bolshevikMeet the UI Press is a recurring feature that delves into issues affecting academic publishing, writing, education, and related topics. Today, industry advice columnist The Bolshevik answers your questions.

Dear Bolshevik,
I read the other day that Amazon intends to install a presence on the University of Illinois campus, specifically within the venerable Illini Union Bookstore, where generations have overpaid for books with no resale value. Even though the company says it’s only a pickup location—how odd, don’t you people have bars and Tinder?—it seems ominous. A paradigm is shifting before our eyes, right? Signed, Fear the Smile

Dear Fear: The Bolshevik is not surprised by the news, as in the era of the corporate university each department must become creative with moneymaking ventures. It’s nothing to worry about, however. The counter at the IUB merely represents another small step toward an inevitable dystopian future with Amazon the crowned emperor of Earth. (Not possible? Corporations are people, too, comrade.) Every university will be an extension of the University of Amazon, i.e. U. of. Zon—Illinois, U. of Zon.—Rutgers, and so on. Our children will receive the surname Amazon and capitalism itself will be rebranded as Amazonism. Ironically, this will happen just humans log the last stand of trees in the actual Amazon in order to pour the foundations for a new Rainforest Cafe location.

Dear Bolshevik,
Last week TV producer extraordinaire Garry Marshall died. He gave us laughter, he gave us catch phrases, he gave us an entire mini-pop culture that dominated a decade of American life. Whereas you help publish books that pointedly do NOT feature leather-jacketed Jewish hoods explaining the intersection of labor and feminism in a Milwaukee brewery. Do you ever feel frustrated because your stuff fails to reach a mass audience? Have you considered hiring Ted McGinley? Signed, Boulder Mindy

Dear Boulder: The passing away of a pop culture colossus can only force us all to (1) contemplate our own mortality and (2) wish we had spent our time more constructively on Tuesday nights in the Seventies. We here in the hallowed halls and ivory-lined bathrooms of academia concede that even a much-degreed superstar like Thomas Piketty hardly matches the cultural influence of barely sentient fictional constructs named Squiggy. Indeed, when I first heard the news about Comrade Marshall, I lit a pipe to contemplate what his achievements say about intellectual life in fin de siècle America. Then I remembered that terms like fin de siècle—to say nothing of italics—turn people off.

Really, what can you say about this dilemma that my disappointed parents have not already told me? Mr. Marshall and our little collection of exquisitely educated collectivist church mice occupy two difference niches in popular culture. Or, if you prefer, we occupy a niche, while Mr. Marshall’s works and the careers of those he launched make up an ecosystem. We deal in serious ideas, in visions, in contemplations of a better world. He dealt in laffs, humanity’s most powerful weapon for dealing with the harsh reality (redundant?) that maintains when people repeatedly reject a better world.

Yet that seeming contradiction clues us in to the existence of common ground. Yes, as bizarre as it may seem, university press publishing shares a link to Mork and Mindy. (Only that great first season, though.) We, like comedy, are trying to find a way forward by pointing out some problems. We, like comedy, shine a light on marginalized figures like fussbudget photographers while also bringing to light incredible achievements as overlooked as, to mention the classic, jumping a shark on water skis. And like Happy Days in the McGinley years, we have to ignore the audience ratings and keep on keeping on, sure of our purpose, and doing what we can.

Summer is definitely the season for aerial tragedy in the Midwest. On July 26, 1911, Professor Harry Darnell took his place in that sad lore. Darnell stands tall in the history of Plainfield, so tall a local craft brewery named its summer berry ales after him.

Darnell, a veteran of 200 balloon flights, put on his show in and over Plainfield on that faithful July day. It was an era of live spectacle. No radio. No TV. In fact, Plainfield’s Electric Park hosted a lot of hot air ascensions that drew crowds and rotten proto-Little Rascals with slingshots. Of course, for sophisticated entertainment you could go see an elocutionist read poetry over beautiful music. Many did. But the usual mob of thrill-seekers flocked to wide fields to watch stunt fiends like Darnell do their thing.

Darnell’s thing was a trapeze act from a hot air balloon.

With a reported 3,000 picnickers watching, the Professor lifted skyward in his oval-shaped balloon. At some point Darnell went into his show-stopping Great Swing. Alas, Darnell zigged when he should have zagged, or something, and fell straight into the DuPage River. His next ascension was a purely spiritual one. The death of the so-called aeronaut earned a write-up in the New York Times and headlines nationwide. In Plainfield, locals raised funds to save him from a pauper’s grave. A stone with a carving of a hot air balloon still stands in Plainfield Township Cemetery.

yesilInvestment and expansion have made Turkish media a transnational powerhouse in the Middle East and Central Asia. Yet tensions continue to grow between media outlets and the Islamist AKP party that has governed the country for over a decade.

