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September 16th, 2014

Flying Dinosaurs in Action!

Needless to say, one can hardly think about flying dinosaurs without wondering what they looked like. Flying Dinosaurs: How Fearsome Reptiles Became Birds by John Pickrell includes several illustrations of flying dinosaurs based on scientific evidence. Here are few of examples from the book:

Flying Dinosaurs
Four-winged flier: Discovered in 2009, 161 million-year-old Anchiornis huxleyi pre-dated the “first bird” Archaeopteryx and helped solve the confusing “temporal paradox”. Until then, all known feathered dinosaurs were younger than Archaeopteryx, so couldn’t have been ancestral to it. Instead, experts now think Cretaceous forests were home to a mixture of feathery dinosaurs and early birds. (Source: Julius Csotonyi)

Flying Dinosaurs
Pitstop: Early birds were contemporaries of a diverse fauna of bird-like dinosaurs, such as Tyrannosaurs rex, during the Cretaceous period. (Source: Luis Rey)

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September 16th, 2014

New Book Tuesday: Losing Tim, On Slowness, Photography and Its Violations, and More New Books

Losing Tim, Paul GionfriddoOur weekly list of new titles now available:

Losing Tim: How Our Health and Education Systems Failed My Son with Schizophrenia
Paul Gionfriddo

On Slowness: Toward an Aesthetic of the Contemporary
Lutz Koepnick

Photography and Its Violations
John Roberts

Rewiring the Real: In Conversation with William Gaddis, Richard Powers, Mark Danielewski, and Don DeLillo (Now available in paper)
Mark C. Taylor

Conflict, Conquest, and Conversion: Two Thousand Years of Christian Missions in the Middle East (Now available in paper)
Eleanor H. Tejirian and Reeva Spector Simon

A Convergence of Civilizations: The Transformation of Muslim Societies Around the World (Now available in paper)
Youssef Courbage and Emmanuel Todd

The New Ecology of Leadership: Business Mastery in a Chaotic World (Now available in paper)

Parallel Lines: Post-9/11 American Cinema
Guy Westwell

Hadrien Laroche

Yuri Lotman

September 15th, 2014

Book Giveaway! Win a FREE copy of “Flying Dinosaurs”

Flying Dinosaurs: How Fearsome Reptiles Became Birds

“A marvelous book. The moment life took to the air—caught in stone!” — Tim Flannery, environmentalist and paleontologist

This week our featured book is Flying Dinosaurs: How Fearsome Reptiles Became Birds, by John Pickrell.

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 Flying Dinosaurs: How Fearsome Reptiles Became Birds 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, September 19 at 1:00 pm.

Mixing colorful portraits with news on the latest fossil findings and interviews with leading paleontologists in the United States, China, Europe, and Australia, John Pickrell explains and details dinosaurs’ development of flight. This special capacity introduced a whole new range of abilities for the animals and helped them survive a mass extinction, when thousands of other dinosaur species that once populated the Earth did not.

September 12th, 2014

Edward Hess: Can You Build a High-Performance Learning Organization?

Edward Hess, Learn or Die

“If we want adaptable learning organizations, we need to humanize our management models, and that requires many companies to fundamentally change attitudes and behaviors toward employees…. [W]e need to form new capital markets to support the building of endur­ing, value creating, people-centric, learning companies.”—Edward Hess

Appropriately enough, we conclude our week-long feature on Edward Hess’s Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization with an excerpt from the books epilogue. In this passage, Hess describes the challenges of creating a High-Performance Learning Organization (HPLO):

Several people in the past year have asked me whether these research find­ings are scalable in a big company. My answer is: It depends. A private company built by an entrepreneur who aims to create an enduring business (like Gore and Bridgewater) has a good chance if the company executes its model well. Gore has scaled its model to over 10,000 employees globally, because maintaining the “Gore Way” has been a passionate pursuit of the successor leadership teams. Leadership succession coming from inside is critical. McKinsey & Company is another good example of a private busi­ness that has scaled and not lost its founder’s essence. Is it easier to do this in a private company? Yes, it is. The key is successful leadership succession from within. That is the challenge Bridgewater is tackling now.

Regarding public companies, UPS has scaled its high employee engagement and operational excellence model to over 400,000 employees, because Jim Casey’s philosophy is still alive in UPS. If successor leaders grew up in the culture and have lived the values for years, scaling is pos­sible. Other good examples of public companies that have achieved this are Costco, Corning, Inc., Sysco, and Southwest Airlines. Keeping the founder’s culture alive is the key, and that is difficult if an organization doesn’t build an internal leadership succession pipeline that keeps that culture alive. That is a challenge facing many good learning companies today, for example Starbucks, Amazon, and Google.

