metallic asparagusForget Halloween. August is the time for monster in Illinois. One peruse of the states long history of monster sightings shows that warm summer nights bring the cryptids out of their otherworldly lairs to frighten rural folk and interrupt teenagers at leisure.

ITEM: The Tuttle Bottoms Monster first made headlines in August of 1963. For some time, the no-good teenagers of Harrisburg, Illinois had convened in a swampy area on the north side of town, there to commiserate and make out, to drink beer and disappoint their parents. Tuttle Bottoms, a scenic area along the Saline River, was still wooded enough to host a community of wild animals. One, perhaps, wilder than others. Here dwelt the Tuttle Bottoms Monster and the fact that everyone seemed to have a story about the creature failed to keep the teens away. Person A might tell you his cousin had seen mysterious tracks. Person B’s baby sitter spotted what looked like a pterodactyl. Other eyewitnesses described a furry creature that might’ve been a small bear or a large anteater or an ape. People occasionally reported sightings or even run-ins with the TBM over the years, though details remain sketchy.

gasser articleITEM: Preeminent in Illinois monster lore, the Mad Gasser of Mattoon—aka the Mattoon Gasser—made his (?) first visitation on August 31, 1944, causing a stink in the middle of a nation at war. The couple attacked that first night reported symptoms consistent with the events that followed. The husband felt sick. His wife, fearing gas from the stove, tried to get up but found herself paralyzed.

According to eyewitnesses, the Mad Gasser prowled about while clad in black, shooting a gas into homes. A subsequent incident at the house of Bert Kearney—Mrs. Kearney reported the gassy smell as sweet—fanned the mystery into a full-fledged panic complete with terrified citizens, baffled police officers, hysterical news headlines (“Anesthetic Prowler on Loose”), and patrolling vigilantes. By September 10, after many reports, the police dismissed the idea of a gasser, mad or otherwise, though seemingly sane witnesses, including a doctor and the Commissioner of Public Health, reported peculiar odors at the scene of the gassings. An incident on September 13 marked the Gasser’s last known appearance in Mattoon. The case was later held up as a classic example of mass hysteria.

ITEM: T’was the summer of 1970 when the Farmer City Monster made multiple appearances around the town that shares its name. Though not aggressive, the Monster had glowing eyes, threat enough to stir up worry. Teens on a camp-out supposedly made the first report on July 9. Like the Tuttle Bottoms Monster, the Farmer City creature later troubled the Paradise by the Dashboard light happening at a remote lover’s lane. Teen involvement makes the entire matter ripe for dismissal, of course, but one of the subsequent eyewitnesses included a local police officer. Adults in or near Heyworth, Clinton, and Waynesville also chimed in. Once it passed through Waynesville, the monster vanished into legend.

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Sex testing. It goes on in sports all the time. But it only makes headlines during the Olympics, when a giant for-profit sports behemoth famous for corruption and bribery interrupts its tireless quest to sell every piece of itself to corporations in order to take a fierce stand against possibly unethical chromosomes.

Overall, women’s sports have a long, often dismal history with the Olympics. Below we draw from Press books to uncover five cases of injustice, absurdity, and controversy unleashed by sex testing, a policy implemented in 1967 by the International Olympic Committee and clung to by them with all their might despite widespread disapproval and harm.

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Evolving (?) from fresh-faced wunderkind and secret marketing savant to reviled steroid-using superjock damned for his cleats of clay, Alex Rodriguez was the marquee baseball player of his era, reflecting Major League Baseball’s unprecedented financial growth—the man signed two contracts worth over $250 million—and of course its PR problems regarding the widespread player use of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs).

Our man in the stands Nathan Michael Corzine delves into A-Rod as drug user and symbol in his UIP book Team Chemistry. After all, you can’t write a book about pro baseball’s 150-year history with drugs and alcohol and leave out the modern-day PED poster boy. In observance of Alex Rodriguez’s final moments on the baseball field—at least until he decides next spring to mount a comeback everyone will moan about—let’s look at a Team Chemistry top five of under-the-influence baseball moments:

1. Flint Rhem, who led the National League in wins in 1926 while pitching for the world champion St. Louis Cardinals, disappeared from the team for a brief spell in 1930 just as the Cardinals and Brooklyn Dodgers were locked in a tight pennant race. When he eventually turned up, bedraggled and a little worse for wear, Rhem swore to manager Gabby Street that he had been kidnapped by gangsters (of the Dodger partisan variety) and forced, at gunpoint, to drink copious amounts of alcohol.

