Subjects

Magic, Mayhem, and Maps in the Harlem Jazz Age

October 10, 2018
By

  Historian Susan Schulten takes us on a deep dive into the fascinating story behind a favorite map from her new book, A History of America in 100 Maps. In 2016, the Beinecke Library at Yale University paid $100,000 to add Elmer Simms Campbell’s energetic profile of interwar Harlem to its celebrated collection of black history and culture. The Library described Campbell’s image as a “playful rendering” of the age, but it also captures the complex dynamics that made Harlem the cultural capital of black America. Campbell’s success may even have surprised him. After studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, he moved to Manhattan in 1929 to seek work, though faced a string of rejections due to his race before catching a break at the newly founded Esquire magazine in 1933. For the next four decades, Campbell supplied the magazine with cartoons and illustrations that shaped its knowing, urban, and often cheeky sensibility. Though he initially struggled to find work, Campbell immediately found in Harlem’s jazz scene. He quickly befriended Cab Calloway, who, along with Duke Ellington, presided over legendary performances at the Cotton Club. The men became drinking buddies and regulars at Harlem’s famed clubs and speakeasies, all of . . .

Read more »

Trapped in an inescapable flood of information – it’s sink or swim

September 26, 2018
By
Trapped in an inescapable flood of information – it’s sink or swim

Has there ever been an era in human history in which communication slowed down? Or is the increasing rate at which information is shared a historical constant? My money’s on the latter. In attempting to navigate the flood of information online, which seems in no danger of slowing down, it’s pretty much sink or swim. So why not invest some time checking out Professor of Education and History at Stanford University Sam Wineburg’s new book Why Learn History (When It’s Already on Your Phone). Confronting head-on the deluge of information that modern technology has made available, and offering crucial tips for navigating it, Wineburg’s book is of value to citizens and students alike, offering readers a tool set for vetting and verifying the myriad sources of information we encounter online, while laying bare the many rhetorical devices used to spin and bias purportedly factual information. Recently Slate magazine has invested a decent sized chunk of their online real estate to what Wineburg has to say, with an eye-opening interview with the author as well as an excerpt from his new book in which Wineburg offers an insightful and penetrating critique of Howard Zinn’s classic, A People’s History of the United States. Wineburg . . .

Read more »

Liam Heneghan interviewed on WBEZ’s Worldview

August 24, 2018
By
Liam Heneghan interviewed on WBEZ’s Worldview

It is perhaps ironic that even the need to instill the next generation with a sense of connection to the natural world becomes increasingly important, the ability to nurture this type of connection and sense of responsibility in children has perhaps become more and more difficult in proportion. Mediated as we are by our technology and with the boundaries of the “real” wilderness receding ever further from our front doors, by what means can we best relate the importance of  protecting a seemingly alien ecology, upon which we nevertheless depend? With his recent book Beasts at Bedtime, University of DePaul Professor of Environmental Science Liam Heneghan offers one answer – one that is right under our noses, deeply infused in the tales that delight our children at bedtime. In his book Heneghan unearths the universal insights into our inextricable relationship with nature that underlie so many classic children’s stories from Beatrix Potter to Harry Potter, showing how kids (and adults) can start to experience the natural world in incredible ways from the comfort of their own rooms. Recently Heneghan stopped by WBEZ’s Worldview to discuss the vital environmental education children’s stories can provide with host Jerome McDonnell. The show aired Tuesday but the . . .

Read more »

6 Questions for Alastair Bonnett, author of ‘Beyond the Map’

July 13, 2018
By

You never quite know where Alastair Bonnett will be off exploring on any given week. A modern day adventurer and lover of unusual places, Bonnett collected stories about his favorite intriguing spots around the world in his new book—Beyond the Map: Unruly Enclaves, Ghostly Places, Emerging Lands and Our Search for New Utopias. The New York Times Book Review praises: “Bonnett has a flair for communicating his passion for ‘the glee and the drama, the love and the loathing’ that emanate from the earth’s most perplexing and mutable places. . . .  provocative detours show us how much more we can know of the known world, if we know where to look, and how.” Publishers Weekly says, “By turns delightful and sobering, this book, like the best travel, inspires both the mind and the imagination.” We spoke with Bonnett recently to learn more about his upcoming travels, his motivations for writing the book, and some of his recommended reads. What are you reading at the moment? I’m going to Budapest next week so I thought I’d try something Hungarian; which has turned out to be Melancholy of Resistance by László Krasznahorkai. The title sounds really pretentious—maybe it’s better in Hungarian—and the sentences are ten miles long, but it’s . . .

