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Archive for May, 2013

Friday, May 31st, 2013

University Press Roundup: Mingus, Barbecue, Obama, a Gay Gatsby, and More.

Our weekly roundup of some of the best from university press blogs:

Like barbecue? Looking for a summer vacation? The University of Texas Press’s Barbecue Crossroads: Notes and Recipes from a Southern Odyssey recounts the authors’ enlightening journey as well as conveying their experiences through gorgeous photographs and recipes picked up along the way.

John S. W. Park, author of Illegal Migrations and the Huckleberry Finn Problem examines the ways in which issues of race that haunted Mark Twain’s novel are still very much with twenty-first century America. (via Temple University Press’s North Philly Notes)

Forty years ago, all the residents of the tiny island of Chagos were forcibly reported to make room for a U.S. military base. Michael Vine, author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia follows up on their story at the Princeton University Press blog.

It’s summer. It’s Friday. Allow yourself to procrastinate. Allow Oxford University Press to help.

Sue V. Rosser, author of Breaking into the Lab: Engineering Progress for Women in Science, on the place of women in the IT and patenting industries via New York University Press’s From the Square.

At the University of North Carolina Press blog, Michael Hunt looks at Obama’s recent foreign policy shifts and his failures and successes thus far.

The links between the works and ideas of science-fiction writer Stanislaw Lem and philosopher Henri Bergson are explored by Joanna Zylinska, translator of Lem’s Summa Technologiae, at the University of Minnesota Press

Maria San Filippo asks whether Baz Luhrman’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby is gay enough at the Indiana University Press blog.

The publication of the DSM-5 has brought a not unexpected degree of hand-wringing about the state of American psychiatry and the American psyche. At the Harvard University Press blog, Richard Noll, author of American Madness: The Rise and Fall of Dementia Praecox, explores the deficiency of public understanding of mental disorders and their treatment.

The University of California Press blog has a great podcast interview with John Goodman, author of Mingus Speaks, a collection of interviews with Charles Mingus.

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

News from Columbia Business School Publishing

Columbia Business School Publishing

It’s been a good past few days for titles from Columbia Business School Publishing with several notable reviews:

Success recently wrote about the soon-to-be-published Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO’s Quest for Meaning and Authenticity, by August Turak. In the article, it lists four valuable lessons from the book:

1. Always honor your promises—even small or trivial ones. People will gauge your reliability on the big things by how you handle the little ones.

2. Keep promises to yourself because doing so correlates with willpower and self-control, virtues that are essential to trustworthiness. Willpower is like any other muscle; it needs daily exercise to stay in shape.

3. Under-commit and over-deliver. Only make promises that you know you will be able to keep. The quickest way to lose respect is to bail on your promises.

4. Protect your personal brand. Get in the habit of asking yourself, “How will this decision affect my personal brand?” In the long run, your reputation is your most valuable asset.

Forbes joins the chorus of admirers (Warren Buffett, etc.) for Howard Marks’s The Most Important Thing Illuminated: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor. In a review they write:

This isn’t yet another “how to invest” book or a tired rehashing of received investment “wisdom” that looks more like something found in a fortune cookie and which rarely seems to hold up in practice.

Instead, Marks gives us the insightful thoughts of a man who struggles with his own investing decisions on a daily basis. There are no shortcuts, formulas or easy tricks. But there is a wealth of experience and thoughtful contemplation from a real “in the trenches” investor who has been doing this a long time.


Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Interview with Stephanie Hepburn, author of Human Trafficking Around the World: Hidden in Plain Sight

Stephanie Hepburn, author of Human Trafficking Around the World: Hidden in Plain SightThe following is an interview with Stephanie Hepburn, coauthor (with Rita Simon) of Human Trafficking Around the World: Hidden in Plain Sight (For more on the book, you can also watch a video of Stephanie Hepburn discussing the book.):

Question: What made you interested in writing about the topic of human trafficking?

