harasewych and Fabio Moretzsohn’s new book The Book of Shells: A Life-Size Guide to Identifying and Classifying Six Hundred Seashells. Filled with hundreds of amazing color images of seashells from around the world along with an explanation of the shell’s range, distribution, abundance, habitat, and operculum—the piece that protects the mollusk when it’s in the shell—The Book of Shells is an essential accompaniment to any shell scouting adventure. But even if a trip to the seashore isn’t on the agenda, as this sampling of images from the book featured in a recent review for the New York Times demonstrates, The Book of Shells posses the uncanny power to transport you there anyway. Also, check out these sample pages from the book (PDF format, 1.7Mb) Happy shell hunting! . . .

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The emergence of a very different Twain

July 13, 2010
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The emergence of a very different Twain

One hundred years after his passing Mark Twain is about to reinvent himself. Though published in redacted form several times already, Twain’s autobiography will finally be released later this year by the University of California Press in an unexpurgated edition that includes all the controversial material left out of earlier editions. Seeming radically different from the personality that penned his classic and beloved depictions of nineteenth-century American life, a recent article in the New York Times notes that in the Autobiography of Mark Twain the author “emerges more pointedly political and willing to play the role of the angry prophet” than ever before. From the NYT: Twain’s opposition to incipient imperialism and American military intervention in Cuba and the Philippines, for example, were well known even in his own time. But the uncensored autobiography makes it clear that those feelings ran very deep and includes remarks that, if made today in the context of Iraq or Afghanistan, would probably lead the right wing to question the patriotism of this most American of American writers. In a passage removed by Paine, Twain excoriates “the iniquitous Cuban-Spanish War” and Gen. Leonard Wood’s “mephitic record” as governor general in Havana. In writing about . . .

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“How relevant is [Hayek] to Glenn Beck’s America?”

July 12, 2010
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“How relevant is [Hayek] to Glenn Beck’s America?”

Still causing quite a stir almost a month after Glenn Beck’s endorsement pushed it to the top of Amazon’s sales rankings, F. A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom was the subject of an essay by Jennifer Schuessler in the July 11st edition of the New York Times Sunday Book Review. In her essay Schuessler explores the book’s “long history of timely assists from the popular media,” and, interestingly, asks how relevant the book really is to Glenn Beck’s America. Read it online at the NYT. Also, read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Duke Ellington’s America reviewed in the Telegraph

July 12, 2010
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Duke Ellington’s America reviewed in the Telegraph

The Telegraph recently ran a review of two new books on two of the greatest names in twentieth century jazz. In his review Ian Thomson sets Harvey G. Cohen’s Duke Ellington’s America alongside a new book on Thelonious Monk, both of which, Thomson argues, eloquently demonstrate how these “two giants of jazz … reinvented black American music.” The review begins: At a funeral in New Orleans in 1901, Joe “King” Oliver played a blues-drenched dirge on the trumpet. This was the new music they would soon call jazz. A century on, from the hothouse stomps of Duke Ellington to the angular doodlings of Thelonious Monk, jazz survives as an important musical voice of America. Ellington was the first jazz composer of real distinction. No other bandleader so consistently redefined the sound and scope of jazz. As a classically trained pianist he fused the hot, syncopated sounds of Jazz Age Harlem with an element of dissonance to produce something unique: a dance music of trance-inducing charm, originality and attack. Continue reading at the telegraph.co.uk and read this excerpt from Cohen’s book. . . .

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Alex Kotlowitz reviews The Wagon

July 9, 2010
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Alex Kotlowitz reviews The Wagon

A recent review of Martin Preib’s The Wagon and Other Stories from the City for barnesandnoblereview.com begins by citing the some of the recent media coverage involving the Chicago Police Department—from the conviction of former commander Jon Burge “for lying about having tortured scores of suspects over a twenty-year period in the 1970s and ’80s,” to the recent death of officer Thomas Wortham IV, shot as a gang of thugs tried to steal his motorcycle, and, of course, the re-escalation of homicides in the city. The review continues: Martin Preib’s The Wagon and Other Stories from the City is a welcome, albeit at times maddening, effort to fashion a narrative that reflects the reality of this messy, yet vital American city. Preib has been a Chicago cop for eight years, but he’s not defined by his police work. He greatly admires Walt Whitman and William Kennedy, writers who despite having seen the worst in mankind were (in the case of Kennedy, still is) capable of maintaining a faith—admittedly quivering at times—in the human spirit. Before his police work, Preib worked as a doorman at a downtown hotel, and there witnessed the grueling and often humiliating labor of those in the . . .

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Last Words of the Executed on the NYR Blog

July 8, 2010
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Last Words of the Executed on the NYR Blog

The New York Review of Books‘ NYR Blog has a review of Robert K. Elder’s Last Words of the Executed, posted yesterday by NYRB contributor Charles Simic. In the review Simic reprints a few of the quotations from the soon to be executed prisoners featured in the book, but remarks: Often more interesting than the final thoughts of some of these men and women are the short descriptions Elder provides of their backgrounds and the crimes they committed. Over the years, a few of them became the basis of novels and films, but there are plenty of others in the book that are just as tantalizing. Most likely, some of the executed were innocent, while others, who were guilty, had complicated and awful lives; one tends to feel sorry for them and wishes to know more about their stories. It’s when it comes to true monsters, and there are plenty of them here, that even someone like me, who opposes capital punishment, begins to wonder if there ought to be an exception now and then.… Navigate to the NYR Blog to read the full review. Also, read these excerpts from the book. . . .

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