Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Beach Boys Obscurities, a Playlist by Tom Smucker

Spotify Playlist: Beach Boys Obscurities

for Why the Beach Boys Matter by Tom Smucker

Fifty plus years on, it’s easy to catch the big hits and classic cuts associated with the Beach Boys. But some of the tracks and session outtakes that have received less attention can also add insight into the influences and influence of the greatest American white pop group of the last half of the twentieth century.

Surfin’ An early studio attempt at what became their first release on the independent Candix label, simple acoustic white doo-wop that stumbled upon a metaphoric gold mine—surfing. Postwar lower middle-class suburbia may have been racially segregated, but the airwaves were not, particularly in cities like Los Angeles and New York, where white teenagers could listen to black R & B. Jan and Dean and the Beach Boys were listening and soon collaborating with each other, and with Brian Wilson’s help, Jan and Dean produced the first surfing song to hit the top of the charts, “Surf City.” The origin of this explosion was doo-wop.

Surfers Rule It’s all in place here with the solos, the harmony chorus, the surf guitar breaks, and the over-the-top ecstatic falsetto borrowed from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, acknowledged in the last half minute. The Beach Boys would make this falsetto a part of their own musical signature, most famously at the end of “Fun, Fun, Fun.” But Frankie was first.

The Lord’s Prayer The flip side of the “Little Saint Nick” Christmas single, unavailable on an album for twenty years. This song marks the high point of Beach Boys acapella harmony singing and is the tip-off that their vocal inspiration came not only from doo-wop and pop jazz, like the Four Freshmen, but also from midcentury middle American Protestant congregational hymnody. Minus the lyrics, this essential musical reference would reappear throughout their career, most obviously on “Our Prayer” from Smile, first released on the 20/20 album.

In the Parkin’ Lot Here that wordless, post-Christian Christianity frames and thereby dignifies a song about making out in your car before school. Some lyrical interpretation for non-boomers: The couplet “here comes the news/ there’s no time to lose” refers to the format of Top 40 radio in the early 1960s. Obligated by regulation, stations would commonly break for five minutes of news before the hour. So when you heard the news come on, you had five minutes before the bell rang at the start of school.

There’s No Other Like My Baby Like the Beatles, the Beach Boys can be understood as a male girl group, appropriating traditionally feminine-at-the-time attitudes towards romantic idealization, vulnerability, and self-worth. This is a studio outtake from the Party sessions, as they work through the Crystals hit.

Don’t Talk String Overdub Pet Sounds was so dense it put off some listeners, but it pulled in others. Just one little layer here of string-section heaven. For those who got pulled in, dismantling the density on Pet Sounds Sessions turned out to be a moneymaker for Capitol Records in the long run.

Let’s Go Away for Awhile Brian Wilson and his accomplices could quote classical music on Pet Sounds (see preceding track), but the real heart of his genius was the ability to fuse the profound, shallow, vulgar, sentimental, and dramatic on this one instrumental. And oh, the chord changes!

Wind Chimes When I want some perfectly executed, stoner, hippie, late 1960s, Southern Californian pop, my first choice is always something from Smiley Smile, and this is only one example.

You’re Welcome A Smile snippet, the B side of the “Heroes and Villains” single, an oddball, upbeat, minimalist, nearly acapella, vocal harmony gem.

Think About the Days Brian relies on a wordless “Our Prayer”–style harmony vocal to open the 50th anniversary reunion CD That’s Why God Made the Radio.

Pacific Coast Highway Then he sets up the conclusion of the album with this short bit about driving alone in his car along the California coast, watching the sun set over the ocean.

Summer’s Gone The Beach Boys’ most sustainable, reusable metaphor—summer—is refashioned as an autumnal acceptance of the winding down of a career, and perhaps a life. Turn up the volume at the end to hear the waves lapping on the beach.

Guess You Had to Be There Brian teams up with talented young Country star Kacey Musgraves to sing about one wild weekend or Brian’s entire late 1960s biography or both. To my ears, this is the first time a Beach Boy has successfully incorporated Country instrumentation and sentiment into a Beach Boys song. Something new.

Dirty Computer Afropunk goddess Janelle Monae samples Brian and his wordless harmony backgrounds to set the tone on her opening track. Further proof that he is moving from being remembered as chronicler of a specific time and place to an innovator and contributor to pop music as a whole.

Summer in Paradise Meanwhile, the lackluster title track from the out-of-print CD by the Mike Love–led Beach Boys touring band got reworked in concert, and a UK release with an additional verse, probably by Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, became a high point of the Mike Love Beach Boys set list. This live version churns along neatly tying together the Beach Boys idyllic portraits of summers past with a plea for environmental justice. Mike’s Chuck Berry–inspired feel for word play propels the verses leading up to Bruce Johnston’s energized contribution to McGuinn’s verse. Make America Great Again, fight climate change.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Six Things We Weren’t Supposed to Know about Early TV Viewers

By Deborah L. Jaramillo, author of The Television Code: Regulating the Screen to Safeguard the Industry

Revisiting early debates about TV content and censorship from industry and government perspectives, Deborah L. Jaramillo's book recounts the development of the Television Code, the TV counterpart to the Hays Motion Picture Production Code.

