Sunday, August 31 marks the seventeenth anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. The event became one of those “I remember just where I was when I heard” moments. The car crash that killed her, and the life she lived prior to it, dominated the news for the next week. Tributes, from glossy magazine covers to rewritten Elton John songs, kept the event front and center far into the autumn, and “Di” remains at a level of posthumous celebrity once reserved for the likes of Elvis.

In Diana and Beyond: White Femininity, National Identity, and Contemporary Media Culture, author Raka Shome unravels the Diana Phenomenon—what it represented and what it reveals:

Few white women in history have had such an archive of images organized around them through which shifts in a nation’s modernity has been imagined. And very few white women in history have risen to a level where they symbolized not just a national popular but also a global popular. And furthermore, very few white women in our mediated times have simultaneously signified so many universalized narratives of white femininity: angel, good mother, global savior, icon of beauty, and a goddess. Diana Taylor (2003) notes that Diana’s physical existence was “redundant”; she existed always as an image, a representation that was more real than her corporeality and “that continues to defy the limits of space and time”.

Indeed, Diana’s image simply refuses to disappear. In the first few months of 2011, we saw it vehemently assert itself with the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. Following that, we have seen almost every act and every fashion style of Kate Middleton being compared to those of Diana. And, more recently, the birth of Kate and William’s baby, William and Kate’s “hands on” no-fuss parenting style, the new 2013 biopic of Diana where she is played by Naomi Watts, and the 2013 resurrection of the investigation of Diana’s death following new claims of conspiracy continue to prove to us that Diana does not perish.

Several University of Illinois Press books were honored with the 2014 Awards for Excellence from the Association for Recorded Sound Collections. The winners will be acknowledged at the awards ceremony at the ARSC national conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in May 2015.

Southern Soul-Blues by David G. Whiteis was awarded Best History in the category Best Research in Recorded Blues, Hip-Hop, Rhythm & Blues.

The Great Orchestrator: Arthur Judson and American Arts Management by James M. Doering was awarded a Certificate of Merit in the category Best Historical Research in Classical Music.

Alec Wilder by Philip Lambert was awarded a Certificate of Merit in the category Best Historical Research in Classical Music.

Triple Entendre: Furniture Music, Muzak, Muzak-Plus by Hervé Vanel was awarded a Certificate of Merit in the category Best Historical Research on General Recording Topics.

Laurie Matheson was the acquiring editor for all of these titles.

 

 

 

Forty-four years ago today, national feminist groups staged the Women’s Strike for Equality. “If the success of media activism is measured by the amount of news coverage generated, the Strike for Equality hit the mother lode,” Bonnie J. Dow reports in Watching Women’s Liberation, 1970.

Strike Day was the brainchild of Betty Friedan, who had proposed it in a lengthy speech at the Chicago NOW convention in March 1970 as she was leaving the organization’s presidency after four embattled years. . . . From the beginning, the strike was conceived as media activism, but not simply in terms of getting media attention for what Friedan saw as feminism’s “real” issues, long a concern for NOW—a corollary goal was to take the focus away from those issues that imperiled the movement’s image.

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Today, the enlightened everywhere celebrate Women’s Equality Day, commemorating not only the Nineteenth Amendment giving half of American humanity the right to vote outside of Wyoming, but recognizing all of the advances made by women—while noting what work remains to be done. Those interested can draw on UIP’s fascinating well of women’s studies titles to explore how our current society came to be.

GoodierS13No Votes for Women: The New York State Anti-Suffrage Movement

As there were suffragettes, demanding the vote and the political power it brought, so were there anti-suffragettes, determined to keep women as a distinct element of the polity free of masculine political burdens. Seeing themselves as females first and citizens second, the anti-suffragettes included a great many professional and educated women concerned that political equality could only lead to problems.

Rejecting a view of anti-suffragette’s as heavies opposed to a noble cause, Susan Goodier delves into the anti-suffragette’s complex motives, sincere convictions, and hard work to create an alternative route to women’s advancement.

FranzenS14Anna Howard Shaw: The Work of Woman Suffrage

Remembered primarily for her leadership in the U.S. women’s suffrage movement, Anna Howard Shaw’s life was noteworthy far beyond her activism. Shaw abandoned teaching school and being a seamstress to become one of the U.S.’s first ordained Methodist preachers. In 1886, she took a medical degree from Boston University before moving into activism.

