Monthly Archives: November 2010

What Is Happening to a Salon of One’s Own?

November 29, 2010
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What Is Happening to a Salon of One’s Own?

We’ve always has a soft spot for newsworthy (pun intended) online publications—so it’s no surprise that we read today’s headlines about Salon with a bit of chagrin. The San Francisco-based “Internet roundtable” has long been in the red—with losses of $15 million dollars in the past three years alone—but now the Wall Street Journal reports (a paid content item quickly picked up by the New York Observer) that the company is searching for a larger media company to partner with or to subsume its enterprises. While possible pairings that emerge during heroic acts of desperation (remember John Candy and Eugene Levy in Armed and Dangerous?) can be surprisingly generative (this past April, Salon formed a content-based micro-partnership with the popular literary independent McSweeney’s), it’s the changing circumstances, audiences, and even our clinical understanding around how we receive and are informed by the news that are applying pressure to traditional journalistic practices.

Salon has transformed itself quite a bit during its twelve-year run, from an innovative online news site helmed by information-driven posts and public forum op-eds to a more lifestyle-inclusive, audience-driven . . . well, salon. Experiments with subscription-based content have faltered and pushed them further into the red, . . .

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Top Five or Ten: Night of the Living Nixon

November 23, 2010
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Top Five or Ten: Night of the Living Nixon

We couldn’t help but notice a late-arriving review from last week’s NYT‘s Paper Cuts blog celebrating the coming of the newly leaked video game Call of Duty: Black Ops, which features a truly bipartisan dream team (largely resurrected from the dead)—John F. Kennedy, Robert McNamara, Fidel Castro, and yes, Richard Nixon—fending off the zombie apocalypse.

Jennifer Schuessler (bless her!) took this fairly brilliant opportunity to pay homage to one of our very favorite Chicago titles, Mark Feeney’s Nixon at the Movies: A Book about Belief. As Schuessler notes, Nixon was voted to the White House the same year as the debut of George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead. Coincidence? Oh, who really knows about these things. But one thing we do know is that Nixon probably didn’t watch the film—at least, not cuddled up at home with Pat, arm protectively slung over a visiting Julie. How do we know, you ask? Thanks in part to the knockout Appendix (available on the book’s UCP site here) that accompanies Feeney’s masterful tome, culled from the pages of the Secret Service’s Daily Diary, which records the cinephile former president’s almost daily film consumption, from his 1969 inauguration through his . . .

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The (auto)biography of Mark Twain: in which we hitch our wagon to a star

November 22, 2010
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The (auto)biography of Mark Twain: in which we hitch our wagon to a star

“Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.”

In with a comet, out with a comet: Halley’s, that is. For elementary students, the life of Mark Twain is first introduced as celestial; later, with adolescent reads of that “great American novel” The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, our humorist falls back to earth, where his larger-than-life sensibilities, rich use of narrative, and social critique sharply attuned to human vanity, frailty, and hypocrisy, introduce a particular breed of American pathos. Beyond the work—which spans everything from colloquial verse and travelogues to historical fiction running the gamut from realist-inspired to proto-science—is, of course, the life. Mark Twain died on April 21, 1910, and in keeping with his wishes, just this fall the University of California Press released the first volume of The Autobiography of Mark Twain, in celebration of that centenary. But as the New York Times reports this weekend, demand has far exceeded expectation for the surprise best-seller: and as we approach the holiday gift-giving season, booksellers are struggling to keep it on the shelves.

“Books are for people who wish they were somewhere else.”

Mark Twain in Nikola Tesla’s laboratory, 1894

. . .

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Top Five or Ten: Nuns Behaving (Badly)

November 19, 2010
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Top Five or Ten: Nuns Behaving (Badly)

We often find ourselves comparing the nunneries of late sixteen- and early seventeenth-century Italy to a fairly volatile combination of The Craft and Moulin Rouge—just not publicly. So when the Economist took note of Craig Monson’s Nuns Behaving Badly: Tales of Music, Magic, Art, and Arson in the Convents of Italy, we immediately put on our thinking habit and got to work. In the book, Monson resurrects forgotten tales and restores to life the long-silent voices of cloistered heroines, drawing attention to the predicament of modern religious women, whose “misbehavior”—seeking ordination as priests or refusing to give up their endowments to pay for others’ wrongdoing in their own archdioceses—continues even today.

