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Archive for May, 2014

Friday, May 30th, 2014

University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles 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.

We’ll kick things off this week with a discussion of the causes of prison recidivism by David Chura at Beacon Broadside (a big congrats to Beacon Press on their new space!). In his post, Chura talks about his mistrust of contextless statistics about the prison system, and claims that the problem is not actually that big of a mystery: “How you treat people is how they will act. Living under present day prison conditions, day after day, for years, can only foster more bitterness, anger, and despair; can only result in more crime fueled by vengeful feelings upon release.”

Many college students are currently making their way home for the summer, and the abrupt shift of living situation can sometimes lead to tensions between students and parents. At the JHU Press Blog, Doris Iarovici discusses the difficulties of parenting a son or daughter who is home briefly from college, and offers some helpful advice to parents in uncomfortable situations.

Qatar has ruffled feathers among its Middle Eastern neighbors recently with their accepting attitude towards members of the Muslim Brotherhood. At the Stanford University Press Blog, Lawrence P. Rubin explains the situation, and looks into the reasons that deeply Islamic Saudi Arabia opposes the Brotherhood and that much larger states in the Middle East feel threatened by the actions of a small country like Qatar.

We’ve highlighted the University of Minnesota Press Blog’s #MALcasestudies series of posts for the last few weeks, and the series continues this week with a fascinating post by Matthew Kirschenbaum on WorldStar software. WorldStar has been in the news recently, as George R. R. Martin, author of the popular Song of Fire and Ice novels, has said on late night TV that he prefers to write using WorldStar. In his post, Kirschenbaum explains what WorldStar is, and explains why Martin might not be a luddite for preferring older software when he writes.

(more…)

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Kenneth Arrow’s Commentary on Creating a Learning Society

Creating a Learning Society

“Knowledge is a free good. The biggest cost in its transmission is not in the production or distribution of knowledge, but in its assimilation. This is something that all teachers know.” — Kenneth Arrow

This week our featured book is Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress, by Joseph E. Stiglitz and Bruce C. Greenwald. Today, we have excerpted Kenneth J. Arrow’s Commentary on the ideas Stiglitz and Greenwald put forth in Creating a Learning Society.

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Joseph Stiglitz on the Kenneth Arrow Lecture Series

Creating a Learning Society

“When we initiated the series, we had hoped that it would open up a lively discussion about a variety of areas within economics, political science, and philosophy. The Committee of Global Thought spans multiple disciplines, and Arrow is one of the few scholars of recent decades whose work has cut across fields, having profound implications on each.” — Joseph E. Stiglitz

This week our featured book is Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress, by Joseph E. Stiglitz and Bruce C. Greenwald. Today, we have an excerpt from Joseph Stiglitz’s Preface to Creating a Learning Society, in which he discusses the impact of Kenneth Arrow’s work, and the Committee of Global Thought at Columbia University’s decision to discuss Arrow’s work in the yearly Arrow Lectures.

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: “I’ve heard it said that on a good day, Askildsen wrote two sentences and crossed out one, but that on a really good day, he wrote one and crossed out two”

Selected Stories

“There are no problems other than the perpetual human problem: How the hell are we supposed to live together?” – Kjell Askildsen

We are proud to be distributing Dalkey Archive Press, one of the leading publishers of avant-garde fiction and literature in translation! In today’s Thursday Fiction Corner, we have a guest post from Seán Kinsella, translator of Stig Sæterbakken’s Through the Night and Self-Control, and of Selected Stories, Kjell Askildsen. In his post, Kinsella describes the experience of translating and reading Askildsen’s unique stories.

Kjell Askildsen’s Short Fiction
By Seán Kinsella

All good writing, like all good art, requires us to fill in a few blanks. We have to bring something to the table, play an active role, interpret, or else it is just entertainment. But Askildsen gives us so very little that we end up bringing a lot and I, for one, find that much of what I take along I do not like.

His compatriot and fellow writer, Bjarte Breiteig, has remarked on this with specific reference to the sibling’s interaction in the story “My Sister´s Face.” “This is characteristic of Askildsen´s treatment of taboos: Instead of releasing them to the surface, he allows them to lie beneath and glimmer throughout the story, leaving the reader with the uncomfortable feeling that he or she is the one who introduced them.”