Trisha Franzen traces Shaw’s long career in the women’s suffrage cause, from speaking on the topic during medical school to her controversial tenure as president of the National Women’s Suffrage Association, when she opposed and later broke with organization militants.

Groundbreaking athlete Althea Gibson was born on August 25, 1927.

A member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Althea Gibson won 11 Grand Slam tournaments. She was also the first black athlete to break the color barrier in international tennis.

In Qualifying Times: Points of Change in U.S. Women’s Sport Jaime Schultz writes. . .

African Americans attempted to cross tennis’s color line throughout the twentieth century. In 1925 Philadelphia Tribune columnist Edgar Brown predicted that “in less than twenty years. . . . a black man whose ancestors have withstood the burning suns of Africa and whose foreparents have withstood, bare-handed, the long season of backbending in American cotton fields will be crowned world’s champion just as Jack Johnson earned that other drown on that hot afternoon in Reno.” He was wrong on two counts: it took twenty-six years, and the first USLTA black tennis champion was not a man, but a woman—Althea Gibson.

As her tennis career wound down Gibson did not stop making history. In 1964 she also became the first black competitor on the women’s professional golf tour.

SchultzS14

GodfreyS14Born on August 22, 1867, inventor C. Francis Jenkins was an innovator of early film and television technology.

One of Jenkins’s inventions, the Phantoscope projector, led to today’s large-screen movies. However, one of his first projection demonstrations proved to be a bit controversial.

Donald Godfrey, author of C. Francis Jenkins, Pioneer of Film and Television, said in a recent blog Q&A that the inventor may have started a trend in moving pictures that has continued ever since…

Jenkins premiered his Phantoscope, in 1894, for a small group of family and friends at the Jenkins and Company Jewelry Store of Richmond Indiana. This was the world’s first large-screen motion-picture exhibition. The store was closed for the demonstration. Curtains were draped over the windows darkening the room and a huge canvas screen was stretched out on the wall. The film began rolling and life sized images appeared depicting a dancing girl dressed in a butterfly costume. She danced across the screen to the amazement of the audience. As the ballerina lifted her skirt, to bow at the end of the performance, she revealed her ankle, and the ladies in the audience, all Quakers, stormed out of the store in protest over such a display of nudity. They went directly to the Church to pray for Jenkins soul. The men in the audience stayed on to see the show.

Arguably, this was the first protest over large screen motion picture film nudity.

Although Jenkins made a huge impact on television and film technology he also held a diverse array of patents including designs for airplane engines, an automobile, and even a sanitary milk carton. There is no documentary evidence that he attempted to put any images on the milk carton, however.

 

 

Ray Bradbury had made his name fusing science fiction with an abiding concern for humanity. What he had done in print, Rod Serling brought to early television. The anthology series The Twilight Zone often worked a Bradburian side of the street and added a potent dose of the realism that had earned Serling accolades and Emmy Awards throughout the 1950s.

From the start, Serling acknowledged the influence of Bradbury on the show, and naturally sought him out to contribute scripts. Bradbury’s first attempt, “Here There Be Tygers,” about a planet that turns explorers’ fantasies into reality, ran aground due to a need for expensive special effects. Not long after, Bradbury came to believe Serling had gone too far in appropriating others’ ideas and situations (his own in particular), a belief shared by a number of Serling’s other contributors.

The pair patched up their differences, but the relationship would not end well.

After preproduction problems snared another script, Bradbury substituted “I Sing the Body Electric!” Based on an unpublished story, “Electric” told the story of three children placed in the care of a robotic “grandmother” after their mother’s death.

The episode became a classic. But, as Jonathan Eller writes in his biography Ray Bradbury Unbound, the writer found both process and product unsatisfactory:

[D]uring October the first attempt to film the episode was not successful. Houghton arranged to have most of the scenes reshot during February 1962, and this attempt proved much better. Nevertheless, the process caused more strain in the Serling-Bradbury relationship. The reshoot required a short-notice request for Bradbury to revise the script; Bradbury told Congdon that the call had come the night before shooting resumed, just as he was in the midst of difficult revisions to Something Wicked This Way Comes: “I asked them why they hadn’t asked me to do the revisions some time during the 8 previous weeks, and they merely shrugged and toed the floor.”

