Robert J. Zimmer nominated to serve as president of the U of C

March 9, 2006
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Robert J. Zimmer nominated to serve as president of the U of C

The Presidential Search Committee of the University of Chicago has just announced that Robert J. Zimmer has been nominated to serve as president of the University of Chicago. Zimmer is a mathematician and former University of Chicago faculty member. He currently serves as provost at Brown University. The Board of Trustees is expected to approve the recommendation on Friday. Zimmer would then succeed Don Michael Randel as thirteenth president of the University of Chicago. Zimmer is the author of Essential Results of Functional Analysis. Functional analysis is a broad mathematical area with strong connections to many domains within mathematics and physics. This book, based on a first-year graduate course taught by Robert J. Zimmer at the University of Chicago, is a complete, concise presentation of fundamental ideas and theorems of functional analysis. It introduces essential notions and results from many areas of mathematics to which functional analysis makes important contributions, and it demonstrates the unity of perspective and technique made possible by the functional analytic approach. . . .

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Review: Andrzej Szczeklik, Catharsis

March 9, 2006
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Review: Andrzej Szczeklik, Catharsis

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries recently reviewed Andrzej Szczeklik’s Catharsis: On the Art of Medicine. From the review: "A rash of reflections on medicine has been published by senior physicians approaching retirement. Most are autobiographical, often maudlin, and usually self-serving. This jewel of a book is an exception. explores the patient-doctor encounter, a mysterious process that has constituted the art of medicine since time eternal.… The text is peppered with illustrative case histories, and salted with the resources of a prodigious intellect that mixes history, philosophy, mythology, and poetry in telling the story. This is a wise, erudite, and insightful book that has been translated sensitively from the original Polish. It makes for an enormously good read that will enrich the life of anyone who peruses it. Highly recommended." Read an excerpt. . . .

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Author event: Andrew Wachtel, Remaining Relevant after Communism

March 8, 2006
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Author event: Andrew Wachtel, Remaining Relevant after Communism

On March 9 at 7 p.m., Andrew Wachtel will discuss his new book Remaining Relevant after Communism: The Role of the Writer in Eastern Europe at the No Exit Café in Chicago (6970 N. Glenwood in Rogers Park). More than any other art form, literature defined Eastern Europe as a cultural and political entity in the second half of the twentieth century. Although often persecuted by the state, East European writers formed what was frequently recognized to be a "second government," and their voices were heard and revered inside and outside the borders of their countries. This study by one of our most influential specialists on Eastern Europe considers the effects of the end of communism on such writers. According to Andrew Baruch Wachtel, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the creation of fledgling societies in Eastern Europe brought an end to the conditions that put the region’s writers on a pedestal. In the euphoria that accompanied democracy and free markets, writers were liberated from the burden of grandiose political expectations. But no group is happy to lose its influence: despite recognizing that their exalted social position was related to their reputation for challenging political oppression, such writers have . . .

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Review: John Yoo, The Powers of War and Peace

March 8, 2006
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Review: John Yoo, The Powers of War and Peace

Commentary recently reviewed John Yoo’s The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs after 9/11. From Andrew C. McCarthy’s review: "An essential guide for thinking about national-security challenges in an era of transnational terror networks that flout the laws of civilized warfare.… Yoo’s thesis in this book is strongest as an argument grounded in text—the text, that is, of our founding law.… In a world beset by the constant threat of sudden destructive force, a robust and firmly grounded view of presidential power is imperative.… For showing how that power derives from the very system the framers bequeathed us, John Yoo deserves our deep thanks." Read an interview with John Yoo. . . .

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Sticking it to the Tax Man

March 8, 2006
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Sticking it to the Tax Man

The snow has melted, birds are chirping, and the W2s roll into the mailbox. It can only mean one thing: tax season. Many of us will grumble about how we’re paying too much, while the rich are getting off easy. But what can we do about it? What alternative is there? In Fair Not Flat: How to Make the Tax System Better and Simpler, tax law expert Edward J. McCaffery proposes a straightforward and fair alternative. A "fair not flat" tax that is consistent and progressive would tax spending, not income and savings. And if it were collected at its lower levels through a national sales tax, most people would not have to file a return. A supplemental tax on spending for the wealthiest individuals would make the national sales tax progressive. Under McCaffery’s system, a family of four would pay no tax on their first $20,000 in spending, and 15 percent on the next $60,000. Only the few families who spend more than $80,000 a year would be subject to the supplemental tax. Necessities would be taxed less than ordinary and luxury items. No one would be taxed directly on savings. The estate and gift or so-called death tax . . .

