What Atari and the “Worst Video Game of all Time” Can Teach Us About the Crisis in American Public Service

July 24, 2019
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What does American public service have in common with a hastily produced video game adaptation of Spielberg’s E.T.? If you’ve endured the DMV—or, really, any overworked government office—you might find it difficult to identify which was described as “a confusing mess that left frustrated and disoriented.” No, this isn’t a Yelp review of the USPS; it’s NPR’s take on the 1982 video game, published on the film’s thirty-fifth anniversary. Like the American government, Atari had to defend against a serious reputation crisis. E.T. would change how people saw Atari, and the company found it difficult to correct that perception despite the later success of Q*bert and Ms. Pac-Man. Today, the government faces the similar challenge of changing people’s minds about the quality of public services with serious consequences in some cases for its continued ability to provide them, including to those without access to private-sector alternatives. The following is an excerpt from Good Enough for Government Work: The Public Reputation Crisis in America (And What We Can Do to Fix It) by Amy E. Lerman, where she describes what happened at Atari and what the “worst video game of all time” can teach us about American public service today. . . .

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Summer Book Club Feature: Five Questions with Jennifer Jordan, Author of “Edible Memory”

July 16, 2019
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Now that the dog days of summer are truly upon us, we hope you’re staying cool lakeside or under a shady umbrella with our summer #ReadUCP Twitter book club pick, Edible Memory: The Lure of Heirloom Tomatoes and Other Forgotten Foods by Jennifer Jordan. And if you haven’t picked it up yet, it’s not too late! We’re reading throughout July and August, so there’s plenty of time for reading in-between watering your tomato and pepper plants or checking out the latest at the farmers’ market. (And there’s a handy discount code below.) Though we’ll soon be announcing dates for our Twitter chats with Jennifer, we decided to get things started with a few questions about what inspired her interest in heirloom foods and what’s next on her plate. Where did your interest in heirloom fruits and vegetables come from? I’d say it came from two sources, one personal, one sociological. I’ll submit this photo as evidence of the personal part. I grew up in California in the 70s, and my parents (both teachers) had a cooperative garden when I was tiny. Amazingly, one of the babies I grew up with ALSO became a sociology professor! So my childhood was surrounded . . .

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A Celebration of the Work of the Music Critic Andrew Patner

July 12, 2019
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A Celebration of the Work of the Music Critic Andrew Patner

In early May, Chicago’s classical music lovers gathered to celebrate the late music critic Andrew Patner, whose collection of writings, A Portrait in Four Movements was recently published by the University of Chicago Press. To celebrate the book, the book’s contributors organized a panel discussion at the Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago. Andrew Patner was a Chicago-based journalist, broadcaster, critic, and interviewer. He was a celebrated classical music critic, contributing to the Chicago Sun-Times from 1991 until his death, at age 55, in 2015. On his weekly radio programs on WFMT, “Critical Thinking” and “Critic’s Choice,” Patner interviewed both renowned and up-and-coming conductors and composers. In his career as critic, Patner was able to trace the arc of the CSO’s changing repertories, all while cultivating a deep rapport with its four principal conductors. This discussion of Patner’s life and work featured the book’s three contributors, New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, attorney and Symphony trustee John R. Schmidt, and musicologist Douglas W. Shadle. Maestro Riccardo Muti, music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, also joined the discussion. The panelists shared memories of Patner, who was both an insightful music critic and a devoted friend. Speaking at the event, Ross, the . . .

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It’s Independence Day! Read an Excerpt from “Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose”

July 4, 2019
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In the years after the Revolutionary War, the fledgling republic of America was viewed by many Europeans as a degenerate backwater, populated by subspecies weak and feeble. Chief among these naysayers was the French Count and world-renowned naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon, who wrote that the flora and fauna of America (humans included) were inferior to European specimens. Thomas Jefferson spent years countering the French conception of American degeneracy. The American moose, which Jefferson claimed was so enormous a European reindeer could walk under it, became the cornerstone of his defense. Convinced that the sight of such a magnificent beast would cause Buffon to revise his claims, Jefferson had the remains of a seven-foot ungulate shipped first class from New Hampshire to Paris. Unfortunately, Buffon died before he could make any revisions to his Histoire Naturelle, but the legend of the moose makes for a fascinating tale about Jefferson’s passion to prove that American nature deserved prestige. In Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose, first published in 2009 and reissued in paperback this year, Lee Alan Dugatkin vividly recreates the origin and evolution of the debates about natural history in America and, in so doing, returns the prize moose to its rightful place in . . .