Feeling uncomfortable after reading it is one thing, having to write about it is something else. I feel like attaching an asterisk to the end of every sentence here, with a disclaimer below, letting anyone reading this piece know that I do not identify with some of his male characters. But I do. I felt sympathy for Bernhard in “The Unseen”. The first time I read it, I did identify with him. The next time I read it I was convinced he must have a diagnosis of some sort. (more…)

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Creating a Learning Society — the Introduction

Creating a Learning Society

“The fact that markets on their own are not efficient when innovation is endogenous raised the question which is at the heart of our lecture and the book to which it gave rise: What should be the role of policy in promoting economic efficiency?” — Joseph E. Stiglitz and Bruce C. Greenwald

This week our featured book is Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress, by Joseph E. Stiglitz and Bruce C. Greenwald. Today, we have an excerpt from the Introduction of Creating a Learning Society. Be sure to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of the book!

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Got Cricket? Get it at Book Expo America

The Insect Cookbook

Every year publishers from around the world descend on the Javits Center in New York City for Book Expo America to promote their new titles. To lure visitors to their booths, publishers will try a variety of incentives ranging from free books and tote bags to pens and author autographs.

This year, at booth 1538, we’re trying something new. To help promote the recently published The Insect Cookbook: Food for a Sustainable Planet we’ll be handing out Chapul Cricket Bars. As explained on their site, Chapul “has a simple goal – to build a more sustainable future by introducing incredibly efficient insect protein in a delicious, organic product…our tasty Chapul bars.”

Chapul

As explained in the following excerpt from The Insect Cookbook, Kofi Annan and others have extolled the virtues of eating insects for their nutritional value and as a more sustainable alternative than meat.

(more…)

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

The Learning Revolution, by Joseph Stiglitz and Bruce Greenwald

Creating a Learning Society

This week our featured book is Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress, by Joseph E. Stiglitz and Bruce C. Greenwald. Today, we have an excerpt from “The Learning Revolution,” the first chapter of Creating a Learning Society. Be sure to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of the book!

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

New Book Tuesday: Reading Style, Looks Good on Paper, and More New Books!

Jenny Davidson, Reading StyleOur weekly list of new titles now available:

Reading Style: A Life in Sentences
Jenny Davidson

Looks Good on Paper?: Using In-Depth Personality Assessment to Predict Leadership Performance
Leslie S. Pratch

Russia and the EU in a Multipolar World: Discourses, Identities, Norms
Andrey Makarychev

History as Therapy: Alternative History and Nationalist Imaginings in Russia
Konstantin Sheiko and Stephen Brown

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Book Giveaway! Creating a Learning Society, by Joseph E. Stiglitz and Bruce C. Greenwald

Creating a Learning Society

This week our featured book is Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress, by Joseph E. Stiglitz and Bruce C. Greenwald. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its authors on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Creating a Learning Society. To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select our winners on Friday, May 30th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles 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.

We’ll start things off this week with a post by Matthew W. Hughey and Gregory S. Parks at From the Square, the blog of NYU Press, examining Fox News’ strategic use of race. Hughey and Parks look back at various ways that they see Fox News “cater[ing] to ethnocentric assumptions,” and argue that Fox “constantly constructed the average white viewer as a hard-working American who is, at base, frightened by the unfair and racialized agenda of Obama.”

A controversial law has recently passed in Belgium allowing child euthanasia in certain carefully defined situations. At the OUPblog, Tony Hope discusses the underlying moral principles and empirical assumptions in the debate, and discusses the way that “rhetoric [can] ride roughshod over reason” in political debates about such charged issues.

The Shanghai Catholic Church has been divided between a “patriotic” Church that works closely with the CCP and an “underground” Church that maintains closer ties with the Vatican since the late 1970s, when Deng Xiaoping reversed some of Mao’s anti-religious policies and attempted to tie the Catholic Church to the CCP. At the Harvard University Press Blog, Paul Mariani tells the story of the long-time faces of these two churches: Aloysius Jin Luxian and Joseph Fan Zhongliang, each recognized as the bishop of Shanghai by one of the two factions.