Stephanie Hepburn: I moved to New Orleans in February 2006, not long after Hurricane Katrina. Just like any place in any country that experiences a natural disaster, the infrastructure was disrupted, the population was in flux and law enforcement personnel were overextended. In order to rebuild the city there was a sudden demand for low-wage labor, which created an ideal scenario for labor exploitation and human trafficking. Further compounding the scenario is that the United States government temporarily suspended numerous protections for workers that affected wages, safety and health. Also, the government temporarily suspended immigration-enforcement requirements. These temporary suspensions compounded the situation and allowed illicit contractors to move in, and bring in and exploit workers unnoticed.

This is actually where the latter part of the book title (Hidden in Plain Sight) came from: the workers were exploited out in the open, but they were hidden in plain sight because no one was paying attention to the exploitation. I first began to research the human trafficking cases in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region and after seeing the common patterns I added the entire U.S. and 23 other nations.

Q: What do you want to accomplish with this book?

SH: I wrote the book to attract a broad audience and be accessible to anyone – whether an academic, expert in the field or a layperson who happens to be curious about the topic. I wanted to bring about improved awareness and understanding of all forms of human trafficking. When most people think of human trafficking they think of sex trafficking. They aren’t incorrect but that certainly isn’t the entire picture. In fact, the International Labour Organization estimates that 68 percent of the 20.9 million victims of human trafficking are forced labor victim, while 22 percent are victims of forced sexual exploitation. The remaining victims are in state-imposed forms of forced labor. To me, all of these victims are forced labor victims and it doesn’t serve any positive purpose to differentiate — it simply results in disparate laws and treatment.

I also wanted to tell the stories of victims and strike a balance between humanizing the experience and giving essential statistical data. Many of the books that I have read on human trafficking tend to go in one direction or the other. I aimed to achieve both. To me, the statistics are necessary for giving as close to an accurate image as possible of the extent of human trafficking, while the stories are the glue and heart of the book. They prohibit reader detachment and give a clear image of what victims experience from beginning to end.


Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

New Book Tuesday: Me Medicine, Nutritionism, German Jihad, Immigrant New York, and More New Titles

New titles now available:

Me Medicine vs. We Medicine, Donna DickensonMe Medicine vs. We Medicine: Reclaiming Biotechnology for the Common Good
Donna Dickenson

Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice
Gyorgy Scrinis

German Jihad: On the Internationalization of Islamist Terrorism
Guido W. Steinberg

One Out of Three: Immigrant New York in the Twenty-First Century
Edited by Nancy Foner

Deleuze and Architecture
Edited by Hélène Frichot and Stephen Loo

Understanding Ethics: An Introduction to Moral Theory
Torbjörn Tännsjö

Untimely Affects: Gilles Deleuze and the Ethics of Cinema
Nadine Boljkovac

Haptic Modernism: Touch and the Tactile in Modernist Writing
Abbie Garrington

Modernist Literature and Postcolonial Studies
Rajeev Patke

Small-Gauge Storytelling: Discovering the Amateur Fiction Film
Ryan Shand

The Edinburgh Festivals: Culture and Society in Postwar Britain
Angela Bartie

Reflections on the Astronomy of Glasgow
David Clarke

Classroom Discourse and Teacher Development
Steve Walsh

Hungarian-Yugoslav Relations, 1918–1927
Árpád Hornyák

Teaching the Music Press
Cath Davies

Friday, May 24th, 2013

University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best posts from the blogs of academic publishers! We hope you have a happy Memorial Day and an enjoyable long weekend! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments.

This Sunday, Arrested Development makes its long-awaited return to the small screen, and in preparation for this momentous occasion, the OUPblog has an excellent post by Mark Peters comparing the use of language in AD to other well-known television comedies: 30 Rock, Seinfeld, The Simpsons, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

NYC mayoral candidate Christine Quinn has been the subject of a great deal of media scrutiny recently, and at From the Square, the blog of NYU Press, Margaret S. Williams argues that Quinn’s public treatment highlights the way that female candidates for political office still face a “double-bind.” Williams claims that “Female candidates need to seem tough, but not too tough …. Female candidates need to appear to represent women, but not too much …. And, above all, the female candidate needs to be well-dressed.”