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Read an Excerpt from “Edible Memory,” Our Summer Book Club Pick

July 1, 2019
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Today is the first day of our seasonal Twitter book club #ReadUCP. For our first pick, we invite you to join us throughout July and August to read and discuss Edible Memory: The Lure of Heirloom Vegetables and Other Forgotten Foods by Jennifer A. Jordan, while sharing stories and photos from our gardens, markets, kitchens, and plates. To get things started, here’s a little homegrown taste of what you’ll find inside the pages. Forgetting Turnips What kinds of changes have vegetables undergone over time? And what are the fates of particular vegetables in this era of heirloom food? When I began my search in mainstream food writing for coverage of forgotten turnips, celery, and other less glamorous vegetables, I found very little. Particular blogs, authors, and chefs zeroed in on particular heirloom vegetables at various moments, but there was no comparison with the coverage of heirloom tomatoes or apples. My initial inclination was to think that this silence reflected forgetting. But in fact these supposedly forgotten vegetables inspire extremes of devotion in some seed savers, gardeners, and farmers, and it is to these people (more than to urban diners and famous chefs) that they owe their survival. My research into . . .

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Nine Tips from Wendy Laura Belcher, author of “Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks”

June 25, 2019
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January 1 might be the traditional time for resolutions, but the summer often brings on the warm-weather resolve to finally get some writing done, especially from those who see a dip in workload or other requirements this time of year. At the same time, the summer is full of distractions that offer easy excuses to put writing goals off until another day—sometimes until Labor Day suddenly arrives. Wendy Laura Belcher is the author of Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks and is an expert on helping academics finish their writing projects. Here she offers nine tips on how to motivate yourself to finally sit down and get writing. Many academics find sitting down at the computer and starting to write to be the most difficult challenge facing them. One of the reasons for this, as one of my students put it so well, is that “if I never start, then I never fail.” Another is getting out of the habit of writing—or never having had a writing habit. While tough to overcome, this obstacle does have some straightforward solutions. Make other tasks contingent on writing An excellent way of dealing with the difficulty of getting started is to make . . .

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Honoring Kenneth J. Northcott (1922–2019)

June 24, 2019
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The University of Chicago Press mourns the loss of translator, scholar, and stage actor Kenneth J. Northcott, who died in Chicago on June 4, age 96. Northcott was professor emeritus of Germanic Studies at the University of Chicago and the translator of numerous German-language books for the University of Chicago Press. He is especially known for his inspired translations of works by the Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard, all of which remain in print: The Voice Imitator, Walking, Three Novellas, and Histrionics: Three Plays. His other translations for the Press include a volume of essays by Friedrich Dürrenmatt and two books on Goethe by Siegfried Unseld, the late head of the distinguished German publishing house Suhrkamp Verlag. “Kenneth was always the first translator we approached when considering a work in German,” recalls editorial director Alan Thomas. “Although he was a medievalist by training and translated several specialized studies for us, Kenneth’s greatest achievement was his brilliant translations of the twentieth-century writer Thomas Bernhard. Kenneth’s linguistic resourcefulness, sly humor, and experience with the theater made him a perfect match for Bernhard.” Northcott was born on 25 November 1922 in London. His father was a gardener for the City of London’s parks, his . . .

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Join Our New Twitter Book Club

June 24, 2019
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Looking for smart, engaging, and somewhat offbeat reading recommendations? Want to be a part of a community of readers who are curious and sharp? Want to have the opportunity to chat directly with authors, editors, and translators about their work? Then the #ReadUCP Book Club is for you! This July we are launching our seasonal Twitter book club. We know you are already avid readers with many books on your bedside and crammed into your satchel, so we’re keeping it pressure-free with just four selections a year (July, October, February, and May) that promise to be fun, thought-provoking, and a little unconventional for a book club pick. Each season we invite our @UChicagoPress Twitter followers to join us in reading and discussing our selection. We’ll share inside information on our blog and check-in via Twitter to share our thoughts and progress along the way. In turn, we invite you to send questions as you read and to join us for virtual book club meetings. Just use #ReadUCP when you tweet. To follow the conversation, you can use Twitter’s search tool or a tool like HootSuite or TweetDeck to filter by #ReadUCP. Our Summer Pick Is: Edible Memory by Jennifer A. . . .

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Five Question for Jennifer A. Jones, author of “The Browning of the New South”

June 20, 2019
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Studies of immigration to the United States have traditionally focused on a few key states and urban centers, but recent shifts in nonwhite settlement mean that these studies no longer paint the whole picture. Many Latino newcomers are flocking to places like the Southeast, where typically few such immigrants have settled, resulting in rapidly redrawn communities. In this historic moment, Jennifer A. Jones brings forth an ethnographic look at changing racial identities in one Southern city: Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  To get a better sense of what inspired Jones to focus her book on this particular city, we sent her a few questions recently about her research. How did you come to follow the line of research that forms the backbone of The Browning of the New South?  In some ways, I came to the research that forms the backbone of The Browning of the New South by accident. I consider myself a race scholar, and for my MA research I had done some ethnographic research on group identity formation among multiracials. I was really interested in how race gets made and wanted to pursue another project that helped me explore that process. I came to Winston-Salem to do research because . . .

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Printers Row Lit Fest 2019

June 18, 2019
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We had a fantastic time at Printers Row Lit Fest on June 8-9! Thanks to everyone who swung by the booth & attended our author events. . . .

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