WadeS15_144Stephen Wade, author of The Beautiful Music All Around Us, opened up his residency at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s  Stackner Cabaret on Sunday, January 18. There, the author/musician will spend the better part of the next eight weeks introducing audiences to the astonishing music and stories he unearthed for his award-winning University of Illinois Press book.

As always, Stephen is a tireless advocate for the music. The Kathleen Dunn Show on Milwaukee Public Radio brought him into the studio to discuss his work, the show, and the stories behind the songs. Click here to listen to the entire segment.

Lake Effect, the local affairs magazine on WUWM, had Stephen into the studio to play live.

For the visually minded, hosts Molly Fay and Tiffany Ogle interview Stephen on the daytime TV show The Morning Blend.

The reviews, meanwhile, are in, and glowing. Broadway World:

On the Stackner’s intimate stage, the award-winning Wade breathes life into these musician’s stories—their personalities, their lyrics and melodies such as “Shortenin’ Bread” or “Tom Dooley,” even the first lilting measures of Aaron Copland’s famous opera “Rodeo.” Photographs projected on a screen behind Wade illuminate these private histories while Wade embellishes their unknown names with the facts and myths surrounding their lives.

An accomplished and life-long banjo player, Wade picks and stomps through the notes and melodies woven into the audience’s memories. Strains of familiar tunes resonate in the Cabaret while merged with Wade’s enthusiasm and his exceptional banjos to elevate these street musicians to their rightful place in musical history.

The Journal-Sentinel:

“It’s a world of sound,” Wade sighed, that “can bark down low and up high sounds like bells.” “It goes from a harpsichord to a talking drum. It’s like a Model T in syncopated rhythm…. It’s like a watercolor, full of happy accidents. And it’s hard to tune. It’s a musical mule.”

It’s a glorious description that’s also true to how Wade thinks about both music and life, in which everything becomes a metaphor for something else—forging connections between the sounds we make and the beautiful music all around us.

Express Milwaukee:

Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s The Beautiful Music All Around Us is a journey through the American South’s musical history led by Grammy-nominee Stephen Wade, who combines the intellectual excitement of a dedicated scholar with the unabashed emotional expressivity of a folk demigod. The show is drawn from his award-winning book of the same title and is a compilation of live banjo and guitar performance, spoken word and projected historic photographs. These elements combine to create a window into the lives of Americans whose names are not well known but whose contributions are staggering.

Going north? “The Beautiful Music All Around Us” continues through March 15 at the Stackner Cabaret, 108 E. Wells St., Milwaukee, WI. For tickets, visit milwaukeerep.com or call (414) 224-9490.

FaithF14Thomas I. Faith is a historian at the U.S. Department of State. He answered some questions about his book Behind the Gas Mask: The U.S. Chemical Warfare Service in War and Peace.

Q: When was poison gas first utilized as method of warfare? Which country was the first to adopt it?

Thomas Faith: At the outset of World War I, France, Britain, and Germany began to investigate the use of various types of chemical weapons. The French army used tear gas grenades in battle against the Germans in August 1914, but in such small quantities that their German opponents failed to notice. In October the Germans fired artillery shells filled with a chemical irritant at the British near Neuve-Chapelle, and in January 1915 the Germans launched an assault against the Russians on the eastern front using eighteen thousand tear gas shells, but in both cases the weapons failed to have any effect. The first successful use of poison gas in World War I came when German Pioneer Regiment 35, under the direction of chemist Fritz Haber, released a lethal cloud of chlorine gas from storage cylinders at Ypres on April 22, 1915—routing and killing the British, Canadian, French, and Algerian soldiers positioned there.

Q: What was the public view of chemical weapons in the United States after World War I? How did this effect military policy on these weapons in future conflicts?

