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Review: How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog) by Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut

March 26, 2018
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Review: How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog) by Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut

  It has generally been assumed that the process that could transform this: into this: was a drawn-out evolutionary slog, taking many generations of human-canid interaction to achieve. But as Tim Flannery notes in a recent review of several new titles on the subject for The New York Review of Books, Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut’s How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution offers a fascinating look at the groundbreaking discovery that revealed that the process of domestication, once thought to have taken thousands of years, could be compressed into decades: “Profound insights into how dogs evolved from wolves come from a remarkable, multidecade experiment on foxes that was carried out under the supervision of the Russian geneticist Dmitri Belyaev from the 1950s onward. … Belyaev’s experimental method was simple in the extreme. Out of the thousands of silver foxes held at a fur farm, he simply selected for ones that were calmer than normal in the presence of humans. After just a few generations of selective breeding, some offspring of these slightly tamer foxes started to seek out human company. Breeding these individuals produced foxes that showed changes . . .

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Why did Barbara Streisand clone her dog?

March 14, 2018
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Why did Barbara Streisand clone her dog?

Jessica Pierce has done a lot of thinking about animals and ethics. A bioethicist by training, her books on the subject include The Last Walk: Reflections on Our Pets at the End of Their Lives, Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals, coauthored with Marc Bekoff, and more recently Run, Spot, Run: The Ethics of Keeping Pets. So who better to weigh in on the ethics of pet cloning – a topic which, as you likely know, has captured a bit of public attention recently due to the news of Barbara Streisand having cloned her coton de tulear (a breed that coincidentally looks a lot like this guy, or gal as the case may be <–). Pierce’s recent op-ed in the New York Times titled “You Love Dogs? Then Don’t Clone Them” argues that the cloning industry creates a canine underclass of egg donors and surrogate mothers whose welfare is overlooked in the rush to profit by reproducing facsimile copies of rich people’s dead pets. From the article: “Clones like Ms. Streisand’s dogs Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett don’t materialize out of thin air but require the help of a whole team of female dogs. The cloning process begins with . . .

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WSJ reviews Christopher Kemp’s “The Lost Species”

February 25, 2018
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WSJ reviews Christopher Kemp’s “The Lost Species”

Tales of expeditions to the farthest reaches of the globe by intrepid scientists and explorers in search of undiscovered species that inhabit it have always captivated the public’s imagination. Take, for example, the apparent popularity of the David Attenborough-themed raves currently taking the UK by storm, featuring episodes of Planet Earth II and Blue Planet II set to samples of the 90-year-old biologist’s narration (as well as some of today’s hottest dance tracks). But while the BBC’s premier nature documentaries might make the work of today’s biologists seem like a neverending jungle adventure, as a recent Wall Street Journal review of Christopher Kemp’s new book The Lost Species points out, in recent years some of the most fascinating new biological discoveries were actually made by researchers working behind the scenes, sorting through vast collections of zoological specimens stored in the the drawers and cavernous basements of natural history museums. As Kemp’s book explains, for decades after their collection, specimens housed in museum archives can remain incorrectly categorized, or not categorized at all–not only due to the sheer size of some of these collections, but also the complex detective work that must go into proper taxonomic classification. David MacNeal writes for . . .

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The Alexander Medvedkin Reader receives 2017 AATSEEL Award

February 13, 2018
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The Alexander Medvedkin Reader receives 2017 AATSEEL Award

The University of Chicago Press is proud to announce that The Alexander Medvedkin Reader has been named the best scholarly translation into English for 2017 by the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages. Translated by film scholars Jay Leyda and Nikita Lary in cooperation with Alexander Medvedkin himself, the book offers unprecedented insight into Medvedkin’s film making demonstrating the importance of his work as a crucial link in the history of documentary film, on par with that of his contemporaries Sergei Eisenstein and Alexander Dovzhenko. But you don’t have to take our word for it. The prize announcement on the AATSEEL website offers a great overall picture of the book and the decades-long history of its translation and compilation. Calling it a “mother lode of source material for research on Medvedkin” the announcement continues: The translations are lucid and readable, ably conveying the tone and style of the original. The publication of The Alexander Medvedkin Reader fills a major lacuna in our understanding of early Soviet cinema, and is a gift whose value to the global community of film scholars and film enthusiasts is hard to overestimate. Congratulations to Nikita Lary and the rest of the . . .

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Author Interview: Benjamin I. Page and Martin Gilens

January 26, 2018
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Author Interview: Benjamin I. Page and Martin Gilens

The last election cycle brought the process of assigning votes under the electoral college renewed scrutiny, while also highlighting the susceptibility of the American voting public to propagandistic appeals, and turning attention to the extreme amount of influence of wealthy corporations and wealthy individuals on both sides of the aisle. These, among other factors, are seen by many as increasingly dire threats to the core values of the American democratic voting system, threats that, if left unchecked, have the potential to grow exponentially in relation to the wealthy’s bank accounts in what Jared Bernstein describes, in a recent interview with political scientists Benjamin I. Page and Martin Gilens, as a kind of “self-reinforcing cycle, where wealth concentration drives political outcomes that enrich and strengthen the donor class while blocking policies that would push the other way.” But is it too late? Has our democracy reached the same tipping point as our climate? Has this feedback loop already snowballed into an unstoppable avalanche whose path cuts straight through our most sacred American democratic values? Are we already secretly but not-so-secretly living under a plutocratic system and everybody knows it but nobody says anything because they just don’t want to seem unpatriotic . . .

