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Take a ride

October 5, 2011
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Take a ride

Wednesday . . . the Slough of Despond of the week. Couldn’t we all use a pick-me-up? Could you make do with a pick-up instead? The taxi type, that is. This week, Dmitry Samarov’s Hack: Stories from a Chicago Cab rolls out of the garage and flips on its ON DUTY light. Presenting tales originally written for Samarov’s ongoing blog, the book offers a cabbie’s-eye tour of Chicago, traveling its late-night streets fare by fare, revealing the city and its people at their most vulnerable, open, and unguarded. In his introduction, Samarov writes “Cabdrivers catch people at the most revealing moments—not when they have their game faces on, but with their guard down, unable to pretend,” and in his brief sketches of passengers, unusual conversations, and strange events, he gives us a privileged glimpse into those fleeting interactions that reveal so much about our fellow citizens’ hopes, dreams, and secret pains. Happy, clueless tourists on their way in from O’Hare; Clark Street drunks staggering out of Friday night and into Saturday morning; Cubs fans spilling from Wrigley after a win (or, more likely, a loss); the deserted streets of a lonely Christmas behind the wheel—Samarov brings his gentle, humane appreciation . . .

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What you can do for Haiti

January 15, 2010
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What you can do for Haiti

What you can do right now: Donate $10 to the American Red Cross—charged to your cell phone bill—by texting “HAITI” to “90999.” . . .

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Organizing Schools for Improvement Webinar

January 13, 2010
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Organizing Schools for Improvement Webinar

Concerned about the current state of the American educational system? Then you won’t want to miss this webinar hosted by the authors of Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago Thursday, January 14, 2010 9:00 am. The authors’—researchers from the Consortium on Chicago School Research—will present the findings contained in their book which provides a detailed analysis of why 100 of Chicago’s elementary schools showed extraordinary progress in attendance and test scores over a seven-year period and why 100 others did not. The webinar will also feature an audience discussion and Q&A after the talk. For more information about the webinar navigate to the website for the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute. For more about the book read an excerpt. . . .

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A politics of fear

September 1, 2009
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A politics of fear

Yesterday on Good Morning America, former Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge tried to quell the storm of reaction to his recent claim that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former Attorney General John Ashcroft pressured him to raise the terror alert level before the 2004 presidential election. “Ashcroft strongly urged an increase in the threat level, and was supported by Rumsfeld,” Ridge writes in his new book, an excerpt of which was published yesterday at ABC.com. “There was absolutely no support for that position within our department. None. I wondered, ‘Is this about security or politics?’ Post-election analysis demonstrated a significant increase in the president’s approval rating in the days after the raising of the threat level.” But how, exactly, do threats of terrorism affect the opinions of citizens? Speculation abounds, but until now no one had marshaled hard evidence to explain the complexities of this relationship. Drawing on data from surveys and original experiments they conducted in the United States and Mexico, Jennifer Merolla and Elizabeth Zechmeister demonstrate how our strategies for coping with terrorist threats significantly influence our attitudes toward fellow citizens, political leaders, and foreign nations. In their forthcoming Democracy at Risk, the authors reveal, for example, . . .

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Cartography and the Mastery of Empire

April 9, 2009
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Cartography and the Mastery of Empire

The Times Higher Education recently published quite a positive review of The Imperial Map: Cartography and the Mastery of Empire. Drawn from the prestigious Nebenzahl Lectures at the Newberry Library’s Hermon Dunlap Smith Center for the History of Cartography and edited by the center’s director, James R. Ackerman, the book examines the maps of a range of cultures during the 17th to 20th centuries to illustrate the ubiquitous use of cartography by ruling bodies to claim their entitlement to lands and peoples. From Valerie Kivelson’s piece on the early imperial Russian mapping of Siberia, to Neil Safier‘s exposition on Portuguese mapping of its South American territories, as THE contributor Sarah Bendall notes: choices are excellent and his list of contributors impressive…. The essays all describe instances in which unequal power relationships between communities produced maps that represented imperial subjects for the exclusive benefit of the rulers. Together, the authors show that the picture of imperial mapping is complex, with religious doctrine, scientific exploration, commerce, ethnography, propaganda and administrative practice operating in different ways depending upon the context.… These are complex stories, but Akerman is to be congratulated on his editing. He has ensured that the reader is guided through . . .