Faith: The immediate experience of chemical warfare during the First World War resulted in a wide diversity of views about chemical weapons. Most in the United States were aware that chemical weapons had caused soldiers a great deal of suffering and were responsible for a large proportion of casualties. Policy makers worked to reduce the potential for future chemical warfare by marginalizing chemical weapons development in military policy, and seeking methods of restricting gas warfare internationally. Those who believed that chemical weapons were nonetheless critical to national security, however, worked to ensure that the military remained prepared for chemical warfare despite opposition. Poison gas policies in the United States were ultimately shaped by these competing interests. Continue reading

Initially published soon after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., David Levering Lewis’s King: A Biography was acclaimed by historians as a foundational work on the life of the civil rights icon.

In 2013 the University of Illinois Press published an updated Third Edition of the biography. Lewis wrote in the preface:

A half century beyond the March on Washington. . . . history should oblige Americans to pause to make an informed appreciation if the soaring democratic vision Martin Luther King shared with his nation that day in 1963. After fifty years of rote evocation of those lapidary phrases broadcast from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. it should not be too much to hope that something of the economics of empowerment implicit in “I Have A Dream” is heard above the thunder of ceremonial applause—that, as King charged, the Negro had been dealt a check “that came back ‘marked insufficient funds.’” If the deposit funds are still insufficient fifty years after the March on Washington and the Dream dreamt that long day, there are positive things to be said, nevertheless, about how far the nation has come. . . . More of us have also come to realize that the extreme inequalities under capitalism are ordained neither by God nor birth. For that wisdom we owe an incommensurable debt to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Fifty years after the path-breaking events of King’s crusade Lewis reflected on moments such as the letter from Birmingham jail, which the biographer describes as a “milestone. . . . in the republic’s growth.”

The personal and professional life of Martin Luther King, Jr. continues to be told in books or films like 2014′s Selma.

As King was both canonized and reinvented with new depictions of his life, Lewis wrote “with each January 15 commemoration of his birth , Martin Luther King recedes deeper into the mists of his mountain top.” The fear Lewis voiced was that King would become “a man for all reasons, an elastic fetish as potent for one cause as for another.”

With civil rights issues on the front page of newspapers well into the 21st century, there is little chance that King’s life and legacy can be obscured by the mist.



JohnsonS12Like a lot of Hollywood stars, we’re a little late to the Golden Globes party. But the subjects of titles in UIP’s Contemporary Film Directors series filled in admirably for us by picking up awards at the annual shindig. David T. Johnson reveals the method behind the genre-hopping madness of Richard Linklater, a Golden Globe winner for Boyhood, in his book of the same name. First coming to notice with Slacker and Dazed and Confused, Linklater has maintained a sense of integrity while working with all levels of budget and subject matter that ranges from Fast Food Nation to School of Rock.

DeleytoF10The Birdman awards juggernaut included screenwriter Alejandro González Iñárritu. Celestino Deleyto and Maria del Mar Azcona delve into Iñárritu’s landmark directorial efforts, including 21 Grams and Amores perros, in the CFD book Alejandro González Iñárritu, a rare English-language consideration of the Mexican auteur.

Meet the UI Press is a recurring feature that delves into issues affecting publishing. Today, industry advice columnist The Bolshevik answers your questions.


Dear Bolshevik,
Why was my manuscript not published? Signed, Confused in Cultural Studies

Confused: Thank you for writing. Of all the questions I receive, this one is asked the most often, just ahead of the query about dispensing toilet paper underneath or over the top of the roll. While I don’t have time to read your manuscript—the world revolution won’t bring itself—I can state authors suffer rejection for a variety of reasons.

Let’s address one of the most frequent: a tragic mismatch between project and press. In these hard and increasingly sub-literate times, a publisher simply cannot take chances outside its areas of specialty, lest university poohbahs decide to make up budget shortfalls by launching the cryptically-named Use Computers That Run On Kerosene Initiative. Thus, even your years-in-the-making book tentatively titled Koko’s Kussin’ Keyboard: How a Gorilla Learned to Swear Like the Third Chimpanzee will not find a home at a press that doesn’t publish on topics in anthropology, animal behavior, or Profanity Studies. It’s just a matter of budget. When confronted with the challenges of post-industrial capitalism, even a mighty acquisitions editor who finds swearing apes the funniest thing on Earth (in other words, all of them) cannot prevail. One must accept their verdict with good grace and move on.

