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Authors of the Storm: Meteorologists and the Culture of Predictionby Gary Alan Fine
Synopses & Reviews
A chess match seems as solitary an endeavor as there is in sports: two minds, on their own, in fierce opposition. In contrast, Gary Alan Fine argues that chess is a social duet: two players in silent dialogue who always take each other into account in their play. Surrounding that one-on-one contest is a community life that can be nearly as dramatic and intense as the across-the-board confrontation.
Fine has spent years immersed in the communities of amateur and professional chess players, and with Players and Pawns he takes readers deep inside them, revealing a complex, brilliant, feisty world of commitment and conflict. Opening with a close look at a typical tournament in Atlantic City, Fine carries us from planning and setup through the climactic final dayandrsquo;s match-ups between the weekendandrsquo;s top players, introducing us along the way to countless players and their relationships to the game. At tournaments like that one, as well as in locales as diverse as collegiate matches and community chess clubs, players find themselves part of what Fine terms a andldquo;soft community,andrdquo; an open, welcoming space built on their shared commitment to the game. Within that community, chess players find both support and challenges, all amid a shared interest in and love of the long-standing traditions of the game, traditions that help chess players build a communal identity.
Full of idiosyncratic characters and dramatic gameplay, Players and Pawns is a celebration of the ever-fascinating world of serious chess.
Whether your chess career culminated in grandmaster status, or ended (repeatedly) in your or your brotherand#8217;s hurling the board and pieces across the living room, nearly all of us learned to play the game at one point or another. And chess tournaments, like spelling bees, are strangely captivating phenomena, bringing hundreds--sometimes thousands--of people together to watch two men sit silently at opposite sides of a table, occasionally moving a game piece. Gary Fine examines the social forces that bring these people together, not just in tournaments but in chess clubs, elementary and high school programs, college teams, and more. He finds that the chess players create a and#147;soft community,and#8221; an open and welcoming space where those with a commitment to the game find a place, despite eccentricities that might make them outsiders elsewhere. Admission to the community isnand#8217;t free, though; the flip side to soft community is and#147;sticky culture,and#8221; the stipulation that identification with this world is explicitly linked with the acquisition of shared knowledge. This knowledge starts with game tactics and strategy, but Fine doesnand#8217;t elaborate on them: he brings us on a tour of all the other things a player learns: the psychology of chess, the history of the game, local and national heroes, how you conduct yourself when youand#8217;re on the ticking clock of a timed match, what it means to know exactly where youand#8217;re ranked among the millions of chess players in the world, the seminal matches of the Cold War. Though you may come out of reading this book just as much of a patzer--a bumbling amateur--on the board, youand#8217;ll have a thorough understanding of what happens over the board.
Whether it is used as an icebreaker in conversation or as the subject of serious inquiry, “the weather” is one of the few subjects that everyone talks about. And though we recognize the faces that bring us the weather on television, how government meteorologists and forecasters go about their jobs is rarely scrutinized. Given recent weather-related disasters, its time we find out more. In Authors of the Storm, Gary Alan Fine offers an inside look at how meteorologists and forecasters predict the weather.
Based on field observation and interviews at the Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma, the National Weather Service in Washington, D.C., and a handful of midwestern outlets, Fine finds a supremely hard-working, insular clique of professionals who often refer to themselves as a “band of brothers.” In Fines skilled hands, we learn their lingo, how they “read” weather conditions, how forecasts are written, and, of course, how those messages are conveyed to the public. Weather forecasts, he shows, are often shaped as much by social and cultural factors inside local offices as they are by approaching cumulus clouds. By opening up this unique world to us, Authors of the Storm offers a valuable and fascinating glimpse of a crucial profession.
About the Author
Gary Alan Fine is professor of sociology at Northwestern University and the author of numerous books, including Everyday Genius: Self-Taught Art and the Culture of Authenticity; With the Boys: Little League Baseball and Preadolescent Culture; and Shared Fantasy: Role-Playing Games as Social Worlds, all published by the University of Chicago Press.
Table of Contents
1 On the Floor
2 A Cult of “Science”
4 Writing on the Winds
5 Ground Truth
6 A Public Science
7 Weather Wise
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