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December 19th, 2014

University Press Roundup



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. (And look back at our University Press Roundup Manifesto to see why we do this post every Friday.)

Wilfred Laurier University Press has recently been told that WLU will be withdrawing the support that the press had previously received from the university, as WLUP is “not essential to the vision and mission of the University. There’s a Hole in the Bucket, the blog of the University of Alberta Press, has more information on this situation, and provides a link to a petition to reverse the decision.

Hunting for a job is always frightening, and writing résumés and cover letters is a particularly intimidating part of the process. At the AMACOM Books Blog, Scott Bennett has a two part interview in which he offers his expertise in résumé styling in order to make this one part of finding a job a bit more palatable.

The “Swedish model” of reducing prostitution, sex trafficking, and violence against sex workers has been much discussed recently online. However, at Beacon Broadside, Melinda Chateauvert is less than sanguine about the often-lauded strategies that Sweden has employed. She argues that “the violence and stigma against people in the sex industry must be understood from sex workers’ points of view, not a “female POV,” whatever that is.”

A great deal of information concerning the use of torture by United States military and intelligence organizations has come out recently with releasing of the Feinstein Report. At fifteeneightyfour, the blog of Cambridge University Press, David P. Forsythe attempts to use the new data to add details to the general story of the US actions following September 11, 2001.

When Amy L. Stone wrote Gay Rights at the Ballot Box, which discussed the period between 1974 and 2009, it seemed that there would continue to be marriage bans voted into law for some time. In a post at the University of Minnesota Blog, however, she writes about the flurry of court cases overturning these laws that have happened over the past several years, and about the future of gay rights at the ballot box.

The UNC Press Blog has posted a fascinating excerpt from Shabana Mir’s Muslim American Women on Campus, in which Mir looks at Muslim American students engage in various types of leisure practices common at colleges around the US, particularly those involving the consumption of alcohol.

Should different ways of giving birth (in this case, C-sections and vaginal births) be treated as “being the same”? Theresa Morris argues that, while she understands the urge to do so, these two methods of giving birth should absolutely not be treated as being equivalent, as doing so can reinforce the mistaken notion that women are in control of their birth process in today’s world.

The aforementioned Feinstein report was not the only recently released report on the United States’ use of torture. At the OUPblog, Rebecca Gordon discusses the report issued by the UN Committee Against Torture, explaining some key points and arguing that a large part of the problem lies in American law, rather than just in the action of military and intelligence agencies.

In celebration of the holidays, the Princeton University Press Blog is running a 12-post series of The Twelve Grimm Days of Christmas, in which they are posting a story a day from their new translation of the first edition of the famous fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm. One fun example: the seventh story is the story of a farmer’s son who happens to be born as a hedgehog rather than a human.

Finally, the University of Washington Press Blog has a interesting post up by David B. Williams about Bertha, the tunnel-borer that has been stuck under Seattle for a year. As the blog describes the problem at hand: “New reports indicate that Pioneer Square has sunk an inch since Thanksgiving and that a number of historic buildings and roadways are newly compromised by the beleaguered tunnel project.”

Thanks for reading! As always, we hope that you enjoyed the links. Please let us know what you think in the comments!

December 19th, 2014

The Strange Journey of John McAfee via The Best American Magazine Writing 2014



Best American Magazine Writing 2014

“[McAfee] greets me wearing a pistol strapped across his bare chest. Guards patrol the beach in front of us. He tells me that he’s now living with five women who ap­pear to be between the ages of seventeen and twenty; each has her own bungalow on the property.”—Joshua Davis

One of the strangest and most compelling stories in The Best American Magazine Writing 2014*, edited by Sid Holt, is “Dangerous” by Joshua Davis. Published in Wired, the story recounts software mogul John McAfee’s rise and subsequent encampment in Belize after fleeing the United States. Below in an excerpt and recordings of Davis’s conversations with McAfee.

*Use the coupon code HOLBES and Save 30% on The Best American Magazine Writing 2014.

[John McAfee] started McAfee Associates out of his 700-square-foot home in Santa Clara. His business plan: Create an antivirus pro­gram and give it away on electronic bulletin boards. McAfee didn’t expect users to pay. His real aim was to get them to think the software was so necessary that they would install it on their computers at work. They did. Within five years, half of the For­tune 100 companies were running it, and they felt compelled to pay a license fee. By 1990, McAfee was making $5 million a year with very little overhead or investment.

