Monthly Archives: June 2014

Excerpt: House of Debt

June 27, 2014
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Excerpt: House of Debt

From House of Debt: How They (And You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent It from Happening Again by Atif Mian and Amir Sufi A SCANDAL IN BOHEMIA Selling recreational vehicles used to be easy in America. As a button worn by Winnebago CEO Bob Olson read, “You can’t take sex, booze, or weekends away from the American people.” But things went horribly wrong in 2008, when sales for Monaco Coach Corporation, a giant in the RV industry, plummeted by almost 30 percent. This left Monaco management with little choice. Craig Wanichek, their spokesman, lamented, “We are sad that the economic environment, obviously outside our control, has forced us to make . . . difficult decisions.” Monaco was the number-one producer of diesel-powered motor homes. They had a long history in northern Indiana making vehicles that were sold throughout the United States. In 2005, the company sold over 15,000 vehicles and employed about 3,000 people in Wakarusa, Nappanee, and Elkhart Counties in Indiana. In July 2008, 1,430 workers at two Indiana plants of Monaco Coach Corporation were let go. Employees were stunned. Jennifer Eiler, who worked at the plant in Wakarusa County, spoke to a reporter at . . .

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The Summer of Hillary Chute

June 24, 2014
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The Summer of Hillary Chute

Not a bad summer for Hillary Chute, so far. The University of Chicago’s reigning doyenne of the history of comics and cartooning, Chute earned several nods from Stephen Burt in a recent Artforum piece (from a summer feature on graphic content, see print issue), for her work in Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists, which offers unprecedented access into the life-stories and processes of cartooning’s pantheon, including Lynda Barry, Alison Bechdel, Joe Sacco, Art Spiegelman, and Chris Ware. In that same issue, Chute reviews the work of indie-feminist cult cartoonist Julie Doucet, unsparingly delving into the fantastical materiality “Heavy Flow,” while placing Doucet at the helm of a movement that usurped the comics form for the purposes of feminist art: Doucet’s darkly witty comics offer an aesthetic at once loose and dense. Her stylish line is controlled and masterful, while the rich spaces of her frames, with their heavy inking and deep perspective, teem with details and seething objects that seem as if they are about to burst out of the picture. The bodies in her work are simultaneously exuberant and seething. In the classic “Heavy Flow” (collected in Twisted Sisters: A Collection of Bad Girl Art ), the Julie character at the center, menstruating, . . .

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Excerpt: The Democratic Surround

June 19, 2014
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Excerpt: The Democratic Surround

Where Did All the Fascists Come From? from The Democratic Surround: Multimedia and American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic Sixties by Fred Turner *** On December 3, 1933, a reporter for the named Shepard Stone tried to answer a question that had begun to puzzle many of his readers: How was it that in a single year, the nation that had brought the world Goethe and Bach, Hegel and Beethoven, had fallen so completely under the sway of a short, mustachioed dictator named Adolf Hitler? To some analysts, the answer was fundamentally social, as Stone acknowledged. Starvation, political chaos, violence in the streets—all had plagued the Weimar Republic that Hitler’s fascist state replaced. But neither Stone nor his editors thought such privations were enough to explain Hitler’s rise. Rather, wrote Stone, “something intangible was necessary to coordinate the resentments and hatreds which these forces engendered.” That something was propaganda. Above an enormous photograph of a Nazi rally, with floodlit swastika banners towering two stories high and row upon row of helmeted soldiers leaning toward the lights, the article’s headline told its story: “Hitler’s Showmen Weave a Magic Spell: By a Vast Propaganda Aimed at Emotions, Germany’s Trance is . . .

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The detractor and the Donald

June 16, 2014
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The detractor and the Donald

In Terror and Wonder, Pulitzer Prize–winning Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin assembled his most memorable writing from the past decade, as well as some polemical observations on the changing context of the built environment. Among them are two that have taken on a new life in the past couple of weeks: “The Donald’s Dud: Trump’s Skyscraper, Shortened by the Post-9/11 Fear of Heights, Reaches Only for Mediocrity” and “A Skyscraper of Many Faces: In Trump’s Context-Driven Chicago Skyscraper, Beauty Is in the Eye—and the Vantage Point—of the Beholder.” The first piece decries the original design, leaving little room for ambivalence; the other considers the finished construction, and all in all, mostly lauds its structure. Fast forward. Trump’s skyscraper has now been branded unequivocally as part of Trump’s real estate empire, in twenty-foot-tall block letters that spell out his eponym. Kamin unleashed some sharp criticism of the sign in a Chicago Tribune column last week, pointing the blame at city government for allowing this particular type of self-aggrandizement to continue due to obscure politicking: “It’s a lack of sophisticated design guidelines as well as the teeth to enforce them. Trump’s sign isn’t the only offender — it’s just the most egregious — in a city where skyline branding has run amok.” The response? . . .

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World Ocean(s) Day

June 11, 2014
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World Ocean(s) Day

This past weekend, on June 8th to be exact, the Ocean Project and the World Ocean Network celebrated World Oceans Day. The event recognizes that there is “one world ocean” connecting the planet, and to this end, was known as “World Ocean Day” until 2009, when the “s” was added in accordance with the resolution passed by the United Nations General Assembly, which officially designated the annual date as “World Oceans Day.” Even this semantic quandry should evidence the passion yielded by those who champion and protect our hydrosphere—with that in mind, we’re revisiting The Deep, a project that launched new endeavors in “tidal” acquisitions for the Press, and has led to a remarkable list in the oceanic sciences (under the helm of Christie Henry, editorial director of the Sciences and Social Sciences). The Deep explores the deepest realms of the ocean, revealing a cast of more than 200 sometimes terrifying and most mesmerizing creatures in crystalline detail, some photographed for the very first time.  The website associated with the book features an image gallery,an animated sampler, and beautiful pages, including the below profile of the glowing sucker octopus, one of the world’s few bioluminescent creatures, native to the North Atlantic:   In the wake of The Deep (pun intended), . . .