In a fascinating post at the University of Minnesota Press blog, science writer Dorion Sagan discusses the differing views, differing approaches to science, and differing legacies of his parents, astronomer Carl Sagan and biologist Lynn Margulis.

The DSM-5 comes out later this week, and at the Harvard University Press Blog, Liah Greenfeld weighs in on the controversy surrounding this latest edition of the DSM. Greenfeld claims that the DSM-5 “is just an expression of the increasing confusion in the mental health community … in regard to the nature of the human mental processes—or the mind—altogether.”

Prompted by a recent string of apparently homophobic violence in New York City, and in particular by the murder of Mark Carson, Jay Michaelson has a guest post on Beacon Broadside discussing how the growing acceptance of gay marriage, while a step towards legal equality, may be masking deeper prejudices against the LGBT community.

Janis Joplin grew up in Port Arthur, but her relationship with the Texas town was “complicated.” In a fascinating excerpt from History Along the Way at the Texas A&M Press blog, Dan Utley and Cynthia Beeman look at the complex history between Port Arthur and its most famous citizen.

What lessons can today’s leaders take from one of history’s most famous explorers? At the Yale Press Log, Patrick J. Murphy and Ray W. Coye look at how Magellan used his single-mindedness to quell mutinies and deal with calamities on his voyage around the world, and explain how, despite his flaws, he can serve as an example for leaders today.

May 22 is National Maritime Day, and at the MIT Press blog, Larrie Ferreiro has a guest post looking at the current state of trade by sea. He points out that marine freight carriers are more energy-efficient and safer than either truck or rail transport, and that the US “has the industrial and engineering skills to expand the national maritime infrastructure” to better utilize intranational sea-transport possibilities.

The UNC Press Blog has an excerpt this week from Emily Clark’s American Quadroon, a look at how “the antebellum mixed-race free woman of color has long operated as a metaphor for New Orleans” in American literature.

Finally, This Side of the Pond, the blog of Cambridge University Press, challenges you to put your knowledge of cotton and the history of its cultivation and use to the test in “Cotton: The Quiz!”

Thanks again for reading this week’s roundup! Have a great weekend, and leave any thoughts in the comments!

Friday, May 24th, 2013

Peter Sloterdijk on Foucault

Philosophical Temperaments

This week our featured book is Philosophical Temperaments: From Plato to Foucault, by Peter Sloterdijk, translated by Thomas Dunlap with a foreword by Creston Davis. Be sure to enter our book giveaway by Friday for a chance to win a FREE copy! Today is the final day of the book giveaway, so we are featuring the final essay in Philosophical Temperaments in which Sloterdijk discusses the life, work, and legacy of French thinker Michel Foucault.

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Thomas Doherty Helps to Rediscover a Lost Anti-Nazi Film

Thomas Doherty, Hollywood and HitlerA recent post from the New Yorker‘s blog, Culture Desk tells the remarkable story of the rediscovery of the first American Anti-Nazi film. The long-lost film’s location was tracked down by Thomas Doherty, author of the recently published Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939, while he was researching the book.

The New Yorker post tells the remarkable story of how Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr.trip to Germany in 1933 shortly after Hitler became Chancellor led to the film’s creation. The film, Hitler’s Reign on Terror, includes footage of Nazi rallies, book burnings, street scenes in Vienna and Berlin, and anti-Nazi protests in Madison Square Garden. The film premièred at the independent Mayfair theatre on Broadway on April 30, 1934, and garnered the biggest single opening day in the house’s history.

However, as the article writes, “George Canty, the Berlin-based trade commissioner for the U.S. Department of Commerce, got wind of protests against the film by the German Ambassador in Washington, and concluded that ‘the film serves no good purpose. Across the country, censors took Canty’s view, and the film was denied a license, banned, and cut by New York City and State censor boards.”