Most of the complexities of revising and reshooting “I Sing the Body Electric!” were eventually worked out, but one very short editing cut in the May 18 broadcast version proved a lasting disappointment to Bradbury. It eliminated the crucial moment when the electric grandmother, played to great effect by Josephine Hutchinson, reveals her mechanical nature to the children. There is no loss of continuity, but for Bradbury the cut diminished the essential difference between human and automaton on which the story hinges. The fact that he had invited a number of friends to his home for the broadcast only served to magnify his disappointment. He felt that he should have been consulted, and this more than any other incident convinced him that he could not work any further on the series.

Growing anger over what Bradbury considered wrongly appropriated ideas, particularly the George Clayton Johnson penned “Nothing in the Dark” (with Robert Redford as Death), plus some old wounds, led to a break Serling always regretted. Bradbury wrote:

As for our friendship, it is, of course, now officially over. I’m sorry I was a hypocrite, but I actually thought I could get over all the bugging things, and that we might finally come to some peaceful equilibrium. It seems that is not fated to be. I can only hope and promise no one will, in future, ask me about the Twilight Zone. I will try to keep my mouth shut. But if it opens, you can be sure I will try to tell the truth and not lie.

Ray Bradbury, born on August 22, 1920, is known for his breakthrough novels such as Fahrenheit 451.  As Jonathan R. Eller writes in Ray Bradbury Unbound, the author also made an impact in television and film.

Bradbury only wrote one episode of The Twilight Zone. But his relationship with the show and its creator, Rod Serling, endured long enough to inspire the informative trivia questions below. Want to cheat? You can find all the answers and a lot more detail in Ray Bradbury Unbound. (Scrolling to the bottom of the post will work, too.)

1. Veronica Cartwright portrayed the troubled daughter in the Bradbury-penned “I Sing the Body Electric!” She earned further and more massive nerd cred playing an alien abductee on The X-Files and performing which Seventies film role?

a. Lambert, the navigator of the spaceship Nostromo in Alien
b. Alex, the assistant to scientist Kirk Douglas in Saturn 3
c. Kate McCrae, the ESP-endowed scientist of The Black Hole
d. Jessica 6, a “runner” in the dystopian cult classic Logan’s Run

2. A factor in Bradbury’s falling out with Rod Serling involved “Walking Distance,” a Twilight Zone episode written by the latter that Bradbury felt borrowed from his own work. In “Walking Distance,” Gig Young encountered which TZ-esque scenario?

a. Being menaced by a gremlin on the wing of his airplane
b. Trying to find the monster among his neighbors on Maple Street
c. Meeting himself as a young boy in the hometown of his youth
d. Realizing that none of his friends or family recognize him

3. Another “Walking Distance” question: the episode’s use of a carousel as a plot device angered Bradbury because a merry-go-round was central to which of his then-unpublished but nearly finished books?

a. The Machineries of Joy
b. Dark Carnival
c. Something Wicked This Way Comes
d. The Illustrated Man

4. Bradbury submitted a 1961 script to Serling about two lost desert wanderers who encounter an ever-changing mirage, but Serling had trouble getting the story into shape due to which perceived problem selling the story to his TV network?

a. Bradbury’s stage directions called for expensive-to-make alien landscapes
b. Bradbury’s beautiful prose did not translate well to spoken dialogue
c. Bradbury’s story was a too-bold criticism of the anti-Communist hysteria
d. Bradbury’s twist ending only made sense if you understood Norse myths

5. In 1962, Bantam Books asked Bradbury if they could use an endorsement from Serling to promote a Bradbury story collection. Bradbury vetoed the request with which statement?

a. That Serling would soon be forgotten in the sci fi field
b. That people who watched television did not read books
c. That Serling had no gravitas among the real sci fi-reading public
d. That he would be promoting Serling instead of vice-versa

 

 

 

Answers: (1) A; (2) C; (3) C; (4) B; (5) A

Wilson&DavisF08On August 21, 1858 upstart challenger Abraham Lincoln entered into the first of seven debates with incumbent Senator Stephen Douglas in Ottawa, Illinois.