Tucked away in the National Archives at College Park are the papers of the Federal Communications Commission. Resting there peacefully are letters—stacks and stacks of
More info
letters—from radio listeners and TV viewers. The Television Code: Regulating the Screen to Safeguard the Industry showcases some of these letters to illustrate viewers’ stake in the development of television. Not all of the letters could make it into the book, though, so this is the perfect space to highlight some of the stranger complaints, demands, and suggestions directed at the FCC and other government bodies. Take, for example, the viewers who wrote to President Truman to resurrect Liberace’s TV show—a funny tactic that might have more success these days. There was also the man who wanted a clock to appear on screen at all times—a practical suggestion, if silly in its earnestness. Then there was the guy who wanted TV shows “to quit destroying the harmless myth of Santa Claus.” Guess who he blamed! Jewish comedians. In no time at all, a seemingly benign letter can reveal some ugly realities, which makes reading these letters quite an eye-opening experience. Intended not for our eyes but for the eyes of the FCC in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the letters described below had one common thread. They were all upset with this new technology called TV.

I’m Bored 

In 1951 a man from Pennsylvania demanded the FCC take action to improve the offerings on his local NBC affiliate. He wrote that the “same pictures and stories” had “really become very boresome indeed.” There were a number of reasons to be bored with TV in 1951. Because the FCC stalled TV’s growth in 1948 to sort out some engineering problems, most of the country had either one channel or no service at all. A concerted effort by the Hollywood studios to block the flow of top films to TV also meant that stations reran the same old movies, rankling viewers who expected something better. Angry that they had laid down their hard-earned dollars for a new TV set only to find limited service, viewers wrote to the FCC demanding that they fix things. Although our letter writer was correct to seek out the FCC to resolve the inadequate state of TV service, the Commission could have no hand in fixing his other complaint: “rotten and lousy wrestling matches.” 

Culinary Fraud 

Just as we all did at one time, radio listeners had to learn to become television viewers. Anyone who has watched a cooking show understands that the “magic of television” means prepared food appears minutes after the cooking process begins. While not a primary concern for viewers, at least one woman bristled at this televisual sleight of hand. A regular viewer of Josephine McCarthy’s cooking show wrote to the FCC and accused the host of “practicing fraud.” Distressed by the deception that unfolded before her eyes every morning on her NBC station—and seeking protection from it—this viewer faulted McCarthy for passing off “as her own creations food that she never cooked at all during the program.” Media literacy is a real thing, folks.

Justice for Dentists

Most people want to be represented on TV in fair, accurate, and nuanced ways. A few letters in the archive protested hateful representations of minorities, and, yes, some protested positive representations of minorities. As some viewers grappled with the state of race relations and the role TV would play in bringing different cultures into living rooms, one in particular was preoccupied with the representation of an estimable but embattled calling: the field of dentistry. Concerned about the “unpleasant dental scenes” in The Paul Winchell Show and The Alan Young Show, one dentist implored the FCC to limit the sort of portrayal that soured viewers on trips to their local dental professional. After all, according to the letter writer, visits to the dentist had truly become “a pleasant experience.”

Women! Am I Right?

The bulk of letters complaining about TV dwelled on indecency and violence. Cries of indecency, for the most part, were thinly veiled outbursts of sexism. The targeting of female performers and personalities transcended nitpicking about low necklines or suggestive dance routines. From their behavior to the mere fact of their presence, women constantly offended viewers. Lucille Ball’s pregnancy, worked into the comedy of I Love Lucy, so incensed one family that they “pulled the main switch and lit the house with candles until the program was over.” The sight of female wrestlers on TV was also, for one viewer, “the very level of degradation.” Another called one such show “a disgusting and degrading exhibition,” as well as a “revolting spectacle” worthy of investigation by the FCC. Neither a pregnant comedian nor a professional wrestler, Meet the Press moderator Martha Rountree still managed to unsettle one man. Ignorant of the fact that Rountree created MTP, this viewer felt she “cluttered up” the show. His advice: “Put a full size man into this man’s job and you’ll have a real set up.” Coincidentally, Meet the Press has not had a permanent female moderator since Rountree.

Welcome to the Schedule 

The insertion of television into daily life meant that viewers like our cooking-show friend had to learn not just how programs were constructed but how stations and networks shaped their lineups. The schedule has always been a site of strategic planning, involving lead-ins, tentpoles, and counterprogramming. Early viewers lucky enough to have more than one station in their hometowns got a taste of this competitive scheduling, but the abundance of programming presented new problems. Without the benefit of video recorders, what would they do if they wanted to watch two shows airing at the same time? One viewer appealed to the FCC. “What ails television,” this viewer wrote, “[is] not enough good shows and when [the] hour arrives for good shows, stations compete in same hours. Television viewers [are] cheated.” Fortunately, the television networks quickly learned the value of the rerun.

