Blog Archives

Audio interview with Richard Lanham

June 27, 2006
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Audio interview with Richard Lanham

Chris Gondek has an audio interview with Richard A. Lanham on The Invisible Hand, his weekly podcast devoted to management and business topics. In The Economics of Attention: Style and Substance in the Age of Information, Richard A. Lanham traces our epochal move from an economy of things and objects to an economy of attention. According to Lanham, the central commodity in our new age of information is not stuff but style, for style is what competes for our attention amidst the din and deluge of new media. We also have our own interview with Lanham and an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Audio from Laura J. Miller’s BookExpo appearance

June 26, 2006
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Audio from Laura J. Miller’s BookExpo appearance

At one of the panel presentations at BookExpo America, the annual book publishing trade show, Publishers Weekly editor-in-chief Sara Nelson interviewed Laura J. Miller, author of Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption. Miller responded to questions from Nelson and the audience on the history of bookselling, the conflict between chain and independent bookstores, and her sense of where the industry is headed. The audio of the discussion is available on a BookExpo site that collects podcasts from the show. Miller earlier wrote an essay for our blog. We also have an excerpt from her book. . . .

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On the Voting Rights Act

June 22, 2006
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On the Voting Rights Act

Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Property Rights held hearings on the extension of the Voting Rights Act. David T. Canon, author of Race, Redistricting, and Representation: The Unintended Consequences of Black Majority Districts testified at the hearing. Based on empirical evidence from his studies of Congressional elections, Canon concludes that the Voting Rights Act "should be renewed and strengthened." Another author, Richard M. Valelly, wrote a piece for our website in which he argued from a historical perspective for the strengthening of the Voting Rights Act. Valelly is the author of The Two Reconstructions: The Struggle for Black Enfranchisement. If not renewed, the VRA expires in August 2007. Unexpectedly, the House leadership has postponed consideration of renewal. . . .

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[Zippy title goes here]

June 19, 2006
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[Zippy title goes here]

In his June 18 "On Language" column in the New York Times Magazine, William Safire gives a nod to Mark Monmonier’s new book, From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow: How Maps Name, Claim, and Inflame. Safire briefly discusses the three "slurs" or "vulgarisms" in the title of the book. (Can you spot them? I knew you could.) Mr. Safire further nods to us and our colleagues when he says: "This scholarly treatise of topography and cartographic analysis was given a zippy title by the swinging marketers in Chicago." We were taken aback by that word "swinging.&quot Isn’t that what the parental units were doing in Ice Storm? Does Mr. Safire know something about the Chicago marketing department that we don’t know? And if "scholarly treatise" sounds a bit dismissive, do yourself the favor of reading an excerpt from Monmonier’s zippy little tome. . . .

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Get these inflammatory toponyms before they’re gone

June 6, 2006
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Get these inflammatory toponyms before they’re gone

    Squaw Peak, which overlooks Phoenix, Arizona, drew the attention of Native American activists, who sought to change the name, and place names purists, who resented the governor‘s attempt at renaming. (From the Sunnyslope, Arizona USGS topographic quadrangle map.)   An essay by Mark Monmonier, distinguished professor of geography at Syracuse University and the author of From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow: How Maps Name, Claim, and Inflame. I‘m surprised few people collect twentieth-century maps, which are more readily available than earlier artifacts, less expensive to acquire, and more varied in content. In contrast to traditional themes like military maps, nautical charts, or a particular mapmaker, the collector of modern maps can easily focus on his or her ancestors, birthplace, travels, hobbies, or occupation. History buffs can concentrate on places prominent in military, diplomatic, industrial, or intellectual history—Gettysburg, Versailles, Thomas Edison‘s Menlo Park (New Jersey), and London‘s Bloomsbury district spring to mind—or on specific types of places, such as battlefields, National Parks, or even disaster sites, which afford intriguing cartographic narratives of affluence, devastation, and recovery. Collectors eager to mix history and design can concentrate on propaganda or transportation maps, while hobbyists fascinated with mapping technology can focus on . . .

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Freeman J. Dyson on Kamikaze Diaries

June 1, 2006
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Freeman J. Dyson on Kamikaze Diaries

While reviewing another book in the New York Review of Books, Freeman J. Dyson has some very interesting things to say about Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney’s Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers: Even after recognizing the great differences between the circumstances of 1945 and 2001, I believe that the kamikaze diaries give us our best insight into the state of mind of the young men who caused us such grievous harm in 2001. If we wish to understand the phenomenon of terrorism in the modern world, and if we wish to take effective measures to lessen its attraction to idealistic young people, the first and most necessary step is to understand our enemies. We must give respect to our enemies, as courageous and capable soldiers enlisted in an evil cause, before we can understand them. The kamikaze diaries give us a basis on which to build both respect and understanding. Kamikaze Diaries presents diaries and correspondence left by members of the tokkotai and other Japanese student soldiers who perished during World War II. Read an excerpt. . . .

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Review: Lanham, The Economics of Attention

May 25, 2006
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Review: Lanham, The Economics of Attention

Yesterday, in the business section of the Philadelpia Inquirer, Andrew Cassel wrote about Richard A. Lanham’s “very intriguing new book,” The Economics of Attention: Style and Substance in the Age of Information. Lanham starts from the premise that the scarce commodity in the new information economy is attention. Says Cassell: “I personally find this head-smackingly insightful. Of course! Money may still make the world go ’round, but it’s attention that we increasingly sell, hoard, compete for and fuss over. … The implications of all this have barely begun to be explored.” Explore further in an interview with Lanham and an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Paul Collins on Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption

May 23, 2006
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Paul Collins on Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption

Paul Collins has a very interesting article in the Village Voice that discusses Laura J. Miller’s Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption and speculates on the future of chain bookstores. Collins says: “Chain superstores, notes Laura J. Miller’s fascinating new study … are the latest manifestation of a centuries-old struggle between bookselling Davids and Goliaths.” Although Collins takes note of the current strength of the chains—”Barnes & Noble’s latest quarterly report shows no debt and a staggering $373 million in cash”—he does not think the future necessarily belongs to the Goliaths. Print-on-demand technology just might be a smooth stone sailing through the air. We have an excerpt from Miller’s book. . . .

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Katherine Dunham, 1909-2006

May 22, 2006
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Katherine Dunham, 1909-2006

Katherine Dunham—dancer, choreographer, anthropologist, and activist—died on Sunday, May 21, 2006, at the age of 96. Dunham was born in suburban Chicago and studied anthropology at the University of Chicago. As a graduate student she did field work in the West Indies, an influence which she expressed in many forms, including her dance and her activism. A dozen years ago we were pleased to reprint Island Possessed, her book about Haiti, as well as A Touch of Innocence, the searing story of her first eighteen years. . . .

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How Sprawl Got a Bad Name

May 18, 2006
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How Sprawl Got a Bad Name

Robert Bruegmann contributes an article to the June 2006 issue of American Enterprise which serves as a quick overview of his book Sprawl: A Compact History. Why does sprawl come in for so much criticism? Bruegmann writes: “Worries about sprawl have become so vivid not because conditions are really as bad as the critics suggest, but precisely because conditions are so good. During boom years, expectations can easily run far ahead of any possibility of fulfilling them. A fast-rising economy often produces a revolution of expectations. I believe these soaring expectations are responsible for many contemporary panics.” An excerpt from the book discusses the long history of sprawl. . . .

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