Big contracts getting signed. Free agents wrangling with owners. Preseason games just over the horizon. Pro football, the most popular of all of America’s homegrown religious faiths, is revving up again. Last weekend, Brit immigrant John Oliver devoted a long segment of Last Week Tonight to the ways the owners of professional sports teams finagle sweetheart stadium deals from their host cities, or rather, their host taxpayers. How did we go from cement and iron edifices barely beyond the stadia “enjoyed” by Romans to, as Oliver observed, stadia that “look like they were designed by a coked-up Willie Wonka”?

In his recent UIP book NFL Football, Richard C. Crepeau delves into how a pro football franchise can transform an ordinary municipality into a “Major League City.” Anyone who has been to both Portland (no NFL franchise) and Buffalo (NFL franchise) might question this myth, as well as the oft-told tale that pro sports brings with it a boom in tax revenue.

But, as Crepeau shows, these fables carry weight in the real world. Furthermore, Continue reading

shapiroEveryone is a little French on Bastille Day. Which is ironic, as during the French Revolution, French was one of the last things you wanted to be.

You know who could not give a care about revolutionary politics? Cats. But you knew that. Cats don’t care about any of the issues that divide and inflame their humans. In the lauded new UIP collection Fe-lines, editor and translator Norman Shapiro offers up centuries of French cat poetry inspired by an animal that remains above it all even in that most passionate of nations.

By the time Tristan Klingsor wrote his Song of the Sleeping Cat, revolutionary ardor had cooled. The bourgeois could safely lie in bed, snoring away without fear of the guillotine. Cats, meanwhile, did their thing. Which is nothing, if they so choose. Truly a creature that knows the meaning of the word liberty.

Cat on the floor,
O cat, cat, cat.
What? Don’t you hear the mice at play
Clicking their heels in mouse-ballet?
Behind, before?

Bourgeois in bed, snoring away—
Wearing a cotton nightcap too—
Moon at the window, peeking through<…>
Dance mice, my pretties, come what may,

Dance, dance,
Wiggling your long, thin fairy-tails.

Music-less, dance awry, askance
In tiny-step exuberance<…>
The daylight pales
And moon soon rises high up there,
Hurry! The cops walk up and down
And all the cats in Paris-town
Sleep in their chair
Sleep through the night
Cats black, gray, white<…>

naremore coverJames Naremore is Chancellors’ Professor Emeritus at Indiana University. He answered some questions about the new Centennial Anniversary Edition of his touchstone work The Magic World of Orson Welles.

Q: The new edition of The Magic World of Orson Welles coincides with both the centenary of the filmmaker’s birth and the release of the unfinished film The Other Side of the Wind. How “finished” was The Other Side of the Wind?

James Naremore: It’s difficult to say at this point (July, 2015). 1,083 feet of the film, most of which isn’t fully edited, have been liberated from a Paris warehouse by a production company called Royal Road films. The original plan was to examine the print and do the complete editing in Paris, but that has apparently become impracticable. The heavily insured reels are being shipped to the US, where work will resume.

Royal Road is now engaged in a crowd-funding appeal in an attempt to raise two million dollars for post-production. At last report, they’ve received about a quarter of a million through Indygo, an organization rather like Kick Starter, and they have European donors waiting in the wings to provide matching funds. Assuming they get over the financial hurdles, they will face the problem of how to edit the film so that it will be reasonably true to Welles’s intentions. This will involve complicated narrative and aesthetic decisions. Peter Bogdanovich, who acted in the film and was present from its inception, will help supervise the editing. As I understand it, the footage is there, and in that sense the film is potentially “finished.” The trick is to assemble it. Continue reading

schultzThe Women’s World Cup reached its conclusion over the weekend. The U.S. team rained early goals on Japan and emerged with a 5-2 victory to win its first Cup since the triumph of the now-iconic 1999 team.

Perhaps as noteworthy was the attention given to the U.S. squad this time around. Despite baseball season being in full swing, the media devoted substantial airtime, pixels, and column inches to the tournament in general and the American women in particular. TV ratings, meanwhile, reached all-time highs that put the game on equal footing with the deciding contest in last season’s baseball World Series.

Not bad for a women’s event that, prior to 1999, received next to no attention in the U.S. What led to this sea change?

