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Gina A. Ulysse on Human Rights, Haiti, and Wyclef

August 12, 2010
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Gina A. Ulysse on Human Rights, Haiti, and Wyclef

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Whaddya mean ugly?

August 11, 2010
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Whaddya mean ugly?

While academic studies on the nature of beauty abound, this article in the New York Times takes note of some recent efforts by academics to uncover the nature of ugly. The NYT‘s Natalie Angier writes: Let’s not pussyfoot. They are, by our standards, ugly animals—maybe cute ugly, more often just ugly ugly. And though the science of ugliness lags behind investigations into the evolution of beauty and the metrics of a supermodel’s face, a few researchers are taking a crack at understanding why we find certain animals unsightly even when they don’t threaten us with venom or compete for our food. Citing researchers like neuroscientist Nancy Kanwishwer, and evolutionary biologist Geoffery Miller, Angier shows how most of our ideas about the aesthetic appeal of animals are based on how closely their physical appearance conforms to, or deviates from, the physical appearance of healthy, attractive, human beings—an idea which cultural critic Wendy Steiner (also quoted in the NYT article) both draws from and complicates with her account of changing perceptions of beauty in her books, Venus in Exile: The Rejection of Beauty in Twentieth-Century Art, and The Real Real Thing: The Model in the Mirror of Art, the latter of which . . .

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Tony Judt, 1948—2010

August 9, 2010
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Tony Judt, 1948—2010

Tony Judt, world renowned scholar of European history, passed away last Friday at his home in Manhattan. The author of many books and a trenchant political columnist known for his outspoken views on Israeli policy, as an article published earlier this year in New York Magazine notes, Prof. Judt made a reputation for himslef in academic and non-academic circles alike as “one of the most admired and denounced thinkers living in New York City”. In 2008, Judt was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, but until his passing, 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. In 1998 the University of Chicago Press published Judt’s The Burden of Responsibility: Blum, Camus, Aron, and the French Twentieth Century, a book that looks at the lives of three French philosophers—Leon Blum, Albert Camus, and Raymond Aron—to demonstrate their heroic commitment to personal integrity and moral responsibility unfettered by the difficult political exigencies of their time. Many major news outlets have published articles and obituaries to mark the scholar’s passing. Find out more about Prof. Judt’s fascinating life . . .

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Interview with Robert K. Elder, author of Last Words of the Executed

August 5, 2010
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Interview with Robert K. Elder, author of Last Words of the Executed

Earlier today the New Yorker‘s Book Bench blog posted an interview with Robert K. Elder, author of Last Words of the Executed. In the interview Elder discusses how he came across the idea for his book and some of the fascinating historical and cultural insights it offers, including an interesting, albeit morbid, discussion of how various methods of execution—from the firing squad, to the gas chamber, to the electric chair, “a.k.a. Old Sparky”—influenced the final expressions of the prisoners. Read it online at the Book Bench blog. Read excerpts from the book. . . .

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Doing honest work in the digital age

August 3, 2010
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Doing honest work in the digital age

For those educated in a less digitized world, what constitutes plagiarism, and what does not, might seem fairly clear cut. But an article in yesterday’s New York Times notes that in an age where copyrighted intellectual property is available for the taking with the click of a button, and citing an original source can often mean digging through layer upon layer of tweets, re-tweets, blog posts, or RSS feeds, many students simply may not grasp the concept. From the Times: The Internet may… be redefining how students—who came of age with music file-sharing, Wikipedia and Web-linking—understand the concept of authorship and the singularity of any text or image. “Now we have a whole generation of students who’ve grown up with information that just seems to be hanging out there in cyberspace and doesn’t seem to have an author,” said Teresa Fishman, director of the Center for Academic Integrity at Clemson University. “It’s possible to believe this information is just out there for anyone to take.” So how does one go about avoiding the ignominious fate of the plagiarist? We recommend picking up a copy of Doing Honest Work in College: How to Prepare Citations, Avoid Plagiarism, and Achieve Real Academic . . .

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Free e-book for August from the University of Chicago Press!

August 2, 2010
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Free e-book for August from the University of Chicago Press!

