Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Opening Pandora’s (Cable) Box

The following is a guest-post from UPM Director Leila Salisbury. This article appeared a  recent issue of Against the Grain. Against the Grain provides the latest news about libraries, publishers, book jobbers, and subscription agents. It is a unique collection of reports on the issues, literature, and people that impact the world of books and journals. It's a great resource for those interested in how academic libraries think and operate and how vendors shape their strategies to work within the changing landscape of scholarly communication.

Below Salisbury shares her thoughts after visiting the Charleston Conference last year.

The 2014 Charleston Conference had me thinking a great deal about PDA/DDA, STL, and now EBA (evidence-based acquisition) programs. Our vendors give us statistics that show purchases moving rapidly away from approval or even single-title purchasing in favor of these above models. The subsequent revenue from these sales certainly shows in publishers’ bottom line, especially as STL purchases result in a fraction of the revenue. Interestingly, as there was much gnashing of teeth about costs, revenue, shrinking budgets and the like at the conference, I actually came away with the distinct impression that usage was UP. That comes as welcome news to university presses, who have often been accused of publishing overly specialized books that few want to read or use.

And yet, in this increasingly pay-per-view world, will libraries actually end up paying more in the quest to save money and purchase selectively?


On the flight back from Charleston, I was reading an issue of Entertainment Weekly (yes, for work! It’s surprisingly helpful to me as an acquiring editor in film and media studies who dropped cable years ago). On the heels of HBO and CBS’s separate announcements of services that would allow viewers to stream recent shows without a cable subscription, journalist James Hibbard wrote an insightful meditation on what this may mean for the industry more widely. In the wonderfully titled “What Streams May Come,” Hibberd notes, “Viva la revoluciόn, right? Not necessarily. As much as we all love to grouse about cable bills, breaking up the current system could have all sorts of butterfly-effect consequences that might be even worse. Because do you really want to pay $72 a year to watch 2 Broke Girls?”

Hibberd suggests that cracking open the cable box will possibly spur several unwelcome things. In current cable packages, viewers are essentially paying for a handful of the most popular networks and getting a great deal of other content for very little money. Studies suggest that paying for single networks will likely actually mean viewers would have a higher end cost (in Canada and other countries, such models leave viewers “paying more for less,” according to Hibberd). Second, the current infrastructure of in-ground cable simply can’t support such a high volume of individual streaming. Bandwidth caps are becoming a more common response to the crush of traffic on the internet highway, and this would eventually limit individual streaming. In the article, analyst Fernando Elizalde estimates that “billions in upgrades” would be needed to support such mass streaming. “Who’s going to pay for that?” he asks.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Music Monday: Free Jazz / Black Power

First published In 1971, French jazz critics Philippe Carles and Jean-Louis Comolli co-wrote Free Jazz / Black Power, a treatise on the racial and political implications of jazz and jazz criticism. The book not only caught the spirits of its time; it also shaped it. It remains a testimony to the long ignored encounter of radical African American music and French left-wing criticism.

This volume now available in English for the first time was translated by Grégory Pierrot. UPM is proud to add this seminal work to our American Made Music Series. This edition includes a new preface written by the authors in 2014 as well an introduction from Pierrot.

Carles and Comolli set out to defend a genre vilified by classic jazz critics on both sides of the Atlantic by exposing its ties to African American culture, history, and the political struggle that was raging in the United States in the early 1970s. They offered a political and cultural history of black presence in the United States to better shed light on the dubious role played by jazz criticism in relation to racial oppression.

This analysis of jazz criticism and its production is surprisingly self-aware; it critiques the critics, building a work of cultural studies in a time and place where the practice was virtually unknown. Carles and Comolli reached radical conclusions: free jazz was a revolutionary reaction against white domination, the musical counterpart to the Black Power movement, one that demanded a similarly political commitment.

The impact of this book cannot be overstated: it made readers reconsider their relation to African American music, and in some cases changed the way musicians thought about, and played, jazz. Free Jazz/Black Power is both a tool for research and an archival item and is central to the study of the relations of American free jazz to European audiences, critics, and artists.

Below, is a classic example of free jazz – “Ghosts” by Albert Ayler. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Conversation with R.C. Harvey, author of Insider Histories of Cartooning: Rediscovering Forgotten Famous Comics and Their Creators

Robert C. Harvey, cartoonist and a veteran comics critic, is the author of several histories of comics and biographies of cartoonists. His new book Insider Histories of Cartooning: Rediscovering Forgotten Famous Comics and Their Creators tells forgotten stories of a dozen now obscure but once famous cartoonists and their creations.


Below Harvey talks at length about his research and interests, his background as a cartoonist (he actually drew the image on the cover), his favorite cartoonists in the book, and his list of "top 10" cartoonists of the last century.  

