“The name of the game is gamesmanship”: An excerpt from Veeck—As in Wreck

October 2, 2018
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“The name of the game is gamesmanship”: An excerpt from Veeck—As in Wreck

Any time you go to a baseball game today, you’re experiencing the legacy of Bill Veeck (1914–1986). Fireworks shooting from the scoreboard? Veeck. Concession stands all over the park? Veeck. T-shirt cannons and bands and on-field antics? Well, he didn’t have the tech to do that first one, but it’s definitely in a family with the latter two, and those were Veeck to a T. Oh, and when he was just a young man, working for his father, owner of the Chicago Cubs, he sold the team on growing the ivy. In a long career as a frequently cash-strapped owner of some, well, pretty bad teams, Veeck pursued innovation like few other figures in all of baseball history. Though he’s now best known for a stunt in 1951 in which he sent a 3-foot, 7-inch man named Eddie Gaedel to the plate in a White Sox game, wearing the uniform number 7/8, Veeck’s most lasting contribution to the game was to remind everyone—but particularly owners—that it was being put on for the fans, and that meant it should always be entertaining. As Ed linn, who teamed up with Veeck in 1962 to write his classic memoir of his time in . . .

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Talking baseball with John Thorn, official historian of Major League Baseball and coauthor of The Hidden Game

October 1, 2018
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Talking baseball with John Thorn, official historian of Major League Baseball and coauthor of The Hidden Game

(John Thorn, photo by Alison Richards; Bill Savage, photo by Rich Lalich.) In 1984, John Thorn and Pete Palmer helped launch what would become the sabermetric revolution in baseball by publishing The Hidden Game of Baseball: A Revolutionary Approach to Baseball and Its Statistics. More than thirty years later, we have seen the game of baseball absorb the insights of Thorn, Palmer, and those who came in their wake in a way that no one could ever have predicted back in the days when RBI, batting averages, and pitcher wins were king. In 2015, we were proud to bring The Hidden Game back into print. To kick off the baseball playoff season, we hooked up our old friend Bill Savage, lit prof and Cubs fan, with John Thorn to talk about the book and the game.   In The Hidden Game, you and Pete Palmer helped explain new forms of baseball statistics to fans (and the powers-that-be in The Game).   Many of these stats have come to be widely accepted, despite the stubborn adherence to BA/HR/RBI and W/L records among the more retrograde fans. Which of the even more recent statistical categories do you think most add to our understanding and enjoyment of . . .

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Trapped in an inescapable flood of information – it’s sink or swim

September 26, 2018
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Trapped in an inescapable flood of information – it’s sink or swim

Has there ever been an era in human history in which communication slowed down? Or is the increasing rate at which information is shared a historical constant? My money’s on the latter. In attempting to navigate the flood of information online, which seems in no danger of slowing down, it’s pretty much sink or swim. So why not invest some time checking out Professor of Education and History at Stanford University Sam Wineburg’s new book Why Learn History (When It’s Already on Your Phone). Confronting head-on the deluge of information that modern technology has made available, and offering crucial tips for navigating it, Wineburg’s book is of value to citizens and students alike, offering readers a tool set for vetting and verifying the myriad sources of information we encounter online, while laying bare the many rhetorical devices used to spin and bias purportedly factual information. Recently Slate magazine has invested a decent sized chunk of their online real estate to what Wineburg has to say, with an eye-opening interview with the author as well as an excerpt from his new book in which Wineburg offers an insightful and penetrating critique of Howard Zinn’s classic, A People’s History of the United States. Wineburg . . .

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Guest post by Dr. Hope Ferdowsian, author of Phoenix Zones, on why process matters to survivors of sexual violence

September 25, 2018
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In her book Phoenix Zones: Where Strength Is Born and Resilience Lives, Dr. Hope Ferdowsian draws on her experience working as an internist and public health physician around the world with survivors of trauma, including sexual violence. In this guest post, she offers her opinion, informed by the work she draws on in her book, on the US Senate’s approach to the allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any official policies or positions of the University of Chicago Press. Process Matters to Sexual Violence Survivors: The Senate Should Pay Attention Dr. Hope Ferdowsian The US Senate leadership is inappropriately rushing to a vote in their attempt to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh, an alleged perpetrator of sexual assault, to a lifetime Supreme Court appointment. Immediately after learning of the alleged assault and the victim’s name, many members of Congress dug their heels in the sand, refusing to relent even after new allegations surfaced. Rather than launching an investigation, some members of the Senate have spent their time attempting to demean and bully Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Mr. Kavanaugh’s accuser. The matter has become more and . . .

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Bookselling Without Borders

September 24, 2018
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Bookselling Without Borders

It’s no secret that the American book market is insular. There are reasons for that–it’s a big country, and American culture has been a dominant force internationally for decades. But there’s no question that we as readers are missing out because of it. Bookselling Without Borders wants to change that. And they’ve come up with a great first step: enlist booksellers. Who can do more for a book than a bookseller who has decided it’s something that should be widely known? So they’ve launched a Kickstarter to fund scholarships that will send selected booksellers to international book fairs, where they’ll learn about the publishing world in other countries and come home with new authors and books to advocate for. A number of publishers, including Chicago, have joined in to support the project–which means there are some very choice rewards on offer, including a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style if you pledge $50 or more. For more information, or to back the project, you can go to the Bookselling Without Borders Kickstarter page. Who knows–you just might be funding the person who will hand-sell you your next favorite book! . . .