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Lawrence Summers on House of Debt

June 9, 2014
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Lawrence Summers on House of Debt

From Lawrence H. Summers, former Secretary of the Treasury and president emeritus of Harvard University, in the Financial Times: “Atif Mian and Amir Sufi’s House of Debt, despite some tough competition, looks likely to be the most important economics book of 2014; it could be the most important book to come out of the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent Great Recession. Its arguments deserve careful attention, and its publication provides an opportunity to reconsider policy choices made in 2009 and 2010 regarding mortgage debt.” House of Debt takes a complicated premise—unraveling the threads of the 2008 financial crisis from a tangle of Federal Reserve policies, insolvent investment banks, predatory mortgage lenders, and private label securities—and delivers a clean-cut conclusion:  the Great Recession and Great Depression, as well as the current economic malaise in Europe, were caused by a large run-up in household debt followed by a significantly large drop in household spending. Recently, in addition to Summers’s endorsement in today’s Financial Times, the book has been profiled at the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, and the Economist, among others; Paul Krugman, writing for the NYT, noted that  its associated House of Debt blog has “instantly become must reading.” How do . . .

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Q & A with Mary Louise Roberts

June 6, 2014
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Q & A with Mary Louise Roberts

June 6, 2014, marks the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy, France: one of the most iconic moments of World War II, which resulted in an unprecedented loss of life and quite literally shifted the tide in the Allies’ favor, leading to a restoration of the French Republic. Yesterday, to commemorate the event, we ran an excerpt from historian Mary Louise Roberts’s D-Day through French Eyes: Normandy 1944, which approaches the battle for Normandy from the perspective of French civilians, bearing witness in their homes and as part of their everyday life. Today, we’re following up with a brief Q & A, via which Roberts expands on how our understanding of that single day in history—June 6, 1944—has changed a much larger story. You can read more from Roberts on revisiting the other side of D-Day’s history at Medium here, and check out more from her book here. *** On the 70th anniversary of D-Day, how would you say our perspective of the event has shifted since June 6, 1944? The memory of any important event like D-Day undergoes change over time. If you read a novel such as Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, you’ll see an image of the American GI in Europe . . .

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Excerpt: D-Day through French Eyes

June 5, 2014
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Excerpt: D-Day through French Eyes

As World War II continued to rage, and though they yearned for liberation, by late spring 1944, the French in Normandy nonetheless steeled themselves for war, knowing that their homes and land and fellow citizens would have to bear the brunt of any incoming attack. The result of events that took place that June 6th—the largest seaborne invasion in history—led to a restoration of the French Republic and in story familiar to many, shifted the tide in favor of the Allied Forces. In D-Day through French Eyes, historian Mary Louise Roberts turns those usual stories of D-Day around, taking readers across the Channel to view the invasion from a range of gripping first-person accounts as seen by French citizens throughout the region. And as we approach the 70th anniversary of one of the most iconic military events of the twentieth century, we’ll be running an excerpt from the book (today) accompanied by a Q & A with Roberts (tomorrow), to honor, expand upon, and reinvigorate the story we thought we knew. *** CHAPTER ONE THE NIGHT OF ALL NIGHTS For Normans, the invasion began with noise. Just before midnight on Monday night, the fifth of June, hundreds of airplanes could be heard flying south over the . . .

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Isaac Tobin at CHGO DSGN

June 4, 2014
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Isaac Tobin at CHGO DSGN

If you’re knowledgeable about the world of book design in Chicago, you’re likely familiar with the work of Isaac Tobin, senior designer at the University of Chicago Press,  an Art Directors Club Young Gun winner, and a frequent mention on New City‘s “Lit 50” annual list. As one profiler at Chicagoist remarked, “ work is simple yet striking, satiric at times and always beautiful. We appreciate his ability to work from all angles and truly capture the essence of what the containing work is all about. If Tobin’s on the project, definitely judge a book by its cover.” If unfamiliar, don’t miss an opportunity to see “a long row” of Tobin’s covers, among the decade-spanning work of more than 100 other Chicagoans at CHGO DSGN, an exhibit curated by Rick Valicenti for the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, on view at the Cultural Center through November 2, 2014. As a bit of a teaser, some candid images from the show’s opening  follow below:       . . .

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Liberace: our free ebook for June

June 2, 2014
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Liberace: our free ebook for June

More people watched his nationally syndicated television show between 1953 and 1955 than followed I Love Lucy. Decades after his death, the attendance records he set at Madison Square Garden, the Hollywood Bowl, and Radio City Music Hall still stand. Arguably the most popular entertainer of the twentieth century (check out the applause greeting his appearance on a 1984 episode of the David Letterman Show  in the video clip below; also, “What do you do when you get Crisco on those rings?”), this very public figure nonetheless kept more than a few secrets. Darden Asbury Pyron leads us through the life of America’s foremost showman with his fresh, provocative, and definitive portrait of Liberace, an American boy.Liberace’s career follows the trajectory of the classic American dream. Born in the Midwest to Polish-Italian immigrant parents, he was a child prodigy who, by the age of twenty, had performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Abandoning the concert stage for the lucrative and glittery world of nightclubs, celebrities, and television, Liberace became America’s most popular entertainer. While wildly successful and good-natured outwardly, Liberace, Pyron reveals, was a complicated man whose political, social, and religious conservativism existed side-by-side with a lifetime of secretive homosexuality. Even so, his . . .

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