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Archive for May, 2011

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

New Book Tuesday: Ancient Business, a New Saussure, and International Film

The Origins of Business, Money, and MarketsThe Origins of Business, Money, and Markets
Keith Roberts

Course in General Linguistics
Ferdinand de Saussure; Translated by Wade Baskin; Edited by Perry Meisel and Haun Saussy

International Film Guide 2011: The Definitive Annual Review of World Cinema
Edited by Ian Haydn Smith

No Return, No Refuge: Rites and Rights in Minority Repatriation
Howard Adelman and Elazar Barkan

The Illusion of Freedom: Scotland Under Nationalism
Tom Gallagher

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Voices from Iraq: “The occupier is still here.”

Voices from Iraq

“In the end, after the Americans go, history will come to see their presence here as a curse on this country. But this is a curse we can bear. Gradually we will heal the wounds. Already as an Iraqi you can have a sense of self-respect in looking at other countries in the Middle East. None of them have endured what we have. The problem now is that we are still not free despite all the sacrifices. The occupier is still here.”

The following is an excerpt from Hassan Ali’s account of life in Sadr City during the six years following the invasion. To read more excerpts from Voices from Iraq: A People’s History, 2003-2009.

Despite all of the suffering that I have seen in the past six years, I believe life is better now than it was during the time of Saddam Hussein. You want to know why? I’ll explain. I’ll put it to you in very simple terms. You always had one thing over these past years since the invasion that you never had in Saddam times. Throughout all the violence of the last six years, all the explosions and all the murders every day for months all around, you could always go to your bed and sleep in peace each night no matter what happened during the day. You could never sleep in peace during Saddam times. You never knew if someone would be coming for you in the middle of the night. If someone from your area was picked up by the intelligence, you could not sleep for weeks. You knew he was somewhere being tortured, saying names to make the pain stop, maybe your name. And they would come for you next. During Saddam times the city was quiet in the day, sure. But living through those nights was terror. That’s the difference. That’s why it’s better now than it was before….

You have to make sacrifices for freedom. And sacrifices have been made. In the end, after the Americans go, history will come to see their presence here as a curse on this country. But this is a curse we can bear. Gradually we will heal the wounds. Already as an Iraqi you can have a sense of self-respect in looking at other countries in the Middle East. None of them have endured what we have. The problem now is that we are still not free despite all the sacrifices. The occupier is still here.

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Voices from Iraq: Usra J’Bara Hadi and Standing Up to Sectarian Violence

Voices from Iraq

“These terrorists were trying to do whatever they could to displace us. There were Sunnis in our village as well, by the way. About half the families were Sunni and the other half Shi’ites. We all banded together against these terrorists, because they seemed to be out to kill just everybody.”

The following excerpt from Usra J’Bara Hadi describes how her town, located south of Baghdad, suffered through sectarian violence and terrorism and how they tried to stand up to. For more excerpts from Voices from Iraq: A People’s History, 2003-2009.

These terrorists were trying to do whatever they could to displace us. There were Sunnis in our village as well, by the way. About half the families were Sunni and the other half Shi’ites. We all banded together against these terrorists, because they seemed to be out to kill just everybody. When we stayed, the terrorists brought in heavier weapons. They started firing mortars and anti-aircraft cannons at our house and others in the area. They had stolen these weapons from the police force after killing them off. Eight or ten people died in homes around us as the attacks grew more intense.

As the months passed we came to live in a state of siege in our own houses. We organized defenses and patrols for the village, and the fighting came daily. We were trapped there, and we were running out of food and ammunition. We were going to die unless we did something. We regularly called the police and the army to come and help us, but no one ever came. The Iraqi army was in the area, but we could not convince them to help us. Many families wanted to flee. I was against this and urged people to stay. This was our land, our home. We should not be chased away. At the same time, life was impossible. We needed the army or the police to come to the area and remain to ward off attackers. So, we decided to stage a kind of demonstration in order to demand security forces for our village.

(more…)

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Voices from Iraq: The Return of an Exile

Voices from Iraq, Mark Kukis

“What I did not understand was how much damage had been done to the minds of Iraqi people. I was naive.”

In Voices from Iraq: A People’s History, 2003-2009, Mithal Al-Alusi describes his return to Iraq after nearly thirty years in exile. Upon coming back, he frequently spoke out against sectarianism earning him many enemies and become the target of assassination attempts. (To read more excerpts from Voices from Iraq.)