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Free eBooks from The University of Chicago Press – Building the American Republic, Volumes 1 and 2

January 10, 2018
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Free eBooks from The University of Chicago Press – Building the American Republic, Volumes 1 and 2

Donald Trump takes the podium outside the Capitol Building to be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States–freeze frame, record scratch, cue up the intro to that one song by The Who, and a narrator chimes in: “Now I bet you’re wondering how we ended up here?” Flashback to a bunch of seasick Europeans disembarking from their ship on the eastern shores of the new world–to the surprise and perhaps amusement of some of the locals who are just out for a stroll. And so begins the first volume of our magisterial new two-volume history of the United States, Building the American Republic. Okay, that’s not really how it starts–but it totally should be if anyone ever wants to option the television rights! Right now though you can see how the books really begin yourself by downloading the e-books of both volumes at buildingtheamericanrepublic.org absolutely free. With the need for an informed electorate more clear now than ever, these books, written by two of the foremost experts on American history working in the field today, are an indispensable asset in understanding America’s past and present, and what can be done to guarantee its future. At a time when knowledge . . .

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Going home for the Holidays? Take Scott Tong’s Fascinating Family History with You.

December 15, 2017
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Going home for the Holidays? Take Scott Tong’s Fascinating Family History with You.

Looking for something to listen to on the long road/flight/L ride to Grandma’s house? Well look no further, because Marketplace correspondent Scott Tong has been hitting the podcast circuit in the past week to promote the publication of his new book A Village with My Name: A Family History of China’s Opening to the World. In the tradition of Marketplace‘s fascinating coverage of the latest topics in business and economics, Scott Tong’s book takes an intimate look at China’s long and challenged ascendancy to the global political and economic powerhouse that it is today, as told through the life stories of members of his own extended family. The recent Marketplace interview with Kai Ryssdal does a great job of summarizing the book, touching on most of its most salient points, while a longer interview with Tong on the Sinica podcast (Warning: Contains spoilers) should get you most of the rest of the way to Grandma’s. Tong is also doing quite a few book signings and events early in the New Year, including one in DC on the 3rd and one in San Francisco on the 9th. Check out the UCP author events calendar for more upcoming dates on Tong’s book tour. . . .

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Tis’ the season for a list of gift books for the holidays!

December 7, 2017
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Tis’ the season for a list of gift books for the holidays!

So, once again ’tis the season for a post about holiday gift books, at least judging by the recent appearance of an abundance of similarly themed articles from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times. First off, we have press authors Laura Dassow Walls and Alice Kaplan with their recent biographies of Henry David Thoreau and Albert Camus respectively taking two of the top fifty nonfiction slots in a recent article, “100 Notable Books of 2017”  from the editors of The New York Times Book Review. The Times editors write of Walls’ book, “This new life of Thoreau, in time for his 200th birthday, paints a moving portrait of a brilliant, complex man.” And of Kaplan’s Looking for The Stanger, “Impressive research illuminates the context and history of Camus’s classic novel.” Not sure who has the time or the money to travel with all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, but wouldn’t you like to escape it all for a minute or two? Well, maybe you can at least fantasize about actually getting a little R&R over your holiday break with some of the recommendations in this recent NYT article on travel books that included some very . . .

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David Ferry’s The Aeneid: “perhaps, almost—the thing itself”

November 16, 2017
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Poet David Ferry has long been known as one of the foremost translators of classical literature from the Latin. And with much-praised translations of Virgil’s Eclogues and Georgics among his expansive oeuvre of translated works, his specific talent for channeling the world’s most revered Roman poet has been well documented. Now, at nearly twice the age of the author when The Aeneid was first drafted, the nonagenarian poet has now completed his translations of Virgil’s major works. And as April Bernard (also an accomplished poet in her own right and currently a Professor of English at Skidmore) writes for the New York Review of Books, Ferry’s Aeneid has captured the essence of Virgil’s original like no other English edition available today: Ferry’s previous outings with Virgil, in his matchless Eclogues and Georgics, had already convinced me that he has some sort of uncanny connection to the great poet. Especially when reading the Eclogues, one hears a new-old voice, as if Virgil had miraculously learned English and decided it might do as well as Latin. This kind of translation almost needs a new name, to distinguish it from all the other worthy efforts to bring the ancient poets to life: it is . . .

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Review: Pamela Bannos’ “Vivian Maier: A Photographer’s Life and Afterlife”

November 8, 2017
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Review: Pamela Bannos’ “Vivian Maier: A Photographer’s Life and Afterlife”

(Photograph from the Ron Slattery negative collection. Courtesy of the Estate of Vivian Maier, copyright 2017 The Estate of Vivian Maier. All rights reserved.) During her lifetime Vivian Maier was unknown. A social recluse with a day job as a nanny and a habit of wandering about with her Rolleiflex, snapping photographs of the daily goings-on of the various places she inhabited throughout her life, including France, New York, L. A., and of course Chicago, where she lived for most of her life. She died in 2009, at the age of 82, the bulk of her photographic work filed away or abandoned in storage lockers, perhaps never to be seen again, were it not for its discovery by a cadre of lucky collectors who stumbled upon her work at auction. Soon after, the thousands of images she had created over her long photographic career went viral, and her work has since been lauded as some of the most iconic street photography of the twentieth century. Since her ouvre’s discovery and popularization, however, a particular narrative has developed surrounding her life and work, as Parul Sehgal notes in a recent article for the New York Times: “Stories—like snapshots—are shaped by people, and . . .

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