His success was due in part to his ability to spread his own paranoia, the fear that there was always somebody about to at­tack. Soon after launching his company, he bought a twenty ­seven-foot Winnebago, loaded it with computers, and announced that he had formed the first “antivirus paramedic unit.” When he got a call from someone experiencing computer problems in the San Jose area, he drove to the site and searched for “virus resi­due.” Like a good door-to-door salesman, there was a kernel of truth to his pitch, but he amplified and embellished the facts to sell his product. The RV therefore was not just an RV; it was “the first specially customized unit to wage effective, on-the-spot coun­terattacks in the virus war.”

It was great publicity, executed with drama and sly wit. By the end of 1988, he was on The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour telling the country that viruses were causing so much damage, some com­panies were “near collapse from financial loss.” He underscored the danger with his 1989 book, Computer Viruses, Worms, Data Diddlers, Killer Programs, and Other Threats to Your System. “The reality is so alarming that it would be very difficult to exagger­ate,” he wrote. “Even if no new viruses are ever created, there are already enough circulating to cause a growing problem as they reproduce. A major disaster seems inevitable.”

In 1992 McAfee told almost every major news network and newspaper that the recently discovered Michelangelo virus was a huge threat; he believed it could destroy as many as 5 million computers around the world. Sales of his software spiked, but in the end only tens of thousands of infections were reported. Though McAfee was roundly criticized for his proclamation, the criticism worked in his favor, as he explained in an e-mail in 2000 to a computer-security blogger: “My business increased tenfold in the two months following the stories and six months later our revenues were 50 times greater and we had captured the lion’s share of the anti-virus market.”

This ability to infect others with his own paranoia made McAfee a wealthy man. In October 1992 his company debuted on Nasdaq, and his shares were suddenly worth $80 million….

***

In August, McAfee and I meet for a final in-person interview at his villa on Ambergris Caye. He greets me wearing a pistol strapped across his bare chest. Guards patrol the beach in front of us. He tells me that he’s now living with five women who ap­pear to be between the ages of seventeen and twenty; each has her own bungalow on the property. Emshwiller is here, though McAfee’s attention is focused on the other women.

Read the rest of this entry »

December 18th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: Julia Kristeva and Teresa of Ávila in the New York Times



Julia Kristeva

Today’s fiction corner features Julia Kristeva’s new novel Teresa, My Love: An Imagined Life of the Saint of Avila. While Kristeva first made her name as a philosopher and critic, she has also written several novels, including Murder in Byzantium and The Old Man and the Wolves.

In her newest novel Teresa, My Love, Kristeva mixes fiction, history, psychoanalysis, and personal fantasy. The novel follows Sylvia Leclercq, a French psychoanalyst, academic, and incurable insomniac, as she falls for the sixteenth-century Saint Teresa of Avila and becomes consumed with charting her life. Traveling to Spain, Leclercq, Kristeva’s probing alterego, visits the sites and embodiments of the famous mystic and awakens to her own desire for faith, connection, and rebellion.

In today’s post, we are happy to present excerpts from the recent New York Times book review of Teresa, My Love, written by Carlene Bauer:

Imagining a Saintly Life, Some of It Not So Holy
‘Teresa, My Love,’ Julia Kristeva’s Latest Novel
By Carlene Bauer

It is hard, even knowing just a few facts about Teresa of Ávila, not to fall in love with her. This 16th-century Spanish mystic, saint and doctor of the church could sigh over her own limitations with the precision, earthiness and wit of a born writer. “I could be bribed by a sardine,” she once wrote. Nor did she muffle her sighs over the sisters in her care. “Believe me,” she wrote, “I fear an unhappy nun more than many devils.”

The French psychoanalyst and literary critic Julia Kristeva has not been immune to the charms of this holy woman. She has put Teresa on the couch before (most recently in “Hatred and Forgiveness”), and in “Teresa, My Love,” she, or rather her alter ego, the clinical psychologist Sylvia Leclercq, analyzes Teresa and her historical, spiritual and sexual significance.

Descended on her father’s side from Jewish converts to Christianity, this girl who grew up to have raptures was the very pretty daughter of a woman who loved to read novels, a 16th-century Emma Bovary. Her mother passed that love on to her daughter, who might herself have become a thwarted dreamer like Emma, save for a thirst for glory and independence. At 7, Teresa persuaded her brother Rodrigo to run away to “the land of the Moors,” so they could be martyrs. At 21, she ran away again, despite her father’s wishes, to the Carmelites, partly to avoid an unwanted marriage, partly to heed a call.

