Film and Media

Newton Minow signs books virtually this Saturday

June 12, 2008
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Newton Minow signs books virtually this Saturday

Newton Minow will be signing books and answering questions at a virtual booksigning this Saturday, June 14th, at 12 noon CDT. Minow is co-author with Craig L. LaMay of the recently released Inside the Presidential Debates: Their Improbable Past and Promising Future. The booksigning will be webcast from the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop at 357 West Chicago Avenue in Chicago. You may attend in person or online. The webcast will be available from VirtualBookSigning.net. On our own site we revisit some of the memorable moments from presidential debates, supplemented with images and links to online videos where available. Nixon sweating, “I knew Jack Kennedy,” presidential scowls and more. We also have an excerpt about the first televised debate between Nixon and Kennedy. If you’re interested in how a virtual booksigning works, take a look at this program from Book-TV. . . .

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Looking again at Dorothea Lange

May 28, 2008
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Looking again at Dorothea Lange

Sunday’s Los Angeles Times ran a review of Anne Whiston Spirn’s Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange’s Photographs and Reports from the Field. The Times online edition also includes a lovely portfolio of twenty Lange photographs from the book. Times reviewer Louis P. Masur explains what is different about Spirn’s look at the Farm Security Administration work of Dorothea Lange: Daring to Look is a hybrid work, part personal essay, part portfolio of photographs, part scholarly catalog of captions and negatives.… Spirn argues strenuously that Lange must be appreciated not solely for her portraits but for her landscapes as well, and that any consideration of Lange must take into account not only images but also words—the general notes and specific captions that the photographer wrote. Spirn is right to refocus our attention on the landscape. Lange herself said she was trying in her work to tell the story “of a people in their relation to their institutions, to their fellowmen, and to the land.” That landscape—of farms and signs, cut-overs and crossroads, buildings and shacks—traverses these photographs whether people are present or not. There are also the internal scenes of parlors and kitchens and stored goods. Many of Lange’s photographs include . . .

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Press Release: Cohen, Gilfoyle, and Horowitz, The Flash Press

May 15, 2008
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Press Release: Cohen, Gilfoyle, and Horowitz, The Flash Press

If you think you’ve had your fill of malicious gossip, sex as a route to celebrity, and relentless sports and entertainment news, you might just be reading all about it two centuries too late. Under such headlines as “Whoredome in New York” and “Philadelphia Pimps of Fame,” New York’s 1840s flash papers served up with nonpareil style and irresistible wit all the news that wasn’t fit to print about the city’s underworld of brothels, wantons, unfortunate girls, and their all-too-eager customers. Ephemeral publications that also featured gossip about boxing, dog fighting, and the theater scene, the Rake, the Flash, the Whip, and the Libertine were must-reads for sporting men keen to learn about the city’s leisure activities and erotic entertainments. Now, in The Flash Press, these papers are once again in print—this time taking the more discrete form of a book that looks under Victorian-era New York’s buttoned-up surface to reveal the colorful (read: more interesting) characters teeming beneath. Read the press release. . . .

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Press Release: Spirn, Daring to Look

May 14, 2008
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Press Release: Spirn, Daring to Look

Despite the ubiquity of Dorothea Lange’s photographs, a surprisingly large number of them have languished in archives, more or less unseen, for decades. With Daring to Look, Anne Whiston Spirn brings nearly 200 of those photos to light, revealing new facets of Lange’s celebrated achievement. Daring to Look is far more than just a book of photos, however. Spirn presents the images—taken in 1939 in California, North Carolina, and the Pacific Northwest—alongside Lange’s own field notes and captions, which the photographer considered to be an essential component of her attempt to document the hardscrabble lives of her subjects. Spirn joins that work to an insightful account of Lange’s life, as well as a fascinating look at the current state of many of the locations Lange shot. Spirn’s own photographs of those towns and farms reflect the changes—and the surprising continuity—over decades, carrying Lange’s documentary project into a new century. Daring to Look brings to life a crucial moment in American history—and illuminates a missing period in the life of one of America’s greatest artists. Read the press release. . . .

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Uses and abuses of iconic images

May 5, 2008
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Uses and abuses of iconic images

In the current edition of the American Interest, reviewer James Rosen delivers a positive assessment of Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites’ recent book, No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy. Praising the book for its thorough treatment of nine case studies involving some of the most influential images of the twentieth century, Rosen writes: is a penetrating and provocative analysis of the way certain popular photographs, whether produced by professionals or amateurs, acquire the power to change public policy and with it the course of history.… The author’s analytical achievement is enabled by an extraordinary feat of research and reporting. They have unearthed hidden facts, from both the backstory and the aftermath, surrounding each of their nine chosen photographs.… almost as compelling… are the stories of their subsequent appropriation. No Caption Needed details the uses and abuses of these nine iconic photographs by propagandists and peddlers of all kinds, with results that prove alternately haunting, playful, predictable, mercenary, dishonest and sometimes just plain twisted.… Pick up a copy of the American Interest to read the rest of the review. Also see the authors’ No Caption Needed blog and read an excerpt from . . .