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Understanding American politics today: identity, the triumph of the national over the local, and the triumph of politics over all else

September 12, 2018
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Understanding American politics today: identity, the triumph of the national over the local, and the triumph of politics over all else

  The surprising outcome of the 2016 presidential election led to a good bit of soul-searching among America’s political pundit class. How could they have gotten things so wrong? The earliest attempts to understand latched onto story and anecdote, as books like J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy were picked apart for their purported insights into the voters who elected Donald Trump. Nearly two years out, it’s clear that more rigorous analysis is likely to prove much more fruitful. And a trio of Chicago books are getting their due, hailed for their insights into the forces driving American politics today. Each offers a piece of the whole, and together, they build a picture of a nation deeply divided, though perhaps not in exactly the ways, or for the reasons, we think. Daniel Hopkins’s The Increasingly United States: How and Why American Political Behavior Nationalized lays the groundwork for understanding why our relationship with our local representatives, and the issues they’ve historically been most responsive to, has changed. All politics may once have been local, but that’s no longer the case. As an article in the New Yorker explained: Voters pay vastly more attention to what is going on in Washington, D.C., than to what’s going . . .

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Beyond the cemetery gates: 6 questions for David Charles Sloane about cemeteries and the past and future of memorials

September 4, 2018
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Beyond the cemetery gates: 6 questions for David Charles Sloane about cemeteries and the past and future of memorials

David Charles Sloane’s Is the Cemetery Dead? has attracted notice for its thorough and empathetic survey of emerging trends in how we mourn our loved ones. The Los Angeles Review of Books called it “a levelheaded report on the death care industry,” while Publishers Weekly praised the “personal experience and knowledge” that Sloane interweaves with history and proclaimed the book to be “a great overview of mourning rituals in modern American culture.” We sent David six questions—one, let’s say, for every foot deep that tradition calls for a grave to be dug . . . Is the Cemetery Dead? details what you call the “changing cultural landscape of death and commemoration” by exploring such nontraditional mourning rites as ghost bikes, memory tattoos, and online memorials. Are there any of these new rituals that you find particularly moving or appealing? As a professor of urban planning, I am especially affected by ghost bikes, the spectral white bicycles placed along the roadway at the site of the death of a cyclist. American cities too often have been developed for cars, not people. Over the last half-century, reformers have tried to change that, and make our cities more multi-modal—a place where you can drive, ride, . . .

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Liam Heneghan interviewed on WBEZ’s Worldview

August 24, 2018
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Liam Heneghan interviewed on WBEZ’s Worldview

It is perhaps ironic that even the need to instill the next generation with a sense of connection to the natural world becomes increasingly important, the ability to nurture this type of connection and sense of responsibility in children has perhaps become more and more difficult in proportion. Mediated as we are by our technology and with the boundaries of the “real” wilderness receding ever further from our front doors, by what means can we best relate the importance of  protecting a seemingly alien ecology, upon which we nevertheless depend? With his recent book Beasts at Bedtime, University of DePaul Professor of Environmental Science Liam Heneghan offers one answer – one that is right under our noses, deeply infused in the tales that delight our children at bedtime. In his book Heneghan unearths the universal insights into our inextricable relationship with nature that underlie so many classic children’s stories from Beatrix Potter to Harry Potter, showing how kids (and adults) can start to experience the natural world in incredible ways from the comfort of their own rooms. Recently Heneghan stopped by WBEZ’s Worldview to discuss the vital environmental education children’s stories can provide with host Jerome McDonnell. The show aired Tuesday but the . . .

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Modernity and the Jews

August 17, 2018
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Modernity and the Jews

     “Jews were good to think.” Borrowing a phrase from Claude Levi-Strauss, that’s how Chad Alan Goldberg sums up the crucial role played by ideas and ideologies about Jews in the conceptualization of the major themes of modernity by thinkers like Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx, and Max Weber. In his book Modernity and the Jews in Western Social Thought, which was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, Goldberg shows how social thinkers from France, Germany, and the United States, as they tried to understand the modern world taking shape around them, repeatedly invoked Jews as a touchstone for defining modernity and national identity in a context of rapid social change. In all three countries, intellectuals invoked real or purported differences between Jews and gentiles to elucidate key dualisms of modern social thought. The Jews, he shows, thus became an intermediary through which social thinkers discerned in a roundabout fashion the nature, problems, and trajectory of their own wider societies. The Center for Holocaust and Genocide recently interviewed Goldberg about his book, with particular attention to how it helps us better understand antisemitism: You claim that post-colonial theory has shown a very limited understanding of antisemitism, basically seeing only the reactionary . . .

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Chicago “Renaissance Woman” Eve L. Ewing on the great Chicago Public School Purge

July 27, 2018
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Chicago “Renaissance Woman” Eve L. Ewing on the great Chicago Public School Purge

The history of of the city of Chicago is one of massive investment in industrial, social, and architectural innovations. Yet, as is obvious to anyone who knows a bit about the town, the returns on these investments are not, and never have been, fairly allocated throughout all segments of society. Alongside, or perhaps in spite of, the city’s achievements, the history of Chicago is fraught with systemic racism and inequality that has engendered a deep-rooted distrust of its social and political institutions among its minority populations–a term which is itself a misnomer, really, as a quick look at the data on Chicago from the census bureau reveals that these minority populations comprise more than half of the total population. It is no wonder, then, that when in 2013 Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced an unprecedented wave of school closings located mostly on the city’s heavily black and Latino south and west sides, the plan was met with a roar of protest from parents, students, and teachers. The Emmanuel administration pitched the closings as a solution to a budget problem, a response to declining enrollments, and a chance to purge bad schools that were dragging down the whole system. Years later, have . . .

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