The University of Minnesota Press Blog featured another post by Lori Emerson in her series of case studies from the Media Archaeology Lab at the University of Colorado at Boulder this week. The subject? The Vectrex Gaming Console, from 1982. Emerson uses the Vectrex as a way to “explain the unreality of technological progress while pointing to the inanity of warnings against technological determinism.”

The coati is a member of the raccoon family native to South and Central America, and is decidedly not a type of aardvark. A few years ago, however, a rogue Wikipedia edit described the coati as a “Brazilian aardvark,” and led to a long tangle of consequences, with a number of journal articles and even a book referring to the coati as an aardvark, citing Wikipedia, which itself in turn added cited those sources in the coati article. The Stanford University Press Blog uses the curious case of the coati to discuss the unique and oft-criticized model of uncredentialed authors on Wikipedia.

“Why would a Yankee study the South?” At the UNC Press Blog, K. Stephen Prince explains why, despite his New England upbringing, was interested in writing about the South. Interestingly, he cites the very fact that southerners and northerners alike seem to feel that “the South is (or can be, or should be) of interest solely to southerners” as a driving force behind his fascination with the region.

At the University of Illinois Press Blog, Jordynn Jack has a Q&A about autism, and, in particular, the way that public opinion about the disorder tends to be driven by storytelling and inaccurate “stock characters” rather than by scientific research. She points out that autism is seen as a disorder that affects young boys and computer geeks rather than girls, and notes the way that parents with autistic children are seen as likely to divorce.

Finally, we’ll wrap things up this week with a post from the University of Virginia Press Blog highlighting a little-known but important building in Farmville, Virginia. The Robert Russa Moton Museum (formerly the Moton High School), was a crucial site in the beginning of the civil rights movement, when Barbara R. Johns led a strike to protest the terrible conditions in the African American “separate but equal” high school in 1951.

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

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Umami Has Come to Stay

Umami, Ole Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbaek

We conclude our week-long feature on Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste by Ole Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbaek with the authors’ discussion of the importance of umami for the way we think about food and diet:

“We consider umami to be the central point around which the circle of deliciousness revolves and are convinced that it deserves a place of honor in all the food cultures of the world.”—Ole Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbaek

As we have seen throughout this book, umami is a relatively new label for a taste that, for possibly the past 1.9 million years, has been an integral aspect of the food of modern humankind and its ancestors. It is an attribute of nutritious food and in this way has steered our preference for food with that particular taste. The taste is intensified when we work with the raw ingredients in certain ways, which have been refined in the course of millennia and which are the very heart of our food cultures, culinary skills, and gastronomy. Virtually all the cuisines in the world seem to strive to impart umami, each with its typical and regional raw ingredients and centuries-old techniques. Of all the techniques, cooking, aging, and fermenting are best able to draw out umami.

Generations of housewives, cooks, and chefs have known intuitively how to elicit umami and that it is indispensable. In more recent times, food manufacturers, gourmets, and innovative chefs have become aware of its synergistic effect and have started to tap into its potential in a rational, creative way. Nevertheless, many of us have not yet gained an easy familiarity with the word umami as an expression to describe savoriness in our raw ingredients, our food, our meals, and our food cultures.

Science has taught us which substances in the raw ingredients can help to impart umami, and, armed with this knowledge, we are better able to understand why food has umami tastes and, just as important, what we have to do to enhance them. We now also know that what characterizes umami is the multiplier effect. This taste comes fully into its own only with the help of an intimate interaction, a synergy between two types of substances, glutamate and ribonucleotides. An awareness of which raw ingredients are sources of these two substances allows us to sharpen our insight into how we can prepare more delicious meals. While this will naturally be of great value in the field of advanced gastronomy, it is of equal importance in our own kitchens, where we can use it to real advantage, even with simple techniques and local ingredients.

(more…)

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Umami and the Art of Killing a Fish

Ole Mouritsen, Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste

The following excerpt is from Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste by Ole G. Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbaek:

Ikijime, which means to terminate while alive, is a 350 year old Japanese technique for killing fish. It has the effect of delaying the onset of rigor mortis, thereby ensuring that the taste of the fish is of the highest quality and that there is least damage to, and discoloration of, the flesh. The fish dies humanely and unstressed, which preserves and releases more of the savory substances that bring out umami.