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“Great Shots of Tough Times”

April 2, 2009
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“Great Shots of Tough Times”

In the past few weeks, several projects have arisen to photographically document the recession. Just today, for example, the New York Times launched Picturing the Recession, through which the paper is encouraging readers around the world to submit photos that use “creative ways of documenting the changes around you.” And last month, Slate asked readers to “Shoot the Recession,” in part because “economic times produce indelible images. The Great Depression calls to mind grainy news photos of bank runs and soup kitchens, and the harrowing portraits taken by Walker Evans.” Of course, it also calls to mind the iconic works of Dorothea Lange, whose photographs for the New Deal’s Farm Security Administration have become the defining images of that time. Collecting never-before-published photos and captions from Lange’s fieldwork in California, the Pacific Northwest, and North Carolina during 1939, Anne Whiston Spirn’s Daring to Look presents images that had languished in archives since Lange was dismissed from the Farm Security Administration at the end of that year. Unflinchingly portraying the last century’s major economic crisis, these photos set a high standard for all of those now documenting the current recession. As Lange herself said, this is a crucial standard to meet: . . .

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Scary stories to tell in the dark

October 29, 2008
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Scary stories to tell in the dark

Halloween is just around the corner, so after you put the finishing touches on your ghoulish Sarah Palin costume, cozy up with some of these spooky tales of demons, devils, and magic. Walter Stephens, Demon Lovers: Witchcraft, Sex, and the Crisis of Belief On September 20, 1587, Walpurga Hausmännin of Dillingen in southern Germany was burned at the stake as a witch. Although she had confessed to committing a long list of maleficia (deeds of harmful magic), including killing forty—one infants and two mothers in labor, her evil career allegedly began with just one heinous act—sex with a demon. Fornication with demons was a major theme of her trial record, which detailed an almost continuous orgy of sexual excess with her diabolical paramour Federlin “in many divers places . . . even in the street by night.” Alain Boureau, Satan the Heretic: The Birth of Demonology in the Medieval West Boureau trains his skeptical eye on the birth of demonology and the sudden belief in the power of demons who inhabited Satan’s Court, setting out to understand not why people believed in demons, but why theologians—especially Pope John XXII—became so interested in the subject. Depicting this new demonology, Satan the . . .

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Press Release: Pack, Still Here, Still Now

June 20, 2008
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Press Release: Pack, Still Here, Still Now

Robert Pack is, in the words of Mark Strand, “one of America’s most distinguished poets,” and Harold Bloom has praised him as “a humane and eloquent poet who follows Robert Frost and Edwin Arlington Robinson in a major American tradition.” A force in American poetry since the late 1950s, Pack delivers here his nineteenth book of verse, offering many of the elements that his devoted readers have come to admire and expect—both the humorous and the elegiac—while considering themes stretching from biblical concerns to meditations on contemporary science. As always, Pack’s poetry, in styles ranging from lyric to narrative, is composed in strongly rhythmic cadences and a diction that is direct and accessible. Ripe with many years, Pack remains a vital presence in American letters, and the power of his poetry still abides. Still Here, Still Now is an affecting and graceful addition to the oeuvre of a poet whose compelling and distinct voice will continue to resonate. Read the press release. . . .

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Press Release: Chappell, Chicago’s Urban Nature

June 19, 2008
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Press Release: Chappell, Chicago’s Urban Nature

New in Paperback—Chicago. In the early twentieth century, the mere mention of the name conjured images of stockyards and steel mills, industry and immigration—a sooty mecca for industrialists and laborers who invented and built the American city. Fast-forward one hundred years and you find Chicago at the forefront of another revolution—this time leading the charge to green city spaces. Since 1989, hundreds of thousands of trees have been planted, miles of historic boulevards renovated, and “green roofs” built on over two hundred buildings. Through these efforts and others, Chicago is now known as an innovative force in a global urban greening movement. Chicago’s Urban Nature is a beautifully illustrated guide to the evolution of this green city. At the heart of “urban nature,” Sally A. Kitt Chappell demonstrates, is the idea of connection, bringing together buildings and landscapes, culture and nature. With Chicago’s Urban Nature in hand, you’ll see those connections woven through the fabric of the city. Read the press release. . . .

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Press Release: Wikan, In Honor of Fadime

May 5, 2008
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Press Release: Wikan, In Honor of Fadime

According to Human Rights Watch, honor killings are acts of murder committed by men against female family members who are believed to have brought shame upon their family. A woman can be targeted as such for refusing to enter an arranged marriage, for being the victim of a sexual assault, for seeking a divorce—even from an abusive husband—or for even allegedly committing adultery. The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a way that dishonors her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life. And that’s tragically far too often the case. The United Nations estimates that at least 5,000 women each year fall victim to honor killings. In this unflinching exploration, Unni Wikan places this heinous phenomenon beneath the lens of one case study, the notorious murder of Fadime Sahindal. For choosing a lover outside of her Kurdish community, Fadime was brutally shot and killed by her father at point blank range in front of her mother and younger sister. Wikan uses this murder and the sensational trial that followed to upset our pat assumptions about honor killings and to bring the factors that inspire them into clearer focus. Here Wikan argues that these killings are . . .

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