Sylvia reads Teresa as a woman who needed a Father to love her without judging her for her passions, and a woman who needed to be one with the Son to assure herself she was not solely female, because to be female meant to be sentenced to motherhood. Teresa is also considered, not as explicitly, an exemplar of the feminine genius that Ms. Kristeva has contemplated in books on Hannah Arendt, Melanie Klein and Colette. Teresa did not imprison herself in an interior castle of mysticism but reformed an order and founded 17 monasteries, traveling all over Spain. In Ms. Kristeva’s interpretation, Teresa isn’t “the patron saint of hysteria,” as Freud’s mentor Josef Breuer called her, but the patron saint of passionate pragmatics.

Why Teresa again and why now? “What’s left of that universe of faith and love, what’s left of the windmills?” Sylvia Leclercq asks. “Chimeras, TV soap operas for avid women and their partners. Or God’s madmen, the suicide bombers, who pretend not to realize that he (the Almighty, the Master, the One and Only, the True, the Beyond) has mutated into pure spectacle, and twist their alleged faith into murderous nihilism.” Teresa’s life and her writings could be one antidote to this malaise, because, according to Sylvia/Ms. Kristeva, she “ventures as far as possible along the route that beckons the person who doesn’t give up on believing, the person who talks as a way of sharing, and who loves in order to act.”

“Teresa, My Love” is perhaps strongest when Ms. Kristeva sets her characters in dialogue, particularly a three-act play in which Teresa, on her deathbed, converses with figures like her confessor and friend John of the Cross. Here, Ms. Kristeva’s affection for her subject finds effortless expression in a vibrant and persuasive imagining of Teresa as she might have sounded off the page. Her ebullient exegesis will probably most delight those who think that faith and love need more spokesmen and spokeswomen than just Pope Francis — and more than just believers to speak of them.

Read the full review here.

December 18th, 2014

Jared Del Rosso on the Torture Debate and the CIA Report



Jared Del Rosso

“The report offers, at last, a peak at the CIA’s own documentary record. What we find is what critics of the program have long known we’d find. Not the mastery or enhancement of violence, but torture.”—Jared Del Rosso

The following post is by Jared Del Rosso, author of the forthcoming Talking About Torture: How Political Discourse Shapes the Debate:

On Tuesday, December 9, 2014, the Senate Intelligence Committee released the executive summary of its report on CIA interrogations during the war on terror. The Committee’s investigation began in 2009. The report, more than 6,000 pages in total, was completed in late 2011 and approved by the Committee in December 2012. For the better part of the last two years, the Committee has been negotiating the release of the summary with the CIA. The Agency provided a response to the investigation in 2013, and the Committee incorporated some of that response into its report. Since then, the Committee and the CIA have been hashing out what would be redacted in the summary. The negotiations were frequently bitter, and they delayed the release of the document for several months.

All this is to say that the report is long overdue. It’s been over a decade since the release of the Abu Ghraib photographs inaugurated the “torture debate.” Since then, public attention to torture has come in fits and starts with the release of investigations, memos, emails, an interrogation log, and, of course, photographs.

In Talking about Torture: How Political Discourse Shapes the Debate, I show that U.S. politicians are especially responsive to the release of documents produced by the country’s own interrogators and soldiers. This includes the Abu Ghraib photographs, which military police at the facility in Iraq took with personal cameras. The impact of the photographs is well-known. But other documents also influenced the debate. In December 2004, the Bush administration released FBI emails describing military practices at Guantánamo. Earlier in the year, military officials and investigators had assured Congress that serious instances of detainee abuse were isolated to Abu Ghraib and that there had only been a few, minor instances of abuse at Guantánamo. The emails, however, undermined this claim. One described an agent’s observations of detainees “chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves and had been left there for 18, 24 hours, or more.” One detainee “was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night.” The release of the FBI emails and, later, the military’s interrogation log of Mohammed al Qahtani directly contradicted what high-ranking military officials had said about interrogations at Guantánamo and emboldened congressional democrats, who had previously treaded carefully around the facility and the administration’s role in promoting the abuse and torture of detainees.

Read the rest of this entry »

December 18th, 2014

The Best Business Writing 2014 on The NFL’s Questionable Business Practices



The Best Business Writing 2014

As a business the National Football League continues to make a lot of money. However, as revealed in The Best Business Writing 2014, edited by Dean Starkman, Martha Hamilton, and Ryan Chittum how the NFL does business is deeply troubling. This year’s anthology includes two stories about some of football’s recent travails and its more deceptive practices.

The first is a transcript from a Frontline story “League of Denial” that examines how the NFL reacted or did not react to the football concussion crisis. The excerpt and clip tell the tragic story of Mike Webster, a former all-pro center for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The second, “How the NFL Fleeces Taypayers”, by Gregg Easterbrook from The Atlantic examines how the league, which has been able to receive non-profit status, has built its multi-billion-dollar empire on the largesse of politicians and taxpayers (see excerpt following the transcript).

