Blog Archives

Testing the theory of broken windows

March 10, 2006
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Testing the theory of broken windows

Malcom Gladwell, posting to his blog yesterday, discussed the book by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Freakonomics, and the implications of the arguments in that book for his “theory of broken windows,” which Gladwell developed in The Tipping Point. Concludes Gladwell, “I prefer to think of Freakonomics not as contradicting my argument in Tipping Point, but as completing it.” Then he goes on to say: “Since Tipping Point has come out, there have been a number of economists who have looked specifically at broken windows—and tried to test the theory directly. Some have found support for it. Others—particularly Bernard Harcourt at the University of Chicago—find it wanting. If you crave a rigorous critique of broken windows, read Harcourt. He’s every bit as smart as Levitt.” Later this year we will publish Harcourt’s new book, Against Prediction: Profiling, Policing, and Punishing in an Actuarial Age which will include Harcourt’s argument against the theory of broken windows. We also published Harcourt’s book Language of the Gun: Youth, Crime, and Public Policy. . . .

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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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Who made this handprint on the cave wall?

March 2, 2006
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Who made this handprint on the cave wall?

In The Nature of Paleolithic Art, Dale Guthrie overturns many of the standard interpretations of the ancient cave paintings of the Paleolithic era. Among other things, Guthrie argues that many of the cave paintings were done by children and have similarities with present-day graffiti. Here is a short excerpt from the book: The Identity of the People Who Made the Handprints: Statistical Results “First, the statistical analyses tell us that the majority of the Paleolithic artists who left these handprint stencils in caves were young people. But they also show a great diversity of ages. As noted by other researchers, some prints were made by very young children (younger even than those in my baseline sample). Two hand images are so small that the toddler/baby had to have been carried back into the cave. These occur in Gargas Cave in southern France, which is unusual in having passageways that are easy to traverse and an easy entrance which remained open during much of the past. That is shown by the protohistoric, Gallo-Roman, and medieval graffiti carved in the cave wall. But this is not typical for Paleolithic caves; there are few deep caves one would try to visit with a . . .

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Seeing Males Together: Brokeback Mountain and Picturing Men

March 1, 2006
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Seeing Males Together: Brokeback Mountain and Picturing Men

An essay by John Ibson, author of Picturing Men. History’s fundamental lesson warns those who are comfortable with contemporary social arrangements, as it reassures those who are oppressed by current practices: It hasn’t always been like this, and isn’t likely to stay this way forever. This lesson is certainly true when it comes to the way that American men today are inclined and allowed to express their affection for each other—whether that affection involves romance, sexual longing, or just profound fondness. Ang Lee’s magnificent film Brokeback Mountain is the sad story of two Wyoming ranch hands whose society severely inhibits their twenty-year-long affectionate and sexual relationship. They express their mutual attraction only when utterly alone in the wilderness, at huge expense to their emotional lives and also their relationships with women. Yet Brokeback Mountain may also be instructively seen as a movie that raises disturbing issues about the ways that all American men feel about the appropriate ways to express their fondness for each other, whether or not that fondness is accompanied by sexual desire. Our culture still so scorns sexual desire between two men that there is a common fear that such desire just might accompany any fondness, as . . .

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Happy Birthday, Ben Hecht!

February 28, 2006
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Happy Birthday, Ben Hecht!

On February 28, 1894 Ben Hecht was born in New York City. Though he would find fame as a novelist, playwright, and screenwriter, Hecht was at heart a news reporter. His columns for the Chicago Daily News were collected in the 1922 book, A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago, a timeless classic of journalism. In 1925 Hecht went to Hollywood to try his hand at screenwriting. He wrote more than seventy screenplays, including Underworld (1927), for which he won an Oscar. He returned to his newspaper roots when he collaborated with Charles MacArthur on The Front Page, a play based on his adventures as a newsman, which became an enduring hit. . . .

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Paleolithic handprints

February 27, 2006
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Paleolithic handprints

In The Nature of Paleolithic Art, Dale Guthrie overturns many of the standard interpretations of the ancient cave paintings of the Paleolithic era. Among other things, Guthrie argues that many of the cave paintings were done by children and have similarities with present-day graffiti. Here is an illustration and short excerpt from the book: Missing Fingers in Art: Ritual, Disease, Frostbite, or Kids Playing? “Many hand images in the French Gargas-Tibran cave complex and Cosquer and in Maltravieso Cave in Spain appear to have missing fingers or other malformations. These “disfigured” hands have fueled discussions for the last 100 years. Groenen (1987) has provided a review of this debate. The central issue, of course, is that virtually all apparent mutilations are also replicable by simply contorting fingers in the stenciled hand (as one does in shadow art). But many people still insist that these represent real ritual amputations. “More recent speculation on possible causes of these disfigured hands has focused on Raynaud’s disease, in which capillaries fail to respond normally by flushing with warm blood when hands or feet get cold. I find this explanation unconvincing, because Raynaud’s disease is seldom expressed in young men (Larson 1996), and the hands . . .

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John Yoo interviewed on NPR

February 23, 2006
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John Yoo interviewed on NPR

John Yoo, author of The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs after 9/11, was interviewed by Steve Inskeep on NPR’s Morning Edition this morning. Yoo explained his view of the president’s expansive power in times of war, and the role of Congressional review and oversight. He also said that it’s “an exaggeration” that his views give the President “unlimited power.” We also have an interview with Yoo on our website. . . .

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James Frey and Norman Maclean

February 20, 2006
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James Frey and Norman Maclean

A passage about the truth-telling power of fiction, from the closing paragraphs of Norman Maclean’s novella A River Runs Through It, is being cited in commentary about James Frey and his apparently fictionalized memoir A Million Little Pieces. (For example, this piece by John MacDonald in the Arizona Republic.) Near the end of the story, Norman’s father speaks to him: “You like to tell true stories, don’t you?” he asked, and I answered, “Yes, I like to tell stories that are true.” Then he asked, “After you have finished your true stories sometime, why don’t you make up a story and the people to go with it? “Only then will you understand what happened and why.” We have an excerpt from the opening pages of the novella. . . .

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Eric Muller remembers Executive Order 9066

February 15, 2006
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Eric Muller remembers Executive Order 9066

On February 18, 2006, Eric Muller will be the guest speaker at the Northern California Time of Remembrance program in Sacramento, California. The program recalls Executive Order 9066, which gave the military the authority to remove from their homes more than 110,000 people—American citizens of Japanese ancestry and Japanese aliens—and place them in relocation camps during World War II. E.O. 9066 was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942. Muller is the author of Free to Die for Their Country: The Story of the Japanese American Draft Resisters in World War II which tells the amazing story of some of those internees who would refuse to be drafted into that same military that evicted them from their homes. Read an excerpt from the book. Eric Muller blogs at Is That Legal? . . .

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Be my surreal valentine

February 13, 2006
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Be my surreal valentine

If you believe that love is better described as “the drunken kisses of cyclones” than the predictable cheesiness found in a Hallmark card, then you’ll be cheered by the paperback release of Surrealist Love Poems, edited by Mary Ann Caws. This collection from such luminaries as André Breton, Robert Desnos, and Paul Eluard celebrates the irrational, obsessive, impassioned, and erotic states of love, demonstrating throughout the truth of Breton’s words, that “the embrace of poetry like that of the flesh / As long as it lasts / Shuts out all the woes of the world.” The book also includes fourteen alluring photographs from the likes of Man Ray, Lee Miller, and Claude Cahun. Read three poems from the book. . . .

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