Let some of our UIP titles answer that question for you. Explore issues that range from Title IX to improved sports bras (hey, no joke, that was important) with acclaimed treatments of women in sports. In Qualifying Times, Jaime Schultz offers what one reviewer called “the next seminal work in the history of women’s sport” and challenges the reader to look at the historical and sociological significance of now-common items such as sports bras and tampons and ideas such as sex testing and competitive cheerleading.

Speaking of seminal works, how about the women’s sports book that defines the term? A new edition of Susan K. Cahn’s Coming On Strong hit shelves in the spring. Cahn updates her classic history of women’s sport and the struggles over gender, sexuality, race, class, and policy that have often defined it. A new chapter explores the impact of Title IX and how the opportunities and interest in sports it helped create reshaped women’s lives even as the legislation itself came under sustained attack.

Finally, let’s get seasonal and ponder women and our national pastime. In Stolen Bases, Jennifer Ring  Ring describes the circumstances that twice stole baseball from American girls: once in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and again in the late twentieth century, after it was no longer legal to exclude girls who wanted to play.

Daisy Turner was a woman of many words.

The storyteller and poet was a living repository of history. She related the stories of her own family, from the abduction of her ancestors in West Africa to her own upbringing in Grafton, Vermont. Her own parents were freed slaves.

In 1983, folklorist Jane C. Beck began a series of interviews with Turner. At the time Daisy Turner was one hundred years old and still relating four generations of oral history.

In her book Daisy Turner’s Kin, Beck uses Turner’s storytelling to build the Turner family saga, using at its foundation the oft-repeated touchstone stories at the heart of their experiences: the abduction into slavery of Turner’s African ancestors; Daisy’s father learning to read; his return as a soldier to his former plantation to kill the overseer; Daisy’s childhood stand against racism; and her family’s life in Vermont. Beck weaves in historical research and offers a folklorist’s perspective on oral history and the hazards and uses of memory.

Turner was featured reciting Civil War poetry in Ken Burns’ PBS documentary, The Civil War.

The University of Illinois Press wishes you a great Independence Day holiday.

Today our 1915: Whatta Year! series turns to musician Willie Dixon, born on this date 100 years ago. Dixon brought the term “Hoochie Coochie man” to the mainstream and, oh, yeah, along with Muddy Waters shaped postwar Chicago blues.

The pride of Vicksburg, Mississippi, Dixon traveled north in 1936, had a successful interlude as an amateur boxer (he sparred with Joe Louis and won the state Golden Gloves competition), and started in as a musician using–so the legend tells us–a bass made of a tin can and one string. There would be no peace in the barnyard ever after as Dixon became a cornerstone of the Chess Records dream team in the 1950s, and thus mightily influenced the blues-driven rock and/or roll the kids embraced in the next decade.

Dixon worked with or knew next to everyone. That included pioneering African American disc jockey and political activist Richard E. Stamz, co-author of UIP’s Give ‘Em Soul Richard!, the memoir of Stamz’s life and times. Stamz called Dixon “the straightest son-of-a-bitch I have ever met” and the two became close friends. As Stamz recalled:

Willie never did quit writing. He wrote everywhere. In a joint he’d go into the toilet and write. Willie had a great big garden at his house, and we would be out there picking up fruit or whatever, and Willie would stop and sit up on the front porch and go to writing. That’s the way he wrote.

And wrote, and wrote:

Willie gave everybody songs, and he rehearsed them anywhere he was. Willie at one time told me that with the numbers he had given away, the numbers that he had predominantly helped on, and the numbers that were in his name alone, he had helped produce or write over eight hundred songs for Leonard Chess. I believe that because he never quit.

Cover for PERNOT: Before the Ivy: The Cubs' Golden Age in Pre-Wrigley Chicago. Click for larger imageFor the month of July 2015, to coincide with the Major League Baseball All Star Game, we have lowered the e-book list price of three baseball titles in the University of Illinois Press catalog to $2.99.

