naremore coverToday marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of George Orson Welles. The pride of Kenosha, Wisconsin, Welles dropped into life as the son of inventor-wagon factory owner Richard Welles and musician-suffragette Beatrice Welles (nee Ives). A pampered childhood evolved into an impossibly precocious young adulthood, laying the groundwork for the Welles of legend and lore.

Scholarly works on Welles helped build the field of film studies. No project did more for the effort than James Naremore’s The Magic World of Orson Welles: The Centennial Anniversary Edition. This month, UIP presents an expanded and revised edition of Naremore’s book, a classic dubbed “The most perceptive study of Welles’s art” upon its initial release. Naremore’s additions include a new section on the unfinished Welles project The Other Side of the Wind, itself the topic of much recent hype surrounding a rumored near-future release.

Even Orson Welles did not burst forth fully formed. But, as Naremore shows, the circumstances that shaped the future director were . . . unique:

George Orson (named in memory of his distant relative George Ade and Chicago businessman Orson C. Wells) was a sickly child and spent his earliest years in an environment as chaotic as anything he experienced afterward. His parents had a troubled relationship and were divorced when he was six. Beatrice then took the boy to Chicago, where he lived in a musical salon. (Even as a baby, he had been in demand as a sort of prop for the Chicago Opera.)

Orson-Welles-baby-pic2-275x213His mother died unexpectedly three years later, and Welles was obviously shaken by the event; he was already an accomplished violinist, but he said that he did nothing with music afterward–although François Truffaut has called him the most “musical” of directors. After a brief stay with friends, he returned to his father, who by this time had developed an addiction to gin. The two of them made an incredible world trip together, visiting China, among other places, and then settled in Illinois at a bizarre hotel that Dick Welles had purchased. Fire destroyed the hotel, the two Welleses moved again, and not long afterward, when Welles was fifteen, his father also died.

During all this time, young Orson had been treated as an adult and was on speaking terms with a number of well-known artistic figures. He was given very little conventional education, partly because of illness and partly because in his earliest years his mother kept him always by her side. Welles claimed to have been learning to read from his mother’s copies of Shakespeare at the age of five, and he was smoking his father’s cigars at twelve. At various periods in his youth he made a study of Nietzsche, met Harry Houdini, and staged elaborate plays and puppet shows.

But if he was like an adult, he was also something of a freak, overgrown in body and talent, and he quickly became a subject for child psychologists to examine and reporters to publicize. Such precocity doubtless made him insufferable, yet it did not conceal the essential pathos of his circumstances. Virtually from the time he could walk, he was attracted to playacting, using a makeup kit to fulfill two kinds of pretenses. On the one hand was an aggressive or perhaps defensive disguise; for example, during a brief stay at Washington School in Madison, Wisconsin, he frightened teachers and bullying schoolmates with bloody horror makeup. On the other hand, he liked to change his appearance to make himself as unlike a child as possible; repeatedly he put on whiskers and wrinkles, pretending to be an old man. Interestingly, these two elements—horror and old age—are central to much of his later work.

Orson Welles spent his declining years as a pop culture man of all seasons. Hounded by the IRS, desperate to fund the numerous films on his artistic agenda, the director took on all manner of opportunities open to those with a recognizable face. The lecture circuit kept him in cigars and out of jail. Pitching products and enduring fat jokes on talk shows brought in the money he needed for his projects. In other words, Welles became a case study in the price exacted by genius and by fame, in part because unlike most people he never exhausted either one.

A few favorite Wellesian appearances, real and otherwise, in our collective consciousness:
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A large part of the twentieth century was born in 1915. That storied year, an all-star lineup of cultural giants found their way to our reality, and in short order proceeded to make it better while turning it every which way. The UIP big blog already posted on blues colossus and 1915 alum Muddy Waters, a man who needs no introduction.

Now we turn our uncanny gaze onto Orson Welles: filmmaker, actor, stage producer, radio dramatist, spoken word poet, straight man for Dean Martin, raconteur, magician—in short, a true artist forced to do just about everything to fund his visions, even sleight-of-hand on The Tonight Show. We’ll be posting all week on Welles as part of our ongoing 1915: Whatta Year! series.

Today, though, we turn away from print to embrace something visual. Let’s delve into a film Welles didn’t direct, but certainly made memorable.

For years, a theater in Vienna showed The Third Man every Friday night. It may still do so. Certainly, Viennese entrepreneurs still tap the film by taking people on “Third Man Tours.” With that in mind, it’s no surprise this cinema sat in a well touristed part of town. Vienna takes second to few cities when it comes to producing influences on Western civilization—Mahler, Freud, Klimt, and so on. Yet its cinematic immortality rests squarely on the noir classic, a story of a pulp writer who comes to visit old friend Harry Lime (played by Welles) and learns that Harry recently died in a car wreck. Or did he? Film historian and director Peter Bogdanovich takes it from here:

zangToday we celebrate the release of David W. Zang’s poignant and hilarious sports memoir I Wore Babe Ruth’s Hat: Field Notes from a Life in Sports.