Coming back, how can I describe the feeling? I had not been in Iraq since 1976. I felt delirious. I felt nervous. Being in Baghdad again was a chance to begin realizing our dreams, wishes, and goals. But we were still so far from our dreams even being back in Baghdad. I began to understand this in the weeks after returning. Even with Saddam gone there were many big dangers. Iran is not a joke. Saudi Arabia is not a joke. Syria is not a joke. The remnants of the old system are not a joke. The damage done to the society by the years of oppression is not a joke. You begin to feel very small against such big, dangerous waves.

I was politically active from the first moment I returned. I spent most of my early days back just connecting with old friends. Iraq had changed more than I could have imagined. Saddam once said that if he had to leave Iraq he would leave it as a house on fire. That’s what he did. The country was like a house gutted by fire. I used to think that whatever damage Saddam did to Iraq we could fix in a few years. We could fix the economy. We could fix the infrastructure. What I did not understand was how much damage had been done to the minds of Iraqi people. I was naive.

(more…)

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Voices from Iraq: Omar Yousef Hussein, Insurgent

Mark Kukis, Voices from Iraq

“We made our way to the road. There were some shepherds there with sheep. They saw us planting the bomb but said nothing. It all seemed like a game, honestly.”

The following excerpt from Voices from Iraq: A People’s History, 2003-2009, comes from Omar Yousef Hussein, a political dissident during Saddam Hussein’s rule,who spent eight years in jail but was released in 2002. After his release he resumed a career in academia but as the US invasion grew imminent he joined a resistance movement in Baghdad. Here is his account of setting a roadside bomb. (To read other excerpts.)

We made our way to the road. There were some shepherds there with sheep. They saw us planting the bomb but said nothing. It all seemed like a game, honestly. A game you might play as a child. We ran a wire from the bomb through the fields off the road and found a hiding place where the leaves and grass kept us from view. From there we watched. We did not have to wait long. It was a busy road. The Americans used it a lot. After about an hour we saw a Humvee. This was in the early days, when Humvees were often seen alone, not always in armored convoys like later. The Humvee approached, and at the right moment we detonated. The explosion flipped the Humvee onto its side, and after a moment a crowd gathered. We eased out of our hiding spot and joined the group on the street. I don’t know if the Americans in the Humvee were dead or not. I just saw them being carried away on stretchers. No one walked away as far as I could tell.

I can’t say how the others felt at that moment, but I was in tears. I didn’t know whether I was crying out of sadness or fear or happiness. Maybe all those reasons. For me, that first operation was like breaking free from a whole life of oppression. I had grown up under Saddam Hussein. I had spent nearly a decade of my youth in his jails. I had seen my country invaded by a foreign army. All my life I felt beaten down by one hand or another. And now, finally, for the first time I was hitting back.

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

New Book Tuesday: Two for Tuesday from Columbia Business School Publishing

Designing for GrowthDesigning for Growth: A Design Thinking Toolkit for Managers
Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie

Pandora’s Risk: Uncertainty at the Core of Finance
Kent Osband

Capturing Carbon: The New Weapon in the War Against Climate Change
Robin M. Mills

A History of Finland
Henrik Meinander

Poems of Love and War: From the Eight Anthologies and the Ten Long Poems of Classical Tamil
Edited and Translated by A. K. Ramanujan

History of the Mafia (Now available in paper)
Salvatore Lupo

Eating History: Thirty Turning Points in the Making of American Cuisine (Now available in paper)
Andrew F. Smith

Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War (Now available in paper)
Stephen F. Cohen

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Voices from Iraq: Ali Al-Shaheen

Mark Kukis, Voices from Iraq

“I cried for Iraq. To me the fall of that statue was a symbol for the fall of the country, not just one dictator.”

Mark Kukis’s Voices from Iraq: A People’s History, 2003-2009 collects testimonies from a wide range of Iraqis who experienced the United States invasion and the subsequent occupation and insurgency. Throughout the week we will feature excerpts from the book. The first is an account by Ali Al-Shaheen, who was a successful chicken farmer just south of Baghdad. The following is an excerpt from his account of the invasion and first days of the occupation:

We had a satellite dish, and all the news channels began reporting that Baghdad had fallen. We still had not seen any American troops. Then on the television we saw the images of mobs pulling down the statue of Saddam. I cried. My wife cried. Not for him, mind you. I cried for Iraq. To me the fall of that statue was a symbol for the fall of the country, not just one dictator.