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American exceptionalism and the “war on global warming”

April 22, 2008
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American exceptionalism and the “war on global warming”

John Louis Lucaites, author of No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy has posted an apropos commentary about the Earth Day themed cover image on today’s Time Magazine to his No Caption Needed blog. Detailing a photoshopped version of Joe Rosenthal’s iconic photograph of WWII troops on Iwo Jima’s Mt. Suribachi raising a giant conifer in place of the flag, Lucaites makes the image an occasion to deliver some interesting commentary on the history of the original photograph’s appropriation and the particularly fetishistic way that the Time Magazine editors have chosen to use it today. Lucaites writes: By most accounts Joe Rosenthal’s photograph of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima’s Mt. Suribachi is the most reproduced photograph of all time—ever!… Such reproductions have occurred not just in traditional print media, but on stamps (twice), commemorative plates, woodcuts, silk screens, coins, key chains, cigarette lighters, matchbook covers, beer steins, lunchboxes, hats, t-shirts, ties, calendars, comic books, credit cards, trading cards, post cards, and human skin, and in advertisements for everything from car insurance to condoms and strip joints.… All of this is to say that on the face of things there is nothing particularly noteworthy about Time‘s appropriation of . . .

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Roger Ebert returns to the cinema

April 15, 2008
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Roger Ebert returns to the cinema

Roger Ebert is arguably one of the twentieth century’s most influential film critics, and since his departure from the spotlight several years ago, his presence at the helm of his award winning show At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper, or as the Chicago Sun-Times resident film critic, has been missed by film buffs the world over. Now, Ebert will finally make his return, even though, as the New York Time‘s A. O. Scott reports, he will be leaving TV behind: One of the guys… who made the crazy idea that movie critics could thrive on TV seem like a no-brainer, recently announced his departure from the airwaves. On April 1 Roger Ebert published a letter to readers of the Chicago Sun-Times that was essentially a farewell to the long-running, widely syndicated weekly program that has made him not simply the best-known movie reviewer in America, but the virtual embodiment of this curious profession. But the real news in Mr. Ebert’s letter was his return to regular written criticism. A recurrence of cancer of the salivary gland in the summer of 2006 might have left him unable to speak—a problem recent surgery failed to solve—but he has hardly lost his . . .

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Navigating the vast wasteland of YouTube

March 14, 2008
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Navigating the vast wasteland of YouTube

How many videos are available on YouTube? That number isn’t easy to find. But consider this: ten hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute. The simile about drinking from a firehose doesn’t do justice to the flood. How can you find anything worth watching in a collection of content exploding like a super nova? Well, you could rely on the wisdom of the crowd and restrict your YouTube viewing to just those videos that are rated five stars. How many is that? I heard that cited a few weeks ago as seven million, which means it’s probably up to eight million now. Have at it. Five stars has got to be good, right? Or you could be guided by Dan Colman at Open Culture who has assembled a list of “50+ Smart Video Collections on YouTube.” We are happy to see our YouTube channel among them. Colman’s list is interesting in a number of ways. A YouTube channel is like a publisher’s imprint—it reflects editorial direction and judgment. Gather quality imprints and you have a quality collection of content. The obvious need to compile such a list exhibits the dysfunctional aspects of YouTube: the system of search and . . .

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The iconic photographs of Ashley Gilbertson

March 7, 2008
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The iconic photographs of Ashley Gilbertson

In No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy authors Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites undertook a fascinating survey of some of the most iconic images of the last century, analyzing their profound effects on the American political and social landscape. Since the 2007 publication of their book, the authors have also started a blog where they continue their critique of the role that photojournalism and other visual practices play in democratic society, bringing their ideas to bear on current issues and new media in real-time. . . .

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Heat Wave: the play

March 3, 2008
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Heat Wave: the play

Based on Eric Klinenberg’s Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, a new play by Steven Simoncic looks at the 1995 heat wave that hit the city of Chicago with 106 degree temperatures and caused the deaths of over seven hundred people—one of the deadliest disasters in Chicago’s history. Reviewing the play for the Chicago Sun-Times theater critic Heidi Weiss writes: Mayor Daley is known to be an avid theatergoer. But it’s unlikely that he, or City Council members, or a slew of officials from major city agencies who were on the job during the summer of 1995, will be stopping in at Pegasus Players in the coming weeks to catch Heat Wave. If they do, they will be subjected to a most uncomfortable two hours. As for everyone else, this world premiere (produced with Live Bait Theater) will serve as a vivid reminder of a moment when (a decade before Hurricane Katrina) both municipal government and that far more diffuse thing that might be termed “the human safety net” failed miserably. More about the play is available at the Pegasus players website. More about the book is at our website and in our interview with Eric Klinenberg. . . .

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