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September 12th, 2014

Fracking, The Wire, Zombies, Why It’s Good to Be Good and More from University Presses

University Press Round Up

Our weekly round up of some of the best posts from the world of university press blogs:

Andrew Cuomo and the Future of Fracking: Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary in New York state was, in part, a referendum on Andrew Cuomo’s policy on fracking. (Beacon Broadside)

The Crossroads of Fate and Character: An interview with Mark Richardson, author of Robert Frost in Context. Richardson argues says there will always be a place in this world for poetry as long as humans continue to be their imperfect selves. (Cambridge University Press)

Linda Williams on The Wire: While some celebrate the novelistic quality of The Wire, Williams argues that it’s necessary to appreciate the show’s more conventional characteristics: seriality, televisuality and melodrama. (Duke University Press)

Beyond the White Negro: An interview with Kimberly Chabot Davis, author of Beyond the White Negro: Empathy and Anti-Racist Reading. (University of Illinois Press)

From Paper Piles to Pages: On being an intern in the production department (Island Press)

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September 11th, 2014

VIDEOS: Edward Hess Presents Chapters from “Learn or Die”

We continue our video feature of Edward Hess’s discussions of chapters from his new book Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization.

In these video, Hess presents overviews of chapters 7 to 11:

Chapter 7: Critical Thinking Tools

Chapter 8: A Conversation with Dr. Gary Klein

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September 11th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: An Interview with Dorothy Tse, author of Snow and Shadow

Snow and Shadow, Dorothy Tse

“I don’t regard my stories as departing from conventionally understood reality. I think humans are adapting and transforming themselves in radical ways. If we can eat meat made in a science lab, then it’s possible for a woman to change into a fish.”—Dorothy Tse

The following is an interview with Dorothy Tse, author of the short story collection Snow and Shadow. In a review of the book, Joyelle McSweeney wrote, “”I’m stunned by the resolve, accomplishment, and strangeness of this vision. Tse joins the ranks of artists currently remaking the world.”

The interview originally appeared on the book’s website, where you can also read excerpts from the collection.

Question: Can you envision the ideal reader of your fiction—in terms of background, education level, tolerance for gruesome imagery, or any other traits you think matter? Stated otherwise, what attributes does a reader need to have to fully appreciate and understand what you are communicating in Snow and Shadow?

Dorothy Tse: One of the privileges of being a writer is that you don’t have an audience in front of you as you write. I don’t want to sacrifice this freedom by imagining an actual reader. Plus, any reader that I can imagine will never be as creative and complex as the actual readers I may have.

Q: Which eastern and western authors do you consider to be your primary influences?

DT: I do not distinguish between Eastern and Western authors. When I was young, I liked reading fairy tales from anywhere—sometimes stories in the Bible gave me a similar kind of enjoyment. But my formal consciousness came from reading mainland fiction writers who exploded on the scene in the 1980s. After mainland China had had a closed-door policy for decades, these Chinese writers were influenced suddenly by writers from around the world, such as Kawabata, Márquez, and Kafka. The subsequent formal experiments by these Chinese writers felt like looking into a kaleidoscope.

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September 10th, 2014

VIDEOS: Edward Hess Presents Chapters from “Learn or Die” (Part 1)

On Monday, as part of the giveaway for Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization, we featured a video with Edward Hess in which he provides an overview of the book.

In conjunction with the book, Hess has provided short summaries for the other chapters in the book here are videos for chapters 2-6. (Tomorrow, we’ll post videos for chapter 7-11)

Chapter 2: Learning How Our Mind Works

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September 10th, 2014

Richard Suchenski on the Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien

Hou Hsiao-hsien, Richard SuchenskiOn Friday, September 12, 2014, the Museum of the Moving Image will launch a retrospective of the films by Taiwan’s celebrated director Hou Hsiao-hsien.

In conjunction with the retrospective, Richard Suchenski, editor of Hou Hsiao-hsien will join Columbia film scholar Richard Peña and acclaimed writer and academic Ian Buruma in a public discussion hosted at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute about Hou’s films on Friday, September 12, 2014, from 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM in Kent Hall 403 on the Columbia University campus.

Below is an excerpt from an interview with Richard Suchenski that originally appeared on the Weatherhead East Asian Institute site.

