7 questions for Daegan Miller about This Radical Land: A Natural History of American Dissent

June 26, 2018
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7 questions for Daegan Miller about This Radical Land: A Natural History of American Dissent

                    Daegan Miller’s new book This Radical Land  has been receiving strong praise for its unearthing of forgotten nineteenth-century stories of American dissent and environmental awareness. Kirkus Reviews wrote: A debut book that ranges across disciplines and decades to connect the natural environment–especially long-lived trees–to a scathing critique of American-style capitalism. Alternating abstract theory with impressive research, both bolstered by extensive sources . . . the author builds his case about understanding American history by examining destruction of the environment through essays grounded in the 19th century. . . . He offers an eclectic education often marked by soaring prose. A reviewer for Pacific Standard, meanwhile, praised Miller’s “interpretive brilliance and gorgeously crafted prose” and called the book “one of the most elegant and insightful examples of environmental writing I’ve seen in many, many years.” We asked Daegan to take time out from his daily routine of work, reading, writing, running, and raising a family to answer a few questions about the book and the stories it tells. This Radical Land maps a number of little-known stories of nineteenth-century America. Which one—if any of these—set you off on the project of the book? And how . . .

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Barbara J. King Discusses her Provocative View on the Origins of Religion at the 2018 World Science Festival

June 21, 2018
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Barbara J. King Discusses her Provocative View on the Origins of Religion at the 2018 World Science Festival

In the wake of the this year’s World Science Festival, which took place at the beginning of June in New York City, Robert Lamb, host of the Stuff to Blow Your Mind Podcast has posted a series of interviews he conducted with some of the speakers at this year’s festival, including anthropologist Barbara J. King, whose research focuses on animal emotion and cognition, as do her many books, including How Animals Grieve, Personalities on the Plate, and her latest, Evolving God: A Provocative View on the Origins of Religion, Expanded Edition. For the festival, King participated in a panel moderated by physicist Brian Greene exploring the evolutionary origins of religious thought in human beings and other primates titled “The Believing Brain: Evolution, Neuroscience, and the Spiritual Instinct.” In the interview Lamb revisits the topics discussed in the panel, exploring the vital function that religious or spiritual thought has played in the development of primate social interactions, from apes to people. The conversation with King starts about 53 minutes in, but the other interviews are interesting as well and segue nicely into King’s discussion. Check it out on the Stuff to Blow Your Mind website or find out more about Barbara . . .

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RIP, Stanley Cavell (1926–2018)

June 21, 2018
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RIP, Stanley Cavell (1926–2018)

    The passing of philosopher Stanley Cavell has brought praise and reminiscences from all quarters. “An air of improvisation and fun hung over everything he did,” wrote Christopher Benfey for the New York Review of Books, while Martha C. Nussbaum told the New York Times that he “brought to philosophy a human depth and subtlety that it had all too often lacked.” Our editorial director, Alan Thomas, meanwhile, shared these thoughts on Cavell and his legacy: We will miss Stanley Cavell. His connection to the University of Chicago Press began in 1988, when he delivered the Carpenter Lectures. The lectures were sponsored, tellingly, by Chicago’s English department; Stanley was the most literary of philosophers. The Press went on to publish six of his books, including reissues of Themes out of School and Senses of Walden, and brought out Michael Fischer’s fine study, Stanley Cavell and Literary Skepticism.  Stanley influenced countless of our authors, including Charles Bernstein, who has written that “Cavell does not put forward assertions. The truth of what he says is finally left to whether it holds for you.” I remember best working with Stanley In Contesting Tears, his study of the film genre he called “the melodrama of . . .

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Seven Questions on Seven Ways of Looking at Pointless Suffering

June 15, 2018
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Seven Questions on Seven Ways of Looking at Pointless Suffering

Scott Samuelson is a philosopher in an old tradition: he’s interested, not in some sort of academic philosophy that only talks to others who are deeply embroiled in its history and traditions, but rather in a philosophy that helps us deal with the problems we face in our everyday lives. His book Seven Ways of Looking at Pointless Suffering draws on his study of the discipline and his experience as a teacher of philosophy in a variety of settings–including in prison–to explore the many ways humans have attempted to explain, understand, and philosophically ameliorate suffering over millennia. Scott was kind enough to answer seven questions for us. Have you looked at the news lately? Why on earth would I want to read about suffering right now? Because we have a hunger to seek out meaning in the suffering that bombards us. Thoreau says, “Read not the Times. Read the Eternities.” Really, you should read both, but most of us could focus more on the Eternities. The fact is that there’s something deeply satisfying in thinking about suffering, just like there’s something deeply satisfying in a blues song. Once I was asked to lead a discussion at Laughing Sun Brewery in Bismarck called . . .