2. After games, trainers fitted [Sandy] Koufax with a rudimentary rubber sleeve that he was to wear while holding his arm in a bucket of freezing ice water. The cold usually managed to reduce the swelling in his elbow, which on some days grew as large as his knee. . . . But he also ingested a variety of painkillers including codeine. Struggling through pain with “every pitch,” he was occasionally injected with cortisone (though never with Novocain), and most controversially, toward the end of his career he was administered oral doses of Butazolidin. “It killed a few people,” Dr. Frank Jobe admitted of the [anti-inflammatory] drug that was primarily used in horse racing—often illegally.

3. Club president John McHale recalled instances where star outfielder Tim Raines “vaguely held the ball without completing a play or momentarily forgot to run the bases.” Raines had only recently admitted that he packed a gram bottle of cocaine in the hip pocket of his uniform pants for “short snorts between innings. Mostly he concentrated on sliding into bases headfirst, to protect his stash.”

4. [Sam] McDowell was one of just a handful of pitchers to twice fan over three hundred men in a season. He averaged almost a strikeout an inning, quite an accomplishment for a man about whom teammate Dick Radatz once said: “We thought he was stupid. Turned out he was never sober.” . . . The Yankees, knowing about McDowell’s drinking habits, assigned a full-time guardian to keep him out of bars. “I used to get HIM drunk,” says McDowell.

5. [LaMarr Hoyt] was detained by authorities and paid a $620 fine on February 10 when he tried to sneak Valium and marijuana across the Mexican border at the San Ysidro port of entry. Eight days later San Diego police found marijuana and an illegal switchblade in his car during a traffic stop. He was given three years’ probation for the misdemeanor. After a stint in rehab, and a poor performance on the playing field, he was arrested again at San Ysidro on October 28 when a customs agent noticed a bulge in Hoyt’s clothing. The border guards confiscated two bags containing nearly five hundred pills—Valium and Propoxyphene. Sixty days in prison and a suspended sentence did little to put Hoyt on the right path. He missed all of 1987 when Ueberroth suspended him after he was arrested for attempting to sell cocaine.

Whether you consider the Olympic Games a triumph of human endeavor and achievement, or an appalling cesspool of corruption and drug experimentation, it is that rare mega-event that always grabs the world’s attention. The University of Illinois Press maintains a longstanding dedication to scholarship around the Games and the movement, as you might have seen in recently published UIP titles like this one from May, or that other one from May, or even the one that came out while you were reading this blog post. Below we feature some past releases to ignite the torch of your interest in one of humanity’s most far-reaching spectacles.

guttmannThe Olympics: A History of the Modern Games, second edition, by Allen Guttmann
This second edition of Allen Guttmann‘s critically acclaimed history discusses the intended and actual effects of the modern Olympic Games, from 1896 to 2000. The glories and fiascoes, the triumphs and tragedies—Guttmann weaves them all into a vivid and entertaining social history. As Guttmann shows, politics has always been one of the Olympics’ major events. He also delves into the colorful history of the athletics, from the Paris marathon course that invited French runners to take shortcuts to the odyssey of Egyptian gym teacher Youssef Nagui Assad, who made three different Olympic teams only to be recalled home each time due to boycotts. Guttmann also provides insight into the byzantine maneuvering involved in site selection, as well as little known facts about the Games’ history and figures like longtime Olympics czar Avery Brundage.

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HendricksProgressive Era activist and reformer Fannie Barrier Williams was one of the most prominent educated African American women of her generation. A new effort to honor the woman who was a prominent spokesperson for economic, racial, and gender reforms has centered in Williams’ home town of Brockport, New York.

Wanda A. Hendricks, author of Fannie Barrier Williams: Crossing the Borders of Region and Race, recently commented on the FBW renaissance:

“I am amazed at all the ways in which Fannie Barrier Williams is being recognized and celebrated,” Williams said.  The author when on to list a number of recent honors including a luncheon named after Williams, and a plaque on one of the oldest buildings on the campus of The College at Brockport (Williams was the first African American female graduate of the College).

Another recognition was the inclusion of Williams in a mural created by upstate New York painter, Rick Muto. The mural, pictured below, was dedicated in May of 2016 in Brockport’s Sagawa Park, on the corner of Main and Erie Streets. Continue reading

GradelS15Inmate No. 40892-424, better known as former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, had hoped to he would be able to return home early.