The film then seemingly disappeared only to be recovered by Thomas Doherty. Here’s the description from the New Yorker article:

This April, Thomas Doherty, a Brandeis University professor, published “Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939,” a lively study of Hollywood’s relationship to Nazism. Researching the book, Doherty hunted down a number of American films from the period to provide a “Nazi-centric view of the American motion picture industry,” but had proved unable to find “Hitler’s Reign of Terror.” “Given the profile of the film in 1934,” Doherty wrote, “its total absence really stumped me. Curiouser still was its seeming disappearance from places it really should have been at least mentioned—such as the Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr. papers at Vanderbilt University, where it was not referenced at all. It appeared to be an authentically ‘lost’ film.” Then, a few years into his research on the book, Doherty received an email from Roel Vande Winkel at the University of Antwerp in Belgium. Vande Winkel had been contacted by Nicola Mazzanti, of the Royal Belgium Film Archive in Brussels, to report that the archive had come across a copy of the film in a back shelf in cold storage; he assumed it had been there since around 1945.

A Belgian film distributor, Doherty explained, must have ordered a print of the film from abroad—likely London—after the war broke out but before the Nazis invaded Belgium. Due to its foreign origins, it had to clear customs, but once the Nazis took control, the postulated distributor probably didn’t want to be holding an anti-Nazi film (or couldn’t afford the tax), and so never picked it up from customs. Somehow, some years later, it wound up with other unclaimed film-related customs inventory at the Royal Belgium Film Archive.

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Peter Sloterdijk on Kierkegaard

Philosophical Temperaments

This week our featured book is Philosophical Temperaments: From Plato to Foucault, by Peter Sloterdijk, translated by Thomas Dunlap with a foreword by Creston Davis. Be sure to enter our book giveaway by Friday for a chance to win a FREE copy! Today, we have an excerpt from Sloterdijk’s look at Soren Kierkegaard. The 200th anniversary of Kierkegaard’s birth was May 5th, 2013.

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Peter Sloterdijk on Plato

Philosophical Temperaments

This week our featured book is Philosophical Temperaments: From Plato to Foucault, by Peter Sloterdijk, translated by Thomas Dunlap with a foreword by Creston Davis. Be sure to enter our book giveaway by Friday for a chance to win a FREE copy! Today, we have an excerpt from Sloterdijk’s look at Plato, one of the most important thinkers in the Western philosophical tradition.

"Philosophical Temperaments: From Plato to Foucault," by Peter Sloterdijk

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Shivers Down Your Spine — Interview with Alison Griffiths

Shivers Down Your Spine: Cinemas, Museums, and the Immersive ViewWe are reposting an interview with Alison Griffiths, author of Shivers Down Your Spine: Cinemas, Museums, and the Immersive View (now available in paper!). Griffiths is associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Baruch College, City University of New York, and on the doctoral faculty of the Graduate Center. She is also the author of Wondrous Difference: Cinema, Anthropology, and Turn of the Century Visual Culture:

Q: The word “immersion” generates a lot of buzz in contemporary culture. But what exactly is an “immersive view” and why do we need a book about it?

Alison Griffiths: An immersive view is provided by an image or space such as a painting, photograph, film, or museum exhibit that gives the spectator a heightened sense of being transported to another time or place. Certain architectural forms can immerse visitors, including the Gothic cathedral, which creates a sense of the infinite and divine through the vaulted ceiling and other features. Immersive views take you out of the here and now, giving you the experience of having suddenly entered a new world, similar to virtual reality, but without the headgear. Cinema does this exceedingly well, especially large format films such as IMAX, which brands itself on the idea of virtual movement through space, that sense of being there that drives the marketing. But there is nothing new about the experience of immersion, as I explain in Shivers Down Your Spine: panoramas (huge circular paintings extremely popular in the nineteenth century), planetariums, and museums of science and natural history have long exploited the phenomenon. What this book provides is some much-needed context and theorization of the idea of immersion by drawing extensively from the historical archive.