Ahead of Their Time 

The beauty of over-the-air broadcasting is its wide reach. Radio and television’s ability to access and appeal to a mass audience has located these media at the center of social, cultural, and political life. And regulatory decisions made in the 1920s located advertisers at the center of broadcasting. Whereas radio made limited room for viable noncommercial stations, entrenched interests—both industrial and regulatory—ensured that “television” would be synonymous with “commerce.” A mass audience meant big money, but it also meant a varied programming slate. Narrowcast channels, or entire channels targeting specific audiences with defined tastes (think Food Network or ESPN), would not emerge on a large scale until cable television’s channel capacity and revenue streams allowed for such experimentation. Early television viewers already had narrowcasting on their minds, however. In 1950 one exasperated viewer asked the FCC to “let the ballgames have their own station.” A savvy nine-year-old viewer ran with this idea and prescribed an entire system of niche channels in 1951. “I think each channel should have the same thing,” he wrote. His channel lineup? Channel 2: Westerns. Channel 3: Cartoons. Channel 4: Cooks. Channel 5: Educational Programs. Channel 6: Clothes. Channel 7: Languages. Channel 8: Plays. Channel 9: Wrestling. Channel 10: Sports. Channel 11: Planets. But for the final part of his master plan—a less “noisy” type of sponsor—this kid might have had a future in the TV business.

All letters can be found in the National Archives and Records Administration at College Park, MD.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Backlist Reads: Sharon on Roy Bedichek's 'Adventures with a Texas Naturalist'

After sixty-eight yearsthe University of Texas Press has published approximately four-thousand, two-hundred books on subjects ranging from Indigenous anthropology to hip-hop and rap. We currently have around two-thousand, eight-hundred books available in print, largely thanks to over two-thousand previously out-of-print titles that our Digital Publishing and Reprints Manager Sharon Casteel brought back in print thanks to print-on-demand technology. We asked Sharon to review one of her favorite backlist books, Roy Bedichek's Adventures with a Texas Naturalist.

Roy Bedichek, Texas Naturalist

Roy Bedichek's best-known book, Adventures with a Texas Naturalist, was first published in 1947, revised in 1961, and reissued with a new introduction in 1994. It's a lovely collection of observations about the natural world. At seventy years after its first publication, it's also a
An older edition of Adventures with a Texas Naturalist
fascinating record of how much this region has changed.

One of Bedichek's anecdotes is of a pair of Inca Doves nesting at the intersection of trolley wires on what is now part of the University of Texas at Austin campus. Every time a trolley passed—every fifteen minutes during most days, and every five minutes on baseball game days—it lifted the wires, and the nest, up two feet and then dropped it again as it passed. Bedichek was impressed that the doves managed to raise their fledglings despite these regular disturbances. The trolleys are long gone, but Inca Doves still live in the area. In another example, Bedichek writes about six hundred pairs of swallows nesting under the Congress Avenue bridge. The bridge was reconstructed in 1980, and now it isn't known as a home for swallows; it's known as a home for a million Mexican Free-tailed bats. Bedichek would have been delighted.

Many of Bedichek's concerns are still timely today, and not only the obvious concerns about how plants and animals are affected by human activity or how humans cope with separation from the natural world. Did you think that concerns about factory farming are a recent development? (Or, for that matter, that factory farming is a new idea?) Read Bedichek's essay "Denatured Chickens."

What I found particularly interesting about Adventures with a Texas Naturalist: He's writing about the same city and region I live in now, but much of the plant life he describes, I'm unfamiliar with. It's a fun challenge to figure out how much of my unfamiliarity is because the local ecology has changed over more than seventy years, and how much is simply my own ignorance. Take poverty weed, for example. Bedichek describes it as a frequently-seen plant, particularly on abandoned farmsteads; I've lived here for a couple of decades, and even after looking at pictures of the plant I don't recognize it. Is it less common than it used to be, or am I oblivious to its growing in my back yard?

Adventures with a Texas Naturalist is a book I'd recommend to anyone who enjoys nature writing, and especially to people living in the Austin area who want to know more about the natural history of the region.

Sharon Casteel is the Press’s digital publishing and reprints manager. She joined the Press in 1994, two months after Adventures with a Texas Naturalist’s reissue. Her yard may or may not contain poverty weed, but it definitely contains sandburs.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Mexicans Made America—in So Many Ways. Why Do We Treat Them as Alien Invaders?

By John Tutino 

John Tutino is a professor of history and international affairs in the School of Foreign Service and director of the Americas Initiative at Georgetown University.