A clip from “League of Denial”:

Narrator: Nearly broke, homeless, and losing his mind, Web­ster decided football had hurt him, and the NFL was going to pay for it. In 1997, he went to see a lawyer.

Bob Fitzsimmons, Webster’s attorney: The thing that struck me the most was how intelligent Mike was, and the problem was that he just couldn’t continue those thought patterns for longer than a thirty-second period, or a minute or two minutes. He would just go off on the tangents at that point. It was pretty obvious, actually, the first interview that he had some type of cognitive impairment.

Narrator: Attorney Bob Fitzsimmons drew up a disability claim against the NFL.

Steve Fainaru: He began to assemble a case with Webster to basically say that Webster had suffered brain damage as a re­sult of his seventeen-year career in the NFL.

Narrator: Fitzsimmons pulled together Webster’s complicated medical history.

Bob Fitzsimmons: So I took the binder of records and got four doctors together, four separate doctors, all asking them, “Does he have a permanent disability that’s cognitive? And is it related to football?”

Narrator: Webster’s final application for disability contained over one hundred pages and the definitive diagnosis of his doctor—football had caused Webster’s dementia. His claim for disability was filed with the National Football League’s re­tirement board.

Steve Fainaru: The Disability Committee is part of the NFL. The head of the Disability Committee is the commissioner himself, so it’s very much a creature of the NFL.

Narrator: From the beginning, the league’s board was skepti­cal, reluctant to give Webster money.

Colin Webster: They were fighting it from the beginning, against just the common sense of, you know, here’s this guy, look at him, you know? He played for nearly twenty years in a brutal and punishing sport, and you know, this is what’s going on with him. Why would you fight that? What possible motive?

Narrator: The league had its own doctor review Webster’s case.

Bob Fitzsimmons: The NFL had not only hired an investigator to look into this, they also hired their own doctor and said, “Hey, we want to evaluate Mike Webster.”

Narrator: Dr. Edward Westbrook examined him.

Mark Fainaru-Wada: Dr. Westbrook concurs with everything that the four other doctors have found and agrees that abso­lutely, there’s no question that Mike Webster’s injuries are football-related and that he appears to be have significant cognitive issues, brain damage, as a result of having played football.

Narrator: The NFL retirement board had no choice. They granted Webster monthly disability payments.

Document: —“has determined that Mr. Webster is currently to­tally and permanently disabled.”

Narrator: And buried in the documents, a stunning admission by the league’s board—football can cause brain disease.

Document: —“indicate that his disability is the result of head injuries he suffered as a football player.”

Bob Fitzsimmons: The NFL acknowledges that repetitive trauma to the head in football, football can cause a permanent dis­abling injury to the brain.

Narrator: The admission would not be made public until years later, when it was discovered by the Fainaru brothers.

Mark Fainaru-Wada: And that was a dramatic admission back in 2000. And in fact, when you talk about that later with Fitzsimmons, he describes that as the sort of proverbial smoking gun.

Narrator: It was now in writing. The NFL’s own retirement board linked playing football and dementia. At the time, it was something the league would not admit publicly. And Webster felt he’d never received the acknowledgment that his years in the NFL had caused his problems.

Pam Webster: Mike would call this his greatest battle. He’d say it was like David and Goliath, over and over, because it was. He was taking on something that was bigger than him. He took on this battle for the right reasons. He was the right per­son to do it. Unfortunately, it cost us everything.

Narrator: Just two years later, in 2002, Mike Webster died.

Read the rest of this entry »

December 17th, 2014

How Expectations and Uncertainty Affect the Economy — An Interview with Eric Barthalon



Uncertainty, Expectations, and Financial Instability

The following is an interview with Eric Barthalon, author of Uncertainty, Expectations, and Financial Instability: Reviving Allais’s Lost Theory of Psychological Time.

Question: What is your book about?

Eric Barthalon: Uncertainty, Expectations and Financial Instability is about what we call “expectations” and the pro-cyclical responses they trigger. I argue that, under uncertainty, we infer the future largely from our experience of the past, and I show how Allais’s lost theory of psychological time gives an operational and testable content to this intuition or hypothesis.

Q: What exactly do you mean by uncertainty?