Q: What makes Hou Hsiao-hsien’s filmmaking distinctive?

Richard Suchenski: Salient features of Hou’s cinema include elegantly staged long takes, the precise delineation of quotidian life, and a radically, even vertiginously, elliptical mode of storytelling. His films place unusual demands on the viewer, but their sophistication is understated and their formal innovations are irreducibly bound up with the sympathetic observation of everyday experience. In the book, I argue that by combining multiple forms of tradition with a unique approach to space and time, Hou has created a body of work that, through its stylistic originality and historical gravity, opens up new possibilities for the medium and redefines the relationship between realism and modernism.

One often has the peculiar sensation when watching Hou’s films of looking backwards and forwards simultaneously, continually refining an understanding of preceding scenes even when immersed in the unfolding present. He goes furthest in this direction with The Puppetmaster (1993), but there are already extraordinary examples in his breakthrough film The Boys from Fengkuei (1983).

Q: What inspired you to study Hou’s films?

RS: For a cinephile of my generation, Hou is a key reference point and the new Taiwanese cinema that began in the 1980s has a special status as a cinema that was (and is) in the midst of introducing an innovative sensibility and a fresh perspective. Hou is the most important Taiwanese filmmaker and his sensuous, richly nuanced work is at the heart of everything that is vigorous and genuine in contemporary film culture. This made him an ideal subject for the first integrated book and retrospective project coordinated through the Center for Moving Image Arts (CMIA).

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September 9th, 2014

Interview with Edward Hess, Author of “Learn or Die”

Learn or Die, Edward Hess

The following is an interview with Edward Hess, author of Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization:

Question: What is the purpose of Learn or Die?

Edward Hess: The book uses the science of learning to answer two important questions:

First, how can we individually become a better and faster learner?

Second, how can we as a manager/leader build a team or an organization that continuously learns better and faster than the competition?

Another purpose of the book was to review and synthesize across academic disciplines the developments in the science of learning that have occurred since Peter Senge’s 1990 landmark book on learning organizations and put forth a new blueprint of how to build a learning organization based on the current science of learning.

Q: How should readers approach this book?

EH: Readers should read this book with an open mind. A natural reaction will be “that is not me” – “I don’t think that way”. Well, the science says it is highly likely that you do. To get the most from the book, one has to accept the science of learning and that paints an unflattering picture of how most of us think. Many people who have read the book and have communicated with me found it personally a “wake up” call.

Q: Aren’t most of us good learners?

EH: Yes, many of us are good learners but it is highly probable that we are suboptimal learners. We know from research that cognitively we are fast reflexive thinkers who seek to confirm what we already know. We are confirmation machines. Emotionally, we tend to be defensive thinkers protecting our views and ego. Emotionally, we defend, deny and deflect. The saboteurs of learning are ego and fear. That is our ‘humanness”. To be a great learner requires one to overcome those natural proclivities. Learn or Die puts forth a blueprint of how to do that.

Q: How did that research impact you personally?

EH: I have been working on this project for years and it had a big impact on me. I realized I had to take my learning game to a much higher level. Even though all the feedback from my schooling and my work life in the business world and academia had been very positive, I had areas that I needed to improve in order to really be a great learner.

So, I started working on those areas: managing better my thinking and emotions, quieting my ego, redefining what “being smart” means, actively listening with a non-judgmental open mind to others and treating everything I believe as being conditional subject to stress testing by new data.

I had to define myself (my ego) not by how much I knew or by having the right answer but rather by how well I use best thinking, listening and collaborating best practices. I created checklists that I use daily to grade myself and reflect on my learning performance. Overall, I am a better thinker, listener, and collaborator today than I was before writing this book—but my work is not done.

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September 9th, 2014

New Books Tuesday: Learn or Die, Starve and Immolate, and More New Books!

Starve and ImmolateOur weekly listing of new books now available:

Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization
Edward Hess

Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons
Banu Bargu

The Culture of the Book in Tibet (Now available in paper)
Kurtis R. Schaeffer

September 8th, 2014

Book Giveaway: Learn or Die by Edward D. Hess

Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization

“This book does a beautiful job bringing together the most important ideas in organizational learning, established by academics and practitioners over the past thirty years or more, into one place.” — Amy C. Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management, Harvard Business School

This week our featured book is Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization, by Edward D. Hess.

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 Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization 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, September 12 at 1:00 pm.

In Learn or Die, Edward D. Hess combines recent advances in neuroscience, psychology, behavioral economics, and education with key research on high-performance businesses to create an actionable blueprint for becoming a leading-edge learning organization.

