Before TV, “Comedy Central” was classical Athens

by krm | Thursday, January 12, 2017 - 6:29 AM

Komoidia (“party song”) was a type of play invented to mimic tragedy at the festival of the God Dionysus in 486 BC, and by mid-century it was as popular as its dignified

ancestor. You may have heard of Aristophanes, but he was only one of many creators of these no-holds-barred plays full of raunchy dialogue and situations, outrageous parody, and savage political satire: Cratinus mocked Pericles as an absurd Zeus wannabe (and exploited his own reputation as a drunk by turning his failed rehab attempt into a comedy), Eupolis staged a resurrection of dead politicians to sort out the corrupt government of his own day, the (all male) actors wore fat suits with phalluses and grotesque masks, or portrayed empowered women and talking animals ready to overthrow Athenian men.

Within decades this transgressive form (“Old Comedy”) was swept away by a more modern (raunch-free and non-political) second generation of New Comedy, where families of middle-class fathers, sons, wives, and daughters bicker and scheme and cause chaos with a guaranteed happy ending the ancestor of today’s sitcom (although slaves, prostitutes and pimps also make their appearances from the Athenian street).

These plays are...Read More

Journals, Marketing Staff Win Awards

by bjs | Wednesday, January 11, 2017 - 3:01 PM

The recent awards season treated the JHU Press Journals Division well with a number of honors being earned by several Press publications as well as by the Journals Marketing Division for its efforts in promoting the journals collection.

Winning categories included journal design, a catalog publication and academic research

“We appreciate the recognition for the exceptional efforts of our editors, their staffs and the many scholars who contribute to the journals we publish as well as the talent and innovation of our own team,” said Journals Publisher William Breichner .

At the recent Modern Language Association meeting in Philadelphia, the Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ) recognized four JHUP journals for excellence. Three journals received the top honor in their category while another was given an Honorable Mention.

In the Best Special Issue category, American Quarterly was honored for the top prize for Issue 67.3 , released in September 2015. The journal previously won the same award in 2009 and 2013. Callaloo received an Honorable Mention Award in the same category...Read More

Of Milk, Mothers, and Infants

by krm | Wednesday, January 11, 2017 - 6:00 AM

The following is an excerpt from Milk: The Biology of Lactation by Michael L. Power and Jay Schulkin.

The young mother hurries across the hot, dry sands, her four legs carrying her quickly toward her nest and the four precious eggs within, her tail swaying side-to-side to aid her balance. The time is 280 million years ago, in the middle of the Permian period of Earth’s history, a time when the continents of Laurasia and Gondwana were colliding and merging to form the super- continent Pangaea. The warm, wet rainforests of the Carboniferous period were rapidly shrinking and even vanishing, and the landscape was changing to a more arid environment, dominated by conifers and including large swaths of desert. Life on land was becoming more difficult, as water became scarce. Hence the mother’s hurry. She had needed to leave her nest to forage and find water, but that left her eggs vulnerable to dehydration in the hot, dry conditions. She could not leave them for long.

She reaches her nest and all is well. No predators have found her eggs, and she was...Read More

A New Smithsonian Museum

by krm | Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - 6:00 AM

By Bob Post

My friend at the MIT Museum, Deborah Douglas, describes Who Owns America’s Past? as “part history, part memoir, part polemic.” Such a trifurcation was not really on my mind as I wrote, but now I know Debbie is spot on. The polemic concerns, first, a crisis of representation at the National Air and Space Museum: “For whatever it costs to buy influence, you can now have your own version of our nation’s history displayed and opposing views suppressed,” wrote an embittered former director, Martin Harwit. Second, it concerned the Smithsonian falling under the thrall of Lawrence Small, a man whose “attitude and disposition were ill suited to public service,” as a review committee put it way too mildly. The picture had brightened as I got to my concluding pages, with the institution’s leadership now in the hands of a scholar true to the ideals of public service, G. Wayne Clough. And yet Clough had somehow been tempted into the murky voodoo of “branding,” with a plan to stake the Smithsonian’s identity on the phrase “Simply Amazing.” I wondered how anything so dreadfully trite...Read More

A New Yorker Who Celebrates Birds Every Day

by krm | Thursday, January 5, 2017 - 6:12 AM

The following is a modified excerpt from Leslie Day's Field Guide to the Neighborhood Birds of New York City in celebration of National Bird Day.

In New York City, birds are everywhere. They share the sidewalks with us. They build their nests on, above, and below the window ledges of our apartments, brownstones, office towers, and bridge spans. They sometimes devour the pizza slice on the ground, or the bird seed scattered by some kind soul, but they also consume the cornucopia produced by flowers, seeds, and fruit of the millions of trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants and grasses of our city streets, backyards, and parks. Along our coastline they nest, raise their young and feed on the bounty produced by the sea, harbor, rivers, estuary, lakes and streams that surround and flow through our city of islands. The gulls, shore birds, sea hawks, cormorants, waterfowl, and wading birds consume fish, clams, oysters and mussels, and the nutritious sea grass that struggles to survive along our beaches,

Like every other aspect of nature in New York City, our birds and the environment they depend upon for food, shelter, and nesting...Read More