The traditional method is as follows. With a heavy knife, a cut is made in the head on the dorsal side of the live fish, slightly above and behind the eyes, severing the main artery and the elongated medulla, which is the lowest part of the brain stem. This is the part of the brain that controls movement. A second cut is made where the tail is attached to the body. Then the fish is plunged into an ice slurry in order to allow it to bleed out. The muscles of the fish relax in the ice cold water while the heart continues to pump, but the fish has ceased to struggle for its life and is unstressed.

The final, definitive step is to shut down completely the autonomic nervous system, which continues to send messages to the muscles to contract. It is destroyed by inserting a long, very thin metal spike along the length of the fish through the neural canal of the spinal column. At this point, the fish relaxes totally and all movement ceases.
The blood that remains in the muscles retracts into the entrails of the fish, which are removed under running water so that blood and digestive fluids do not spill onto the flesh. The head, tail, gills, and fins are cut off and the fish is wrapped in paper or cloths to absorb any blood that might still seep out. At this point, the fish can be filleted for cooking, sliced for sashimi, or allowed to age for one or two days in the refrigerator.

(more…)

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: An Interview with Hadrien Laroche

Orphans

“In Aboriginal cultures, there is a tradition of laying your hands on some kind of wealth—a shell necklace, for example— which bears your own name, and handing it around, passing it from hand to hand for as long as possible, thereby exerting your power everywhere the name is passed. Writers are also passed around, dis­seminated, present wherever objects to which their names are at­tached circulate.” — Hadrien Laroche

We are proud to be distributing Dalkey Archive Press, one of the leading publishers of avant-garde fiction and literature in translation! In today’s Thursday Fiction Corner, we have an interview with French author Hadrien Laroche about his book Orphans, which will be coming out in English for the first time in October from Dalkey Archive. Laroche is a former student of Jacques Derrida, and has written three novels as well as books on Jean Genet and Marcel Duchamp.

Q: Henry né Berg, one of the characters in Orphans, seems to be inspired by a distant relative of yours, the banker Edouard Stern. Can we as­sume that Hannah née Bloch and Hélianthe née Bouttetruie are also real people?

Hadrien Laroche: That’s true. The day they announced Edouard Stern’s death, I called my editor, thunderstruck, and told him “Henry né Berg has been killed!” He was equally stunned. But one needs to be careful: in spite of what I myself thought at the time, in shock, Edouard Stern really was killed, not Henry né Berg. Orphans is a work of fiction, a fabrication. Henry né Berg incarnates the willing, philo­sophical orphan. He is one element of my portrait of Man orphaned of his humanity. The concept and experience of the orphan is the subject of all my work. My orphans belong to no one: to no name, no country, not even a language. And obviously, to no family. Milan Kundera said, “what an author creates [. . .] belongs to no one but himself.” I’m going further than that. To be the descendant of one’s work means something else: the work doesn’t belong to the author in the least, no more than a child belongs to its father, or a mother belongs to her child. So it’s not a roman à clef, nor is it autofiction. It’s rather an aesthetic project that starts from life experience. (more…)

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Why Umami is Good For You and 12 Ways to Add it to Your Diet

Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste

In Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste, Ole Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbaek explain the health benefits of umami:

Food with umami can often be prepared with significantly less salt, sugar, and fat without sacrificing the delicious taste of the resulting dish. Salt, in particular, is frequently applied too liberally in order to compensate for ingredients that are insipid or unpalatable. In many cases, its use can be reduced by as much as a half by incorporating foodstuffs with umami into the recipe. The fifth taste spurs the appetite, an attribute that can be exploited to advantage in caring for the sick and the elderly, who may have lost interest in eating. At the same time, however, umami promotes satiety, which helps to curb overeating by those who are inclined to overindulge. Either way, adopting a diet that has an abundance of umami may be a way for modem humans to eat in a healthier manner and to adjust their caloric intake to suit the needs of their bodies.

So where can you find umami? Well, the authors also provide a list of 12 easy way to add umami:

Mushroom salt
Cut shiitake or other dark mushrooms into slices and dry them in an oven on low heat. Crush them into a powder and mix it with Maldon sea salt flakes.
Use to season fish, soups, vegetables, and pasta dishes.