Dear Bolshevik,
I frequently hear publishing professionals bellyache about books being a hard dollar. What I’m wondering is this: how can a staff of college-educated people not see that the solution is to give the people what they want? Let me tell you, what they don’t want is to read. Does a movie with subtitles ever top the box office stats? I’d like to suggest that maybe you leave behind the egghead stuff and go multimedia. For instance, does the AAUP have its own cable channel? Why not? Signed, Just Trying to Help My Son with the Humanities Degree Stay Employed

Just Trying: Thank you for writing, Mom. In fact, the American Association of University Presses started its own cable network in 2013. I’m not surprised you have yet to see it. Like many fledgling channels, AAUP Telemundus labors to attract eyes and ears. Still, the situation continues to improve. The channel gained enough attention last year to be labeled “Not as boring as C-SPAN” by Wired. Thanks to lifting its ban on advertising quack medical cures, AAUP TM secured funding to move away from fare such as Monotone Dialogues on Bad Skype Connections and Tenure Track Death Race to unleash a lineup of scripted shows sure to challenge the prestige television outlets that now rule our culture. From Love That Diogenes, the hilarious hijinks of that Cynic philosopher with appalling personal habits, to Captain Ennui, the non-adventures of the world’s first existential superhero, we believe viewers will find that AAUP TM entertains and informs.

NFL Football - Richard CrepeauOn this date in 1967, an American institution—nay, the most sacred of secular holidays—was born. Super Bowl I pitted the Kansas City Chiefs, a team reared on red meat and jazz, against a Green Bay Packers franchise shaped by fried cheese curds and frostbite. Conventional wisdom considered the Chiefs, the AFL team, as the best team in a second-rate football league. Thus, the smart money went on the Packers, then an indomitable NFL powerhouse.

The rival leagues sat on a gold mine, a cultural tsunami. Yet, as Richard C. Crepeau explains in his acclaimed book NFL Football: A History of America’s New National Pastime, they did their best to fumble the ball:

The Merger Committee took up the matter of a championship game at their first meeting in the summer of 1966. Among considerations was a name for the game. Lamar Hunt used the term “Super Bowl” inadvertently during the discussions, a term that came to him after watching his children playing with a “Super Ball.” No one, including Hunt, cared for the name, and Rozelle had strong feelings against it. Lacking a catchy name, the first game would simply be the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. In the press, the electronic media, and on the street, the term “Super Bowl” came into use immediately. The words “Super Bowl” did not appear on game tickets until Super Bowl IV, which still carried the designation “Fourth World Championship Game.” Not until Super Bowl V was the designation World Championship Game dropped, and for the first time roman numerals appeared on the tickets. Hunt may have found it corny and Rozelle may not have liked it, but as is the way with language, common usage can trump all other considerations.

….As for television coverage, both networks were authorized to broadcast the game for a rights fee of $1 million each. Both networks promoted their coverage heavily in the weeks before the game. CBS charged $85,000 per minute for commercial time, while NBC offered one minute for $75,000. Attendance at the Los Angeles Coliseum was 63,036, which left more than thirty thousand empty seats. Television ratings were high, as sixty-five million tuned in, or about one-half of the televisions that were on in America for a game whose outcome was a foregone conclusion, and a game not available in the country’s second-largest television market.