Before the Ivy: The Cubs’ Golden Age in Pre-Wrigley Chicago by Laurent Pernot
All Cub fans know from heartbreak and curse-toting goats. Fewer know that, prior to moving to the north side in 1916, the team fielded powerhouse nines that regularly claimed the pennant. Before the Ivy offers a grandstand seat to a golden age.  Rich with Hall of Fame personalities and oddball stories, the book opens a door to Chicago’s own field of dreams and serves as every Cub fan’s guide to a time when thoughts of “next year” filled rival teams with dread. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for Grow: Baseball on Trial: The Origin of Baseball's Antitrust Exemption. Click for larger imageBaseball on Trial: The Origin of Baseball’s Antitrust Exemption by Nathaniel Grow
The controversial 1922 Federal Baseball Supreme Court ruling held that the “business of base ball” was not subject to the Sherman Antitrust Act because it did not constitute interstate commerce. In Baseball on Trial, legal scholar Nathaniel Grow defies conventional wisdom to explain why the unanimous Supreme Court opinion authored by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, which gave rise to Major League Baseball’s exemption from antitrust law, was correct given the circumstances of the time. Using recently released documents from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Grow analyzes how the Supreme Court reached this seemingly peculiar result by tracing the Federal Baseball litigation from its roots in 1914 to its resolution in 1922, in the process uncovering significant new details about the proceedings. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for roberts: Before the Curse: The Chicago Cubs' Glory Years, 1870-1945. Click for larger imageBefore the Curse: The Chicago Cubs’ Glory Years, 1870-1945 edited by Randy Roberts and Carson Cunningham
Before the Curse: The Chicago Cubs’ Glory Years, 1870–1945 brings to life the early history of this much beloved and often heartbreaking baseball club. Originally called the Chicago White Stockings, the team immediately established itself as a powerhouse, winning the newly formed National League’s inaugural pennant in 1876, repeating the feat in 1880 and 1881, and commanding the league in the decades to come. The legendary days of the Cubs are recaptured here in more than two dozen vintage newspaper accounts and historical essays on the teams and the fans who loved them. The great games, pennant races, and series are all here, including the 1906 World Series between the Cubs and Chicago White Sox. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Vendor participation and pricing may vary.

GradelS15It’s Friday, so it must (again) be time for the Illinois Congressional indictment story of the week.

The news of June 26, 2015 brings a familiar face back into the ignominious circle of Illinois politicians under either investigation or indictment.

Federal investigators have announced that that former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds has been indicted for failing to file federal income tax returns.

As Thomas J. Gradel and Dick Simpson write in Corrupt Illinois: Patronage, Cronyism, and Criminality, Reynolds has had good reason to keep his attorneys on speed dial since early in his political career.

Mel Reynolds has a rare distinction in the chronicle of Illinois corruption: he was convicted in both state and federal courts in the United States and overseas in Zimbabwe. In 1992 he was convicted in Cook County Criminal Court of criminal sexual assault, child pornography, and obstruction of justice for having sex with a volunteer campaign worker when she was only sixteen.

Reynolds had served less than three years in Congress when he was convicted. Facing a move by his congressional colleagues to oust him, he resigned his seat. But it wasn’t the end of his troubles, and it wasn’t the last time a congressman from the Second District would be accused of campaign and sexual misconduct. Democrat Jesse L. Jackson Jr., who later would be convicted of a felony and resign from Congress, won a special general election in 1995 to serve out the remaining thirteen months of Reynolds’s second term.

In related news, Jesse L. Jackson Jr. was released this week from Baltimore halfway house to serve the remainder of his Federal sentence on fraud charges in home confinement.  In 2013 Jackson was convicted for taking around $750,000 from his campaign funds and spending that money on personal items including a cashmere cape.

 

Sensing Chicago - Adam MackAdam Mack is assistant professor of History in the Department of Liberal Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He recently answers some questions about his Studies in Sensory History series book Sensing Chicago: Noisemakers, Strikebreakers, and Muckrakers.

Q: What new dimensions can sensory studies bring to our historical understanding of urban life?

Adam Mack: I think sensory studies can change our understanding of the history urban experience. One insight that I hope readers take from Sensing Chicago is that people cared deeply about the sensory landscape of the city—the way Chicago looked, sounded, smelled, and felt. One infamously stinky example is the Chicago River, which served as a repository for the city’s human and industrial waste in the industrial age. The river reeked, but the complaints about the smell involved more than aesthetic objections or simple discomfort. Many Chicagoans feared that the river stinks spread deadly diseases; they thought that the dirty water would discourage personal cleanliness; and they worried that moral and cultural decay would follow. Part of the reason that the city tried to “reverse” the river’s flow in 1871 was because they associated the foul smells with civic danger. Continue reading