In the days after that we never left our area. The mobs were everywhere looting, and a bunch of us from the neighborhood began organizing watches to try and keep our houses safe. We knew the mobs would come, because our area was wealthy and home to several prominent figures from Saddam’s regime. The looters came like ants. They started ransacking houses near us, in sight of the Americans. There was a tank at either end of the main road in our neighborhood, and six or seven shot-up cars sat on the street with several dead people in them who had apparently been killed by the Americans for whatever reason, getting too close to the tanks I guess. There were bodies on the street as well. The Americans were just sitting in the tanks overlooking this for days but not coming out. I went with some neighbors of mine who also speak English to try and talk to them. They shooed us away without speaking. So, we were left on our own to protect our houses. We set up roadblocks, and we would stand guard on the rooftops. If anyone saw anything, he would fire and we would all grab our guns. I always had with me in those days a Kalashnikov and a revolver.

(more…)

Friday, May 20th, 2011

William Egginton on the Rapture

William Egginton on the RaptureThe following post is by William Egginton, author of In Defense of Religious Moderation.

Let’s face it. Looking forward to May 22, 2011, as a day to laugh in the face of apocalypse-nowers makes about as much sense as getting excited about showing birthers another copy of Obama’s birth certificate.

What these groups have in common is a singular disregard for what most of us might call evidence.

It would be easier to dismiss such people altogether if it weren’t for reports that up to 56% of Americans, according to a Time Magazine poll, “believe the prophecies in the Book of Revelation will come true.” 

Indeed, such proportions seem in line with the circa 60% of Americans who, according to a CNN poll taken last August, doubted that President Obama was in fact born in the US.

Bill Maher’s laugh line that those awaiting the rapture this Saturday should “put their money where their mouth is,” and wager $5,000 with him, overlooks that some have done just that, resigning from their jobs, ceasing to save for their children’s educations, or letting their savings run out.

Others have been considerably more pragmatic, however: taking vacation time in case their jobs and the need to earn a living survive the weekend. This seems more like Pascal’s wager than Maher’s: if the risks are minim and the potential rewards are infinite, you might as well play along.

Indeed, if economic activity is any indication, nothing like 56% of the public is willing to take Maher’s bet; unemployment figures show lots of people vying for the few jobs out there.

But claiming that someone was not born in the US and claiming that massive earthquakes are currently rolling across the world’s time zones have different reality thresholds to overcome. In other words, it’s much easier to believe everyone else is deluded about a piece of paper being authentic than to believe your own senses are deluded about the world not exploding all around you.

So, what’s in a poll? Most of the 56% who purportedly “believe” the prophecies probably aren’t ready to give up their jobs over them yet. And if 60% of Americans really doubted Obama was a natural born citizen when asked last August, a poll taken in May of this year showed that number had declined to 3%, suggesting that in the case of birthers, at least, the reality threshold was a little closer to earth.

Maybe the question the pollsters should ask on Sunday is: does the world still exist? If you’re around to answer this question, please select “yes.”

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Kenneth Goldsmith to appear at the NYPL for a Believer event.

Fresh off his reading at the White House, Kenneth Goldsmith, author of the forthcoming Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age, will join Dick Cavett, Lorin Stein and others tomorrow at 1 pm for an event at the New York Public Library sponsored by the Believer.

The event is entitled “The Art of the Interview.” Here is a description:

What makes a good question? What is a bad response? Why is dialogue one of the most enduring forms of literature? The Believer magazine presents a panel of four distinguished American interviewers discussing the art of the interview: legendary television host and author Dick Cavett; New York Times writer Claudia Dreifus; author and editor Kenneth Goldsmith; and Lorin Stein, editor of The Paris Review. The discussion will be followed by a short reading of a self-interview, written by author and Saturday Night Live writer Simon Rich, performed by Paulo Costanzo, and a presentation of Darren O’Donnell’s relational theater piece, Q+A. The event will be hosted by Believer interview editors Sheila Heti and Ross Simonini.

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Interview with William Egginton, author of In Defense of Religious Moderation

Interview with William EggintonThe following is an interview with William Egginton, author of t In Defense of Religious Moderation, and Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at The Johns Hopkins University.

Question: What are everyday fundamentalisms?