The following is a video based on chapter 1 of the book, which provides an overview of Learn or Die. We will share other videos for the remaining chapters during the week:

September 5th, 2014

University Press Blog Round Up: Rock n Roll, Cooking with Publishers, the Surprisingly Funny Middle Ages, and More!

University Press Roundup

Our weekly list of some of the most compelling posts (and videos!) from the wide world of university press blogs:

Greil Marcus on the ten songs that define rock n roll history. (Yale University Press)

Natalie Fingerhut, history editor at the University of Toronto Press, on what she learned while editing The Assassination of Europe, 1918-1942: A Political History and why reading history matters.

Stanford University Press provides a very inventive and handy flowchart to navigate their Fall 2014 offerings.

Back in the Day! Princeton University Press continues its excellent Throwback Thursday with a look back at The Munich Secession: Art and Artists in Turn-of-the-Century Munich by Martha Makela.

Rebecca J. Cook, editor of Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies, outlines the book’s contents in which legal scholars from different parts of the world analyze recent cases and controversies and how ideas are changing the way abortion is legally advocated, regulated, and adjudicated.

John H. McWhorter asks, How does color affect our way of seeing the world? (Oxford University Press)

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September 5th, 2014

Dean Starkman: Wrecking an Economy Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

Dean Starkman, The Watchdog That Didn't Bark

“We know the banks are eager to put the scandal of the financial crisis behind them. What’s disturbing is that, in the name of deference, convenience, or something darker, the Justice Department is letting them do just that.”—Dean Starkman

In his book The Watchdog That Didn’t Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism, Dean Starkman charts the history of the financial press culminating in an analysis of the failure of mainstream journalism to cover the events and trends leading up to the 2008 financial crisis.

In a sense, he argues that the financial press abandoned its roots in investigative journalism and let mortgage lenders, banks, and Wall Street off the hook. Recently, in the New Republic, Starkman suggests that the government is doing the same after the fact. Despite some settlements paid out by the likes of J.P. Morgan and Citigroup, the Justice Department “has permitted the banks, for a price, to bury their sins.” Starkman writes:

It bears saying one more time: It’s a disgrace that the Justice Department has failed to bring a single criminal charge against any Wall Street or mortgage executive of consequence for their roles in wrecking the economy, despite having managed to make arrests in the comparatively piddling schemes of Enron and the Savings & Loan flimflam. (The latter resulted in more than 800 convictions, including those of many top executives.) These settlements are wan consolation. The sums being surrendered, for starters, are large only until compared with the $13 trillion or so the public lost in the financial crash—or, for that matter, with the banks’ own coffers. (Citi’s pure profit in the two years before the wipeout was more than triple its penalty.) Not to mention that the money won’t be paid by any parties actually responsible, but by the banks’ current shareholders, who pretty much had nothing to do with the misdeeds in question. And the bulk of the settlements will be tax deductible. For destroying trillions in wealth and thousands of jobs, banks will get a write-off.

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September 4th, 2014

Interview with James Liebman, Author of “The Wrong Carlos”

The Wrong Carlos

“If you want money, you rob banks. If you want to study executions, you go to Texas.”—James Liebman

A few weeks ago we featured The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution by James Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project and interest in the book and the case continues to grow. Most recently James Liebman was interviewed by The Christian Science Monitor about the book and the case. The following is an excerpt from the interview:

Q: What convinced you to investigate a specific death penalty case?

In 2000 and 2002, we published a big study which showed there was a huge amount of adjudicated errors found in capital cases in the United States by state and federal courts. Essentially, two-thirds of all death verdicts reviewed over a quarter century had been overturned based on serious error.

Proponents say the system is working, and we don’t have to worry about the ultimate error of someone being innocent. There’s another interpretation. If an airline company or a car company had this level of error, nobody would want to go near them. If there’s this much smoke, there’s got to be fire.

So we wanted to examine a particular case to see if we could determine the risk of executing the innocent. We went from a statistical study where we were just counting outcomes to making a judgement call about which cases would be interesting to look at.

Q: How did you find this case in particular?

We started by looking at Texas cases. If you want money, you rob banks. If you want to study executions, you go to Texas.

We started looking at eyewitness identification cases because of the long-standing evidence that these cases can be faulty. The witness in this case was one person who happened to be pumping gas outside a store where a clerk was attacked and killed.

He saw the assailant come out of the store and run away. After a 45-minute manhunt, he identified Carlos de Luna.