How did you get involved in writing about comics and cartoonists?

Beginning while I was a teenager, I read all I could find about comics—the standard histories of the day, The Comics by Coulton Waugh; Comic Art in America by Stephen Becker. So I was pretty steeped in it. Then about forty years ago, I was reading an article about comics in a magazine, and I didn't like it much. I muttered something like: I could do better than this. And my wife, overhearing me, said: why don’t you then? And so I did.

And I’ve kept on doing it ever since. I’ve been writing regularly for The Comics Journal for 38 years, and I’ve produced over a dozen books, and for the last fifteen years, I’ve written a fortnightly online magazine, Rants & Raves, at my website, RCHarvey.com—comics news and reviews, cartooning history and lore.


Most of the cartoonists in the book are virtually unknown today, but they were famous while they were working. How did you come to pick the ones you have included?

My journey of discovery is different for each of them. For almost all of the cartoonists in the book, my research started when I ran across a provocative scrap of information. I’d start with a little dangling thread of biography or oeuvre, and just kept pulling on the thread until it led somewhere.

The longest one was for Bill Hume. I bought a book of his Babysan cartoons soon after it was published in 1954, but I didn’t know at the time who he was. Then twenty years later, I ran across another of his books. By this time, I knew that I knew nothing about Hume and wondered why. His drawings of this attractive young Japanese girl, Babysan, are so sexy and appealing that I couldn’t understand why Hume was so unknown.  Then a cartooning friend told me Hume was still alive and living in Columbia, Missouri. At the time, I lived in Champaign, Illinois, only a day’s drive away, so I arranged to interview Hume and found out why he was so unknown. Short answer, he gave up cartooning and became a commercial artist in his hometown.

Wally was a real mystery. Every once in a while, I’d run across his name, usually coupled with an assertion about how famous he was—“the doughboy cartoonist” of World War I, Wally Wallgren. He was to WWI what Bill Mauldin was to WWII. If Wally was famous during the War, why was he unknown now? He doesn’t appear in any of the standard histories of American cartooning. So I began scratching around to find out who he was. That wasn’t too hard, but finding out why we’ve never heard of this guy after WWI was harder. I call him AWOL Wally. I finally ran across an article in an early issue of the newsletter of the National Cartoonists Society. Instead of getting syndicated after the War, Wally just did cartoons for local papers in his hometown, Philadelphia, and for the American Legion Magazine.
               
I found Kin Hubbard’s name with Abe Martin’s on the cover of a little book of cartoons and sayings that I found in an antique mall, and I liked the drawings. It took a while for me to figure out who was the cartoonist and who was the comic character. For twenty years or so until Hubbard died in 1930, he was as well-known a humorist as Will Rogers. But not now.

I kept hearing that Frederick Burr Opper drew the first comic strip—the first regularly published cartooning that took the form of a narrative sequence of pictures with speech balloons. This was Happy Hooligan, featuring a hobo with a tin can for a hat. Turns out that the earliest Happy Hooligan strips were pantomimes, so the crucial ingredient, speech balloons, didn’t appear right away. But they were there near enough to the beginning to qualify the strip as the first fully-fledged comic strip.
                
Were there surprises as you found your way to a destination in each case?

Yes, of course. Hugh Hefner, for example. Most biographies of the founding publisher of Playboy mention that he edited the undergraduate campus humor magazine Shaft while attending the University of Illinois. One day, I learned that a branch of the university library had a file of these old humor magazines, so I went there and pawed through them. Turns out that Hef was, indeed, editor of Shaft —but only for one issue. However, he drew cartoons for several issues, and some of those cartoons appear in the book. Hef was a short-lived college student: he graduated in less than three years.

E. Simms Campbell, probably the first famous African American cartoonist, wasn’t known at the time as being African American. In addition to drawing the famous harem girl cartoons for Esquire magazine, he wrote gags for the magazine’s other cartoonists. And he designed Esky, the magazine’s pop-eyed old roue mascot.

The biggest surprise in the book is probably the comic strip Texas History Movies, a newspaper feature that told the history of the Lone Star State in comic strip form. I suppose Texans are familiar with this enterprise, but I wasn’t until I ran across a reference to it—and then found a booklet that reprints all the strips.

Do you have any particular favorites among the book’s roster of unknown but once famous cartoonists?

They’re all favorites. Once you spend time digging up their histories, you become intimately acquainted with them, and with intimacy comes affection. But not all of the cartoonists in the book were famous. I’m glad to have the opportunity to include a favorite comic strip of my teenage years.