In Media in New Turkey, Bilge Yesil unlocks the complexities surrounding and penetrating today’s Turkish media. Yesil focuses on a convergence of global and domestic forces that range from the 1980 military coup to globalization’s inroads and the recent resurgence of political Islam. Her analysis foregrounds how these and other forces become intertwined, and she uses Turkey’s media to unpack the ever-more-complex relationships. Yesil confronts essential questions regarding: the role of the state and military in building the structures that shaped Turkey’s media system; media adaptations to ever-shifting contours of political and economic power; how the far-flung economic interests of media conglomerates leave them vulnerable to state pressure; and the ways Turkey’s politicized judiciary criminalizes certain speech.

Drawing on local knowledge and a wealth of Turkish sources, Yesil provides an engrossing look at the fault lines carved by authoritarianism, tradition, neoliberal reform, and globalization within Turkey’s increasingly far-reaching media.

fields game facesSarah K. Fields is an associate professor in communication at the University of Colorado—Denver. She answered some questions about her book Game Faces: Sport Celebrity and the Laws of Reputation.

Q:  How are cases involving sports figures different than those involving other types of celebrities (actors, singers, etc.)?

Sarah Fields: Legally there is no difference between lawsuits involving sports figure and other celebrities. The law doesn’t differentiate between the two groups. I chose to focus on sports figures and their lawsuits in this book because sport is my area of expertise, and I am particularly interested in the evolution of the relationship between sports figures and press.

Q: When and why did sports figures gain this level of celebrity? Was there a turning point in sports history that changed this, or were they always seen as such?

Fields: Sports figures have long been popular figures and celebrities of a sort. W.G. Grace was a great cricket player in the late nineteenth century, and scholars have argued that he was the first celebrity athlete. Newspaper reports from England in that time period said that local soccer players were more famous than politicians. In the United States during the Golden Era of sport in the 1920s and beyond, athletes such as Red Grange and Jack Dempsey received celebrity treatment. At that same time Babe Ruth had an agent who helped him get endorsements, and he was the precursor of the modern celebrity athlete who profits as much from his image as he does from his on-field performance. Tennis player Rene Lacoste created a clothing line while still playing; his nickname was the Crocodile and his signature logo was a small crocodile on his shirts. Today’s athletes are just doing what athletes in the past have done; but because of the rise of consumerism and the increased media presence, more athletes have more opportunities to sell themselves as celebrities and endorsers off the field. Continue reading

Yesterday marked an unusual 97th anniversary. On July 21, 1919, an airship owned by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber cruised over Chicago, a pair of training runs that interested and delighted the people on the ground and in the city’s always-growing number of skyscrapers. The pilots picked up three passengers for a third go-round, including a newspaper shutterbug hoping to get some extremely high angle shots of downtown. The so-called Wingfoot Express reached an altitude of 1,200 feet as it passed overhead just before rush hour.

Then it burst into flame.

The hydrogen-powered blimp went up in seconds. Four of the five passengers aboard, each wearing a parachute, managed to scramble from the gondola. The unfortunate fifth was trapped on the airship as it plunged toward the ground. The burning Wingfoot (also Wing Foot) Express instead shattered the skylight at the Illinois Trust & Savings Bank. The entire blimp crashed among the 150 or so employees–fuselage, engines, and gasoline tanks. The last exploded on impact and sent flaming gas spraying throughout the bank. Bank tellers and clerks fought to escape the caged work area through a pair of doors. In the end, eleven died and twenty-six were injured inside the bank, with two more fatalities among the blimp passengers.

Mayor Anton Cermak demanded a ban on flying over the city. The Council instead passed regulations. An investigation, opened the next day, came to nothing. Also opened the next day: the bank. The Illinois Trust & Savings assured customers the tellers’ cages and vaults remained intact to transact business. Meanwhile, the incredible event scotched plans for passenger blimp service and began a notably disastrous two-week period in Chicago history.

caudilIn the summer of 1925, a timeless battle raged in a courtroom. On one side stood Salem, Illinois native John T. Scopes and his lawyer Clarence Darrow. On the other: the people of Tennessee, as represented by Salem-born politician-prosecutor William Jennings Bryan. The theory of evolution was to the interwar period what climate change is today: a host battlefield for America’s never-ending culture wars. As often was the case with such spectacles, the trial shined a spotlight on a determined thwarting of knowledge by the mighty forces of discomfited ignorance.

