Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Nearest Thing to Heaven: The Empire State Building and American Dreams

This elegantly written appreciation of the Empire State Building opens up the building’s richness and importance as an icon of America. The book leads us through the facts surrounding the skyscraper’s conception and construction, then enters into a provocative theoretical discussion of its function as an icon, its representation in pictures, literature, and film, and the implications of its iconic status as New York’s most important architectural monument to ambition and optimism.The Empire State Building literally cannot be seen in its totality, from any perspective. And paradoxically, this building of unmistakable solidity has been made invisible by familiarity and reproduction through imagery. Mark Kingwell encourages us to look beneath the strong physical presence of the building, to become aware of its evolving layers of meaning, and to see how the building lives within a unique imaginative space in the landscape of the American consciousness. He offers new ways of understanding the Empire State Building in all its complexity and surprising insights into its special role as an American icon.

F128.8.E46 K56
Empire State Building (New York, N.Y.)
New York (N.Y.)--Buildings, structures, etc.

Al Jazeera: How Arab TV News Challenges America

The Al-Jazeera television network has been called many things, usually not very complimentary. The Israeli government says it is anti-Israeli, the Syrians call it a Zionist front. Some Arabs say it is a CIA plot, while U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has accused it of "working in concert with terrorists" and "consistently lying." The upstart Qatar network's remarkable story is now finally told in journalist Hugh Miles's book Al-Jazeera. Miles, an Arabic-speaking British journalist born in Saudi Arabia, tells how Qatar's liberal young emir, Sheikh Hamad, created Al-Jazeera in 1996, a year after coming to power in a coup against his own father. Shekh Hamad stunned the Arab world by liberalizing the country, giving women the vote, introducing limited democracy, and ending press censorship. Other Arab media outlets slavishly kowtowed to their governments and were distrusted by the public, but the emir gave Al-Jazeera complete editorial freedom. Its motto was: "The opinion and the other opinion." Arabs were amazed to see TV news that finally broadcast interviews with dissidents and held their governments accountable for policies. Some Arab states retaliated by closing Al-Jazeera bureaus, disrupting potential ad revenues, and breaking off relations with Qatar.

Al Jazeera (Television network)
Television broadcasting of news--Arab countries.
Television broadcasting of news--Qatar.

Friday, December 15, 2006

America's Meltdown: The Lowest-Common-Denominator Society

Celebrity news, video games, cookie-cutter schools, and shopping, shopping, shopping. As entertainers, corporations, and even the government pander to the lowest common denominator, American life becomes increasingly vicarious, prefabricated, and bereft of meaning. This book examines contemporary American consciousness, considering the factors that have driven society toward gossip and sensationalism at the cost of substance and depth. Arden discusses the growing epidemic of acrimony, superficiality, attention deficit disorder, and complaints of ennui. He targets the reasons why American children have expressed their confused rage with deadly weapons, why a president boasts that he earned Cs in college, and why society has drifted into craving entertainment laced with violence and cheap thrills. The book is provocative reading for concerned citizens, as well as for scholars and researchers involved with contemporary American culture and society.

E169.12.A724 -
Popular culture--United States.
Mass media--Social aspects--United States.
Social psychology--United States.
United States--Civilization--1970-
United States--Social conditions--1980-

The Sin of Knowledge

Adam, Prometheus, and Faust--their stories were central to the formation of Western consciousness and continue to be timely cautionary tales in an age driven by information and technology. Here Theodore Ziolkowski explores how each myth represents a response on the part of ancient Hebrew, ancient Greek, and sixteenth-century Christian culture to the problem of knowledge, particularly humankind's powerful, perennial, and sometimes unethical desire for it. This book exposes for the first time the similarities underlying these myths as well as their origins in earlier trickster legends, and considers when and why they emerged in their respective societies. It then examines the variations through which the themes have been adapted by modern writers to express their own awareness of the sin of knowledge.

Each myth is shown to capture the anxiety of a society when faced with new knowledge that challenges traditional values. Ziolkowski's examples of recent appropriations of the myths are especially provocative. From Voltaire to the present, the Fall of Adam has provided an image for the emergence from childhood innocence into the consciousness of maturity. Prometheus, as the challenger of authority and the initiator of technological evil, yielded an ambivalent model for the socialist imagination of the German Democratic Republic. And finally, an America unsettled by its responsibility for the atomic bomb, and worrying that in its postwar prosperity it had betrayed its values, recognized in Faust the disturbing image of its soul.

PN56.M95 Z56 -
Adam (Biblical figure)--In literature.
Faust, d. ca. 1540 --In literature.
Mythology in literature.
Prometheus (Greek deity) in literature.

Close Relationships: Incest and Inbreeding in Classical Arabic Literature

This is a groundbreaking and comprehensive study of the diverse facts and opinions concerning incest and close-kin marriage found in literary and non-literary pre-modern Arabic texts. Incest is a motif found in lampoons, anecdotes, stories, legends, dream interpretation, and polemics with other religions, in particular the Zoroastrians, who in pre-Islamic times allegedly recommended next-of-kin marriage. Many of the relevant passages are presented as English translations in this richly documented book that will be of interest to philologists and students of Arabic literature or Islamic culture.

PJ7519.I53 G45 -
Arabic literature--History and criticism.
Incest in literature.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism

While the Civil War raged in America, another very different revolution was beginning to take shape across the Atlantic, in the studios of Paris: The artists who would make Impressionism the most popular art form in history were showing their first paintings amidst scorn and derision from the French artistic establishment. Indeed, no artistic movement has ever been, at its inception, quite so controversial. The drama of its birth, played out on canvas, would at times resemble a battlefield; and, as Ross King reveals, Impressionism would reorder both history and culture as it resonated around the world.

The Judgment of Paris chronicles the dramatic decade between two famous exhibitions—the scandalous Salon des Refuses in 1863 and the first Impressionist showing in 1874—set against the rise and dramatic fall of Napoleon III and the Second Empire after the Franco-Prussian War. A tale of many artists, it revolves around the lives of two, described as “the two poles of art”—Ernest Meissonier, the most famous and successful painter of the 19th century, hailed for his precision and devotion to history; and Edouard Manet, reviled in his time, who nonetheless heralded the most radical change in the history of art since the Renaissance. Out of the fascinating story of their parallel lives, illuminated by their legendary supporters and critics—Zola, Delacroix, Courbet, Baudelaire, Whistler, Monet, Hugo, Degas, and many more—Ross King shows that their contest was not just about Art, it was about competing visions of a rapidly changing world.

ND547.K47 - art - Impressionism - art history - 19th century art - painting, French

The Constitution in Wartime: Beyond Alarmism and Complacency

Most recent discussion of the United States Constitution and war—both the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq—has been dominated by two diametrically opposed views: the alarmism of those who see many current policies as portending gross restrictions on American civil liberties, and the complacency of those who see these same policies as entirely reasonable accommodations to the new realities of national security. Whatever their contributions to the public discussion and policy-making processes, these voices contribute little to an understanding of the real constitutional issues raised by war. Providing the historical and legal context needed to assess competing claims, The Constitution in Wartime identifies and explains the complexities of the important constitutional issues brought to the fore by wartime actions and policies. Twelve prominent legal scholars and political scientists combine broad overviews of U.S. history and contemporary policy with detailed yet accessible analyses of legal issues of pressing concern today.

KF5060.C58 - Constitutional law - political freedom - legal studies - freedom & security

Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America's Most Important Newspaper

An in-depth look at how The New York Times failed in its coverage of the fate of European Jews from 1939-1945. It examines how the decisions that were made at The Times ultimately resulted in the minimizing and misunderstanding of modern history's worst genocide. Laurel Leff, a veteran journalist and professor of journalism, recounts how personal relationships at the newspaper, the assimilationist tendencies of The Times' Jewish owner, and the ethos of mid-century America, all led The Times to consistently downplay news of the Holocaust. It recalls how news of Hitler's 'final solution' was hidden from readers and - because of the newspaper's influence on other media - from America at large. Buried by The Times is required reading for anyone interested in America's response to the Holocaust and for anyone curious about how journalists determine what is newsworthy.

D804.7.P73 L44 - Holocaust, Jewish - press - newspaper - journalism

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Divorce: Causes and Consequences (Current Perspectives in Psychology)

This comprehensive book provides a balanced overview of the current research on divorce. The authors examine the scientific evidence to uncover what can be said with certainty about divorce and what remains to be learned about this socially and politically charged issue. Accessible to parents and teachers as well as clinicians and researchers, the volume examines the impact of marital breakup on children, adults, and society.

HQ814.C55 - divorce psychological aspects - children of divorced parents - child custody

Inside Deaf Culture

In this absorbing story of the changing life of a community, the authors of Deaf in America reveal historical events and forces that have shaped the ways that Deaf people define themselves today. Inside Deaf Culture relates Deaf people's search for a voice of their own, and their proud self-discovery and self-description as a flourishing culture.

HV2545.P35 - deaf - American Sign Language

Reading Charlotte Salomon

Charlotte Salomon was born in Berlin in 1917 and was murdered at Auschwitz at the age of twenty-six. While in exile in the south of France from 1940 until her deportation in 1943, she created some 1,325 small gouaches using only the three primary colors plus white. From these she gathered nearly 800 into a work that she titled Life? or Theater? A Play with Music, which employs images, texts, and musical and cinematic references. The narrative, informed by Salomon’s experiences as a talented, cultured, and assimilated German Jew, depicts a life lived in the shadow of Nazi persecution and a family history of suicide, but also reveals moments of intense happiness and hope. The tone of the gouaches becomes increasingly raw and urgent as Salomon is further enmeshed in grim personal as well as political events. The result is a deeply moving meditation on life, art, and death on the eve of the Holocaust.

ND1954.S24 R43 - Holocaust - art

Monday, December 04, 2006

Mobsters, Unions, and Feds: The Mafia and the American Labor Movement: The Mafia and the American Labor Movement

Mobsters, Unions, and Feds is the first book to document organized crime's exploitation of organized labor and the massive federal clean-up effort. A renown criminologist who for twenty years has been assessing the government's attack on the Mafia, James B. Jacobs explains how Cosa Nostra families first gained a foothold in the labor movement, then consolidated their power through patronage, fraud, and violence and finally used this power to become part of the political and economic power structure of 20th century urban America.

HD6490.R32.U653 - history - law & legal studies - racketeering - labor unions - Mafia - organized crime

The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution

Why women evolved to have orgasms--when most of their primate relatives don't--is a persistent mystery among evolutionary biologists. In pursuing this mystery, Elisabeth Lloyd arrives at another: How could anything as inadequate as the evolutionary explanations of the female orgasm have passed muster as science? A judicious and revealing look at all twenty evolutionary accounts of the trait of human female orgasm, Lloyd's book is at the same time a case study of how certain biases steer science astray.

Over the past fifteen years, the effect of sexist or male-centered approaches to science has been hotly debated. Drawing especially on data from nonhuman primates and human sexology over eighty years, Lloyd shows what damage such bias does in the study of female orgasm. She also exposes a second pernicious form of bias that permeates the literature on female orgasms: a bias toward adaptationism. Here Lloyd's critique comes alive, demonstrating how most of the evolutionary accounts either are in conflict with, or lack, certain types of evidence necessary to make their cases--how they simply assume that female orgasm must exist because it helped females in the past reproduce. As she weighs the evidence, Lloyd takes on nearly everyone who has written on the subject: evolutionists, animal behaviorists, and feminists alike. Her clearly and cogently written book is at once a convincing case study of bias in science and a sweeping summary and analysis of what is known about the evolution of the intriguing trait of female orgasm.

QP251.L56 - human evolution - female sexuality - sexual behavior - orgasm - evolutionary biology