Marinated mushrooms
Marinate mushrooms in a little soy sauces or garum
Can be fried or used raw in salads.

Essence of Worcestershire sauce
Concentrated reduction of the sauce kept at the ready in a small bottle with an eyedropper.
Just add a couple of drops to meat that is being fried or to a sauce or a dressing. Rounds out the taste of a pâté or an egg dish.

Highly concentrated chicken bouillon
1 L (4¼ c) chicken stock reduced to 1 dL (½ c) or less.
Use as an essence in gravies that are a little flat or to add depth to a dressing, or drizzle on pasta or salads.

Miso paste
Light or dark paste made from fermented soybeans; available where Asian foods are sold.
Adds a nutty, savory taste to dressings, sauces, marinades, and soups (especially those with shellfish); or use it like butter to coat warm vegetables just before serving.

Anchovy paste
Available in a squeezable tube to keep in the refrigerator.
For all types of vinaigrettes, dressings, marinades, pesto, and pâtés.

(more…)

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Interview with Ole Mouritsen, Coauthor of Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste

Umami, Ole Mouritsen

“Knowing about umami will not only help us to produce better-tasting meals but will greatly contribute to re-establishing a culture around the communal meals.”—Ole Mouritsen

The following is an interview with Ole Mouritsen, co-author of Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste:

Question: How was umami discovered?

Ole Mouritsen: The taste has always been with us, but it was only given the name umami in 1909 when the Japanese scientist Kikunae Ikeda discovered the substance (glutamate) that make the Japanese soup broth, dashi, so delicious. Umami is a contraction of the Japanese expression umai, which means “delicious,” and mi, which means “essence,” “essential nature,” “taste,” or “flavor.”

Q: What is the importance of umami and how does it change the way we think about taste?

OM: As a basic taste, umami is important for the flavor of food as well as for stimulating appetite, controlling satiety, and hence regulating food intake. Due to its complex interaction with other tastes, e.g., by enhancing sweet and salty and suppressing bitterness, umami will remind us about flavor being a multimodal sensation. Knowing about umami will not only help us to produce better-tasting meals but will greatly contribute to re-establishing a culture around the communal meals.

Q: How can it or should it change the way we eat and prepare food?

OM: The most important aspect of umami is the fact that it builds on a synergistic effect brought about by two components in the food: glutamate that elicits basal umami and nucleotides that enhance the sensation of glutamate. It needs two to tango. In the classical Japanese umami-rich soup broth, dashi, the two components come from seaweeds and fish or shiitake, respectively. It is precisely the same synergy we know so well from pairing eggs with bacon, cheese with ham, vegetables with meat, etc. Knowing about this synergistic principle will guide us to change the way we eat and the way we compose a meal.

(more…)

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

New Book Tuesday: Jerusalem Unbound, Black Power and Social, and More New Books

Our weekly list of new titles now available:

Jerusalem Unbound, Michael DumperJerusalem Unbound: Geography, History, and the Future of the Holy City
Michael Dumper

The Black Power Movement and American Social Work
Joyce M. Bell

A Farewell to Truth (Now available in paper)
Gianni Vattimo; Translated by William McCuaig

The China Threat: Memories, Myths, and Realities in the 1950s (Now available in paper)
Nancy Bernkopf Tucker

Making Sense of Tantric Buddhism: History, Semiology, and Transgression in the Indian Traditions (Now available in paper)
Christian K. Wedemeyer

Monday, May 19th, 2014

Book Giveaway: Win a Free Copy of Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste!

Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste, Ole G. Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbæk

This week our featured book is Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste, by Ole G. Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbæk. In addition to features on our blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Umami to a lucky winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, May 23 at 3:00 pm.

In the West, we have identified only four basic tastes—sour, sweet, salty, and bitter—that, through skillful combination and technique, create delicious foods. Yet in many parts of East Asia over the past century, an additional flavor has entered the culinary lexicon: umami, a fifth taste impression that is savory, complex, and wholly distinct.