Mexicans have contributed to making the United States in pivotal and enduring ways. In 1776, more of the territory of the current United States was under Spanish sovereignty than in the thirteen colonies that rejected British rule. Florida, the Gulf Coast to New Orleans, the Mississippi to St. Louis, and the lands from Texas through New Mexico and California all lived under Spanish rule, creating Hispanic-Mexican legacies. Millions of pesos minted in Mexico City, the American center of global finance, funded the war for U.S. independence,
More info
leading the new nation to adopt the peso (renamed the dollar) as its currency.

The U.S. repaid the debt by claiming Spanish/Mexican lands: buying vast Louisiana territories (via France) in 1803; gaining Florida by treaty in 1819; sending settlers (many undocumented) into Texas to expand cotton and slavery in the 1820s; enabling Texas secession in 1836; and provoking war in 1846 to incorporate Texas’s cotton and slave economy—and acquiring California’s gold fields, too. The U.S. took in land and peoples long Spanish and recently Mexican, often mixing European, indigenous, and African ancestries. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo recognized those who remained in the U.S. as citizens. And the U.S. incorporated the dynamic mining/grazing/irrigation economy that had marked Spanish North America for centuries and would long define the U.S. west.

Debates over slavery and freedom in lands taken from Mexico led to the U.S. Civil War, while Mexicans locked in shrunken territories fought over liberal reforms and then faced a French occupation—all in the 1860s. With Union victory, the U.S. continued its drive for continental hegemony. Simultaneously, Mexican liberals led by Benito Juárez consolidated power and welcomed U.S. capital. U.S. investors built Mexican railroads, developed mines, and promoted export industries, including petroleum. The U.S. and Mexican economies merged; U.S. capital and technology shaped Mexico while Mexican workers built the U.S. west. The economies were so integrated that a U.S. downturn, the panic of 1907, was pivotal in setting off Mexico’s 1910 revolution, a sociopolitical conflagration that focused Mexicans while the U.S. joined World War I.

Afterwards, the U.S. roared in the 1920s while Mexicans faced reconstruction. Though the U.S. blocked immigration from Europe, the nation still welcomed Mexicans across a little-patrolled border to build dams and irrigation systems, cities and farms across the west. When the Great Depression hit in 1929 (begun in New York, spread across the U.S., and exported to Mexico), Mexicans became expendable. Denied relief, they got one-way tickets to the border, forcing thousands south—including children born as U.S. citizens.

Mexico absorbed the refugees thanks to new industries and land distributions—reforms culminating in a 1938 oil nationalization. U.S. corporations screamed foul, and FDR enabled a settlement; access to Mexican oil mattered as World War II loomed. When war came, the U.S. needed more than oil. It needed cloth and copper, livestock and leather—and workers, too. Remembering the expulsions of the early 1930s, many resisted going north. So the governments negotiated a labor program, recruiting braceros in Mexico: paying for their travel, and promising decent wages and treatment. Five hundred thousand Mexican citizens fought in the U.S. military; sent to deadly fronts, they suffered high casualty rates.

To support the war, Mexican exporters accepted promises of postwar payment. With peace, accumulated credits allowed Mexico to import machinery for national development. But when credits ran out, the U.S. was subsidizing the reconstruction of Europe and Japan, and Mexico was left to compete for scarce and expensive bank credit. Life came in cycles of boom and bust, debt crises and devaluations. Meanwhile, U.S. pharmaceutical sellers delivered the antibiotics that had saved soldiers in World War II to families across Mexico. Children lived—and Mexico’s population soared: from 20 million in 1940, to 50 million by 1970, to 100 million in 2000. To feed these growing numbers, Mexico turned to U.S. funding and scientists to pioneer a “green revolution.” Harvests of wheat and maize rose to feed growing cities. Reliance on machinery and chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, however, cut rural employment. National industries also adopted labor-saving ways, making employment scarce everywhere. So people trekked north, some to labor seasonally in the bracero program, which lasted until 1964, and others to settle families in once-Mexican regions like Texas and California and in places north and east.

Documentation and legality were uncertain; U.S. employers’ readiness to hire Mexicans for low wages was not. People kept coming. U.S. financing, corporations, and models of production shaped lives across the border; Mexican workers labored everywhere. With integrated economies, the nations faced linked challenges. In the 1980s, the U.S. lived through “stagflation,” while Mexico faced a collapse called the “lost decade.” In 1986, Republican president Ronald Reagan authorized a path to legality for thousands of Mexicans in the U.S., tied to sanctions on employers that aimed to end new arrivals. Legal status kept workers here; failed sanctions enabled employers to keep hiring Mexicans—who kept coming. They were cheap and insecure workers for U.S. producers, subsidizing profits in challenging times.

The 1980s also saw the demise of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War, and the presumed triumph of capitalism. What would that mean for people in Mexico and the U.S.? Reagan corroded union rights, leading to declining incomes, disappearing pensions, and enduring insecurities among U.S. workers. President Carlos Salinas, a member of Mexico’s dominant PRI Party, attacked union power—and in 1992 ended rural Mexicans’ right to land. A transnational political consensus saw the erosion of popular rights as key to post–Cold War times.