Dick Sebald is one of a couple of the cartoonists in the book who were not well-known during their lifetimes, but I doted on his comic strip creation, Bailin’ Wire Bill. So I delight in telling the story of my adolescent infatuation and in presenting a few of the strips, which seem to me unique and picturesque in the history of cartooning.

And Betty Swords is a favorite, too. A magazine gag cartoonist, she was on the leading edge of the feminist movement back in the sixties. And she was a salty crusader even when I interviewed her in 1995: you can’t knock down any of her arguments, and I tried—purely in the spirit of playing the devil’s advocate. I wanted to provoke her into making the strongest, least vulnerable case in her panegyric, so I would try to pick apart some aspect of her arguments. No success. She not only defended herself but hit me over the head repeatedly. She became a crusader when she realized one day that in all the jokes involving women, women were the butts of the jokes. Women in cartoons were beautiful but dim-witted when young and single, but when they married and aged a little, they became battleaxes. And Betty rightly saw the injustice in the comedy.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

January Book Roundup

UPM is pleased to publish six new books this month including two titles available in English for the first time, a new edition in our Conversations with Filmmakers Series, and a definitive study on Asian comics.

UPM's January releases, listed below, are now available. 

Anywhere But Here: Black Intellectuals in the Atlantic World and Beyond Edited by Kendahl Radcliffe,  Jennifer Scott, and Anja Werner. This book brings together new scholarship on the cross cultural experiences of intellectuals of African descent since the 18th century. These essays expand categories and suggest patterns that have united individuals and communities across the African diaspora. They highlight the stories of people who, from their intercultural and often marginalized positions, challenged the status quo, created international alliances, cultivated expertise and cultural fluency abroad, as well as crafted physical and intellectual spaces for their self-expression and dignity to thrive.

Asian Comics By John A. Lent. This book is the first comprehensive overview of Asian comics books and magazines (both mainstream and alternative), graphic novels, newspaper comic strips and gag panels, and cartoon/humor magazines. Lent has done exhaustive research on the subject and the volume is crammed with facts, fascinating anecdotes, and interview quotes from many pioneering masters, as well as younger artists.



Free Jazz/Black Power By Philippe Carles and Jean-Louis Comolli; Translated by Grégory Pierrot. This volume, now available in English for the first time, is a treatise on the racial and political implications of jazz and jazz criticism. It remains a testimony to the long ignored encounter of radical African American music and French left-wing criticism. First published in 1971, the book remains vital to understanding the relations of American free jazz to European audiences, critics, and artists.

The Music of the Netherlands Antilles: Why Eleven Antilleans Knelt before Chopin's Heart By Jan Brokken; Translated by Scott Rollins. Brokken explores the overlooked Caribbean musical tradition and the European, African, and new world influences that created it. Readers are treated to a unique contribution to the understanding of Caribbean music and music history. 



Negotiating Difference in French Louisiana Music: Categories, Stereotypes, and Identifications By Sara Le Menestrel. This book explores the role of music in constructing, asserting, erasing, and negotiating differences based on the notions of race, ethnicity, class, and region. Le Menestrel discusses established notions and brings to light social stereotypes and hierarchies at work in the evolving French Louisiana music field. She also draws attention to the interactions between oppositions such as black and white, urban and rural, differentiation and creolization, and local and global.

Peter Bogdanovich: Interviews Edited by Peter Tonguette. Thirteen of the best, most comprehensive, and most insightful interviews, many long out-of-print and several that never before been published in their entirety with Bogdanovich. 


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Five Books Chosen as Outstanding Academic Titles

Five University Press of Mississippi titles have been named to the CHOICE's 2014 Outstanding Academic Title list. UPM's contribution to this list of outstanding works are:  


The OAT list is quite selective: it contains approximately ten percent of some 7,000 works reviewed in 
Choice each year.These outstanding works have been selected for their excellence in scholarship and presentation, the significance of their contribution to the field, and their value as important--often the first--treatment of their subject. Choice Outstanding Academic Titles are truly the "best of the best.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Praise for Happy Clouds, Happy Trees

Happy Clouds, Happy Trees: The Bob Ross Phenomenon explores of one of the most beloved and talented artists and painting instructors ever to teach on American television. Released earlier this year, the book reacquaints readers with Bob Ross (1942–1995) as the gentle, afro’d painter of happy trees on PBS. 

But Ross was a man of many contradictions. He’s famous, but few know him by name. Show someone a picture of this man with the trademark Afro and house-painting brush, and then they are likely to smile with nostalgia. On TV he emoted a rural naiveté and spoke about happy clouds and happy trees, which he simultaneously marketed to his fans from the helm of a multimillion-dollar company. He was, according to many, a mediocre painter, and yet as an artist he seems endlessly fascinating. Authors Kristin Congdon, Doug Blandy, and Danny Coeyman  thoughtfully explore how the Bob Ross phenomenon grew into a juggernaut.