Combining culinary history with recent research into the chemistry, preparation, nutrition, and culture of food, Mouritsen and Styrbæk encapsulate what we know to date about the concept of umami, from ancient times to today.

The following is an excerpt from the book:

Monday, May 19th, 2014

Mitchell Stephens on Why Wisdom is the Key to the Future of Journalism

“We need journalists who … are experts, who are specialists, who are really capable of adding insight and wisdom to the news. I think we’re beginning to get there. A lot of that is happening online.”—Mitchell Stephens

Beyond News, Mitchell StephensIn a recent interview with The American Prospect, Mitchell Stephens discussed his new book Beyond News: The Future of Journalism. Stephens argues that journalism needs to move away from an emphasis on “objective” journalism and instead privilege analysis and what he considers “wisdom”:

Q: You say “wisdom journalism” is the key to journalism’s future. What is “wisdom journalism”?

Mitchell Stephens: There was 150-year period—a century and a half, give or take a decade—in which it was possible to make a big business out of selling news. That’s the era into which all of us were born and many of us spent a good part of our careers as journalists. We developed certain assumptions based on that economic fact. But now that the economics have shifted, we must re-evaluate and learn to live in an era in which it may no longer be possible to make a good living just by selling news. News may go back to what it once was, which is something that people exchange for free. Journalists may have to go back to what they once were, which is people who led in wisdom, who led in insight, who led in intelligence to account for what was and is going on.

My argument is that we need journalists who, unlike the characterization of journalism in the 20th century, who are experts, who are specialists, who are really capable of adding insight and wisdom to the news. I think we’re beginning to get there. A lot of that is happening online.

Q: Rather than simply inform, you argue that journalism’s goal should be to transform how we think, to lead “wiser citizens and therefore wiser politics.”

MS: Right. For a long time, journalism didn’t aspire high enough as a profession or craft. I think the mere transcription of facts, of quotations, which has been a lot of journalism during this century-and-a-half period, is just not enough. It’s done some wonderful things: It brought down a president of the United States; it exposed various kinds of corrupt behavior. There have been incredible exposés that have happened just because someone dug up and put down the facts. That’s valuable for sure. But I also sense that we need now is for journalists to explain significance and what we can learn from events, not just what someone said today or this morning.

Q: Sites like Wonk Blog and Vox offer general information along with explanations of complex issues. Do you see sites like Vox as the future?

MS: I have a somewhat complicated relationship with Vox.com. It has two of my favorite young, contemporary journalists on it—Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein. They’re brilliant, and provide precisely the sort of insight I’m looking for. I’ve been a regular reader of the both of them.

On the other hand, their favorite word is “explanation.” Obviously, explanation is a happy thing and they have all these “note cards” to provide background to their stories. I tweeted, “Is one of our best journalists doing journalism for dummies?” That’s overly harsh, clearly. But my concern is that there’s an element of condescension. It’s sort of “Oh, we have to make sure you understand the background and if we don’t give it to you may not understand.” Sure, there’s a lot I don’t understand and a lot people don’t understand. But we’re pretty good at teaching ourselves nowadays. I’m not sure the best thing the Ezra Kleins and Matt Yglesiases of the world can do for us now is to spoon-feed us background. I want them ahead of the news, in the really complicated stuff. I want them providing insight more than explanation. With that caveat, both those guys and the people who work with them are great examples of the wisdom journalism I’m calling for.

Friday, May 16th, 2014

Iris Barry, the Askew Salon, and The Museum of Modern Art

Iris Barry

We conclude our week-long feature on Lady in the Dark: Iris Barry and the Art of Film with an excerpt from the book.

Iris Barry had made her mark in England as a film critic for The Spectator in the 1920s. She co-founded the innovative London Film Society in 1925 and in the next year published a book, Let’s Go to the Pictures, explaining why film is an art form. Nonetheless, she struggled in New York from her arrival in 1930 until she achieved some measure of stability as the first Curator of Film at the Museum of Modern Art in 1935. This reversal of fortune came through meetings at the Askew salon, where she was introduced to the young director of MoMA, Alfred H. Barr Jr.