Q: Why do immersive views give us “shivers down our spine?” Isn’t this a term associated more with horror films?

AG: We get “shivers down our spine” because there’s a disjunct between what we see and feel and what we know is happening to us. Giant panoramic paintings that I discuss in chapter two can take your breath way not only because you feel as if you’ve suddenly walked into the world of the paintings (you are enveloped by it), but because it’s an embodied experience which can give you shivers, tears, and sometimes vertigo or nausea. It’s that jaw-dropping sense of awe, reverence, and perhaps a little fear that makes the comparison to the horror film fitting, although the line “shivers down your spine” was used by a panorama reviewer in 1799 to describe the effect of seeing panorama inventor Robert Barker’s spectacular painting The Battle of the Nile which represents the decisive battle between Napoleon’s French fleet and Admiral Nelson’s Royal Navy.

Q: What are some of the most easily accessible immersive views in today’s culture? Where can we go to experience this sensation?

AG: Museums of natural history deliver “shivers down your spine” and immersion on two fronts: not only do the galleries feature exhibits that re-create natural environments such as the rainforest in the Hall of Biodiversity at the American Museum of Natural History, but they also frequently feature IMAX screens which are exemplary at delivering immersion. Movie theaters showing IMAX films, especially the purpose built theaters with fifteen-story screens as opposed to retrofitted IMAX theaters, are the most convenient places to go to experience the “immersive view.” The classic “phantom ride” shot when the audience feels they are flying through the air or hurtling on a rollercoaster is synonymous with the immersive view, and exploited most fully in theme park type thrill rides. Immersive views can be long or short, loud or quiet, familiar or unsettling. They are, however, almost always marked by a sense of the uncanny.


Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Creston Davis: “Analyzing Philosophy’s Temperamental Symptom,” the Foreword to Peter Sloterdijk’s Philosophical Temperaments

Philosophical Temperaments

This week our featured book is Philosophical Temperaments: From Plato to Foucault, by Peter Sloterdijk, translated by Thomas Dunlap with a foreword by Creston Davis. Be sure to enter our book giveaway by Friday for a chance to win a FREE copy! Today, we have an excerpt from the foreword to our English translation of Philosophical Temperaments, “Analyzing Philosophy’s Temperamental Symptom,” by Creston Davis.

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

New Book Tuesday: The Best Business Writing, The Matchmaker, The Discovery of Logic

Our weekly listing of new titles:

The Best Business Writing, Dean StarkmanThe Best Business Writing 2013
Edited by Dean Starkman, Martha M. Hamilton, Ryan Chittum, and Felix Salmon

The Matchmaker, the Apprentice, and the Football Fan: More Stories of China
Zhu Wen; translated by Julia Lovell

If A, Then B: How the World Discovered Logic
Michael Shenefelt and Heidi White

The Virilio Dictionary
Edited by John Armitage

Great Treatise on the Stages of Mantra: Chapters XI–XII (The Creation Stage)
Tsong Khapa Losang Drakpa; Translated and Introduced by Thomas F. Yarnall

Ecologies of Urbanism in India: Metropolitan Civility and Sustainability
Edited by Anne M. Rademacher and K. Sivaramakrishnan

Between Desire and Pleasure: A Deleuzian Theory of Sexuality
Frida Beckman


Monday, May 20th, 2013

Kenneth Waltz, 1924-2013

Kenneth Waltz, Man, the State, and WarWe were sad to learn of the death of Kenneth Waltz, who passed away last week at the age of 88. Waltz was a longtime professor at Columbia University, among other places, and was the author of Man, the State, and War: A Theoretical Analysis , which was his published dissertation but went on to reshape the field of International Relations. The book first published in 1959 continues to be one of our best-selling titles and is widely used in courses.