Like any good culture war dust-up the trial got a hashtag-worthy nickname—the Scopes Monkey Trial—and primo coverage across the nation. On July 21, the jury convicted Scopes of violating Tennessee’s Butler Act when, as a substitute teacher, he taught human evolution in a state-funded school. John W. Butler, author of the legislation, fulfilled a cherished American political tradition by later admitting he knew nothing about evolution.

Despite losing the case, Darrow’s relentless witness-stand grilling of Bryan (the eventual winner of the case) is often cited as as a victory for Modernists. Bryan was a national figure, if a faded one. He had run for president three times, quit the job of Secretary of State to protest the policies of Woodrow Wilson, and earned the nickname The Great Commoner for his populist leanings. No matter. Darrow tore him to pieces. Only the judge stepping in saved Bryan from Darwin-knows-how-much humiliation on the stand.

In Intelligently Designed: How the Creationists Built the Campaign Against Evolution, Edward Caudill writes:

The ridicule of Bryan. . . . served the immediate purposes of proevolutionists. It was easier to assail an individual than a system of beliefs that was inconsistent, ill defined, and scientifically illogical. Bryan, its flag-bearer, was a distinctive and public target. But the verbal barrage was inconsequential in the long-term battle, in which Bryan’s defenders glorified his self-sacrifice and righteousness in defense of a holy cause. . . . Historians and filmmakers have judged Darrow the winner, even though he lost the case. The contrived event grew into a forum on science and religion, modernism and fundamentalism–charismatically presented by Darrow and Bryan.

As Caudill points out by mentioning “filmmakers,” the courtroom theatrics would later inspire the 1955 stage play Inherit the Wind, written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee, which in turn would serve as the basis for the 1960 film starring Spencer Tracy.

 

The UIP catalog includes an immense store of knowledge about American music. We don’t publish blog posts on Sunday morning, so we’re taking this beautiful Thursday to point the way to some offerings on sacred music–the practitioners, history, and theory, and the ways people both create it and love it every day of the week.

salvatoreSinging in a Strange Land: C. L. Franklin, the Black Church, and the Transformation of America, by Nick Salvatore
Singing in a Strange Land tells the story of C. L. Franklin (1915-1984), one of the greatest black preachers in American history. The father of Aretha Franklin, C. L. was a spellbinding preacher who channeled his charisma into his gospel music and compelling sermons which spoke through faith to the personal and social problems rural African Americans encountered in their migration north.

Stressing unity between the sacred and the profane allowed him to embrace all aspects of African American culture, and jazz, blues, and gospel performers mingled in his Detroit home. Franklin also embraced the night life that surrounded his musician friends, even as he served on the Executive Board of the Southern Christian Leadership Council and organized the 1963 “Walk Toward Freedom” march with his close friend, Martin Luther King, Jr. In June of 1979, Franklin was shot during a robbery of his home, and died five years later. Over 10,000 people attended his funeral at the Detroit church he made famous, the New Bethel Baptist Church.

hayes and williamsBlack Women and Music: More than the Blues, by Edited by Eileen M. Hayes and Linda F. Williams
This collection is the first interdisciplinary volume to examine black women’s negotiation of race and gender in African American music. Contributors address black women’s activity in musical arenas that pre- and postdate the emergence of the vaudeville blues singers of the 1920s. Throughout, the authors illustrate black women’s advocacy of themselves as blacks and as women in music. Feminist? Black feminist? The editors take care to stress that each term warrants interrogation: “Black women can and have forged, often, but not always—and not everywhere the same across time—identities that are supple enough to accommodate a sense of female empowerment through ‘musicking’ in tandem with their sensitivities to black racial allegiances.”

Individual essays concern the experiences of black women in classical music and in contemporary blues, the history of black female gospel-inflected voices in the Broadway musical, and “hip-hop feminism” and its complications. Focusing on under-examined contexts, authors introduce readers to the work of a prominent gospel announcer, women’s music festivals (predominantly lesbian), and to women’s involvement in an early avant-garde black music collective. In contradistinction to a compilation of biographies, this volume critically illuminates themes of black authenticity, sexual politics, access, racial uplift through music, and the challenges of writing (black) feminist biography. Black Women and Music is a strong reminder that black women have been and are both social actors and artists contributing to African American thought.

millerTraveling Home: Sacred Harp Singing and American Pluralism, by Kiri Miller
A compelling account of contemporary Sacred Harp singing, Traveling Home describes how this vibrant musical tradition brings together Americans of widely divergent religious and political beliefs. Named after the most popular of the nineteenth-century shape-note tunebooks—which employed an innovative notation system to teach singers to read music—Sacred Harp singing has been part of rural southern life for more than 150 years.