Iris Barry’s connection with Museum of Modern Art Director Alfred Barr came through the Askews. Kirk Askew was a Harvard graduate who worked for the New York office of Durlacher Brothers, a major European art dealership. His wife Constance was much admired as a hostess and became Iris’ life-long friend. The Askew salon comprised a petrie dish of modernism, in which movers and doers in all the arts met to exchange ideas. In his Memoir of an Art Gallery, art dealer Julien Levy recalls that “the best and most culturally fertile salon I was to know in the thirties grew from little Sunday gatherings at Kirk and Constance Askew’s, where many of my Harvard and New York friends gathered. Kirk’s system of invisible manipulation kept the evening both sparkling and under control [and] combined the hidden rigidity of as carefully combed a guest list as any straight and proper social arbiter might arrange, with the frothy addition of the uninhibited of Upper Bohemia, plus, one at a time, to avoid jealousy and sulks, a single real lion. Two were asked together only if they expressed a desire to meet or already knew and liked each other and admired each other’s work. There developed and was maintained a colorful variety of conversations, many fruitful contacts, some light flirting, some sex, and a little matchmaking, with an occasional feud for spice. A small group of regulars came every week and provided the dependably witty core of the parties, so that on rainy or otherwise off nights there still would be no risk of boredom….”

Despite the fact that many members of the Askew salon were homosexual, the rules of conduct of the period discouraged overt activity. As Steven Watson, author of Strange Bedfellows, a study of the sexuality of modernist culture put it, “once a man made a pass at another man, the butler brought him his coat. The rule was, we do not camp in public.”

A second salon Iris sometimes attended, hosted by Muriel Draper, took on a more political tone and had rules of conduct more permissive than the Askews. Muriel Draper had entertained artists in a well-known London salon between 1911 and 1915, and since her return to New York carried on a successful interior design business among the well-to-do. Her leftist leanings later got her into trouble with the House Un-American Activities Committee. Despite her association with left-wing organizations in the 1930s, however, she was apparently not a Communist Party member. Esther Murphy, Paul and Jane Bowles and others in the Draper salon flirted with Communism, but political or, for that matter, sexual orientation made no difference at the Drapers. Virgil Thomson, a frequenter of both salons, referred to the group as “the Little People”, since many there, like Thomson himself, were of short stature. Of the two salons, even the Bowleses preferred the Askew’s. Paul Bowles’ biographer, Gena Dagel Caponi, noted that “despite living separately, Jane and Paul were very much a couple when they socialized. They regularly attended gatherings at the [Askews], who held what Paul called ‘the only regular salon in New York worthy of the name.’ There Paul played the piano and sang his own songs, while Jane visited, sitting first on one man’s lap and then in another’s. omposers Virgil Thomson, Aaron Copland, Elliot Carter, and Marc Blitzstein could be counted on to be there, as could Lincoln Kirstein and George Balanchine and their dancers. Several connected with the Museum of Modern Art attended….Poet E.E. Cummings and John Houseman were often there as well. As Europe headed towards war, artists immigrated to New York and to the Askew salon. Among them were surrealists – Marcel Duchamp, Yves Tanguy, and Salvador Dali — who dominated the intellectual tone of the Askew salon from 1940 on; Paul felt at home with them, but Jane did not.”

At the Askews Iris sized up Alfred Barr as “a kindred soul…a youngish Wellesley College art professor who was a simple, direct Harvard aesthete whose wanderings about the museums of Europe and the salons of Paris had led him to envision the Museum of Modern Art. If he was a visionary, he was so in the best sense of being an intensely practical one.” Possessed of influential friends, Barr “could think on his feet with the best of them and was, to boot, an elegant parlor orator, attributes which beautifully accompanied his deep and abiding sincerity.”

Iris found that she and Barr “entertained a similar outlook on the motion picture as falling within the Museum’s proper scope of activity.” She promoted herself to Barr as the one to head a film component of the Museum. “No time was lost in pointing out to him that the only noteworthy attempt to make the motion picture known as a living art rather than ephemeral entertainment had come from the Film Society in London,” which had been handicapped “by the lack of any central repository from which important films of the past could be booked at will. The inference was plain; the Museum, by its avowed purpose and very nature as an institution for the study of contemporary art, should logically become that central repository.

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Thursday, May 15th, 2014

University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles 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.