EB: When we throw four dices repeatedly, we cannot tell the outcome of each throw, but experience as well as mathematics tell us very precisely what we should expect: there will not be many instances where the sum of the four dices is either 4 or 24; most of the throws will yield a result close to 14. This is a situation of “known unknowns” or risk, in which it would be insane to expect a throw to yield either a 2 or a 30, and—even if the first throws are not close to 14—it would be equally insane not to expect the average of the throws to converge toward 14. In such risky situations, our expectations should be identical to the model’s forecasts. This is the very definition of rational expectations. Read the rest of this entry »

December 17th, 2014

The Best American Magazine Writing and the Future of Magazines



The Best American Magazine Writing 2014

The Best American Magazine 2014 includes some of the best writing of the past year. As evident from the book’s contents, while the writing in magazines is perhaps as strong as ever, the magazine industry, as has been well documented, and the concept of what constitutes a magazine is in doubt.

The fate of the magazine as both a business model and a form was the topic of a recent story on Marketplace, which included an interview with Sid Holt, the editor of The Best American Magazine Writing 2014 and the chief executive of the American Society of Magazine Editors:

As the story reported, 2014 saw the launch of 800 new magazines. These new magazines represent a new niche-driven trend in the industry where publications such as Bacon, Eye-lash, or Skinny News are aimed at very specific audiences.

Sid Holt says it is a challenging time for magazines. While magazine audiences are growing online and on other digital platforms, the loss of advertising dollars that were once a mainstay of print has been hard to make up.

“Those digital dimes haven’t replaced those print dollars yet,” he says. But at the same time, he notes, magazines are adapting. In order for a magazine now to be successful it has to carry its shared passion between reader and publisher — be it guinea pigs or eyelashes — across platforms.

“We no longer think of a magazine as this print thing; this print artifact. Although, obviously the print artifact is central,” he says.

The fate of the magazine and what makes magazine writing so distinctive was also the subject of Mark Jannot’s introduction to The Best American Magazine Writing 2014. In the introduction, he considers how particular magazines develop pieces that are not only compelling in their own right but fit the style and ambitions of their publication:

December 16th, 2014

Best Business Writing 2014 — Taking on Google, Facebook, and the Ethos of Silicon Valley



The Best Business Writing 2014

The Best Business Writing 2014, edited by Dean Starkman, Martha Hamilton, and Ryan Chittum includes a series of sharp essays on the culture, practice, ethos, and ideology of Silicon Valley. In different ways, Evgeny Morozov, Rebecca Solnit, and Susan Faludi puncture the bubble that surrounds much of our celebration of technology’s impact on society.

In Why We Are Allowed to Hate Silicon Valley, published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Morozov takes a closer look at the intrusive role technology companies such as Google have in our life:

But consider just how weird our current arrangement is. Imagine I told you that the post office could run on a different, innovation-friendly business model. Forget stamps. They cost money—and why pay money when there’s a way to send letters for free? Just think about the world-changing potential: the poor kids in Africa can finally reach you with their pleas for more laptops! So, instead of stamps, we would switch to an advertis­ing-backed system: we’d open every letter that you send, scan its contents, insert a relevant ad, seal it, and then forward it to the recipient.

Sounds crazy? It does. But this is how we have chosen to run our e-mail. In the wake of the NSA scandal and the debacle that is Healthcare.gov, trust in public institutions runs so low that any alternative arrangement—especially the one that would give pub­lic institutions a greater role—seems unthinkable. But this is only part of the problem. What would happen when some of our long cherished and privately run digital infrastructure begins to crum­ble as companies evolve and change their business models?….

Now that our communication networks are in the hands of the private sector, we should avoid making the same mistake with privacy. We shouldn’t reduce this complex problem to market-based solutions. Alas, thanks to Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial zeal, privatization is already creeping in. Privacy is becoming a commodity. How does one get privacy these days? Just ask any hacker: only by studying how the right tools work. Privacy is no longer something to be taken for granted or enjoyed for free: you have to expend some resources to master the tools. Those re­sources could be money, patience, attention—you might even hire a consultant to do all this for you—but the point is that privacy is becoming expensive.

Read the rest of this entry »

December 16th, 2014

New Book Tuesday: Dreaming of Cinema and More New Books



Dreaming of Cinema

Our weekly listing of new books:

Dreaming of Cinema: Spectatorship, Surrealism, and the Age of Digital Media
Adam Lowenstein

Mankind Beyond Earth: The History, Science, and Future of Human Space Exploration (Now available in paper)
Claude A. Piantadosi

Green Innovation in China: China’s Wind Power Industry and the Global Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy (Now available in paper)
Joanna I Lewis

December 15th, 2014

A Q&A with Janet Poole on Modernist Literature in Korea



When the Future Disappears

The following is an interview with Janet Poole, author of When the Future Disappears: The Modernist Imagination in Late Colonial Korea.