Salinas proposed NAFTA to Reagan’s Republican successor, George H. W. Bush. The goal was to liberate capital and allow goods to move freely across borders, while holding people within nations. U.S. businesses would profit; Mexicans would continue to provide a reservoir of low-wage workers—at home. The treaty was ratified in Mexico by Salinas and the PRI, and in the U.S. by Democratic president Bill Clinton and an allied Congress.

As NAFTA took effect in 1994, Mexico faced the Zapatista uprising in the south and then a financial collapse before NAFTA could bring investment and jobs. On top of this, the Clinton-era high-tech boom caused production to flow to China. Mexico gained where transport costs mattered—as with auto assembly. But old textiles and new electronics went to Asia. Mexico returned to growth in the late 1990s, though jobs were still scarce for a population nearing 100 million. Meanwhile, Mexican production of corn for home markets collapsed. NAFTA ended tariffs on goods crossing borders while the U.S. continued to subsidize corporate farmers, enabling agribusiness to export below cost. Mexican growers could not compete, and migration to the U.S. accelerated.

NAFTA created new concentrations of wealth and power across North America. In Mexico, cities grew as a powerful few and the favored middle sectors prospered; millions more struggled with marginality. The vacuum created by agricultural collapse and urban marginality made space for a dynamic, violent drug economy. Historically, cocaine was an Andean specialty, heroin an Asian product. But as the U.S. leaned on drug economies elsewhere, Mexicans—some enticed by big profits, but many just searching for sustenance—turned to supplying U.S. consumers.

U.S. politicians and ideologues blame Mexico for the “drug problem”—a noisy “supply side” argument that is historically untenable. U.S. demand drives the drug economy. The U.S. has done nothing effective to curtail consumption or to limit the flow of weapons to drug cartels in Mexico. Laying blame helps block any national discussion of the underlying social insecurities brought by globalization—deindustrialization, scarce employment, low wages, lowered benefits, vanishing pensions—that close observers know fuel drug dependency. Drug consumption in the U.S. has expanded as migration from Mexico has slowed (mostly due to slowing population growth)—a conversation steadfastly avoided.

People across North America struggle with shared challenges: common insecurities spread by globalizing capitalism. Too many U.S. politicians see benefit in polarization, blaming Mexicans for all that ails life north of the border. Better that we work to understand our inseparable histories. Then we might move toward a prosperity shared by diverse peoples in an integrated North America.

John Tutino
Georgetown University

John Tutino is the author of Making a New World: Founding Capitalism in the Bajío and Spanish North America (Duke University Press, 2011) and The Mexican Heartland: How Communities Shaped Capitalism, a Nation, and World History, 1500–2000 (Princeton University Press, 2018). He is the editor of and a contributor to Mexico and Mexicans in the Making of the United States (University of Texas Press, 2012).

Further Reading - Border Essentials

Featuring dozens of compelling images, this transformative reading of borderland and Mexican cultural production—from body art to theater, photography, and architecture—draws on extensive primary research to trace more than two decades of social and political response in the aftermath of NAFTA.

This compelling chronicle of a journey along the entire U.S.-Mexico border shifts the conversation away from danger and fear to the shared histories and aspirations that bind Mexicans and Americans despite the border walls.

Visit the companion website to access maps, photographs, a film, audio, and more.

By Chad Richardson and Michael J. Pisani

Now thoroughly revised and updated, this classic account of life on the Texas-Mexico border reveals how the borderlands have been transformed by NAFTA, population growth and immigration crises, and increased drug violence.
Edited by Harriett D. Romo and Olivia Mogollon-Lopez

Bringing together leading scholars from Mexico and the United States in fields ranging from economics to anthropology, this timely anthology presents empirical research on key immigration policy issues and analyzes the many push-pull facets of Mexico-US migration.

Escobar examines the criminalization of Latina (im)migrants, delving into questions of reproduction, technologies of power, and social justice in a prison system that consistently devalues the lives of Latinas

Using oral histories and local archives, this historical ethnography analyzes how and why Mexican American individuals unevenly experienced racial dominance and segregation in South Texas.

Using the U.S. wall at the border with Mexico as a focal point, two experts examine the global surge of economic and environmental refugees, presenting a new vision of the relationships between citizen and migrant in an era of “Juan Crow,” which systematically creates a perpetual undercaste.

A timely exploration of the political and cultural impact of U.S. naturalization laws on Mexicans in Texas, from early statehood years to contemporary controversies.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Wes Anderson Issue from Texas Studies in Literature and Language

Please enjoy this interview about the work and study of director Wes Anderson and his films. The interview was conducted with Donna Kornhaber, guest editor, special issue: Wes Anderson TSLL 60.2 (2018): 1-227

Donna Kornhaber, “Wes Anderson, Austin Auteur”; Tom Hertweck, “The Great Frame-Up: Wes Anderson and Twee Narrative Contrivance”; Kim Wilkins, “Assembled Worlds: Intertextuality and Sincerity in the Films of Wes Anderson”; Kevin Henderson, “Failed Comportment and Fits of Discomposure in the Films of Wes Anderson”; Rachel McLennan, “‘That’s not enough’: Aging in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom and Rushmore"; Rachel Joseph, “Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums: Writing and Forgiveness”; Alissa Burger, “Beyond the Sea: Echoes of Jules Verne in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”; Peter Sloane, “Kinetic Iconography: Wes Anderson, Sergei Parajanov, and the Illusion of Motion” 
Set from the film Isle of Dogs. Source: Isle of Dogs. Author: Paul Hudson
Could you share with us a ranking of Anderson’s films, starting with your favorite?