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Jesse Bering on Religion and Suicide

June 12, 2018
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Jesse Bering on Religion and Suicide

In the wake of the high-profile suicides of chef and author Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade, the media has turned an unusual amount of attention to the problem. But several insightful articles, including one penned by Jesse Bering, author of Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves, are now attempting to dissect the media response itself, exposing both popular misconceptions about the phenomenon as well as at least one outright attempt to appropriate it in the name of furthering an ideological agenda. In a recent post for the Skeptic blog Bering responds to a piece written by Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, in which Donohue argues that if Bourdain had been a religious man, he wouldn’t have taken his own life. Bering writes: Among the more obnoxious things I’ve read in the wake of Anthony Bourdain’s death is that if only he had been a man of faith, he wouldn’t have taken his own life. Consider the almost sneering commentary offered by Bill Donohue . . .  in a syndicated piece written less than a day after the rogue chef’s body was found hanging by the belt of his bathrobe in a Strasbourg hotel room. . . . . .

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Spiders are friends!

May 22, 2018
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Spiders are friends!

SO as long as they just hang out in the basement or garage or whatever I’m completely fine with spiders. Hey, they make great listeners! And (as far as I know), with the exception of two easily identifiable species – the brown recluse, and the black widow – North American arachnids are pretty much harmless to humans, but an absolute scourge to other nuisance insects like flies and mosquitoes and whatnot. It can get kinda gross when they start laying eggs all over the place though. Still, awesome little critters – in moderation. Knowing something about them is essential to their appreciation though – the rap they get in popular culture, as well as people’s perhaps innate fear of them, makes the majority of folks probably more likely to swat one than make a pet out of it, (though as a compromise you could always just catch it and toss it in the garden), which is where Christopher M. Buddle and Eleanor Spicer Rice’s new book, Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Spiders, comes in. Here Eleanor Spicer-Rice, renown science writer and entomologist by training (entomologists btw study insects, not arachnids), teams up with arachnologist Christopher Buddle to uncover the hidden . . .

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Forrest Stuart awarded 2018 Gordon J. Laing Prize

May 4, 2018
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The University of Chicago Press is pleased to announce that the 2018 Gordon J. Laing Prize has been awarded to sociologist Forrest Stuart for Down, Out, and Under Arrest: Policing and Everyday Life in Skid Row. Stuart’s book offers a fascinating look at the interactions between the criminal justice system and the low income residents of L. A.’s Skid Row. The result of years of fieldwork – not only with Skid Row residents, but with the police charged with managing them – Stuart’s book reveals an alarming decrease in support for our poorest citizens, accompanied by an increase in spending on policing and prisons that only serves to exacerbate the problems endemic to the nation’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Touching on some of his inspirations for the book as well as the historical role the University’s Department of Sociology and the Press have played in developing and disseminating the unique style of ethnographic study at the heart of Stuart’s work, the acceptance speech was hailed by Stuart’s acquiring editor Doug Mitchell as “one of the best Laing Prize speeches in memory.” And luckily enough, someone even managed to capture it in it’s entirety on their iphone! Check it out below, or find out . . .

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Lilliana Mason and the “Age of Mega Identity Politics” on the Ezra Klein Show

May 4, 2018
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Lilliana Mason and the “Age of Mega Identity Politics” on the Ezra Klein Show

Lilliana Mason is assistant professor in the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, College Park and also the author of a new book that Vox co-founder Ezra Klein calls “one of the most important published this year.” Her new book Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity takes a timely look at the growing social gulf across racial, religious, and cultural lines which has recently come to sharply divide the two major political parties. Dissecting the minutiae of group identification – how we come to associate ourselves with a group; how that group identity can can overrule our ability to make political choices in our best own interests; and how this works to undermine democracy – Mason ties political science to social psychology to provide an unprecedented view of the current political landscape in the U.S. On the April 30th edition of his podcast, Klein engages Mason in a fascinating discussion of her new book. As Klein writes for Vox: “If you want to understand the kind of identity politics that’s driving America in 2018, you should listen in.” Navigate to player.fm to stream or download the epidsode, “The age of ‘mega-identity’ politics”  or follow this . . .

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Book of Seeds featured on the Science Friday blog

April 20, 2018
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Book of Seeds featured on the Science Friday blog

So, maybe after you’re done listening to today’s show,head over to the Science Friday blog where the Science Friday team has collected a series of images taken from The Book of Seeds: A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred Species from around the World to create a “yearbook of seeds” featuring all the coolest and most popular seeds in the class (spermatophyte I think?), posing awkwardly in front of cheesy ’80s backgrounds. With titles like “Biggest Beach Bum” (that one’s hilarious) or “Most Explosive,” as well as commentary by Kew botanist and editor of the book Paul Smith, it’s a humorous yet edifying segue into the weekend. Find out more about the book on the UCP website. . . .

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

April 12, 2018
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“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, . . .

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