Those hopes were dashed by a the federal judge today, who decided to maintain a 14-year sentence on the grounds that Blagojevich had committed “serious crimes that had an impact on the people of Illinois.”

Blagojevich has been characterized by the authors of Corrupt Illinois: Patronage, Cronyism, and Criminality as “the face of Illinois corruption.”

Thomas J. Gradel and Dick Simpson are likely to agree with the judge’s assessment of Blagojevich’s actions.  They write in Corrupt Illinois, “These were not victimless crimes, as some Blagojevich apologists maintain. We were all his victims(p. 40).”

Blagojevich received a new sentencing hearing after an appeals court struck down five of his 18 convictions on charges related to his abuse of the governor’s power to appoint the replacement for Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat.

The judge’s decision to uphold the length of the sentence is only the most recent disappointment for the former governor.  According to the Associated Press, “Blagojevich, an Elvis Presley fan, formed a prison band called ‘The Jailhouse Rockers.’ The group, which had a 21-song play list, dissolved after the lead guitarist was released.”

barnhurstNew in stores, Mister Pulitzer and the Spider marks the release of a truly monumental reconsideration of what journalism’s journey from the 1800s to today.

A spidery network of mobile online media has supposedly changed people, places, time, and their meanings. A prime case is the news. Digital webs seem to have trapped “legacy media,” killing off newspapers and journalists’ jobs. Did news businesses and careers fall prey to the digital “Spider”?

To solve the mystery, Kevin Barnhurst spent thirty years studying news going back to the realism of the 1800s. The usual suspects—technology, business competition, and the pursuit of scoops—are only partly to blame for the fate of news. The main culprit is modernism from the “Mister Pulitzer” era, which transformed news into an ideology called “journalism.” News is no longer what audiences or experts imagine. Stories have grown much longer over the past century and now include fewer events, locations, and human beings. Background and context rule instead.

News producers adopted modernism to explain the world without recognizing how modernist ideas influence the knowledge they produce. When webs of networked connectivity sparked a resurgence in realist stories, legacy news stuck to big-picture analysis that can alienate audience members accustomed to digital briefs.

Combining social science, cultural studies, and real conversations, Barnhurst tells the history of an American idea: that modern knowledge can be commanding and democratic at the same time. Mister Pulitzer and the Spider weaves storytelling and graphics with down-to-earth writing in a groundbreaking account of past change and future promise in American thought.

SmithS16Christen A. Smith is Assistant Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies and Anthropology at The University of Texas at Austin. Below she answers questions about her book Afro-Paradise: Blackness, Violence, and Performance in Brazil.

Q: You first traveled to Salvador in 2001. Did you have preconceptions of this “Afro-Paradise” that were complicated by what you found when you spent time in Brazil?

Christen Smith: I think everyone comes to Brazil with preconceived notions of Brazil’s racial paradise. It is part of the hegemonic global image of Brazil.

I grew up hearing U.S. African-Americans refer to Brazil as a place “where race doesn’t matter”—a place without racial segregation, prejudice, and restrictions on social mobility. But that image soon dissipated after I took a class on race in Latin America in college. I was in my senior year and it was a class given by a visiting professor. We spent one week talking about the Black movement in Brazil and that immediately piqued my interests and changed my perspectives.

Prior to that I did not know that Brazil had such a sizable Black population, and I did not know that it also had a robust Black movement. By the time I traveled to Brazil for the first time in 2001, I had that bit of background knowledge, but I had no idea the extent to which Black Brazilians were hyper-policed and yet marginalized and ignored in the nation.

My first visit to Brazil was during the police strike of 2001. Shortly after I arrived, the Civil and Military police forces went on strike and the city descended into chaos. President Fernando Henrique Cardoso declared martial law and sent in the National Guard—a striking introduction into Brazilian militarism for someone’s first visit to the country. I was living in a middle-class, semi-elite part of the Rio Vermelho neighborhood in Salvador with a white-mestizo host family.

At the time I remember watching the National Guard roll down our street in tanks with guns cocked. Their presence meant we could leave our houses and do things like go to the beach and go to the shopping mall. But it wasn’t until after the police strike ended and the National Guard left that I realized how classed and raced my experience as a foreigner during the police strike had been.