Q: Your book deals with an extraordinary group of writers working in Korea at the height of Japanese occupation during the Asia-Pacific War. How did you first become interested in their work?

JP: When I was first studying Korean and living in Seoul, there were these uncanny ways in which the colonial past seemed to exert an ongoing effect in the present. For instance, old people would come up to me in the street, when I was standing at a bus stop for example, and start talking to me in Japanese. Luckily I had learnt Japanese and could answer! But what really intrigued me was that they would not be surprised when I answered them in Japanese, but would just carry on having a regular conversation with me. This had never happened to me in Japan. I became interested in the history of colonialism and especially the ways in which it left traces in language and language use. Naturally—as a fiction lover—I started to read novels and short stories from that time. I had learnt that colonial occupation had been brutal and, most of all, that it had prevented Koreans writing in Korean, especially as the Asia-Pacific War intensified. But when I picked up books of canonical short stories—the best loved in the nation and the like—so many of them were written in the late 1930s. It seemed such a contradiction that the stories most heralded still today had been written when supposedly Koreans had the least possibilities for expression. That’s what got me interested. Read the rest of this entry »

December 15th, 2014

Book Giveaway! Best Business Writing 2014 and Best American Magazine Writing 2014



With the end of the year upon us, we wanted to highlight our two “best of” annuals: The Best Business Writing 2014, edited by Dean Starkman, Martha M. Hamilton, and Ryan Chittum and The Best American Magazine Writing 2014, edited by Sid Holt for the American Society of Magazine Editors.

In addition to featuring these books we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Best Business Writing 2014 and Best American Magazine Writing 2014 to one winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, December 19 at 1:00 pm.

December 12th, 2014

University Press Roundup



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. (And look back at our University Press Roundup Manifesto to see why we do this post every Friday.)

December 10th was Human Rights Day. In honor of the occasion, the Stanford University Press Blog and the OUPblog both have great posts looking at the history and current status of the idea of “human rights” around the world. At the SUP blog, Mark Goodale looks at the history of what it means to have a “right to rights,” while Boaventura de Sousa Santos finds troubling problems in the history of human rights thinking and advocates “a counter-hegemonic conception of human rights.” At the OUPblog, Kenneth Roth identifies the difficulties in instituting changes to combat human rights abuses carried out by governments.

Questions about the rights and limitations of both people interacting with police officers and the police themselves have been widely discussed recently, following the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. At Beacon Broadside, Noliwe M. Rooks attempts to bring the Kerner Commission Report, first published in 1968 in response to clashes between the civil rights movement and police, into the conversation. She argues that it’s hard to imagine that any new report “will be more prescient than the Kerner Commission, which ends its report by acknowledging, ‘We have provided an honest beginning. We have learned much. But we have uncovered no startling truths, no unique insights, no simple solutions. The destruction and the bitterness of racial disorder, the harsh polemics of black revolt and white repression have been seen and heard before in this country. It is time now to end the destruction and the violence, not only in the streets of the ghetto but in the lives of people.’” Meanwhile, at fifteeneightyfour, David Krugler takes the opportunity of the current protests to take a detailed look at the history of racial tension and violence in America. By placing today’s situation side by side with racial issues from the past hundred years, he hopes to provide new insight into the sources of recent events. Read the rest of this entry »

December 11th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: Ground Zero, Nagasaki



Ground Zero, Nagasaki

In this installment of our Thursday Fiction corner we will be featuring the just-published Ground Zero, Nagasaki: Stories by Seirai Yuichi and translated by Paul Warham.

Seirai Yuichi’s stories are set in contemporary Nagasaki, and draw an unflinching portrait of the A-bomb’s horrific, ongoing trauma. Whether they experienced the attack directly or have merely heard about it from survivors, many of the characters in these stories filter their pain and alienation through their Catholic faith, illuminating a side of Japanese culture little known in the West. For hundreds of years, Christianity was suppressed in Nagasaki, but the religion enjoyed a revival in modern times. The Urakami Cathedral, the center of Japanese Christian life, stood at ground zero of the A-bomb attack.

Here is the first story from the collection, “Nails”:

December 11th, 2014

Coney Island in Winter — Louis Parascandola



Coney Island in Winter

The following post is by Louis Parascandola, the co-editor of A Coney Island Reader: Through Dizzy Gates of Illusion.

The Acknowledgments to A Coney Island Reader: Through Dizzy Gates of Illusion point out that the book that I edited with my brother John was created out of a great sorrow in our lives. We had lost both of our parents in the few years preceding the book, and both of our sisters were enduring life-threatening illnesses. While we were writing the book, one sister, Maryann, died of lung cancer. Now, just as the book has been published, we have lost our other sister, Judy, to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Thus the book, which was meant to serve as a celebration of our family, now serves more as a memorial. Life, much like Coney Island, seldom conforms to what we expect, let alone want, it to be. Still, Coney is able to provide comfort even at dark moments in life and even during its off season.

