Moviegoers will know that "300", a graphic retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae, has topped the box office charts for several weeks now (although it's apparently now been replaced by the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie). While "300" was lauded more for dazzling visual effects than solid storytelling, it at least has the virtue of inserting one of history's great stories back into the popular consciousness.
See also Robin Waterfield's recent Xenophon's Retreat: Greece, Persia, and the End of the Golden Age, a look at Xenophon's famous account of ill-fated expedition of a band of Greek mercenaries who traveled east to fight for the Persian prince Cyrus the Younger in his attempt to wrest the throne of the mighty Persian empire from his brother.
Jamestown, on the other hand, "is the creation story from hell," writes historian Karen Ordahl Kupperman in a new book on the settlement, The Jamestown Project. Conflict, disease, horrific killings and starvation--including a man dining on his pregnant wife--are all part of the back story of Jamestown, founded in 1607 as a business venture.
"It's pulp non-fiction compared to the family-friendly tale of pious Pilgrims dining with gentle Indians," author Tony Horwitz writes in reviewing a raft of new Jamestown books for The Washington Post.
The Post review can be found here; click here to read an excerpt from The Jamestown Project.
In honor of the forthcoming release of McKenzie Wark's Gamer Theory, check out this link to a video of a gamer beating the original Super Mario Bros. in five minutes.
See also this New York Times article on video games as cultural artifacts--it documents the efforts of a group of academics and game designers to have a canon of video games collected in the Library of Congress in the same way that films are. All in all, it's becoming clear that the cultural relevance of video games is increasing, and at some point we're going to have to sit up and take stock of just what it all means. Gamer Theory, of course, is an attempt to do just that.
We're pleased to announce our foray into the brave new world of podcasting with two author interviews produced by Chris Gondek of Heron & Crane Productions (Chris also works with Yale University Press on their excellent podcast series).
By most accounts, Al Gore pretty much knocked 'em dead during his congressional testimony on global warming yesterday. Back when his now-famous movie "An Inconvenient Truth" premiered, we asked our resident global warming expert Spencer Weart to say a few words about the film and the growing awareness of global warming among all but the most recalcitrant skeptics. On account of Gore's testimony and the film's recent Oscar grab, please enjoy this "recycled" item--one of our most popular posts to date.
June 2, 2006
The Senator was showing the exponential rise of greenhouse gases, his
hand rising higher and higher until he was at full stretch. Then he
grabbed a chair and stood on it to reach higher still. The chair
couldn't have been there by accident--this was a polished bit of
showmanship. Still, I was impressed when I saw Al Gore give this talk
in the early 1990s. I hadn't expected to see a senator explaining an
obscure technical issue like global warming with solid understanding,
especially an issue that at the time was controversial and highly
Gore's slide show has now grown into the film An Inconvenient Truth.
It opens in New York and Los Angeles today, June 2 and, since it is
attracting plenty of media attention and a big audience, it will
eventually open in more cities. But media attention to global warming
didn't start with the film. Cover stories have been popping up since
last fall, probably driven by the disastrous 2005 hurricane season.
Experts have been arguing bitterly over whether Katrina was
strengthened because the greenhouse effect from fossil fuel emissions
warmed up the Gulf of Mexico, or whether the storm would have trashed
New Orleans anyway. (For new evidence that we are making storms worse,
and a skeptic's gnashing of teeth, read the recent New York Times article "Two Studies Link Global Warming to Greater Power of Hurricanes."
The arguments show that nobody knows for sure whether the climate later
in this century will be "no problem" or "really bad"...and that it's as
likely as not to fall on the bad side. That calls for action, since if
you think it's as likely as not that your house will catch fire, you
really should get some insurance.
HUP author Frans de Waal profiled in the New York Times on account of his controversial (to some) views on whether or not we can detect "moral" behavior in monkeys and apes:
Dr. de Waal, who is director of the Living Links Center at Emory University, argues that all social animals have had to constrain or alter their behavior in various ways for group living to be worthwhile. These constraints, evident in monkeys and even more so in chimpanzees, are part of human inheritance, too, and in his view form the set of behaviors from which human morality has been shaped.
Many philosophers find it hard to think of animals as moral beings, and indeed Dr. de Waal does not contend that even chimpanzees possess morality. But he argues that human morality would be impossible without certain emotional building blocks that are clearly at work in chimp and monkey societies.
The Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) has donated its archives to NYU's Tamiment Library. The emergence of this vast but little-known collection seems poised to spark new debates over the CPUSA's place in American history, particularly as it relates to labor and racial stuggles. Michael Nash, the library's director, calls the donation "one of the most exciting collecting opportunities that has ever presented itself here."
In May HUP will publish Robert Service's latest contribution to the history of communism, titled Comrades! A History of World Communism. Service, the author of can't-miss biographies of Lenin and Stalin (and eventually Trotsky), has produced an introduction to global communism that goes beyond the traditional focus on Marx and Lenin to take stock of the movement's global appeal. So soon we forget that just a few short decades ago it looked as if communism stood poised to remain a global force for the forseeable future; Service takes us back to that time and lays out clearly just how this ideological behemoth rose and fell so spectacularly.
Malaysian monks whose Buddhist faith prevents them from harming any living creature are searching for a way to get rid of a colony of fire ants whose members drop out of trees to sting them as they meditate, with quite painful results.
As we've mentioned before, Walter Tschinkel is possibly the only person on the planet who likes fire ants. And he's our author. He's written what is likely the be-all and end-all of fire ant studies in the form of The Fire Ants, his 800-page opus that tells you everything you need to know about these weird little creatures.
The Harvard University Press Blog brings you books, ideas, and news from Harvard University Press. Founded in 1913, Harvard University Press has published such iconic works as Bernard Bailyn’s The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice, and Sarah Blaffer Hrdy’s The Woman That Never Evolved.