William Egginton: Physicists Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow have recently used the term "model-dependent realism" to talk about the extent to which humans can approximate knowledge of the world as it really is, independent of our senses and the media we use to grasp it. The idea is basically that different conditions require different models of reality, and there is no sense at all in talking about a model-free reality. What I call everyday fundamentalisms are those ways we have of talking or thinking about the world that presuppose access to just such a model-free reality. Since I refer to such models as "codes"—the way that linguists speak use the term code-switching to refer to our ability to adopt speech and behavior to different social circumstances—I argue that such a belief is akin to positing an all-encompassing master-code, or "code of codes." Belief in the code of codes, then, is a belief that the world as it really is in itself already exists as a kind of knowledge, independent of the ways we may come to know it. This is the basic ingredient of all fundamentalisms, religious or otherwise.

Q: What is religious moderation, and how will it defend against fundamentalism?

WE: Religious moderation is a kind of religious belief that refuses the logic of the code of codes. Moderate believers find comfort, solace, community, and pleasure in their belief systems and the practices that accompany them, without ever assuming that these beliefs represent a direct, unfettered, or in some way absolutely knowledge of the world. Moderate believers are thus perfectly capable of reciting the tenets of their own faiths without ever feeling that they are in irresolvable contradiction with other, perhaps more practical ways of understanding the world. For this very reason, not only are such forms of belief entirely compatible with scientific knowledge, they are also inherently tolerant, since moderate believers make a constant practice of reconciling apparently incompatible versions of reality. This implicit commitment to tolerance along with its suspicion of claims to ultimate knowledge make religious moderation one of the best possible defenses against fundamentalisms of all kinds, in particular the religious fundamentalisms that are so openly threatening the modern, democratic world view.

(more…)

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Brent Stockwell on The Quest for the Cure

Brent Stockwell discusses his new book The Quest for the Cure: The Science and Stories Behind the Next Generation of Medicines. The book explores the history of drug development, the challenges facing scientists and promising research approaches, including some in his own lab, that may help lead to cures.

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Interview with Stephen Schryer, author of “Fantasies of the New Class”

Stephen Schryer, Fantasies of the New ClassThe following is an interview with Stephen Schryer, author of Fantasies of the New Class: Ideologies of Professionalism in Post–World War II American Fiction.

Q. What drew you to the topic of professionalism in post–World War II American fiction?

Stephen Schryer: As a Canadian, I’ve often been fascinated by the relative weakness of the American welfare state in comparison to that of other first world nations. Part of the puzzle is that in the 1930s, during the New Deal, the United States seemed poised to follow the path of the European social democracies that were emerging at that time. When I started this project, my goal was to use the fiction of the post–World War II period to help figure out why the nation didn’t take that path. My starting point was a series of sociological debates from the 1960s and 1970s about the so-called new class. During this period, intellectuals from across the political spectrum—liberal, conservative, and left wing—argued that university-educated professionals were in the process of displacing the old, capital-owning bourgeoisie as the dominant segment of the dominant class in all first world societies. Figures like Alvin Gouldner, on the left; Talcott Parsons, in the liberal center; and Irving Kristol, on the neoconservative right, argued that this new class would usher in a more robust welfare state. They pointed to the massive expansion of the university system, to the dependence of most industries on specialized expertise, to the growth in the number of workers who identified themselves as professionals on the National Census. They also pointed to the fact that since the Progressive Era, professionals have often been at the forefront of efforts to establish the welfare state.

What was wrong with this prediction? Obviously, this is a huge question, one that I couldn’t hope to answer comprehensively in a study of post–World War II fiction. But I was guided by the belief that literature—fiction in particular—can provide cultural historians with a complex picture of the ideological divisions of the society that produces it. Fiction seemed to me especially well suited to tackling the topic of professionalism, since writers belong with varying degrees of comfort or discomfort to the educated middle class. As I read the fiction of the post–World War II period, I found echoes of Gouldner and Kristol’s argument in the work of literary critics and novelists as diverse as Lionel Trilling, John Crowe Ransom, Ralph Ellison, Mary McCarthy, Saul Bellow, Ursula K. LeGuin, Marge Piercy, and Don DeLillo. I became especially interested in the mechanism by which these writers imagined that the new class would displace the old one. This mechanism was purely cultural; the new class would carry the culture of the university out of its walls and reshape American society in its image. Some writers viewed this prospect with elation, others with dismay. I refer to this belief as new class fantasy and argue that it was a crucial element of post–World War II literary and intellectual culture.