The Economist delights in the “too modest” Monson’s tome, which “wears its learning with a smile” despite its serious milieu:

Convents in 16th- and 17th-century Italy were largely dumping-grounds for spare women: widows, discarded mistresses, converted prostitutes and, above all, the unmarried daughters of the nobility. Aristocratic families were loath to stump up dowries for more than one daughter. The rest were walled away. In Milan in the 1600s, three-quarters of the female nobility were cloistered. At the same time the church was cracking down on lax discipline, . . .

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Top Five or Ten: On the Digital Humanities

November 18, 2010
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Top Five or Ten: On the Digital Humanities

And with this whimsical title, we introduce a new Chicago Blog feature: the Top Five or Ten, a collection of materials occasionally preceding eleven and following nine—the Fermat prime, if you will, or the, um, bell that tolls multiple times for thee—geared for a day when you need a bit of neurotic listmaking in your life. Sometimes we double your pleasure (“Ten”) and other times we streamline your attention span (“Five”). That said, let’s inaugurate, shall we?

On the heels of Patricia Cohen’s well-charted NYT piece on the digital humanities and Press author Dan Edelstein’s forward-thinking response, we’d like to point you towards five wholly relevant recent books that chart these brave new methodologies and help us to make sense of developments in the liberal arts and their bright digital future:

Drumroll, please (and in no particular order):

Lydia H. Liu’s The Freudian Robot: Digital Media and the Future of the Unconscious (forthcoming, January 2011) Liu’s book offers a rigorous study of the politics of digital writing and their fateful entanglement with Mr. Freud, from avant-garde literary experiments to the postphonetic and ideographic system of digital media. #literary theory #cybernetics #Joyce #neurotic machines

N. Katherine Hayles’s My Mother Was . . .

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Dan Edelstein and the collaborative future of the digital humanities: geeks and poets, unite!

November 18, 2010
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Dan Edelstein and the collaborative future of the digital humanities: geeks and poets, unite!

Things have really been abuzz around these parts in the wake of Patricia Cohen’s piece in the New York Times on the digital humanities. We couldn’t be more geeked that this glimmer of the Humanities 2.0 is the first in a series of articles devoted to the changing face of the liberal arts in light of the data revolution. Lots to like in Cohen’s assessment of the field—including the startling array of digital projects harvesting all sorts of newly available primary documents, Civil War-era topographies, animated travelogues, and supercomputing databases. Lots to come, as well—our eyes are certainly peeled as to how these digital endeavors will present themselves and extend the possibilities of the book, and equally curious as to how new methodological discoveries will change not only how—but what—we choose to interpret.

Our own Dan Edelstein, author of The Enlightenment: A Geneology and associate professor of French and Italian at Stanford University, figures prominently in the article. His National Endowment of the Humanities-funded project Mapping the Republic of Letters (the Times has a great multimedia slideshow feature and accompanying video-savvy blog post devoted to it) traces, quite literally, the flow of ideas during the Enlightenment by using a . . .

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Our Fantastic Mrs. Paley

November 15, 2010
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Our Fantastic Mrs. Paley

This past Friday, one of New York City’s most venerable cultural institutions, the 92nd Street Y (136 years strong and still kicking!) bestowed a unique honor upon one of the University of Chicago Press’s most beloved authors. In all of the years that the 92Y has been creating and playing host to vibrant lectures, readings, conferences, community service opportunities, and city-wide programming, it had yet to endow and bestow an award named after a living figure—that is, until now. Please join us in celebrating the 92Y Vivian Gussin Paley Award for Early Childhood Education and its inaugural recipient, the “playful” visionary and early childhood education pioneer, Vivian Gussin Paley.