BakerS11In 1986, Steven Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies, and Videotape helped launch the surge in indie cinema that entertained so many of us in the 1990s. He’s since brought his distinctive but definitely indie vibe to the mainstream with Ocean’s Eleven and Erin Brockovich while consistently feeding his experimental jones with the likes of Bubble. He also does little-noticed work on other people’s films (Hunger Games, Her) and often assumes producer, editor, and director of photography duties on his own. “I also do my own driving,” he notes in an interview in Steven Soderbergh, a recent entry in UIP’s Contemporary Film Directors series. Author Aaron Baker delves into all points in the director’s varied filmography. Here he breaks down Soderbergh’s acclaimed crime drama The Limey (1999):

Throughout its exposition, The Limey continues to combine intensified continuity—rapid cutting, singles, and the alternation of long and short focal-length compositions—with art-film realism and character subjectivity communicated through discontinuity editing. After Wilson arrives at his motel, he takes another cab to the home of his daughter’s friend, Eduardo, to find out about her death. This scene mixes singles in close and medium close-ups with long shots, and begins—as does the following violent sequence at a warehouse—with a moving master shot typical of a highly kinetic intensified style without time for a more static view of the larger narrative space.

Yet as such cinematography conveys Wilson’s plans for vindication, following the conventions of the genre by which, as Nicole Rafter puts it, revenge films “spell out the motives of those who take the law into their own hands,” Soderbergh and the cinematographer Ed Lachman also subvert our expectations of vigilante justice through discontinuity editing that encourages critical distance by showing the contradictions between Wilson’s plans and the connectedness he wants to recover from his past. Lachman has explained that the rapid flashbacks and -forwards early in the film are meant to show where Wilson came from and where he is going, specifically his memories of Jenny and the desire for revenge that animate his “interior world.” Lachman, who would go on to use a similar hybrid style as Soderbergh’s cinematographer on Erin Brockovich, was experienced in such visual representation of character subjectivity, having worked previously with Godard, Herzog, Wenders, and Sven Nykvist.

While the first two scenes showing Wilson as he decides upon his plans for violent retribution are made up exclusively of singles, the subsequent scenes, as he begins to pursue his revenge, retain the alternation between long shots and medium close-up or close-up framing but also begin to add compositions that group characters together to offset the protagonist’s individualism. Shots pairing him with Eduardo in a party scene at Valentine’s Hollywood Hills home or with Jenny’s other friend, Elaine, demonstrate that they support Wilson out of loyalty while opposing his criminal violence, as his daughter did when she was alive.

The cinema-verité realism typical of the art film lends an intensity and continuity to Luis Guzman’s and Lesley Ann Warren’s performances in scenes in which their characters attempt to subvert Wilson’s violent plans. By shooting with a scaled-down crew, less equipment, on location, using available light and two handheld cameras within a zone system, the actors were able to move freely without worrying about hitting marks. According to Lachman, this gave them “a feeling of performing in real time and with each other, because the action wasn’t cut up into so many pieces.” Lachman and Soderbergh would use this same economical guerilla style of filming even on the much bigger-budget Erin Brockovich, and Soderbergh would retain this approach to support actors’ performances in Traffic, Full Frontal, Bubble, Che, and The Girlfriend Experience.

CorsinoF14Louis Corsino is a professor of sociology at North Central College. He recently answered some questions about his book The Neighborhood Outfit: Organized Crime in Chicago Heights.

Q: Who were the “Chicago Heights boys” and what was their role in the Chicago Outfit?

Louis Corsino: The Chicago Heights “boys” were a group of Italians who organized a number of criminal activities in Chicago Heights (and the southern suburbs of Chicago) from the 1920s to the end of the century. The name “boys” was a term the Chicago Heights crew called itself and had its origins most likely from the floral display the guys in the Heights sent to the funeral of Frank Capone, Al Capone’s brother, in 1924. The inscription read “from the boys of Chicago Heights.” During the early years, the Heights operation was led by Domenic Roberto, who was Capone’s lieutenant and the boss over the criminal operations in the south suburbs. In particular, Roberto, after a considerable amount of bloodshed within the Italian community, helped organized the Heights as a chief production and distribution center of illegal alcohol during the Prohibition era. Roberto ran afoul of the law and was eventually deported and the control of the Heights operation fell to Jimmy Emery (aka Vincenzo Ammirati), John Roberto (Domenic’s brother), and Frank Laporte.  Emery, Roberto, and Laporte guided the Outfit’s efforts in prostitution, racketeering, and extortion. In particular, by working with Chicago Outfit leaders ( Tony Accardo, Sam Giancanna, and others) they supervised the gambling operations which included, most infamously  the illegal activities in Calumet City which in the 1940s and 50s was dubbed by Life magazine as the “busy Barbary Coast of Lake Michigan’s booming industrial plains.” The success of Calumet City as a “syndicate town” served as a model for the development of the Chicago Outfit’s takeover of Las Vegas. Continue reading