Because I was living in a zone of White elitism in the city, I had been “protected” by the National Guard. But, the president did not send troops to “protect” the poor, mostly Black outskirts. The National Guard was there to protect “us” (foreigners, White residents, the elite) from “them” (natives, Black residents, the poor). It was that experience that shaped my early conceptions of afro-paradise and provoked me to think seriously about the politics of race and policing in Brazil. Continue reading

With robots and other thinking devices prepared to replace us in about eight days, we thought it time to curry favor by highlighting UIP titles that engage the dilemmas and delights of our information age.

dyer-withefordCyber-Marx: Cycles and Circuits of Struggle in High Technology Capitalism, by Nick Dyer-Witheford
In this highly readable and thought-provoking work, Nick Dyer-Witheford assesses the relevance of Marxism in our time and demonstrates how the information age, far from transcending the historic conflict between capital and its laboring subjects, constitutes the latest battleground in their encounter.

Dyer-Witheford maps the dynamics of modern capitalism, showing how capital depends for its operations not just on exploitation in the immediate workplace, but on the continuous integration of a whole series of social sites and activities, from public health and maternity to natural resource allocation and the geographical reorganization of labor power. He also shows how these sites and activities may become focal points of subversion and insurgency, as new means of communication vital for the smooth flow of capital also permit otherwise isolated and dispersed points of resistance to connect and combine with one another. Cutting through the smokescreen of high-tech propaganda, Dyer-Witheford predicts the advent of a reinvented, “autonomist” Marxism that will rediscover the possibility of a collective, communist transformation of society.

foleyOral Tradition and the Internet: Pathways of the Mind, by John Miles Foley
John Miles Foley illustrates and explains the fundamental similarities and correspondences between humankind’s oldest and newest thought-technologies: oral tradition and the Internet. Despite superficial differences, both technologies are radically alike in depending not on static products but rather on continuous processes, not on “What?” but on “How do I get there?” In contrast to the fixed spatial organization of the page and book, the technologies of oral tradition and the Internet mime the way we think by processing along pathways within a network. In both media it’s pathways–not things–that matter.

To illustrate these ideas, this volume is designed as a “morphing book,” a collection of linked nodes that can be read in innumerable different ways. Doing nothing less fundamental than challenging the default medium of the linear book and page and all that they entail, Oral Tradition and the Internet shows readers that there are large, complex, wholly viable, alternative worlds of media-technology out there–if only they are willing to explore, to think outside the usual, culturally constructed categories. This “brick-and-mortar” book exists as an extension of The Pathways Project (http://pathwaysproject.org), an open-access online suite of chapter-nodes, linked websites, and multimedia all dedicated to exploring and demonstrating the dynamic relationship between oral tradition and Internet technology.

baileyThe Enchantments of Technology, by Lee Worth Bailey
In The Enchantments of Technology, Lee Worth Bailey erases the conventional distinction between myth and machine in order to explore the passionate foundations concealed in technological culture and address its complex ethical, moral and social implications.

Bailey argues that technological society does not simply disenchant the world with its reductive methods and mechanical metaphors, then shape machines with political motives, but is also borne by a deeper, subversive undertow of enchantment. Addressing examples to explore the complexities of these enchantments, his thought is full of illuminating examinations of seductively engaging technologies ranging from the old camera obscura to new automobiles, robots, airplanes, and spaceships.

cowardIn the second half of the nineteenth century, Americans swarmed to take in a raft of new illustrated journals and papers. Engravings and drawings of “buckskinned braves” and “Indian princesses” proved an immensely popular attraction for consumers of publications like Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper and Harper’s Weekly.

Today the UIP announces a new book studying this phenomenon. In Indians Illustrated, John M. Coward charts a social and cultural history of Native American illustrations–romantic, violent, racist, peaceful, and otherwise—in the heyday of the American pictorial press. These woodblock engravings and ink drawings placed Native Americans into categories that drew from venerable “good” Indian and “bad” Indian stereotypes already threaded through the culture. Coward’s examples show how the genre cemented white ideas about how Indians should look and behave—ideas that diminished Native Americans’ cultural values and political influence. His powerful analysis of themes and visual tropes unlocks the racial codes and visual cues that whites used to represent—and marginalize—native cultures already engaged in a twilight struggle against inexorable westward expansion.

Fascinating and provocative, Indians Illustrated reopens an overlooked chapter in media and cultural history.