This book uses contemporary art theory to explore the sophistication of Bob Ross’s vision as an artist. It traces the ways in which his many fans have worshiped, emulated, and parodied him and his work.The authors address issues of amateur art, sentimentality, imitation, boredom, seduction, and democratic practices in the art world. They fully examine Ross as a painter, teacher, healer, media star, performer, magician, and networker.

The latest issue of CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries features a very positive review of the book. Reviewer E.H. Teague had this to say: 
Though this is a university press publication, with thorough footnotes, it is written in a style that will appeal to a popular audience. Illustrations include portrait drawings by a coauthor that pose Ross as Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Picasso, and other artists. Thus the authors, perhaps by intent, match their approach to their subject in a style that the subject would appreciate. This book will be especially valuable for folk art collections. 
Summing Up: Highly recommended.
Happy Clouds, Happy Trees is now available from UPM.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Conversation with Jack Haney, editor of The Complete Folktales of A. N. Afanas’ev

The folktales of A.N. Afanas’ev represent the largest single collection of folktales in any European language and perhaps in the world. Widely regarded as the Russian Grimm, Afanas’ev collected folktales from throughout the Russian Empire in what are now regarded as the three East Slavic languages—Byelorusian, Russian, and Ukrainian.

The result of his collecting, the collecting of friends and correspondents, and in a few cases his publishing of works from earlier and forgotten collections is truly phenomenal. In his lifetime Afanas’ev published more than 575 tales in his most popular and best known work, Narodnye russkie skazki.

Released this month as first of three volumes featuring the first complete translation into English of Afanans’ev’s Russian Folktales is The Complete Folktales of A. N. Afanas’ev: Volume I edited by Jack Haney.

Until now, there has been no complete edition of the Russian folktales of Afanas’ev. His translation is based on L. G. Barag and N. V. Novikov's edition, widely regarded as the authoritative Russian-language version. The present edition includes commentaries to each tale as well as its international classification number.

Haney is a retired professor of Slavic languages and literature, University of Washington, and is the translator and editor of Long, Long Tales from the Russian North (published by University Press of Mississippi). Below Haney speaks about his work with Russian folktales and the importance of Afanas'ev’s work. 


When did you first become acquainted with Afanas'ev and his Russian Folktales?
I first became acquainted with some of the Afanas'ev folktales when I worked in a small way on the Oxford book of Russian Folk Literature, published in 1967. Though there were but eight folktales in that collection, they were enough to whet my appetite and I increasing turned my attention to the Russian folktale, and not only those in the vast Afanas'ev collection but to the corpus as a whole, which comprises several thousand tales, some recorded by serious folklorists and ethnographers and others popularly.Eventually I felt confident enough to begin offering a course on Russian folk literature to university undergraduates, a course I continued to teach until my retirement in 2001.

Were you the first to begin serious work on the Afanas'ev collection?
Oh, certainly not. In 1873 W.R. S. Ralston published
Russian-Folktales, which he dedicated to Afanas'ev. This was probably the first substantial work based on Afanas'ev, A very popular edition of some of these same tales by Arthur Ransome followed in 1916, although he retold them in his own inimitable way. Norbert Guterman published a large number of the tales in his Russian Fairy Tales in 1945 but since then there have been only the odd selections from Afanas'ev and the Guterman volume is now linguistically out of date and incomplete. In addition there is no apparatus with it so that for folklorists it is not very useful. It is time for the complete tales finally to appear in English.

You have previously published a series of volumes called The Complete Russian Folktale. How does that differ from the Afanas'ev collection? 
In that collection I sought to offer to the reader an example of every type of folktale recorded in Russian as listed in the index to the East Slavic folktales. The vast majority of those chosen were from collections other than Afanas'ev's; indeed, I used tales from the latter only when there were no alternatives available. Thus, the two projects are unrelated.

What is special about the Afanas'ev collection?
Not only is it the largest single collection of Russian tales, if not the largest collection of any one people's folktales by a single editor and collector, it is the most popular among the many, many Russian collections. Many of these Russian tales have become classics in their own right in Russia and have been translated into many languages Especially well  known are those featuring Baba Yaga, the Russian witch, but there are others as well.. They have been adapted for children, for whom they were not originally intended, and they have also been adapted for film and TV and even the stage in Russia so that some of them are widely known indeed.

What is the audience for which this translation is intended?
I hope that the tales will be widely read by all who like reading folktales but because of the apparatus I have provided they should prove useful to students at the high school and university levels, as well as serious folklorists who have no Russian or for whom the Russian editions are not available.


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