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century has been everywhere recently, and the Harvard University Press Blog has a guest post from HUP sales rep John Eklund on the experience of getting Piketty into bookstores across the countries. He notes that many booksellers were skeptical of their ability of sell “a $40 book on economic inequality,” and wonders whether the success of Capital in the Twenty-First Century is a fluke or whether it’s a sign that people actually will buy good, important, relatively expensive nonfiction books generally when given the opportunity.

Another figure who has loomed large in the media recently is embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Much has been made of the potential actions that NBA players, particularly those on Sterling’s team, and other NBA owners should take in regards to Sterling’s recent racist comments and more disturbing history of racist actions, but little time has been given to a discussion of what Clippers fans should do. At Beacon Broadside, Fran Hawthorne has a guest post on “the role of an ethical consumer in this kind of situation.”

“What is our global future? The science is in, and the prospect is not great.” John L. Brooke introduces his post on the history and future of human existence on earth with these cheery words, and things don’t get more hopeful from there. Brooke attempts to explain the inability of the American public to accept the scientific consensus on global warming, arguing that a combination of “self-interest in an era of economic uncertainty” and the problem of visualizing a process operating on a time-frame that exceeds the average human life make it difficult to convince people of the changing climate.

May is Jewish American Heritage Month, and at the Duke University Press Blog, Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine, discusses the complicated history of Judaism in America and looks at the current state of the Jewish community in the United States: “So this is the conflict that remains the enduring heritage of American Jews: an internal tension over whether to adopt mainstream values and a celebration of “that which is,” thereby fitting in with the cultural assumptions of the world’s largest imperial power, or to challenge those values, a challenge which not only leads to “speaking truth to power” in the larger society but also to challenging the Jewish community’s blind loyalty to an Israeli state that itself is committed to being “a nation like all other nations,” with its blindness to the suffering of the Palestinian people and its arrogance and hypocrisy as it attempts to turn Judaism into a cheerleader for immoral policies.”

“[T]oday Latinos are the largest ethnic/racial minority in the country, with some 57 million Latinos (or 17% of the total population),” but, as Mario T. Garcia argues in a post at the UNC Press Blog, “Latinos are still a very poorly understood group.” In his post, Garcia attempts to provide a brief history of Latino immigration to the United States and to correct some of the common myths and misunderstandings that characterize the way that many Americans see Latinos.

How should governments treat distinct minority groups? At the OUPblog, Federico Lenzerini has a guest post looking back at the history of multiculturalism in human rights law, from the 1935 advisory opinion of the Permanent Court of International Justice to the League of Nations on. In particular, Lenzerini discusses the complicated situation of indigenous peoples “who, due to their cultural specificity and vision of life, actually need a differentiated treatment in the context of human rights adjudication and enforcement” as a way to understand the many issues complicating human rights law.

Last week, the University of Minnesota Press Blog began a series of posts by Lori Emerson looking at case studies from the University of Colorado’s Media Archaeology Lab, starting with the Apple Lisa from 1983. This week, Emerson takes on the Altair 8800b from 1976, a computer that was a catalyst for the “personal computer revolution” despite the fact that only around one thousand of them were ever made.

It’s not often that incest makes an appearance on the University Press Roundup, but this week Brian Connolly, writing at The Penn Press Log, has a fascinating post looking at the various ways that incest was defined and prohibited throughout the nineteenth century. Using Jeremy Irons’ statements equating same sex marriage and incest as a starting point, Connolly notes that such statements “presume that incest has always been prohibited, that it is a universal taboo that has never changed. Yet, this is a presumption with little basis in history.”

“Alimony has a nasty reputation as a device that enslaves men and demeans women—preventing divorced men from beginning new lives, and perpetuating female dependence on men.” At From the Square, the blog of NYU Press, Cynthia Lee Starnes takes a fresh look at alimony and dispelling some of the myths that have led it to be such a commonly reviled idea.

This year marks the 50th birthday of the National Museum of American History, and so we’ll wrap things up this week with Robert C. Post’s history in brief of the MAH at the JHU Press Blog. Post looks back at the initial criticism of the museum’s architecture, the varied exhibits that drew people to the MAH, and the changes that the museum has made in the past few decades.

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