Read more »

Nature reviews Henry Gee’s “Across the Bridge: Understanding the Origin of the Vertebrates”

July 9, 2018
By
Nature reviews Henry Gee’s “Across the Bridge: Understanding the Origin of the Vertebrates”

The story of the evolution of life on earth is an incomplete one, with many ellipses in the narrative of how simple organisms, some of which seem like little more than spontaneous experiments in organic chemistry, somehow grew to become the massively complex organisms that we see around us today. Interestingly, one of the gaps that has both confounded and fascinated scientists the most is the origin of the vertebrates—the origins of us. Over the past few decades there has been an abundance of research done on the subject, so much so that distilling it into a clear picture of our current understanding of the subject could be a daunting task.  Though daunting it may be, there is perhaps no one more suited to it than paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Henry Gee, whose new book, Across the Bridge: Understanding the Origin of the Vertebrates draws on his many years as senior editor at Nature to comb through the research to help us to see how far the field has come in crossing the invertebrate-to-vertebrate divide—and how far we still have to go. But you don’t have to take our word for it. A recent review penned by one of Gee’s . . .

Read more »

“Memoir of a City”–The David Garrard Lowe Collection at the AIC

April 12, 2018
By
“Memoir of a City”–The David Garrard Lowe Collection at the AIC

Obvious to anyone who’s ever passed through the city, Chicago possesses one of the richest architectural heritages in the country, rivaled only perhaps by the oldest and largest of the metropolises on the eastern seaboard. This remains true despite a period in the later part of the twentieth century when many of its most distinctive buildings succumbed to neglect or the wrecking ball. Today, one of the last places to witness these lost architectural masterpieces is in the collection of renowned architectural historian David Garrard Lowe. Recently donated to the Art Institute of Chicago’s Ryerson and Burnham Archives, the collection is now on display weekdays through June 15, 2018. According to the Art Institute website, the exhibition highlights a selection of images, architectural plans, and other ephemera from the collection’s “approximately 1,100 objects dating from the 1880s to 1980s including residences, office buildings, hotels, schools, clubs, transportation, infrastructure, . . . in Chicago which have been greatly altered or are no longer extant.” Germaine to the Art Institute’s exhibition, Lowe’s 2010 book Lost Chicago also draws from his vast collection to showcase hundreds of rare photographs and prints which, accompanied by Lowe’s crisp and lively prose, . . .

Read more »

Remembering the last time the Cubs were this good

April 6, 2018
By
Remembering the last time the Cubs were this good

Monday Tuesday is the 2018 season home opener for the Cubs, and still riding high on 2016’s Series win, fans are expecting another post-season winning team with a better-than-good chance of making it all the way. Today’s Cubs team has a deep roster of better than average players, and a coach that has been masterful at coordinating their varied talents, but of course this hasn’t really been the case for quite a while. There was a time though, a long, long time ago, when the Cubs of old looked a lot more like the team does now. Rather than a team chocked full of All-Star prospects though, a small cadre of elite players, Joe Tinker, shortstop; Johnny Evers, second baseman; and Frank Chance, first; came together in rough-and-tumble early twentieth-century Chicago to form the defensive core of the most formidable team in big league baseball. A team that would lead the Chicago Cubs to four National League pennants and two World Series championships from 1906 to 1910. In Tinker to Evers to Chance: The Chicago Cubs and the Dawn of Modern America David Rapp brings this storied episode in Chicago Cubs history back to life, situating these early glory-days of . . .

Read more »

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

March 26, 2018
By
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 . . .

Read more »

Why did Barbara Streisand clone her dog?

March 14, 2018
By
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 . . .

Read more »

WSJ reviews Christopher Kemp’s “The Lost Species”

February 25, 2018
By
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 . . .

Read more »

Search for books and authors