In the wake of the folk revival of the 1950s and ’60s, this participatory musical tradition attracted new singers from all over America. All-day “singings” from The Sacred Harp now take place across the country, creating a diverse and far-flung musical community. Meanwhile, the advent of internet discussion boards and increasing circulation of singer-produced recordings have changed the nature of traditional transmission and sharpened debates about Sacred Harp as an “authentic” form of southern musical expression. Blending historical scholarship with wide-ranging fieldwork, Kiri Miller presents an engagingly written study of a musical movement that some have christened “a quintessential expression of American democracy.”

pattersonThe Sound of the Dove: Singing in Appalachian Primitive Baptist Churches, by Beverly Bush Patterson
Beverly Bush Patterson explores one of the oldest traditions of American religious folksong: unaccompanied congregational singing in Appalachian Primitive Baptist churches. Using interviews, field observations, historical research, song transcriptions, and musical analysis, Patterson explores the dynamic relationship between singing and theology in these churches, the genesis of their musical practices, and the unexpectedly significant role of women in their conservative congregations.

If Harold Arlen built a reputation for chronicling love on the rocks, Cole Porter gained lasting fame and the adulation of a grateful culture for his celebrations of successful romance. Oh, the man worked the cloudier side of the street, with “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye,” for instance, though if you’re in a position to say goodbye repeatedly the two of you must be doing something right. “Love for Sale” is no walk in the clouds and Porter built “Miss Otis Regrets” around a murder by a jilted lover.

Still, we venerate him more for asking us to use our mentality, for taking us on trips to the moon and for sharing the timeless advice to declaim a few lines from Othella. You could conduct a very long love affair, even a marriage, just quoting from him, and it would be years before you had to repeat yourself, which is more than must of us can say about our own relationships. That said, be careful about when you shout out, “You’re Ovaltine!”

randel et. alIn the new UIP book A Cole Porter Companion, a parade of performers and scholars offers essays on little-known aspects of the master tunesmith’s life and art. Here are Porter’s days as a Yale wunderkind and his nights as the exemplar of louche living; the triumph of Kiss Me Kate and shocking failure of You Never Know; and his spinning rhythmic genius and a turkey dinner into “You’re the Top” while cultural and economic forces take “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” in unforeseen directions. Other entries explore notes on ongoing Porter scholarship and delve into his formative works, performing career, and long-overlooked contributions to media as varied as film and ballet. Prepared with the cooperation of the Porter archives, A Cole Porter Companion is an invaluable guide for the fans and scholars of this beloved American genius.

Continue reading

nadlerThe professional judgment of gatekeepers defined the American news agenda for decades.  Making the News Popular, now available from the University of Illinois Press, examines how subsequent events brought on a post-professional period that opened the door for imagining that consumer preferences should drive news production–and unleashed both crisis and opportunity on journalistic institutions.

Anthony Nadler charts a paradigm shift, from market research’s reach into the editorial suite in the 1970s through contemporary experiments in collaborative filtering and social news sites like Reddit and Digg. As Nadler shows, the transition was and is a rocky one. It also goes back much further than many experts suppose. Idealized visions of demand-driven news face obstacles with each iteration. Furthermore, the post-professional philosophy fails to recognize how organizations mobilize interest in news and public life.

Nadler argues that this civic function of news organizations has been neglected in debates on the future of journalism. Only with a critical grasp of news outlets’ role in stirring broad interest in democratic life, he says, might journalism’s digital crisis push us toward building a more robust and democratic news media.

Wide-ranging and original, Making the News Popular offers a critical examination of an important, and still evolving, media phenomenon.

On July 17, 1972, disaster struck in Oquawka, for on that day a bolt from dark skies struck down a 6,500-lb. elephant named Norma Jean.

The star of the Clark & Walters Circus, Norma Jean had journeyed to the little Mississippi River town as part of a showbiz institution that went back over fifty years. A roustabout named Possum Red cared for the elephant and was leading her away when the lightning bolt struck. Possum Red awakened on the ground thirty feet away, according to the stories.

Norma Jean did not survive. Neither did the Clark & Walters Circus. The circus business was a hard enough dollar, what with rising transport costs, and then the business lost its star.

You might wonder: just what do you do with a 6,500-lb. elephant carcass that’s laying there in your town? It sounds like Oquawkans wondered, too. Soon they laid the elephant to rest in a large grave where the pachyderm had died. But the memory lingered on. I think we would agree that any elephant struck by lightning in your town was destined to become a part of local history. Wade Meloan, a local pharmacist, often drove by the grave, then put up a marker commemorating the event. In time he raised enough money to purchase the a Norma Jean monument that, after some repairs, remains an Oquawka landmark.