This case fit what we were looking for.

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September 4th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: Vice Celebrates 30 Years of Dalkey Archive

Alix's Journal

A recent article by Blake Butler published in Vice celebrated 30 years of Dalkey Archive Press.

In recognizing the singular achievement of Dalkey, Butler wrote:

For the past 30 years Dalkey Archive has quietly and consistently been a vital aesthetic cornerstone in print. Each year the publisher produces a new stream of titles sourced from all over the world, extending one of the most ambitious catalogs in literature. From canonical cornerstones like Gaddis, Barth, Barnes, Ashbery, and Huxley, to lesser known or more contemporary masters such as Hawkes, Infante, Kiš, Gombrowicz, and Reed, and through a world literature series focusing on Catalan, Norwegian, and Turkish writers, among others, the archive maintains a colossal library of important works available all under one roof….

It’s sort of like a museum in that way, a source intent only on providing sustenance for major works that may have disappeared, or never appeared at all.

Butler also recommended several of his favorite Dalkey books, including:

Geometric Regional Novel, by Gert Jonke

Tripticks, by Ann Quin

The Magic Kingdom, by Stanley Elkin

The Other City, by Michal Ajvaz

Alix’s Journal, by Alix Cleo Roubaud

Europeana, by Patrik Ouředník

September 3rd, 2014

Abominable Science! Wins a AAUP Design Award!

Congratulations to designer Philip Pascuzzo and our design department for winning an AAUP award for best book jacket for Abominable Science!: Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids by Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero.

Needless to say, we agree with the AAUP but don’t take their, or our, word for it, here’s the cover:

Abominable Science, Daniel Loxton, Donald Prothero

September 3rd, 2014

Back to School with Anne Campbell — Mike Chasar

Anne Campbell

The following post is by Mike Chasar, author of Everyday Reading: Poetry and Popular Culture in Modern America. The essay was also published in Arcade:

A little less than a year back, I wrote about Edgar Guest, the longtime poet of the Detroit Free Press who published a poem in that paper seven days a week for thirty years. The national syndication of his verse made Guest a household name, got him dubbed the “people’s poet,” turned him into a popular speaker, and made him a very rich man even if it didn’t secure him a place in scholarly histories of American poetry. Indeed, after mentioning Guest as part of a Modernist Studies Association panel a few years back, I happened to run into a prominent poet-critic in the airport and, in making small talk about the panel while we waited for our flights, he confessed that until my talk he’d never even heard of Guest. By contrast, my mother-in-law owned several of Guest’s books before she moved out of the family house and into a retirement home; when I was helping her move and opened them, other poems by Guest that she’d clipped from newspapers and magazines and stored between the pages came fluttering out.

If the poet-critic I just mentioned had never heard of Guest, it’s probably safe to say that he’s never heard of Anne Campbell either—the poet whom the Detroit News hired in 1922 to better compete with the Free Press. Called “Eddie Guest’s Rival” by Time and “The Poet of the Home” by her publicity agents, Campbell would go on to write a poem a day six days a week for twenty-five years, producing over 7,500 poems whose international syndication reportedly earned her up to $10,000 per year (that’s about $140,000 adjusted for inflation, folks), becoming a popular speaker in her own right, and proving that neither the Free Press nor Guest could corner the market on popular poetry. Indeed, a 1947 event marking her silver anniversary at the News drew fifteen hundred fans including Detroit’s mayor and the president of Wayne State University.

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September 2nd, 2014

New Book Tuesday: The Newest from Rey Chow, Wombs in Labor, and More!

Rey Chow, Not Like a Native SpeakerOur weekly listing of new titles:

Not Like a Native Speaker: On Languaging as a Postcolonial Experience
Rey Chow

Wombs in Labor: Transnational Commercial Surrogacy in India
Amrita Pande

Youth: Autobiographical Writings
Wolfgang Koeppen

The Republic of Užupis: A Novel

September 2nd, 2014

Author Events for September

Melanie BrewsterWe’ve got a great lineup of events this month in locations stretching from Slovenia to Bryn Mawr and on topics ranging from the Middle East to Atheism.

Visit our author events page for all the details but herre is a preview of the authors who will be discussing their books this month:

* Marko Sosič / Ballerina, Ballerina: A Novel (Dalkey Archive)

* Richard I. Suchenski / Hou Hsiao-hsien (Austrian Film Museum)

* Melanie Brewster / Atheists in America

* Michael Mann / The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines

* Joel Migdal / Shifting Sands: The United States in the Middle East