This is very hard, but here’s an attempt:

  1. The Grand Budapest Hotel 
  2. Moonrise Kingdom 
  3. Fantastic Mr. Fox 
  4. The Royal Tenenbaums 
  5. Rushmore 
  6. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou 
  7. The Darjeeling Limited 
  8. Bottle Rocket 
You’ll notice I haven’t included Isle of Dogs in the list; I’m still thinking it through.

What aspects of The Grand Budapest Hotel lead you to place it at the top of this list?

I think it’s the film where Anderson’s stylistics and thematics finally reach scale, so to speak—where he is able to build what is arguably his most complete and complex universe (his own country, quite literally) and tell one of his most narratively complicated stories, all without losing the thread of stylistic idiosyncrasy or repeated thematic concerns that mark all of his works. It is an epic Wes Anderson film, which for years seemed like an obvious contradiction in terms; though still invested in the fate of individuals, it operates on a world-historical plane. It is also the first film, I would argue, where Anderson gets serious about politics (something he continues in Isle of Dogs), which likewise seemed an impossibility from a certain view of his earlier works. Grand Budapest shows him taking his manner of filmmaking in directions that previously seemed unfeasible. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Redesigning a Classic Book Cover: The Book of Merlyn

Close your eyes and imagine it is 1975 in Austin, Texas. You are doing research in the archives of the Harry Ransom Center here at the University of Texas at Austin. It is a quiet afternoon in the research library. You've just made a pot of tea. Outside, however, it seems like the world is burning. Protests of the Vietnam War have led to a painful withdrawal and a fracturing of American culture. You love Arthurian legend; the popular fantasy tale The Sword in the Stone published over thirty-five years ago. As a student of literature, you know that T.H. White wrote his famous fantasy series The Once and Future King in the 1930s and 1940s, weaving in anti-war references to reflect his views on the horrors of World War II.
An original illustration from The Book of Merlyn (1977) by Trevor Stubley

The binding on your copy of The Once and Future King has seen better days and you frequently daydream about being tutored by Merlyn. You have pored over T.H. White's archived collection for weeks, seeking at the very least a research question, possibly a note shedding light on White's personal life. You find yourself listlessly sorting through the effects and notes of the dead English author, his writing life contained in some twenty-six document boxes, two of which are oversized. Your brain is starting to atrophy and you wish you could simply wave your magic wand to find that gem of literary history among all these manuscripts for articles, plays, poems, short stories, broadcasts. It would be nice to find something exciting among T.H. White's journals and notebooks, all his outgoing and incoming correspondence, the famous fantasy writer's personal documents. You imagine a dark and damp castle library. Archimedes sits perched in a corner illuminated by candlelight. Merlyn's pipe has filled the medieval library with smoke. Stacks of books and illuminated manuscripts sit piled upon a large wooden table with claw feet.

All of a sudden, a manuscript page catches your eye. The Book of Merlyn.

In 1975, T.H. White's magical account of King Arthur’s last night on earth was rediscovered in a collection at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Two years later, the University of Texas Press published the lost volume as The Book of Merlyn: 
The Conclusion to The Once and Future King. It spent twenty-six weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

1977 edition of The Book of Merlyn
So what else makes The Book of Merlyn special? The plot follows Arthur preparing for his final, fatal battle with his bastard son, Mordred. Arthur returns to the Animal Council with Merlyn, where the deliberations center on ways to abolish war. More self-revealing than any other of White’s books, Merlyn shows his mind at work as he agonized over whether to join the fight against Nazi Germany while penning the epic that would become The Once and Future KingThe Book of Merlyn has been cited as a major influence by such illustrious writers as Kazuo Ishiguro, J. K. Rowling, Helen Macdonald, Neil Gaiman, and Lev Grossman. Gregory Maguire, bestselling author of Wicked, writes in the new foreword,

“Arriving from beyond the curve of time and apparently from the grave, The Book of Merlyn stirs its own pages, saying, wait: you didn’t get the whole story. . . . It gives us a final glimpse of those two immortal characters, Wart and Merlyn, up close, slo-mo, with a considered and affectionate scrutiny. The book is an elegiac posting from a master storyteller of the twentieth century. Its reissue in our next century is just as welcome as when it first arrived forty years ago. . . . Certainly the moral questions about the military use of force perplex the world still. . . . The efficacy of treaties, the trading of insults among the potentates of the day, the testing of weapons, the weaponizing of trade—these strategies are still front and center. Rather terrifyingly so. We do well to revisit what that old schoolteacher of children, Merlyn, has been trying to point out to us about power and responsibility.”
To celebrate the new edition of this book, we talked to book designer and illustrator Kimberly Glyder about the process of designing the new cover for The Book of Merlyn. The new version featuring a new foreword by Wicked author Gregory Maguire, publishes September 19, 2018.