Long celebrated as one of sports history’s most engaging stylists, Zang reports from the everyman’s Elysium where games and life intersect. An Elysium where, not surprisingly, the sacred relics of Babe Ruth hold great supernatural power:

Sportswriter Heywood Hale Broun once remarked that watching Babe Ruth gave you the sense of being in the presence of greatness, and, if you’re in the presence of greatness, “then some tiny fleck of it is attached to you.” By that reckoning, I was able to acquire much more than a fleck of Ruth. When I first moved to Baltimore, I was invited to be on the advisory board of the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum, at that time a collection of artifacts housed in the tiny row house where he’d been born.

Seeking to expand and modernize, the museum decided to produce an advertising poster that highlighted some of its holdings. They’d arranged all of them on a table in the museum’s basement, where they awaited a photographer. Happening to be in the building one day, I wandered downstairs in search of one of the curators. Perusing the artifacts, I noticed that hanging from a hat rack behind the table was a hat Ruth wore as a member of the Boston Red Sox. I could not resist. I put that enormous hat on my head and was looking for a mirror when the museum director came down the stairs. He shot me a withering glare, and I quickly put the hat back. It did not seem the appropriate moment to ask him if he’d take my picture in it.

The hat’s magic, however, was already in me. I never hit a home run in all my years of youth baseball; I just had no power. But I’ve taken up one of the Babe’s favorite pastimes, golf, in my advanced years, and I can hit a golf ball a long way. My instructor would like me to believe that it comes from my ability to turn my hips beyond the point that most players my age can reach. But I think it is from the flecks of greatness that were attached to Babe Ruth’s hat.

For the month of May 2015, to coincide with Jewish American Heritage Month, we have lowered the e-book list price of four titles in the University of Illinois Press catalog to $2.99.

Cover for Steinberg: From the Jewish Heartland: Two Centuries of Midwest Foodways. Click for larger imageFrom the Jewish Heartland: Two Centuries of Midwest Foodways by Ellen F. Steinberg and Jack H. Prost
From the Jewish Heartland reveals the distinctive flavor of Jewish foods in the Midwest and tracks regional culinary changes through time. Exploring Jewish culinary innovation in America’s heartland from the 1800s to today, Steinberg and Prost examine recipes from numerous midwestern sources, both kosher and nonkosher, including Jewish homemakers’ handwritten manuscripts and notebooks, published journals and newspaper columns, and interviews with Jewish cooks, bakers, and delicatessen owners. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for sautter: The Miriam Tradition: Teaching Embodied Torah. Click for larger imageThe Miriam Tradition: Teaching Embodied Torah by Cia Sautter
The Miriam Tradition works from the premise that religious values form in and through movement, with ritual and dance developing patterns for enacting those values. Cia Sautter considers the case of Sephardic Jewish women who, following in the tradition of Miriam the prophet, performed dance and music for Jewish celebrations and special occasions. She uses rabbinic and feminist understandings of the Torah to argue that these women, called tanyaderas, “taught” Jewish values by leading appropriate behavior for major life events. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for EPHRAIM: Escape to Manila: From Nazi Tyranny to Japanese Terror. Click for larger imageEscape to Manila: From Nazi Tyranny to Japanese Terror by Frank Ephraim
With the rise of Nazism in the 1930s more than a thousand European Jews sought refuge in the Philippines, joining the small Jewish population of Manila. When the Japanese invaded the islands in 1941, the peaceful existence of the barely settled Jews filled with the kinds of uncertainties and oppression they thought they had left behind. Escape to Manila gathers the testimonies of thirty-six refugees, who describe the difficult journey to Manila, the lives they built there, and the events surrounding the Japanese invasion. Combining these accounts with historical and archival records, Manila newspapers, and U.S. government documents, Frank Ephraim constructs a detailed account of this little-known chapter of world history.  Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for mendelssohn: Last Works. Click for larger imageLast Works
by Moses Mendelssohn, Translated by Bruce Rosenstock
Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786) was the central figure in the emancipation of European Jewry. His intellect, judgment, and tact won the admiration and friendship of contemporaries as illustrious as Johann Gottfried Herder, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, and Immanuel Kant. His enormously influential Jerusalem (1783) made the case for religious tolerance, a cause he worked for all his life. Last Works includes, for the first time complete and in a single volume, the English translation of Morning Hours: Lectures on the Existence of God (1785) and To the Friends of Lessing (1786). Bruce Rosenstock has also provided a historical introduction and an extensive philosophical commentary to both texts. 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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hasinoff coverThe daily news brings word of a sexting uproar in Liberty, Missouri, where eight males have received suspensions of varying lengths after passing around compromising photos of female classmates. Amanda Marcotte at Slate notes:

It’s time for a nationwide reckoning on sexting. It’s clearly not a temporary fad but, like oral sex and Rule 34, a permanent part of modern American sexuality. We need to move onto the second phase, which should involve educating people—especially young people—on how to sext responsibly. While some risk reduction should be taught (only sext with people you trust, consider keeping your face out of pictures), the bulk of this education should be focused on respect and consent.