For much of the twentieth century, Americans had a love/hate relationship with France. While many admired its beauty, culture, refinement, and famed joie de vivre, others thought of it as a dilapidated country populated by foul-smelling, mean-spirited anti-Americans driven by a keen desire to part tourists from their money. We’ll Always Have Paris explores how both images came to flourish in the United States, often in the minds of the same people—and for the month of August only, you can download it free from the University of Chicago Press website. Read an excerpt. 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 Sony Reader, IREX, BeBook, and more. Check out these links to find out more about Adobe Digital Editions or more about e-books from the University of Chicago Press. . . .

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An evenhanded guide through our global energy landcape

July 29, 2010
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An evenhanded guide through our global energy landcape

With all the media attention to the environmental and human catastrophe, both actual and predicted, surrounding our dependence on oil and other non-renewable sources of energy, it can be easy to take a rather pessimistic view of our global energy landscape. As a recent story on NPR’s Marketplace asks, will we ever be able to rid ourselves of our addiction to oil? Perhaps not, at least in the near future, but in his new book The Powers That Be: Global Energy for the Twenty-first Century and Beyond, consulting geologist and independent scholar Scott L. Montgomery offers readers a rare glimmer of hope—arguing that quitting cold turkey isn’t a necessary—or realistic—step towards securing our energy future anyway. What is crucial, Montgomery explains, is focusing on developing a more diverse, adaptable energy future, one that draws on a variety of sources—and is thus less vulnerable to disruption or failure. An admirably evenhanded and always realistic guide, Montgomery enables readers to understand the implications of energy funding, research, and politics at a global scale. At the same time, he doesn’t neglect the ultimate connection between those decisions and the average citizen flipping a light switch or sliding behind the wheel of a car, . . .

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Robert K. Elder’s Last Words of the Executed on WGN

July 27, 2010
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Robert K. Elder’s Last Words of the Executed on WGN

Robert K. Elder author of Last Words of the Executed discussed his book earlier this morning on WGN’s noontime news program. Check out the archived video below. The product of seven years of extensive research by journalist Robert K. Elder, Last Words of the Executed presents an oral history of American capital punishment, as heard from the gallows, the chair, and the gurney. The book explores the cultural value of these final statements and asks what we can learn from them. We hear from both the famous—such as Nathan Hale, Joe Hill, Ted Bundy, and John Brown—and the forgotten, and their words give us unprecedented glimpses into their lives, their crimes, and the world they inhabited. Organized by era and method of execution, these final statements range from heartfelt to horrific. Some are calls for peace or cries against injustice; others are accepting, confessional, or consoling; still others are venomous, rage-fueled diatribes. Even the chills evoked by some of these last words are brought on in part by the shared humanity we can’t ignore, their reminder that we all come to the same end, regardless of how we arrive there. Read excerpts from the book. . . .

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Bigfoot on To the Best of Our Knowledge

July 26, 2010
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Bigfoot on To the Best of Our Knowledge

Wisconsin Public Radio’s To the Best of Our Knowledge aired a program last week on the theme of monsters, inviting several authors on the show whose books explore the important role they play in the Western imagination. Among them was Joshua Blu Buhs, author of Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend. While Buhs doesn’t believe in Bigfoot, as his book demonstrates, there’s no denying Bigfoot mania. Tracing the wild and wooly story of America’s favorite homegrown monster from the early nineteenth-century to the present, Buh’s book offers more than a few interesting insights on what our fascination with this monster says about modern American culture. You can catch the To the Best of Our Knowledge podcast on the WPR website or archived at this third party site. Also, find out more about Buhs’ book on our website with this excerpt, and an interview with the author. Or stay right right here at the UCP blog to read our previous post featuring Buhs in dialogue with fellow UCP author Sigrid Schmalzer on Bigfoot and its Chinese analog, the yeren. . . .

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Last Words of the Executed in the Huffington Post

July 23, 2010
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Last Words of the Executed in the Huffington Post

The Huffington Post ran a short piece by Robert K. Elder, author of Last Words of the Executed talking about his new book and offering up a selection of some of the provocative “last words” from its pages. Check the Huffington Post website to read and post a comment, as well as check other reader’s reactions to the controversial issues Elder’s book raises. Also see Elder’s website for the book or read another selection of excerpts . . . .

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