Did you read any T.H. White growing up, and if so, how did this influence your design?

Kimberly Glyder: Unfortunately, I must admit, I hadn’t read any of T.H. White before working on this book! However, I was aware of the story of The Sword and the Stone and the fictional character of Merlyn.

How did the original interior illustrations inform your design?

KM: My art director, Dustin Kilgore, sent me the original book, so I was able to see the whole book before beginning my cover illustration. My goal was to update the current cover 
painting, while staying true to the brushwork/line work you see on the original book. I based the painting on multiple references (for the nose, for the hat, etc.) until I came up with a face that fit my concept of how Merlyn should look.

Original illustrations from The Book of Merlyn (1977) by Trevor Stubley
Paul Rand
Did you draw inspiration from another book cover or covers?

KM: After Dustin assigned me this title, I began looking around at other depictions of Merlyn, mostly to see what was out there and what I didn’t want to repeat. I wouldn’t say another book cover influenced me directly, but I was aware of the time period this was published in (1950s, though written earlier). Some of my favorite covers from this time period are those of Paul Rand who worked with limited color palettes and created designs which conveyed such beautiful, bold simplicity. I was aiming for something similar in my interpretation of this book. The hand lettered type references medieval type, but each individual character is unique. 
Paul Rand

What was it like working with UT Press?

KM: I’ve worked on several projects with UT Press now, a few covers and a full book (interior and cover) and each time the process has been great. I’m always been impressed by the design of UT Press books, which is one of the reasons I wanted to work for them!

What are some of the book covers that are most enduring to you?

KM: I have an emotional connection to book covers from childhood, such as the original covers of Catcher in the Rye, Nineteen Eighty-Four and many of the editions of To Kill a Mockingbird. I actually love redesigning classics when I’m lucky enough to get these assignments, because I know how meaningful these books are to people, especially kids. As for current books, I find that I gravitate to covers designed by Gabrielle Wilson, Jaya Miceli, and John Gall. They all seem to have a timeless quality to them, probably because they tend to set trends rather than follow them.

Check out all the iterations of Kimberly's design before the final version!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Pride Month Reading List

By our Marketing, Sales, and Copyediting Fellow David Juarez

In the early hours of June 28, 1969, a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a well-known gay bar in Greenwich Village, sparked a violent riot between LGBTQ citizens and the New York police. This event became a significant milestone in LGBTQ history and the catalyst for gay and lesbian liberation movements across the nation. Since then, June has come to represent Pride Month in the United States, a celebration of LGBTQ identity and a commemoration of LGBTQ history, figures, and achievements.

LGBTQ identity transcends national boundaries, of course, and this post highlights some of the amazing scholarship from UT Press related to LGBTQ representation, identity, and politics across the globe. These books offer different perspectives on how LGBTQ identities intersect with racial, ethnic, and cultural differences, how we read media, how media reads us, and how great scholarship challenges us to understand the people and the world around us. 


Beyoncé in Formation: Remixing Black Feminism by Omise'eke Natasha Tinsley (forthcoming 2018)
Making headlines when it was launched in 2015, Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley’s undergraduate course “Beyoncé Feminism, Rihanna Womanism” has inspired students from all walks of life. In Beyoncé in Formation, Tinsley now takes her rich observations beyond the classroom, using the blockbuster album and video Lemonade as a soundtrack for vital next-millennium narratives. Woven with candid observations about her life as a feminist scholar of African studies and a cisgender femme married to a trans spouse, Tinsley’s “Femme-onade” mixtape explores myriad facets of black women’s sexuality and gender. Her chapters on nontraditional bonds culminate in a discussion of contemporary LGBT politics through the lens of the internet-breaking video “Formation,” underscoring why Beyoncé’s black femme-inism isn’t only for ciswomen. In the tradition of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist and Jill Lepore’s bestselling cultural histories, Beyoncé in Formation is the work of a daring intellectual who is poised to spark a new conversation about freedom and identity in America.