In the recent UIP release Sexting Panic, author Amy Adele Hasinoff elaborates:

Though many people assume that teen sexting is always wrong and dangerous, the problematic effect of this assumption is that it becomes very difficult to see the distinctions between consensual sexting and the nonconsensual production or distribution of personal sexual images. This means that victims of such harm can be seen as equal participants and handed the same punishment as the people who deliberately violated their privacy. This book suggests that teens, and girls in particular, need protection from malicious peers and overzealous prosecutors, but to accomplish this it may also be necessary to recognize girls’ agency and their choices to sext consensually.

As Fine and McClelland (2006) explain, abstinence-only training may be counterproductive: “Having skills merely to say no does not help young people make tough decisions, but instead simply drains decision-making from them and places them in the hands of more powerful others—the state, the media, advertisements, a partner, abuser, or predator.”

The alternative is to understand young people’s capacity for choice. It may be helpful to think about agency, for teen girls and for everyone, as always relative, constrained, and contextual. This book suggests that acknowledging girls’ agency might help clarify the important distinction between willingly choosing to create and share an image of oneself and forwarding intimate images of other people without their permission to third parties.

The average person considers a university press a rather humorless concern. Just look at a catalog and you’ll see pages of works by serious scholars, many of whom insist on addressing the kaleidoscope of injustices humans visit upon other humans. While it’s true that our business publishes its share of downers, and that we keep Prozac in the vending machine between the plain M&Ms and the Krackel bars (not that I’d know), the UP community also mixes in books on beauty and those dedicated to its creation.

At UIP, for instance, we love music. In recent times, we have put out fascinating looks at Cantonese Opera, at the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, at musics that range from real country to Hawaiian sea shanties. And don’t hold us to the past tense. In the months to come, we’re releasing new books on opera diva Beverly Sills and art music superstar Gordon Mumma, among others.

But does anyone remember fun, you ask? Oh, we remember. Journey below the fold and over the rainbow for Music Trivia Wednesday. Continue reading

toto public domainCall them twisters, call them cyclones, call them (incorrectly) willy willys—tornadoes are as much a part of spring as blossoms on the trees and ants in the kitchen. Roughly 75% of Earth’s tornadoes strike the United States in a given year. Another five percent whip across Canada.

This most North American of disasters continues to fascinate the generations. A tornado played by a nylon stocking plays a pivotal part in a traumatic film pushed on children. Tornado porn built the Weather Channel in the 1990s and convinced millions to watch a film with basically no plot, characters, emotions, or logic not just in theaters, but twice per week on basic cable.

Whether you like your cyclonic storms in fiction, photography, or as cutting-edge science, university presses provide what you need from this amazing and ever-profitable phenomenon. Below we present some of the Essential Tornado Media published by UIP and other presses in the Technicolor world of scholarly publishing. Turn up the weather radio. Scan the dark skies. See if your cat is acting strangely. It’s springtime!

storm seasonThe Storm Season, by William Hauptman
University of Texas Press
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The Storm Season tells the story of railroad worker Burl Drennan, who barely survives a twister and makes it his mission to chase storms across Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle. Drennan buys a scanner, watches the Weather Channel, learns about drylines and the rain-free base, and even decides to leave the blue-collar grind behind to study meteorology.

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tornadoTo pay further homage to the angry gods who make the cumulonimbus their home, we delve into some memorable portrayals of twisters in American pop culture.

1. Tornado episode of WKRP in Cincinnati
The beloved series often forayed into dramedy, and does so in this episode as severe weather threatens the radio station. One of the comedic highlights: Les Nesman using a Cold War-era civil defense file to warn listeners about approaching twisters. In a classic bit of improv, he substitutes “godless tornadoes” for “godless communists.” Continue reading

BealF11Amy C. Beal’s Carla Bley is an in-depth look at a the innovative jazz icon know for, among other things, her involvement in the Free Jazz movement.

As Amy Beal writes in her American Composers series profile of the composer, pianist, and band leader, Bley has exhibited an staggering variety in her work. Over her career, which began at age 17, Carla Bley has been a boundary pusher when it comes to jazz. She has collaborated with be bop masters and rock musicians.

The National Endowment of the Arts has honored Bley by naming her a 2015 Jazz Master.

The NEA will recognize Bley and the other 2015 Jazz Masters at an awards ceremony and concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center on Monday.

The concert will be streamed live on arts.gov and jalc.org/live.