Most people do not imagine visiting Coney during the winter months, something I have had the opportunity to do several times. There is a somber chill in the air. One wonders, as in Sara Teasdale’s poem “Coney Island,” why we are here, out where “The winter winds blow” with “no shelter near.” However, there is comfort here. As one walks along the boardwalk, one can see activity going on. There are people walking; there are joggers; there are the dog walkers; there may even be a few intrepid bathers. There are also people working all year round fixing the rides and preparing for the spring. Along Surf Avenue, there is also activity. Though many of the stores are closed, a few remain open for the die-hards. It is still possible to get a hot dog at Nathan’s, pizza at Grimaldi’s, and candy from a couple of vendors. One realizes that though Coney may slow down, it never completely closes. Life here never really ends.

The appeal of the off-season is apparent in several of the works in our anthology, including the above-mentioned poem by Teasdale as well as Stephen Crane’s story “Coney Island’s Failing Days,” Federico Garcia Lorca’s poem “Landscape of a Vomiting Multitude (Dusk at Coney Island”), and Bernard Malamud’s story “My Son the Murderer.” Perhaps the piece that best captures the feeling, however, is by Pulitzer Prize winner, Josephine W. Johnson, “Coney Island in November.” In this poignant story, a woman recalls her somewhat distant relationship with her now deceased father as she walks along the desolate beach at Coney. At this time of year, Coney returns to what it once was and will always remain, a seaside, natural resort. Its endless beach and eternal tide allow for contemplation that one cannot achieve on a crowded summer day. It is while walking along this beach that the woman is able to come to terms with her sorrow and gain a sense of closure with her father. This sense of serenity is an aspect not always connected with Coney, with its hurly burly. Coney is forever linked with summer fun, but the pleasure and knowledge that can be gained in its off-season is not something to be overlooked.

December 10th, 2014

Coney Island in Song



A Coney Island Reader: Through Dizzy Gates of Illusion edited by Louis and John Parascandola includes some of the best work of fiction and poetry on Coney Island from Walt Whitman and Federico García Lorca to Djuna Barnes and Colson Whitehead.

Of course, Coney Island has also been the subject of many songs. A Coney Island Reader includes a very helpful appendix of Coney Island-related songs by artists and song writers, including John Philip Sousa, Cole Porter, and Woody Guthrie.

Here are some other more recent songs that mention Coney Island or are about the neighborhood:

“Coney Island Baby,” Lou Reed (1975)

“Oh Oh I Lover Her So,” The Ramones (1977). Punk-rock love at Coney Island.

“I Remember Coney Island,” The Lounge Lizards (1981)

“Coney Island,” Death Cab for Cutie (2001)

“Coney Island Baby,” Tom Waits (2002)

“Coney Island Winter,” Garland Jeffreys (2011)

December 10th, 2014

National Security Above Mental Health — Neil Aggarwal



Mental Health in the War of Terror

“We need novel solutions for hierarchical organizations such as the CIA and the armed forces that erect institutional safeguards for psychiatrists, psychologists, and whistleblowers warning of misuses in mental health knowledge and practice.”—Neil Krishnan Aggarwal

The following post is by Neil Krishnan Aggarwal, the author of the forthcoming Mental Health in the War on Terror: Culture, Science, and Statecraft:

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s release of the report Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program marks a signature moment for government accountability in the War on Terror. The report acknowledges that “the CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees” and “the CIA’s justification for the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques rested on inaccurate claims of their effectiveness.”

Politicians have debated release of the report. Former Vice-President Dick Cheney has claimed that enhanced interrogation techniques were “absolutely, totally justified” and were the “right thing to do, and if I had to do it over again, I would do it.” In contrast, Senator Dianne Feinstein, committee chairwoman, defended the release: “Releasing this report is an important step to restoring our values and showing the world that we are a just society.” Similarly, President Barack Obama declared: “The report documents a troubling program involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States.”

In Mental Health in the War on Terror: Culture, Science, and Statecraft, I investigate how the government uses mental health professionals to advance national security interests and how mental health professionals serve such ends. I examine bioethical debates on whether mental health professionals should do no harm or participate in interrogations. I examine debates among prosecution and defense teams on the meanings of detainee mental health symptoms in Guantanamo tribunals. I conclude that the War on Terror has pushed American government officials to treat terrorism as a military problem requiring new forms of mental health knowledge, practice, and institutions rather than a law enforcement problem handled through extant institutions.