In an article in Foreign Policy, Stephen Walt, a former student of Waltz’s, wrote about how Waltz made IR theory vital for illuminating crucial policy decisions rather than it being relegated to academic irrelevancy. Walt provided an addendum focusing on the continuing importance of Waltz and his work:

I would add … the reminder of Waltz’s deep aversion to foolish military excesses. He served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and was a realist rather than a pacifist. But like Hans Morgenthau, he was an early opponent of the Vietnam War and deeply skeptical of the paranoid threat-inflation that has informed so much of U.S. foreign and defense policy. Like many other realists, he also opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The field of international relations would be better off with more people like Ken, and the world would be better off if more great powers — especially the United States — paid more attention to his insights.

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Book Giveaway: Philosophical Temperaments, by Peter Sloterdijk

Philosophical Temperaments

This week our featured book is Philosophical Temperaments: From Plato to Foucault, by Peter Sloterdijk, translated by Thomas Dunlap with a foreword by Creston Davis. Throughout the week, we will be featuring the book and its author here on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Philosophical Temperaments. To enter our Book Giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on May 24th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Friday, May 17th, 2013

University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best posts from the blogs of academic publishers! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments.

At Beacon Broadside, Carole Joffe discusses why the relationship between doctors and patients is so important, and why the “gotcha” filming of abortion clinic doctors undermines the possibility of such a relationship.

Are you a jazz fan? If so, you should listen to this podcast from the University of California Press Blog, in which John Goodman, author of Mingus Speaks, talks about his interviews with the great composer and performer Charles Mingus.

In the late 17th and early 18th century, cotton textiles and other “Eastern luxuries” were blamed for “corrupt[ing] the moral fibre of society” in Europe. Giorgio Riello tells the story of cotton in Early Modern England at This Side of the Pond, the blog of Cambridge University Press.

At the Florida Bookshelf, the blog of the University Press of Florida, Kathleen Kaska continues her account of the continuing battle to save the endangered whooping crane.

The seventeen-year life cycle of the cicada will come to a head this year when the ground temperature reaches 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Luckily, as May Berenbaum points out in a post on cicadas at the Harvard University Press Blog, “It’s not like these hordes of cicadas suck blood or zombify people.”

The JHU Press Blog had a couple of excellent posts this week. First, Sue Friedman discusses the consequences of patents on BRCA genes, with the future of BRCA testing in the balance in an ongoing Supreme Court case. Next, JHU Press manuscript editor Michele Callaghan asks whether “it matter[s] to anyone but editors and others who uphold the laws of grammar whether we use nouns or adjectives to describe people,” and answers firmly in the affirmative.

This week is National Transportation Week, and at the MIT Press blog, Joseph DiMento and Cliff Ellis argue that “we are at a critical point of major transportation diversification for some Americans.”

At the University of Minnesota Press, Rachel Hanel argues that “the death industry [has] taken firm hold and convinced Americans to let professionals handle the death and post-death process,” and that TV shows, Six Feet Under, for instance, help 21st-century America deal with “ideas about death that were common at the turn of the 20th century.”

Angelina Jolie recently wrote an op-ed in the NYTimes discussing her decision to undergo a double mastectomy to reduce her risk of breast cancer. At From the Square, the blog of NYU Press, Kelly E. Happe discusses Jolie’s decision and the BRCA testing process that led to it.

Read an excerpt from Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory, by R. Gregory Nokes, at the Oregon State University Press blog.

The DSM-5, the latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s manual of mental disorders, is scheduled to release next week, and it has already come under a great deal of criticism. This week, the OUPblog has been running a fascinating series of posts on the DSM series, the DSM-5 in particular, and the state of psychiatry in general.

Using the Wayne Brady-Bill Maher feud as a jumping-off point, Adia Harvey Wingfield discusses “black men who remain invisible” in a thoughtful and insightful post at North Philly Notes, the blog of Temple University Press.

Finally, at the Yale Press Log, Edward McCord makes the case for the intellectual as well as moral and practical value of the diversity of species and ecosystems on Earth.

Thanks again for reading this week’s roundup! Have a great weekend, and leave any thoughts in the comments!

Friday, May 17th, 2013

The Robin Hood Foundation: An Introduction

The Robin Hood Rules for Smart Giving

Today, we will finish up our week featuring The Robin Hood Rules for Smart Giving, Michael M. Weinstein and Ralph M. Bradburd, with a post explaining what the Robin Hood Foundation is and how it attempts to address the problem of poverty in New York City. (Don’t forget to enter our Goodreads book giveaway for a chance to win a FREE copy!)

The Robin Hood Foundation finds, funds, and partners with programs that have proven they are an effective way to combat poverty in New York City. Robin Hood employs a rigorous system of metrics and third-party evaluation to ensure grantee accountability. The board pays all administrative and fundraising costs, so 100% of donations goes directly to helping New Yorkers in need build better lives. The foundation also works closely with grantees to help make them more effective, ensuring that they will assist even more people.

The Robin Hood Foundation is one of the premier poverty-fighting nonprofit organizations focused on combating poverty in New York. This aim leads the foundation to support more than 200 programs in the city, ranging from education reform to stable housing, from food availability to literacy, and from health insurance and healthcare availability to disaster relief.


Thursday, May 16th, 2013

James Franco Calls Uncreative Writing “Good”

We were delighted and pleasantly surprised to see that James Franco, the actor, writer, and doctoral candidate (among other things), recently featured a photo of Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age by Kenneth Goldsmith on his website. Below the photo he simply wrote “Good,” which we’ll take as an endorsement!

This of course is the second celebrity sighting related to Uncreative Writing:

Cindy Crawford Reads Uncreative Writing

*We make no claims about the veracity or circumstances of this photograph!

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Video: The Robin Hood Foundation Approach

The Robin Hood Rules for Smart Giving

This week our featured book is The Robin Hood Rules for Smart Giving, by Michael M. Weinstein and Ralph M. Bradburd, published by Columbia Business School Publishing, an imprint of Columbia University Press. Enter our Goodreads book giveaway for a chance to win a FREE copy!

Today, we have a couple of videos from the excellent Vimeo channel of the Robin Hood Foundation. In the first video, Michael Weinstein explains the Robin Hood Foundation approach, and in the second, he explains “benefit-cost ratios.”

Our Approach from Robin Hood on Vimeo.

Michael Weinstein Benefit-Cost Video from Robin Hood on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Poetry: The News that Stays News — Stephen Burt

“So where did this idea come about that poems are the opposite of journalism, that poets do what reporters cannot, and vice versa?”—Stephen Burt

The following post by Stephen Burt was originally published on Nieman Reports. In the post Stephen Burt, author of The Forms of Youth: Twentieth-Century Poetry and Adolescence, explores how familiar stories are made fresh again by the way we put them into words:

The most famous statements about poetry and journalism hide an equation inside an opposition: “It is difficult/ to get the news from poems/ yet men die miserably every day/ for lack// of what is found there” (William Carlos Williams). Or else they hide an opposition inside an equation: “Poetry is news that stays news” (Ezra Pound).

Reported stories, poets might have it, confine themselves to what’s going on right now, and then go away, replaced by other reportage. Journalism considers external, verifiable facts, which stay the same no matter who speaks about them, while poets consider the inward, the private, the potentially eternal, the claims which are different in each poet’s heart, mind or words. Jahan Ramazani, a critic at the University of Virginia, has written about how poets imitate, and use, and transform, the news: “By contrast with the seemingly passive mediation of current events by the reporter,” Ramazani explains, “the poet’s use of language and form must actively re-create … an imaginative event that recurs perpetually in the sustained present of poetry’s inventiveness.”

There is something to that opposition; otherwise, it would not persist as it does. And yet you can find poems that report news, or poems that react to news, from any period you care to name. Some of them even count as what we call “lyric,” the supposedly timeless or private kind of poetry that is sometimes opposed to the news: They embody strong feeling and they resemble song. Rudyard Kipling’s “Recessional,” whatever you think of its politics, is both a compressed songlike work, whose word choices embody complex feeling, and a comment on current events (Queen Victoria’s Jubilee). So are Williams’s own poems about Sacco and Vanzetti and about the death of FDR. So—often at a lower level of craft—are many short, songlike poems from the late 1960s about the war in Vietnam.

You can have—you can attempt to embody in verse, to compress, to make eloquent—feelings or complicated inward responses, responses that reveal your character, to almost anything: to a twig or a fallen leaf or a sexual overture but also to what we now call headline news. The form of the sonnet, so often associated with erotic love, has become so prominent in English in part because poets use it to react to the news: Milton in the English Civil War, Wordsworth on the fall of the Venetian Republic and the capture of Toussaint L’Overture, several now-forgotten Victorian poets on dispatches from the Crimean War, Gwendolyn Brooks on poverty, race, Chicago, and World War II. Many of the supposed oppositions between poems and news just dissolve on scrutiny: Poetry often reacts to public events; poetry can be pellucid (as in Louise Glück or Christina Rossetti) as well as opaque; and journalists can take on complicated ideas with specialized vocabulary (collateralized mortgage obligations, for example, or mitochondrial DNA).

So where did this idea come about that poems are the opposite of journalism, that poets do what reporters cannot, and vice versa?


Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Michael M. Weinstein – The Robin Hood Foundation and “Relentless Monetization”

The Robin Hood Rules for Smart Giving

This week our featured book is The Robin Hood Rules for Smart Giving, by Michael M. Weinstein and Ralph M. Bradburd, published by Columbia Business School Publishing, an imprint of Columbia University Press. Enter our Goodreads book giveaway for a chance to win a FREE copy!

Today, we have a guest post from Michael Weinstein, in which he explains how The Robin Hood Foundation decides what to fund when there are so many important programs that need funding.

The Robin Hood Foundation and “Relentless Monetization”
Michael M. Weinstein

We philanthropists face gnarly decisions. To fight poverty, do we train chronically unemployed women to drive commercial trucks or instead pour money into pre-kindergarten programs for poor youngsters? Do we train male ex-offenders to serve as drug-abuse counselors for adolescent boys or fund charter schools? We can’t afford to do everything.

In The Robin Hood Rules for Smart Giving, Ralph Bradburd and I set forth a framework for making the right choices — spending philanthropic dollars with maximum impact.

Our framework, which we dub “relentless monetization,” uses the workhorse of modern economics, benefit-cost analysis, to help funders decide which grants to make. Spending dollars on programs with the highest benefit/cost ratios puts dollars where they do the most good. For example, taking dollars out of one project and spending them on a project whose benefit/cost ratio is twice as high amounts to raising and spending twice as many philanthropic dollars.

The framework does indeed bite hard. Here’s one of many examples.

At the Robin Hood Foundation, we once proudly funded what we saw as the best permanent supportive housing residence in the city. The grantee takes in homeless families, provides them excellent mental-health and other services, and keeps them safely, permanently housed. Using representative numbers, Robin Hood might have spent $300,000 a year to help house 60 families. We say this residence was best because none–not one–of its families returned to the streets. Case closed: great grant.

Or was it? Once our metric algorithms were in place and staff did the arithmetic, the benefit/cost calculation came in low—indeed, very low. Did we immediately pull the plug? No. Perhaps our algorithms were wrong and were missing key benefits. Perhaps our equations were right but our numbers were wrong. We did eventually pull the funding plug, but we did so only after two years of scrutiny. The answer was that permanent supportive housing is a frightfully expensive way to fight poverty. Here, Robin Hood would spend $300,000 a year to save the same 60 families year in and year out. We do that nowhere else. At our schools, the students in the sixth grade change each year. In our carpentry-training program, the trainees change each year. In our micro-lending programs, borrowers change each year.

Our point is not to criticize permanent supportive-housing programs. They pursue an inspiring and important mission. But for Robin Hood in particular, the strategy is not cost-effective. We can spend the $300,000 in other ways that lift significantly more poor New Yorkers out of poverty over any defined period.