Lincoln was challenging Douglas to represent Illinois in the U.S. Senate. The now-famous Lincoln-Douglas debates didn’t propel Lincoln to victory, but the engagement over the issue of slavery and the looming impact of the policy of human bondage captured nationwide attention.

Today we look upon the duel as a clash of titans. Not so in 1858. The Illinois electorate considered Douglas as the great man of his state. As Rodney O. Davis and Douglas L. Wilson note in their introduction to the debates, even Lincoln understood his place in the second rank. In 1856, the future president wrote of his longtime rivalry with Douglas. “With me,” he said, “the race of ambition has been a failure–a flat failure; with him it has been one of splendid success.”

Douglas had indeed earned the nickname of the Little Giant. A Senate powerhouse, he had authored the Kansas-Nebraska Act, not out of any deference to slavery, but to facilitate railroad routes to the Pacific Ocean that ran, as it so happened, from Chicago. The Act opened up the possibility of slavery in two new territories. The Republican Party, already an ardent foe of Douglas, gained votes and popularity as Kansas devolved into “Bleeding Kansas,” a running battle of violence and fraud between proslavery forces and the Free State Kansans. A combination of political chicanery and Free Stater boycotts allowed a proslavery minority government in Lecompton, Kansas’s territorial capital, to issue a constitution that allowed Kansas to retain slavery.

Yet Douglas, with the savvy of a professional politician, broke ranks with the rest of the Democratic Party and opposed the Lecompton Constitution.

He vowed to senatorial colleagues that “if this constitution is to be forced down our throats, in violation of the fundamental principle of free government, under a mode of submission that is a mockery and an insult, I will resist it to the last.”. . . . Looking at his prospects in the campaigns of 1858 and 1860, and remembering how he had misread the political signs before promoting the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Douglas had to take the position that would be most acceptable in Illinois and in the North generally.

In taking the position, he allied himself with Republican opinion, and threatened to split their caucus.

It was as an underdog that Lincoln approached Douglas:

with regard to “an arrangement for you and myself to divide time, and address the same audiences during the present canvass.” Within a week they were in agreement that a series of seven debates should take place between them at central points within each congressional district in which they had not previously made major speeches. Douglas, as the challenged party, was also able to insist that Lincoln only meet him “at the times specified,” to which Lincoln acquiesced.

With that, the stage was set.

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates, The Lincoln Studies Center Edition, edited by Rodney O. Davis and Douglas L. Wilson is now available in paperback.

fox_coverfinalThe release of the film Get On Up in early August rekindled interest in the life and music of James Brown. One of the most staggeringly influential entertainers in American culture, a man for whom we need to invent a new grunting and huhn-ing language with terms that go beyond legend and icon, Brown began his fifty-some year recording career on King Records.

The Cincinnati-based indie label specialized in unearthing genius in out-of-the-way places (and music forms). But company owner Syd Nathan (played by Fred Melamed in the film) never topped James Brown. Arguably, nothing ever topped James Brown. “He took the heavy funk into America’s living rooms,” Jon Hartley Fox tells us in his new paperback edition of King of Queen City: The Story of King Records. The man deserved Nobel Prize for that alone!

Brown enjoyed his first hit with “Please, Please, Please,” a song Nathan hated, and then released nine straight duds. Brown faced being dropped from the label when he presented Nathan with “Try Me.” As Fox tells it:

Brown had thoroughly road-tested his original song and knew that it had caused pandemonium at his shows. Nathan rejected it out of hand. “I’m not spending my money on that garbage,” he told Brown, who offered to pay for the session himself. Brown booked the studio time and musicians and cut the song. Nathan still hated it, said it “didn’t make sense,” and he didn’t want it for his company. So Brown took the tape with him…

Brown then had a few copies of the record pressed and took them around to the disc jockeys he knew. When WLAC started playing it, the orders flooded into King—for a record that didn’t exist. Nathan held firm until the orders represented 20,000 records. He then called Brown and said, “Well, James, I’ve decided to give the song a try.” Brown thanked him, but insisted on re-recording the song. On Nathan’s dime this time.

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