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Review: Mark D. West, Law in Everyday Japan

March 7, 2006
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Review: Mark D. West, Law in Everyday Japan

The Japan Times recently praised Mark D. West’s Law in Everyday Japan: Sex, Sumo, Suicide, and Statutes. In the review, Jeff Kingston writes: "This is a superb book that explores the interaction of law, society and culture over a range of intriguing topics. In seven captivating case studies, Mark West shows how law influences people’s behavior and perceptions in everyday situations. Rather than trumping law, social norms are powerfully shaped by it. We learn that Japanese respond to incentives and penalties in ways very similar to people in other societies.… By choosing themes off the beaten track of legal analysis, West demonstrates that even the quirkiest phenomena can be analyzed. He ‘examines the incentives created by law and legal institutions in everyday lives, the ways in which law intermingles with social norms, historically engrained ideas, cultural mores, and the phenomena that cannot easily be explained.’ And he does so in a delightfully engaging manner." Compiling case studies based on seven fascinating themes—karaoke-based noise complaints, sumo wrestling, love hotels, post-Kobe earthquake condominium reconstruction, lost-and-found outcomes, working hours, and debt-induced suicide—Law in Everyday Japan offers a vibrant portrait of the way law intermingles with social norms, historically ingrained ideas, and cultural mores . . .

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Review: Matt Houlbrook, Queer London

March 7, 2006
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Review: Matt Houlbrook, Queer London

History Today‘s March 2006 issue features a review of Matt Houlbrook’s Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis, 1918-1957, winner of its Longman-History Today Book of the Year 2006 award. Julian Jackson praised the book: "Superb…. This is scholarly history, but it is also the best kind of engaged history. Houlbrook clearly feels something was lost with the ‘respectable’ homosexuality of the 1950s although he is too good a historian to tell any black-and-white story. He sees the evolution he describes as ‘simultaneously liberating and exclusionary.’ If for some men the emergence of more private spaces after 1945 was ‘unequivocally affirmative, offering them opportunities to socialize in a safe, respectable and semi-private place,’ this process made things harder for those who wished—or were forced—to remain more visible. This is a book, finally, as much about London as about sexuality, demonstrating with empathy and subtlety both how sexuality was played out in the city and how it was shaped by it." History Today editor Peter Furtado calls the book " example of modern ‘queer history’ is an account of how gay people lived in London, which everyone, gay or straight, can relate to. Not written (as it might have . . .

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While discussing matters of style

March 6, 2006
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While discussing matters of style

Okay, we admit to occasionally reading the blog of Mimi Smartypants. She works in Chicago, for one thing, and so we are just trying to stay hip to the blogging scene in Chicago. It’s more than that though. As noted by Rebecca J. Roberts in the JournalStar of Lincoln, NE—a town whose hipness is vastly underrated—Ms. Smartypants is “unashamedly articulate and intelligent, with a twisted bent—someone you want to drink yourself silly with on dollar beers while discussing The Chicago Manual of Style and obsessive-compulsive disorder and oral sex, possibly all at the same time.” And you know how we like to talk about The Chicago Manual of Style. . . .

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Review: Edward Castronova, Synthetic Worlds

March 6, 2006
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Review: Edward Castronova, Synthetic Worlds

The Guardian‘s Steven Poole recently reviewed Edward Castronova’s Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games: "Those who spend their nights pretending to be elves on the internet are, it appears, worthy of more than your bafflement or idle contempt, for this is the future of human society. Already, as the economist author points out, massive multiplayer online roleplaying games such as World of Warcraft host large economies whose apparently fictional currencies are traded against the real-life dollar, and political institutions are just as real in the virtual world as they are when housed in actual buildings.… Castronova’s discussion is detailed and thought-provoking, although … his optimism seems to underplay the fate of the underclass that will inevitably be locked out of these digital utopias: after all, some people will always have to maintain infrastructure and energy and food supplies while the rest sublime happily into cyberspace." Read an interview with Edward Castronova. . . .

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Review: Chiara Frugoni, A Day in a Medieval City

March 4, 2006
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Review: Chiara Frugoni, A Day in a Medieval City

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries recently reviewed Chiara Frugoni’s A Day in a Medieval City: "With its color illustrations of rare paintings and artifacts, this thoughtful and informative, elegantly fashioned excursion into the life of a medieval city is a veritable feast of information and visual delights. Frugoni is a marvelously experienced historical travel guide.… The translation is clear and unobtrusive, every page reflecting the author’s verve and intellectual curiosity.… Highly recommended." An opportunity to experience the daily hustle and bustle of life in the late Middle Ages, A Day in a Medieval City provides a captivating dawn-to-dark account of medieval life. A visual trek through the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries—with seasoned historian and expert on medieval iconography Chiara Frugoni as guide—this book offers a vast array of images and vignettes that depicts the everyday hardships and commonplace pleasures for people living in the Middle Ages. . . .

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