(more…)

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

New Book Tuesday — In Defense of Religious Moderation

New books now available:

In Defense of Religious ModerationIn Defense of Religious Moderation
William Egginton

Tamil Love Poetry: The Five Hundred Short Poems of the Ainkurunuru
Translated and edited by Martha Ann Selby

Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War
Sarmila Bose

Religion, Caste, and Politics in India
Christophe Jaffrelot

Resisting Genocide: The Multiple Forms of Rescue
Edited by Jacques Semelin, Claire Andrieu, and Sarah Gensburger

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Howard Marks Discusses The Most Important Thing on DealBook

The Most Important ThingHoward Marks was recently interviewed on the New York Times‘s blog DealBook to discuss his new book The Most Important Thing: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor.

Marks describes how the book built upon the letter he has been writing for the past two decades building upon his 42-year career in investing. Among other things, Marks discusses how he anticipated the burst of the tech-bubble in 2000 and the influence Michael Milken had on his investment strategy.

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

Q. The book draws heavily on newspaper articles and the writings and quotes of famous investors, even Mark Twain. I have this image of your traveling around with a pair of scissors and a burgeoning file of newspaper clippings. Tell me about your writing process.

A. That’s just what I’ve been doing this morning. I have a clip file spread out on my desk for the next memo. It’s working title is “How Quickly They Forget,” and it’s about short memories and how that dooms people to repeating mistakes. Nobody remembers the crisis anymore.

Q. I recall a John Kenneth Galbraith quote from your book related to that.

A. Galbraith said: “Contributing to euphoria are two further factors little noted in our time or past times. The first is extreme brevity of a financial memory. Financial disaster is quickly forgotten. When the same or closely similar circumstances occur again, sometimes only in a few years, they are hailed by a new, often youthful, and always supremely self-confident generation as a brilliantly innovative discovery.” What could be more true of the years leading up to the crisis?

Friday, May 13th, 2011

Kenneth Goldsmtih on Uncreative Writing at Pennsylvania Avenue

At the risk of being uncreative ourselves, we are offering a second post on Kenneth Goldsmith and Billy Collins’s events at the White House. (Hey, how often do you have an author read at the White House? Let alone two?) In the first video, Billy Collins, who edited Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems about Birds, and Kenneth Goldsmith, author of the forthcoming Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age, talk to high school students about their approaches to poetry. (Billy Collins is first up with Rita Dove and Kenneth Goldsmith begins at around the 46:00 mark):

The second video comes from the reading which took place in the evening in which Goldsmith and Collins were joined by Aimee Mann, Rita Dove, Common, and others:

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Interview with Whitney Strub, author of Perversion for Profit

The following is an interview with Whitney Strub, author of Perversion for Profit: The Politics of Pornography and the Rise of the New Right

Question: Why “Perversion for Profit”? Won’t people think the book is about the economics of the porn industry?

Whitney Strub: Hopefully not. I lay out the main emphasis in the subtitle! I chose the title for a few reasons. First, it was the name of an early-1960s antiporn short film distributed by Citizens for Decent Literature, which crystallizes some of the key methods of modern antiporn discourse—a secular veneer of legalisms and social science that tries to conceal a substantive moralism; a freewheeling construction of “perversity” that barrages the viewer with everything from bestiality to “your daughter, lured into lesbianism,” a dizzying array of perversions that share only their imagined contrast to the heterosexual nuclear family; and also the enticement of an opportunity to wallow in some perversion for a while, under the alibi of fighting for decency.

So the film Perversion for Profit occupies a place of centrality in the politics of pornography; my students laugh at the film today, but its tactics are still operative when politicians speak of the “debilitating effects on communities, marriages, families, and children,” as George W. Bush did in 2003. No meaningful evidence to speak of really supports that, but it’s the sort of trope the New Right mastered in the late 1960s and continues to employ to great effect—the displacement of material issues by moral ones. (Deindustrialization, economic and environmental deregulation, and the massive upward redistribution of wealth debilitate more communities, marriage, families, and children than porn, but you never heard Bush discuss those impacts.) That undergirds the other meaning of the title—that the modern Right has profited immensely through its use of various “perversions” for political gain. I argue that pornography played a crucial role in the formulation of the social-issues agenda that ultimately included comprehensive sex education, feminism, gay rights, reproductive rights, and other elements of modern sexuality that conservatism has very effectively construed as attacks on its monolithic notion of “the family.”