From the 92Y’s commendation:

Vivian Gussin Paley examines children’s stories and play, their logic and their thinking, searching for meaning in the social and moral landscapes of classroom life. A kindergarten teacher for 37 years, Mrs. Paley brings her storytelling/story acting and discussion techniques to children, teachers and parents throughout the world. In addition to her direct contributions to children and teachers, she is a MacArthur fellow and recipient of numerous awards, including: the Erikson Institute Award for Service to Children (1987); American Book Award from the Before Columbus . . .

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Conan, can you hear me?

November 12, 2010
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Conan, can you hear me?

“If that’s art, then I’m a Hottentot.” Oh, bless ye, former President Truman, and your reaction to Abstract Expressionism. We’ve been nursing this line for a few days, as for reasons unknown, we’ve seen a 1995 article by the Independent making the rounds of various Facebook pages and internet listservs. The gist of the reportage? That, amongst other wild revelations, modern art was a “weapon” knowingly used in our cold cultural war with the Soviet Union; that the CIA backed Stephen Spender’s influential journal Encounter; and that a strange beast going by the name the Propaganda Assets Inventory subsidized everything from the 1958 touring exhibition “New American Painting” (featuring de Kooning, Motherwell, and Pollock, in an all-star cast) to the board of directors at MOMA. The rationale of the CIA was, of course, communist-combatant. Up in arms about the appeal communism still had for many intellectuals and artists, the government agency sought to portray Socialist Realism as an outdated art movement, and as the article mentions, they moved boldly forward with that plan:

t its peak could influence more than 800 newspapers, magazines and public information organisations. They joked that it was like a Wurlitzer jukebox: when . . .

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Thursday, child, full of woe!

November 11, 2010
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Thursday, child, full of woe!

Thursday’s the perfect day for a wrap-up—good ol’ Thunor’s Day, Donderdag, or as Truman Capote had Holly Golightly put it best in Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

“‘Thursday.’ She stood up. ‘My God,’ she said, and sat down again with a moan. ‘It’s too gruesome.’”

Gruesome or not, *it is* almost Friday. And with that in mind, we’d like to proliferate a few news items and multimedia ephemera in what we hope will become a Chicago ritual: the wrap-up on the day that is not the day that wraps things up. Onward!

With Veterans Day still weighing on hearts and minds, David Royko has reposted his father Mike Royko’s classic Veterans Day column from 1993. Many know the legend of Mike Royko, Newspaperman, but few are familiar with the tender naiveté Royko exhibited in his Air Force days, via the exchange of letters with his sweetheart (and later wife) Carol Duckman that became Royko in Love: Mike’s Letters to Carol.

In unavoidably idiosyncratic news outside of scholarly publishing that we just can’t help touching upon: the Guardian and now People and the Los Angeles Times report the heroic, years-old tale of porpoises rescuing a sleeping, surfboard-helming Dick Van Dyke somewhere . . .

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Whiskey Tango Thank You

November 11, 2010
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Whiskey Tango Thank You

Veterans Day has been around in one form or another for almost a century, since that great Tea Party-scourge Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed Armistice Day on November 11, 1919 and Dwight David Eisenhower pushed through a bill (originated by a shoe store owner from Emporia, Kansas) expanding the federal holiday to honor all of those who have served, regardless of conflict. Veterans Day, and the commemorations, protests, and remembrances associated with the call for continued and greater freedoms, has long been a time of serious-tempered reflection. With that in mind, we’d like to call your attention to a book we’ve blogged about here and there over the past few years, whose project is framed by the perils and virtues of today’s holiday and whose author has engaged in a particular kind of service that allows our own intimate access to those lives put on the line for our varied causes.

Ashley Gilbertson is a contemporary photographer, born in Australia, who lives in New York but spends much of his time on assignment in the roadside fields, army hospitals, federal corridors, recovery homes, and civil unrest zones of Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Washington, D.C. In 2007, the Press published Gilbertson’s . . .

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