The Senate committee’s report reinforces this conclusion. After capture of militant Abu Zubaydah, a psychologist-contractor proposed in July 2002 that SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) techniques from the American military could be “novel interrogation methods” for the CIA. These techniques include walling, facial holding and slapping, cramped confinement, stress positions, sleep deprivation, waterboarding, and mock burial. One CIA official clarified that “personnel will make every effort possible to insure [sic] that subject is not permanently physically or mentally harmed but we should not say at the outset of this process that there is no risk.” The psychologist-contractors normalized these techniques, responding, “The safety of any technique lies primarily in how it is applied and monitored.”

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December 9th, 2014

A Coney Island Reader — The Warriors



A Coney Island Reader: Through Dizzy Gates of Illusion, edited by Louis and John Parascandola, includes numerous portraits of the area that celebrate its beach, sense of fun, and as a respite from the hectic city. The flip side, of course, is that Coney Island as a “Sodom by the Sea,” where garishness and menace run amuck.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the decay of Coney Island mirrored the decay of New York City. This sense of Coney Island is perhaps most famously captured in Sol Yurnick’s The Warriors (1965) which was made into a 1979 film by Walter Roy Hill.

Below is a clip from the film in which The Warriors return to their Coney Island home after a night of fighting and running from other gangs. Below that is an excerpt from the book in which the same scene treated somewhat differently.

July 5th, 5:20–6:00 a.m.

Before going home, Hinton led The Junior and Dewey down the street to­ward the beach. They followed him; he had become the Father. The morn­ing wind was coming at them from the sea. It was still hot, but every step took them into cooler and cooler areas. It was lighter above the housetops, but still dark below.

They walked toward the boardwalk. When they came to the last block, Hinton halted them before crossing the street. He stood, hand raised, look­ing up and down. Nothing there but a garbage truck, grinding refuse, yel­lower than the murky light coming down from the overcast sunrise. The street lights were paling; they had blue, fluorescent edges. Hinton waved his hand the way patrol leaders did; they crossed the street, walking cool, alert for surprises. Far up the street a Headbuster patrolled, his back to­ward them. They were on their territory now; everything had a tremendous and comforting familiarity. They knew it to its confines, six short blocks by four long blocks. They could cover it in a short time—each brick was com­pletely known, each stain, each sign, each gunmark on the concrete side­walks, each hiding place. It was like knowing an endless and soul-freeing space where there could be no real threat. There wasn’t as much space in the rest of the whole city. They drank it all in, everything from the cracked asphalt to the strutty rise of the roller coaster over the houses. It was there. There. Comforting after their night. They began to walk along the last block before coming to the boardwalk.

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December 9th, 2014

New Book Tuesday: The Fall of Language, Pandora’s Risk, and The Gangster Film



The Fall of Language in the Age of EnglishOur weekly listing of new titles now available:

The Fall of Language in the Age of English
Minae Mizumura; Translated by Mari Yoshihara and Juliet Winters Carpenter

Pandora’s Risk: Uncertainty at the Core of Finance (Now available in paper)
Kent Osband

The Gangster Film: Fatal Success in American Cinema
Ron Wilson

December 8th, 2014

Book Giveaway! Win a Free Copy of “A Coney Island Reader”



This week our featured book is A Coney Island Reader: Through Dizzy Gates of Illusion edited by Louis J. Parascandola and John Parascandola

In addition to featuring the book and the author on the blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of A Coney Island Reader to one winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, December 12 at 1:00 pm.

“A timely, important addition to anthologies of New York writing. A Coney Island Reader will be welcomed by urban historians and a general public that continues to be fascinated by Coney Island’s ramshackle roller coaster of a history” — Bryan Waterman, New York University

Read Kevin Baker’s foreword to A Coney Island Reader

December 8th, 2014

Video: Slavoj Žižek and Srecko Horvat on What Europe Wants



The following is a public debate from earlier this year between Slavoj Žižek and Srecko Horvat that considers the issues raised in their just-published book What Does Europe Want?: The Union and Its Discontents

In the book, Žižek and Srecko Horvat argue that instead of being a peace-project, the European Union is increasingly turning into a warzone: whether it be the expulsion of immigrants or riots in Paris and London, or European interventions to bring “more democracy” to Libya or Syria. But instead of leaving Europe to the enemies, Žižek and Horvat reflect on the fight for a different Idea of Europe.

For more on the book you can also read the chapter “Breaking Our Eggs Without the Omlette, From Cyprus to Greece,” by Slavoj Žižek: