Archive for July, 2009

The 2009 Printer’s Ball in Chicago

blog_printersball2009STOP SMILING will be on hand for the Poetry Foundation’s fifth-annual Printer’s Ball this Friday, July 31, at the Ludington Building in downtown Chicago; this annual event brings together the Chicago publishing community and its patrons to evaluate where the industry is headed; this year’s Printer’s Ball will be the first to include publishers from outside of Chicago: presenters include Joe Meno speaking for McSweeney’s, Nick Twemlow for jubilat, Eula Biss for Iowa Review and John Beer for The Hat; also in the Ludington Building (which houses the Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts) personal projects and collaborations by Chicago rabble-rouser Anne Elizabeth Moore will be on display in the first exhibit of this work in one location. -SS

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Advanced Artificial Intelligence is Lurking

blog-kubrickOn the day that would have been the late Stanley Kubrick’s 81st birthday, the New York Times ran a fascinating cover story in the Sunday paper focusing on the ethics and evolution of robot intelligence — it’s no doubt the director of 2001: A Space Odyssey and producer of AI: Artificial Intelligence would have taken note (and been well ahead of the curve): “Impressed and alarmed by advances in artificial intelligence,” writes John Markoff, “a group of computer scientists is debating whether there should be limits on research that might lead to loss of human control over computer-based systems that carry a growing share of society’s workload, from waging war to chatting with customers on the phone”; the piece is also an intriguing companion to a Times story two weeks earlier about how “Japan’s legions of robots, the world’s largest fleet of mechanized workers, are being idled as the country suffers its deepest recession in more than a generation as consumers worldwide cut spending on cars and gadgets.”

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Shifting Roles for Historic Landmarks

blog-hancockFollow the money: In Washington, DC there were no buyers for the famous (and infamous) Watergate Hotel, which went up for auction this week after the previous owners defaulted on their loan; in Los Angeles, despite the efforts of preservationists like Diane Keaton, the plans to destroy the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City, which is the a cornerstone of a development designed to evoke the New York World’s Fair of 1964, are underway; and one announcement in Chicago has purists breathing a sigh of relief — unlike the newly renamed Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), representatives of the John Hancock Center, pictured here, have publicly stated that no name change is in their plans. SS.

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How 10,000 New Yorkers Found the Bard

blog-mccourtThough the Irish-American writer Frank McCourt, who passed away this week at 78, is of course being remembered as the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of such works as Angela’s Ashes, he’s also being celebrated as an inspirational teacher by scores of everyday New Yorkers who passed through his high school classroom during the 30 years he taught English and creative writing in the New York City school system: The letters-to-the-editor sections of the New York Times (read here) and New York Daily News (read here) were filled with fond reflections of McCourt, including one Brooklyn resident who recalled asking McCourt about his proudest achievement, to which he replied, “I figure I’ve taught some 10,000 New York City kids over the years; I like to think when I gave them Shakespeare, they got Shakespeare.” McCourt’s ashes, upon his final request, will be scattered in Ireland.

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Work to Win, from France to Chicago

blog_revoltFrench workers have been finding innovative ways to protest their worsening situations this week — the AP reports on a spate of “bossnappings,” where factory workers locked employers in their offices until they agreed to meet and discuss ways of circumventing layoffs; another group of French workers announced they might resume their threat to blow up a failed auto parts manufacturing plant after a meeting with company officials ended unsatisfactorily; STOP SMILING will celebrate a victory of hometown worker action Thursday night at 7 pm at its Chicago storefront, as it hosts the launch of Revolt on Goose Island, a book that chronicles the events surrounding the worker takeover of the Republic Windows & Doors factory in Chicago last winter.

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In the Sky, it’s a Bird, it’s a Stealth

blog-stealthWhile attention remains fixed on the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, let’s take a quick glance upward at a couple airborne episodes from last week: citizens of Detroit were angered when an F-18 fighter buzzed an apartment building during a low-level demonstration flight, as part of the opening ceremony for a speedboat race on the Detroit River (check the jaw-dropping photo here); while President Obama may have had his mom-jeans moment on the baseball diamond at the MLB All-Star Game, it was the bizarre appearance of a menacing B-2 Stealth Bomber flying overhead that was the genuine eyesore (also reported this month were new findings about how close the Nazis came to developing a stealth bomber); meanwhile, back on the ground, it’s worth taking a moment to see what happened when the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile took one giant leap for mankind into someone’s house. How would Kronkite have reported that one?

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Tom Wilkes (1939-2009)

blog-wilkesThe California artist whose visual sense helped define the look of rock music in the Sixties and Seventies has passed away at 69: the obituary for Tom Wilkes is available at the Los Angeles Times; a trip through Wilkes’ credits — including such LPs covers as Neil Young’s Harvest, the Rolling StonesBeggars Banquet and George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh — presents a dynamic cross-section of his era; and his official site answers such vital questions as “Who the hell is Tom Wilkes?”.

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Our Man in Havana

blog-hemingwayIn a 2007 post, we rounded up unusual stories that proved readers’ posthumous interest with Ernest Hemingway. The fascination continues: Earlier this month, the New York Times placed a piece on the front cover about the editorial squabbling over a “recast” version of Hemingway’s incomplete memoir A Moveable Feast; now comes an intriguing short entry from the Guardian about the new book Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, which asserts that Hemingway was “for a while on the KGB’s list of its agents in America” and served as a “dilettante spy” — albeit an incompetent one. Read more on the topic here.

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Farewell, Mr. Sarris

securedownload1The current downturn in advertising has left many print publications no choice but to trim their staff writers in order to survive — but after 20 years of writing film reviews for the New York Observer (and almost 30 years at the Village Voice) it was sad to see that Andrew Sarris, a pioneer of film criticism, had to experience what Michael Powell in yesterday’s New York Times called a “slow-motion layoff”; in an insightful profile, Powell rightly points out that Sarris (click here to read an excerpt of our interview with Sarris and his wife, film critic Molly Haskell, from our Auteur Issue), “introduced to Americans and argued for the auteur theory, which holds that a great director speaks through his films no less than a novelist speaks through his books”; after 50 years of writing film criticism for newspapers, Sarris, who is now 81, plans to write essays for Film Comment; meanwhile, Haskell recently published a book about Gone With the Wind titled Frankly, My Dear (read the SF Chronicle review here).

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Cinema History at Chavez Ravine

blog_dodgersWith so much media attention surrounding the Los Angeles Dodgers this season — whether for the team’s league-leading performance or for Manny throwing elbow pads (and receiving Nietzschean analysis in the pages of the Los Angeles Times) — one story from Dodgertown deserves special attention: This week Bob Mitchell, the “organist who was the first such house musician at Dodger Stadium and the last surviving working accompanist from the silent-film era” died at age 96 (click here for more on Mitchell’s fascinating life in the LA Times). RIP.

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