Queer Brown Voices: Personal Narratives of Latina/o LGBT Activism by Uriel Quesada, Letitia Gomez, and Salvador Vidal-Ortiz (2015)

In the last three decades of the twentieth century, LGBT Latinas/os faced several forms of discrimination. To disrupt the cycle of sexism, racism, and homophobia that they experienced, LGBT Latinas/os organized themselves on local, state, and national levels, forming communities in which they could fight for equal rights while simultaneously staying true to both their ethnic and sexual identities. Yet histories of LGBT activism in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s often reduce the role that Latinas/os played, resulting in misinformation, or ignore their work entirely, erasing them from history. Queer Brown Voices is the first book published to counter this trend, documenting the efforts of some of these LGBT Latina/o activists. Comprising essays and oral history interviews that present the experiences of fourteen activists across the United States and in Puerto Rico, the book offers a new perspective on the history of LGBT mobilization and activism. The activists discuss subjects that shed light not only on the organizations they helped to create and operate, but also on their broad-ranging experiences of being racialized and discriminated against, fighting for access to health care during the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and struggling for awareness.

Queer Beirut by Sofian Merabet (2014)

More info
Gender and sexual identity formation is an ongoing anthropological conversation in both Middle Eastern studies and urban studies, but the story of gay and lesbian identity in the Middle East is only just beginning to be told. Queer Beirut is the first ethnographic study of queer lives in the Arab Middle East. Drawing on anthropology, urban studies, gender studies, queer studies, and sociocultural theory, Sofian Merabet’s compelling ethnography suggests a critical theory of gender and religious identity formations that will disrupt conventional anthropological premises about the contingent role that society and particular urban spaces have in facilitating the emergence of various subcultures within the city. From 1995 to 2014, Merabet made a series of ethnographic journeys to Lebanon, during which he interviewed numerous gay men in Beirut. Through their life stories, Merabet crafts moving ethnographic narratives and explores how Lebanese gays inhabit and perform their gender as they formulate their sense of identity. He also examines the notion of “queer space” in Beirut and the role that this city, its class and sectarian structure, its colonial history, and religion have played in these people’s discovery and exploration of their sexualities. In using Beirut as a microcosm for the complexities of homosexual relationships in contemporary Lebanon, Queer Beirut provides a critical standpoint from which to deepen our understandings of gender rights and citizenship in the structuring of social inequality within the larger context of the Middle East.


Add caption
Television conveys powerful messages about sexual identities, and popular shows such as Will & Grace, Ellen, Glee, Modern Family, and The Fosters are often credited with building support for gay rights, including marriage equality. At the same time, however, many dismiss TV’s portrayal of LGBT characters and issues as “gay for pay”—that is, apolitical and exploitative programming created simply for profit. In The New Gay for Pay, Julia Himberg moves beyond both of these positions to investigate the complex and multifaceted ways that television production participates in constructing sexuality, sexual identities and communities, and sexual politics. Himberg examines the production stories behind explicitly LGBT narratives and characters, studying how industry workers themselves negotiate processes of TV development, production, marketing, and distribution. She interviews workers whose views are rarely heard, including market researchers, public relations experts, media advocacy workers, political campaigners designing strategies for TV messaging, and corporate social responsibility department officers, as well as network executives and producers. Thoroughly analyzing their comments in the light of four key issues—visibility, advocacy, diversity, and equality—Himberg reveals how the practices and belief systems of industry workers generate the conceptions of LGBT sexuality and political change that are portrayed on television. This original approach complicates and broadens our notions about who makes media; how those practitioners operate within media conglomerates; and, perhaps most important, how they contribute to commonsense ideas about sexuality.


One of the twentieth century’s most important filmmakers—indeed one of its most important and influential artists—Ingmar Bergman and his films have been examined from almost every possible perspective, including their remarkable portrayals of women and their searing dramatizations of gender dynamics. Curiously however, especially considering the Swedish filmmaker’s numerous and intriguing comments on the subject, no study has focused on the undeniably queer characteristics present throughout this nominally straight auteur’s body of work; indeed, they have barely been noted. Queer Bergman makes a bold and convincing argument that Ingmar Bergman’s work can best be thought of as profoundly queer in nature. Using persuasive historical evidence, including Bergman’s own on-the-record (though stubbornly ignored) remarks alluding to his own homosexual identifications, as well as the discourse of queer theory, Daniel Humphrey brings into focus the director’s radical denunciation of heteronormative values, his savage and darkly humorous deconstructions of gender roles, and his work’s trenchant, if also deeply conflicted, attacks on homophobically constructed forms of patriarchic authority. Adding an important chapter to the current discourse on GLBT/queer historiography, Humphrey also explores the unaddressed historical connections between post–World War II American queer culture and a concurrently vibrant European art cinema, proving that particular interrelationship to be as profound as the better documented associations between gay men and Hollywood musicals, queer spectators and the horror film, lesbians and gothic fiction, and others.

Here are other titles that might also be of interest:
David Juarez in his element, surrounded by books.
Marketing and Copyediting Fellow David Juarez has accepted a position as editorial assistant at the University of Notre Dame Press in South Bend, Indiana. David has been a key contributor to the University of Texas Press copyediting and marketing departments during his fellowship. We have appreciated his insightful contributions, his delightful sense of humor, and his willingness to discuss all things Marvel Universe with Senior Editor Jim Burr. Congratulations and let's wish David continued success in scholarly publishing!