(more…)

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Despite Sarah Palin’s Protestations Kenneth Goldsmith to Read at White House

Kenneth Goldsmith reading at White House

Just a reminder that Kenneth Goldsmith, author of Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age, will be reading tonight at 7:00 pm at the White House for a special event celebrating American poetry. The event will be streamed live on www.whitehouse.gov and will also include performances by Aimee Mann, Common, Billy Collins, Elizabeth Alexander, Rita Dove, Alison Knowles, and Jill Scott. In addition to his reading at the White House, Goldsmith will join Michelle Obama for a poetry workshop earlier in the day.

The event has suddenly become controversial as such noted poetry critics as Fox News, Sarah Palin, and The Daily Caller have criticized the decision to invite rapper Common. The controversy focusses on an unreleased rap called “A Letter to the Law,” which Common performed on an episode of Def Poetry Jam in 2005.

Ben Greenman has written a very good piece discussing the controversy and the work of Common for the New Yorker blog.

Monday, May 9th, 2011

The Burial of Osama Bin Laden — an Op-Ed by Leor Halevi

Osama Bin Laden

Barack Obama and the U.S. government made it clear that Osama bin Laden was buried in strict accordance with Muslim law. But how accurate is this statement?

In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Leor Halevi, author of Muhammad’s Grave: Death Rites and the Making of Islamic Society suggests that the United States in fact lacks “a deeper understanding of the history of Islam’s sacred law.”

In tracing the shifts in Islamic law regarding burial, Halevi reveals that in many cases the circumstances of death determines the most appropriate method of handling the dead. He argues that according to Islamic law burial at sea, the method used for bin Laden, is used only in extraordinary circumstances. This has led some interpreters of Islamic law to denounce the actions of the United States.

Another complicating factor is that decisions about burial rites is often influenced by how the deceased lived. Thus, the case of bin Laden is particularly challenging given that “Bin Laden’s religious status is a matter of contention.” Halevi continues:

On one end of the spectrum are Muslims who consider him an outsider to Islam: if not quite an apostate, a terrorist whose right to an official Muslim prayer is debatable at best. (In 2005 the Islamic Commission of Spain essentially excommunicated Bin Laden, arguing that he should not be treated as a Muslim.) They must find it as perplexing as I do that the United States government granted the man it identified not as a Muslim, but as a “mass murderer of Muslims,” the dubious honor of a quasi-Islamic funeral.

On the other end are Muslims who believe that Bin Laden is now enjoying the blessings of martyrdom. From a theological perspective, it matters little to them how Americans on the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson disposed of the corpse.

Which is all to say that Bin Laden’s burial was doctrinally irrelevant to some Muslims, and confusing to others. Most of the rest feel uneasy. Perhaps the United States could not have avoided that. But a deeper understanding of the history of Islam’s sacred law could have prevented us from seeming so at sea.

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Howard Marks on CNBC

Howard Marks, author of The Most Important Thing: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor, was recently interviewed on CNBC.

Among other issues, Marks discussed the impossibility of intelligently investing in commodities; how best to value a company; and the prospects for the U.S. economy. Marks believes the coming years will not be prosperous in large part because of the tightening of credit.

See below for a video of his exclusive interview (start at the 4:00 mark). (You can also download an e-book version or individual chapters from the book via Columbia University Press Online Access.)

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Mr. Goldsmith Goes to Washington

Kenneth Goldsmith

We were very excited to hear that Kenneth Goldsmith, author of the forthcoming Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age has been invited to read at the White House on Thursday, May 11 beginning at 7:00 pm! The event, which will be streamed live on www.whitehouse.gov, will also include performances by Aimee Mann, Common, Billy Collins, Elizabeth Alexander, Rita Dove, Kenneth Goldsmith, Alison Knowles, and Jill Scott. In addition to his reading at the White House, Goldsmith will also join Michelle Obama for a poetry workshop earlier in the day.

The announcement about Goldsmith’s performance at the White House caps off what has been a very busy past few days. Goldsmith also recently contributed a piece to The Wire on the epiphanies of the hunt for music and how it has changed in the digital age; described his current project, rewriting The Arcades Project for New York City; and was interviewed in Frieze magazine.