For the month of January, we have lowered the eBook list price of the three available titles in the Studies in Sensory History series to $2.99.

Cover for Reinarz: Past Scents: Historical Perspectives on Smell. Click for larger imagePast Scents: Historical Perspectives on Smell by Jonathan Reinarz
In this comprehensive and engaging volume, medical historian Jonathan Reinarz offers a historiography of smell from ancient to modern times. Synthesizing existing scholarship in the field, he shows how people have relied on their olfactory sense to understand and engage with both their immediate environments and wider corporal and spiritual worlds. With chapters including “Heavenly Scents,” “Fragrant Lucre,” and “Odorous Others,” Reinarz’s timely survey is a useful and entertaining look at the history of one of our most important but least-understood senses. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for classen: The Deepest Sense: A Cultural History of Touch. Click for larger imageThe Deepest Sense: A Cultural History of Touch by Constance Classen
From the softest caress to the harshest blow, touch lies at the heart of our experience of the world. Now, for the first time, this deepest of senses is the subject of an extensive historical exploration. The Deepest Sense fleshes out our understanding of the past with explorations of lived experiences of embodiment from the Middle Ages to modernity. This intimate and sensuous approach to history makes it possible to foreground the tactile foundations of Western culture–the ways in which feelings shaped society. “Classen’s lush descriptions provide an excellent underscoring of her exploration of this intimate sense.”–Library Journal  Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for goodale: Sonic Persuasion: Reading Sound in the Recorded Age. Click for larger imageSonic Persuasion: Reading Sound in the Recorded Age by Greg Goodale
Sonic Persuasion critically analyzes a range of sounds on vocal and musical recordings, on the radio, in film, and in cartoons to show how sounds are used to persuade in subtle ways. Greg Goodale explains how and to what effect sounds can be “read” like an aural text, demonstrating this method by examining important audio cues such as dialect, pausing, and accent in presidential recordings at the turn of the twentieth century. Goodale also shows how clocks, locomotives, and machinery are utilized in film and literature to represent frustration and anxiety about modernity, and how race and other forms of identity came to be represented by sound during the interwar period. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

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KeilerS02On January 6, 1955 contralto Marian Anderson became the first African American soloist to sing at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. She appeared in the role of Ulrica (a Creole fortuneteller medium) in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera.

Born in 1897, Anderson’s parents moved to Philadelphia from Virginia to escape the clutches of Jim Crow.

In the University of Illinois Press biography Marian Anderson: A Singer’s Journey, author Allan Keiler documents the economic hardship and bigotry that Anderson had to overcome before vaulting to international stardom.

In a Q&A about the UIP book Blackness in Opera, collection editors, Naomi André, Karen M. Bryan, and Eric Saylor highlighted Anderson’s importance in both art and the social history of the United States:

In the second half of the twentieth century, most people look to Marian Anderson’s career as reflecting the larger barometer of attitudes about race and opera. Though she was denied the right to sing in Constitution Hall in 1939 (owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution), through the support of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who resigned from the DAR in protest, Anderson sang on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of 75,000.

Anderson, who died in 1993, told her own story in the UIP published My Lord, What a Morning. Her autobiography (originally published in 1956) has an entire chapter devoted to the 1939 Easter 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial.