Saturday, October 30, 2010

E.S. Greenberg, L. Grunberg, S. Moore, and P. Sikora's "Turbulence"

Edward S. Greenberg is a member of the Political and Economic Change Program, Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, and professor of political science. Leon Grunberg is professor and chairperson, Department of Comparative Sociology, University of Puget Sound. Sarah Moore is associate dean of faculty and professor of psychology, University of Puget Sound. Patricia B. Sikora is owner/principal, Sikora Associates, LLC, in Superior, CO.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Turbulence: Boeing and the State of American Workers and Managers, and reported the following:
In Turbulence: Boeing and the State of American Workers and Managers, we describe the experience of everyday employees as they navigated the massive and often unpredictable changes going on in their company. At Boeing, many of these changes were in support of a deliberate shift in corporate philosophy and management style: an aggressive move toward a short-term shareholder value model that emphasized tomorrow’s stock price and analyst ratings. Many innovations associated with this shift were dramatic and very visible to outsiders: downsizing, outsourcing, and “leaning” of manufacturing processes. “More for less” was the mantra of these times as management looked for ways to streamline production and get more output --more being the operative word, not necessarily better-- from each input, whether employee, machine or vendor.

Page 99 of Turbulence is part of a chapter focused on the less visible, more insidious ways senior management got “more for less” from employees. Downsizing and leaning were obvious macro- practices that served this short-term shareholder value agenda. However, the micro-practices of teamwork and technology also implicitly supported this “more for less” agenda. Teamwork, or more accurately, the rhetoric of teamwork, imposed an artificial “we-ness” on employees that compelled them to give their best to “the team” while simultaneously setting the stage for more downsizing and outsourcing.

On page 99, we discuss how the infusion of technology imposed a 24/7 work day on many employees. The sizzle and sexiness of new technologies allowed Boeing to extend the business day into personal time. In effect, employees were working unpaid overtime as they were checking in via Blackberries and email during their evenings and vacations.
As the use of these technologies becomes more prevalent, the 24/7 workday becomes normative; to not reply to emails on Saturday is viewed as an affront or, perhaps, sign that the employee is not really dedicated to his or her job. The multi-tasking executive glued to a Blackberry at his or her child’s concert is obviously essential to the firm, an “in demand” indispensible person who must always be hooked into the action of the firm – or, at least, someone who wants to appear that way to others as well as to him- or herself. As more work pushes into the home domain, social connections are also at risk. We see some evidence of this at Boeing. A female office worker, for example, raises concerns about the downsides of the “virtual office” with its increasingly virtual relationships: “We have learned more computer skills, how to adapt at work and at home to the computer life. More and more people working from home, soon we will all be little robots in our homes losing touch with the physical and emotional contact with people. But!! The company will benefit with flexible hours around the clock to accommodate workers globally.”
Arguably, change was necessary to maintain competitive advantage over Airbus much less ensure the survival of the company. Boeing’s bloated bureaucracy, World War II manufacturing systems, and “Lazy B” culture were standing in the way of its ability to compete in a fast-paced, post-industrial, global economy. We believe, however, that an overzealous, singular focus on short-term shareholder value resulted in a “baby out with the bathwater” approach to change – core values of engineering excellence, quality, and esprit de corps were sacrificed under the pressures of lean production and outsourcing. Turbulence is the story of the dark side of a short-term shareholder value philosophy. Page 99 of Turbulence demonstrates that this dark side existed in small day-to-day work practices as well as dramatic, newspaper headlines of downsizing and outsourcing.
Learn more about Turbulence at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Randy Roberts' "Joe Louis: Hard Times Man"

Randy Roberts is distinguished professor of history at Purdue University. His books include biographies of the boxers Jack Dempsey and Jack Johnson (both nominated for Pulitzer Prizes); a history of American sports since 1945; and books on Charles Lindbergh, John Wayne, and the Vietnam War.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Joe Louis: Hard Times Man, and reported the following:
Perhaps it was the size of the font, the fact that it is a smidgen larger to make it easier on the eyes. Or maybe there were a few words that got by me in the revision stage. Whatever the case, the heart of Joe Louis: Hard Times Man crept off of page ninety-nine and lodged itself at the very top of page one hundred. Discussing the importance of Louis to African Americans, I write, “Joe Louis communicated a message more socially ecumenical than those propagated by the NAACP and Communist Party, and more individually uplifting than those espoused by Elijah Muhammad and Father Divine. More than any man, any force, of the generation, Louis confirmed full black equality, even, some asserted, superiority. In the ring he did not ask for respect or equality; with his fists he demanded and received it.”

To put the point another way, and in a more vivid context, in the first Max Schmeling and Joe Louis bout, Joe was being badly beaten by the German fighter. At the same time, African American singer Lena Horne was performing in Cincinnati’s Moonlite Gardens, trying to entertain an audience and sneaking backstage as often as possible to listen to the radio call of the fight. By the end of the evening her face was streaked with tears and her performance was suffering. The defeat of Joe Louis was that important to her. Her mother was outraged, scolding that Lena didn’t even know Louis. “I don’t care, I don’t care,” Lena yelled. “He belongs to all of us.” Joe Louis belonged to her and twelve million other black Americans in the 1930s. And by World War II he belonged to all Americans.

The quote from page ninety-nine (plus a few sentences) and the Lena Horne story conveys what I attempted to achieve in Joe Louis: Hard Times Man. The book is the dramatic story of the heavyweight champion who reigned longer and defended his title far more often than any other heavyweight titleholder. It covers his fights, loves, tax troubles, and other experiences against the backdrop of the Great Depression and World War II. But it also addresses what Joe Louis meant to millions of black and white Americans during those years. He was so important that he could lift up or break the heats of millions of Americans.
Learn more about Joe Louis: Hard Times Man at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lynn Stout's "Cultivating Conscience"

Lynn Stout is the Paul Hastings Professor of Corporate and Securities Law at the UCLA School of Law. She is the coauthor of several books and a frequent commentator for NPR, PBS, and the Wall Street Journal.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Cultivating Conscience: How Good Laws Make Good People, and reported the following:
Cultivating Conscience deals with a very basic question: What’s the best way to get people to behave themselves? Experts often assume people are basically selfish creatures who respond only to punishments and rewards, and who can’t be trusted to do a good job or refrain from lying, cheating and stealing unless given the right “incentives.” Yet every day we see people behaving ethically and unselfishly--few of us mug the elderly or steal the paper from our neighbor's yard, and many of us go out of our way to help strangers. We nevertheless overlook the good aspects of our own natures and fixate on the bad things people do and how we can stop them.

Cultivating Conscience argues that this focus on bad behavior obscures the reality, and importance, of goodness, leading us to neglect the crucial role our better impulses could play in shaping society. It explores the idea that, rather than leaning on the power of greed to channel human behavior, our laws and policies might often do better to focus on and promote the force of conscience--the cheapest and most effective police force one could ask for.

Drawing from behavioral economics, social psychology, and evolutionary biology, Cultivating Conscience demonstrates that, far from being rare and quirky, conscientious behavior (or, as a behavioral scientist might put it, unselfish prosocial behavior) is both common and predictable. Page 99 offers a simple recipe for promoting conscientious behavior by using certain social cues—especially instructions from authority, beliefs about others’ selfishness or unselfishness, and perceptions of benefits to others—to trigger unselfish prosocial behavior. This approach helps us predict when most people will “follow their conscience,” and also when they won’t. It also allows us to better understand of how laws and rules shape human behavior. Cultivating Conscience offers a guide to cultivating ethical and cooperative behavior that can be employed not only by lawmakers and legal experts, but also by employers, educators, management specialists, charitable organizations, and civic leaders.
Read an excerpt from Cultivating Conscience, and learn more about the book at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Scott W. Hibbard's "Religious Politics and Secular States"

Scott W. Hibbard is an assistant professor in the Department of Politics at DePaul University. He is the coauthor of Islamic Activism and U.S. Foreign Policy.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Religious Politics and Secular States: Egypt, India, and the United States, and reported the following:
The “Page 99 test” suits Religious Politics and Secular States extremely well. The book is a comparative study of religion and politics that focuses on the politicization of religion in three ostensibly secular societies: Egypt, India and the United States.

These states embodied the spirit of the modern, secular era during the 1950s and 1960s. It is surprising, then, that state actors in each nation sought to co-opt religion in the 1970s and 1980s. This trend is particularly surprising given the type religion that was being invoked. In each instance, mainstream political actors promoted a theologically conservative (or fundamentalist) interpretation of religion in order to marginalize the political left. Not only had state actors abandoned secularism, but they chose to ‘ride the tiger’ of an exclusive religious politics.

One of the key themes of the book is that all religions are defined by competing interpretations: literal vs. metaphorical, modernist vs. fundamentalist, tolerant vs. intolerant. These differing interpretations of religion, moreover, inform the political fault lines of society. The discussion on page 99 highlights this tension within Egypt.

The struggle to define religious orthodoxy in Egyptian public life was reflected in a series of assaults on intellectual freedom during the 1990s. Secular intellectuals and liberal (or modernist) religious scholars saw their books banned and their writings deemed blasphemous. Others had their lives threatened or suffered attack. The government’s complicity is discussed on page 99. On the one hand, the Mubarak regime supported the official ulema (religious scholars) of al-Azhar University in their effort to target religious and political thought deemed heretical. Page 99 specifically discusses the 1994 fatwa (religious decree) issued by the state that gave Al-Azhar the authority to ban books, films, and other forms of creative expression. In doing so, the state helped to institutionalize a conservative (or fundamentalist) interpretation of Islam in Egypt’s official religious establishment. The discussion on page 99 also highlights the political motivation behind the government’s efforts to regulate religion. As the 1994 fatwa notes, “the unity of the nation can only be cemented by ensuring unity of thought.”

In short, the discussion on page 99 highlights a central theme from the book: the state’s attempt to co-opt fundamentalist religion for political purposes helped to validate one interpretation of religion at the expense of all others. By weighing in on the debates over religious interpretation, ostensibly secular state actors helped to marginalize modernist religious belief and set the stage for the resurgence of religious fundamentalism that defined the post-Cold War era.
Learn more about Religious Politics and Secular States at the publisher's website and the official Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 22, 2010

Francesco Duina's "Winning"

Francesco Duina is associate professor and chair of the Sociology Department at Bates College, and visiting professor at the International Center for Business and Politics, Copenhagen Business School. His books include The Social Construction of Free Trade and Harmonizing Europe.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Winning: Reflections on an American Obsession, and reported the following:
We are in love with winning and fear losing. Winning and losing permeate every facet of our lives – from our education system to our pastimes to our foreign policy. Think about the fact that attacks on referees by angry parents at children’s sporting events are dramatically on the rise. Or that, in his State of the Union 2010 address, President Barack Obama forcefully stated, when reflecting on the growth and investments by countries such as India, China, and Germany, that “I do not accept second place for the United States of America.” Winning and losing are everywhere, and this book explores the very nature of those ideas, what we are really after as we struggle to win, why we care so much, whether winning can really make us happy, and the price we pay by adhering to such a competitive mindset.

On page 99, the reader will find herself in the very midst of this exploration. We are in chapter 6, and I am dissecting the multiple and quite contradictory ways in which a person in our society can attain the status of definitive or eternal winner. How, in our social mindset, does one become a real winner? I identify four paths: (1) winning consistently, (2) capping an apparently endless stream of losses with one major, triumphant victory, (3) winning big a few times despite some losses, (4) and losing incessantly but, in the process, exhibiting to the world a relentless and optimistic spirit that never gives up. The sort of winner each path generates is actually very distinct; those who witness their successes experience rather different emotions and feelings when facing each type. Much the same can be said of losers. We must understand each path, with all of its implications and subtleties.

Page 99 offers one glimpse of my larger exploration of the highly complex, incredibly consequential, and seldom understood mindset that we, Americans, bring to so much of what we do in our lives. It is time that we come to grips with that mindset – and that we decide, consciously and with clarity, how we really want to relate to the world, others, and ultimately ourselves.
Read an excerpt from Winning, and learn more about the book at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Greg Lastowka's "Virtual Justice"

Greg Lastowka is a Professor of Law at Rutgers University. He teaches and researches the laws of intellectual property and new technology.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Virtual Justice: The New Laws of Online Worlds, and reported the following:
Virtual Justice is a book written for the general reader who is interested in learning about the novel questions raised by the intersection of law and virtual reality. Given my intended audience, I devote a large introductory section to stories designed to bring readers up to speed on the history, technology, culture, and business models of virtual worlds.

By page 99, though, I'm hitting my stride and I am well into the main theme of my book: how new laws and rules are being created and enforced in virtual worlds.

In the real world, if your property is stolen or you are physically assaulted, you might call the police. In virtual worlds, when your property is stolen or your avatar is victimized, you look instead to the rules and remedies provided by the owners of these platforms.

The middle of page 99 describes how this works:
In Second Life, users can submit “abuse reports,” which are the designated channel for complaints about violations of the community standards. The Second Life Knowledge Base states:

Abuse happens when anyone violates the Terms of Service (TOS) or the Community Standards (CS). Every Resident when they register an account for Second Life agrees to abide by these rules....

Whenever you see one of these rules being broken, and you believe it to be intentional or malicious, everyone present at the incident should file an abuse report. The abuse reporting system exists to make the Second Lives of Residents more pleasant and satisfying.
So there we have the basics of the Second Life social contract. I go on to note, however, that virtual world owners generally disclaim any obligations to enforce the community rules that they unilaterally impose. I also discuss the question of whether these private rules
provide users with any legal rights vis-a-vis each other.

So the page 99 test worked well for me. The discussion there is at the heart of what I'm doing in Virtual Justice, explaining how creators of virtual worlds use contract law to govern online societies and create their own virtual jurisdictions. The rest of the book carries that point further, discussing how the laws of computer hacking, property, and intellectual property all serve to augment the legal authority of virtual world owners with respect to online communities.
Learn more about Virtual Justice at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 18, 2010

John Quiggin's "Zombie Economics"

John Quiggin is professor of economics at the University of Queensland in Australia.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk among Us, and reported the following:
Page 99 is, I think, pretty representative of the book, which seeks to lay out the life cycle of the economic ideas that gave us the Global Financial Crisis, and which, in combination, formed a package that may be called "market liberalism" . The story of each idea begins with its birth (sometimes as a revival of older ideas) amid the collapse of Keynesianism in the 1970s to its death in the near-collapse of capitalism in 2008, to the attempts to reanimate them in zombie form as the worst of the crisis recedes. Each chapter ends with a section "After the Zombies", which aims to point to some new directions for economics.

The ideas I discuss are:
*The Great Moderation: the idea that the period beginning in 1985 was one of unparalleled macroeconomic stability;

*The Efficient Markets Hypothesis: the idea that the prices generated by financial markets represent the best possible estimate of the value of any investment;

*Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium: the idea that macroeconomic analysis should not concern itself with economic aggregates like trade balances or debt levels, but should be rigorously derived from microeconomic models of individual behavior;

* The Trickle-Down Hypothesis; the idea that policies that benefit the well-off will ultimately help everybody; and

* Privatization; the idea that any function now undertaken by government could be done better by private firms
Page 99 starts with an attempt to explain, as fairly as I can, one of the zombie ideas I'm criticising, the Real Business Cycle theory advocated by, among others, Nobel prizewinning economist Robert Lucas. This was the starting point for Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium macro models. Page 99 ends with a startling quote from Lucas in which he attempts to write the Great Depression out of economic history, part of a broader argument by Lucas that recessions don't really matter:
the Great Depression [...] remains a formidable barrier to a completely unbending application of the view that business cycles are all alike. … If the Depression continues, in some respects, to defy explanation by existing economic analysis (as I believe it does), perhaps it is gradually succumbing under the Law of Large Numbers.
With ideas like this driving much of the public debate, it is unsurprising that the Global Financial Crisis came as such a shock to so many economists.
Read an excerpt from Zombie Economics, and visit John Quiggin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Stephanie Carvin's "Prisoners of America's Wars"

Stephanie Carvin is a Lecturer in International Relations at Royal Holloway, University of London.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Prisoners of America’s Wars: From the Early Republic to Guantanamo, and reported the following:
Okay, when initially asked to consider the Page 99 test, my first glance at the page made me think that I was probably going to fail the test. The page basically covers a brief summation of the Korean War before half a paragraph that starts the conclusion to the first part of the book. But after reading it out once again for the blog, I think it may actually work better than I thought. It discusses the US Military Code of Conduct and how its origins relate to POW issues that came up in Korea. And then it goes on to suggest that the problems in Korea were unfortunate foreshadowing for what was to come in terms of Vietnam.

But I wonder if the page 100 test would have been more awesome? That page engages with some of the major themes of the book: whether there is a dualistic tendency in terms of applying the laws of war to “civilized” and “non-civilized” people, (which the last sentence on 99 just starts to get into!) and acknowledgement of the evolution of the implementation of the laws of war from 1776-1953.

So, maybe I’ll give myself a B+ on this one. (I’m an easy marker.)

Essentially, the book is a history of prisoners in conflicts that the US has fought (even before it was the “US”). This includes both prisoners that American forces have taken and Americans that have been taken prisoners themselves. It seeks to show that political issues surrounding prisoners have been a constant in almost every conflict that the United States has engaged in. Certainly many of the issues that we are now discussing in light of Guantanamo Bay (recognition of status, rights, trials, etc) were present in the American Revolutionary Wars and the Civil War.

Bearing all of this history in mind, it looks at modern conflicts through this historical lens and also raises question about the role of culture, ideology and the emergence of ‘new actors’ on the battlefield in terms of posing challenges for implementing the laws of war. Overall, it aims at presenting a balanced picture that is neither a rant nor apology for the US armed forces.

Page 99:
technology, but not the laws of war. The result for prisoner of war caught by the North Koreans was disastrous as Cold War politics came to dominate the way they were treated. Wounds were left untreated and prisoners were given an insufficient diet especially in the first year of the war. POW camps were left unmarked and several were accidentally attacked by the UN Command forces. This made the implications of Soviet reservations to Article 85 very clear. It was also a foreshadowing of the unfortunate events to come. This would not be the last time that the Americans would face problems with ensuring reciprocal respect for the laws of war in a conflict in the twentieth century, especially as the number of wars of national self-liberation was on the increase, including that of Vietnam.

For now, the implication of the Korea n War as that the American approach to the laws of war began to heavily emphasize the rights of American soldiers who were captured. Concern over the twenty-one Americans who chose to stay in North Korea after having spent years there as POWs (most of whom had collaborated with their captors) prompted President Dwight Eisenhower to establish the Military Code of Conduct. The Code was applicable to all soldiers and geared towards providing them with a standard of behaviour expected of them, especially if they were captured. Many Americans were shocked at the idea that Americans would betray their country while in Communist captivity, and allegations that their troops had surrendered too easily did not sit well with the American government or its people. In some ways the text of the Code reads as a way to maintain the honour of the armed forces and/or the individual soldier if he is captured. However, the Code of Conduct reflected another American realization/assumption about future conflicts; that soldiers were not likely to be treated according to the standards of the Geneva Convention. Principles like “I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability” seem to assume that American POWs would be pressed to answer questions with tactics that went above and beyond those practices allowed by the laws of war.


Many have written on the tendency of the United States to see itself as an exceptional nation from its very founding. Yet during this period its approach to the laws of war, the republic remained very European, keeping with the traditions that had been established by the British before the Revolution. This resulted in what Peter Maguire calls a “dualistic tendency” in the American
Learn more about Prisoners of America’s Wars at the publisher's website, and follow Stephanie Carvin on Twitter and at The Duck of Minerva blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 14, 2010

John Duncan's "How Intelligence Happens"

John Duncan is assistant director of the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, honorary professor of cognitive neuroscience at the Universities of Cambridge and Bangor, visiting professor at the University of Oxford, and fellow of the Royal Society and the British Academy. For the past thirty years, his research has focused on linking human mind to brain. He is known for his frontal-lobe theory of human intelligence, which has been covered in the media worldwide.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, How Intelligence Happens, and reported the following:
How Intelligence Happens is the story of one of the great scientific mysteries. Human intelligence is among the most powerful forces on earth, building cities, plantations, microchips; it takes us from subatomic particles to the limits of the Universe. How can human thought emerge from a nervous system of billions of cells, essentially similar to the brains of many other animals? In the search for an answer, leads have come from many places – from the troubled science of intelligence testing, the study of how minds change after brain damage, the foundations of artificial intelligence, new methods for imaging human brain activity, and painstaking exploration of detailed activity in single nerve cells. In How Intelligence Happens I put together the parts of this story to show how brains solve human problems.

On p. 99 I am describing one of my first experiments. The question is simple. Almost childlike puzzles are often used in intelligence testing, and their properties are fascinating. A person who does well on these tests is also likely to succeed in many other kinds of activity, from laboratory tests of perception, memory or speed to complex life achievements. The tests are obviously important - but what do they measure in the brain? We now know that the answer concerns a specific brain system, combining fragments of thought and behaviour into the complex, goal-directed structures of human endeavour. The activity of this system can be seen with modern methods for brain imaging; it links closely to the needs of computers that solve problems in logic or plan and execute a day’s errands; and on p. 99, we see how damage to this system produces lost intelligence – a mind that is disorganized, fragmented, chaotic.

The story of How Intelligence Happens is like an early map of the world. It has parts that are relatively clear, parts that are sketchy, large parts simply labelled “unknown”. Sketchy though it is, however, an outline picture is beginning to form – a genuine, biological science of human intelligence and thought.
Learn more about How Intelligence Happens at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hooman Majd's "The Ayatollahs' Democracy"

Born in Tehran but educated in the West, Hooman Majd is the author of The Ayatollah Begs to Differ (an Economist and Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2008) and The Ayatollahs' Democracy: An Iranian Challenge.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Ayatollahs' Democracy and reported the following:
Opening my book to page 99, I searched for a sentence, or a paragraph, that might signal that the quality of the book would be revealed. “'That’s what Iran has come to,' said Mohammad with a shrug.” Is that it, at the top of the page? I suppose yes in a way, because the book does indeed ask “what has Iran come to” and it also does so through personal experiences and encounters, in this case with Mohammad, in Iran. The last paragraph is perhaps even more telling. “In the lead-up to what promised to be a hard-fought and even ugly presidential election, one that pitted extreme conservative thought embodied by Ahmadinejad against the liberal theology and progressive politics embodied by Mir Hossein Mousavi and his mentor, Mohammad Khatami, anything was possible.”

“Anything was possible.” Yes, that is the Iran I describe, and the fateful 2009 presidential election there is only a part of it. In that sense Page 99 is not truly representative of the book, for I did not set out to only recount the events of 2009, but to give readers a sense of what Iran was, is, and wants to be, in terms of its political identity as well as its ambitions on the world stage. The elections of 2009 are a starting point, and I come back to them time and again, but only because they are representative of this struggle, or quest, that I portray, for a unique form of democracy, one that may not even be able to be defined as democracy in the Western sense, that Iranians have been engaged in for over one hundred years.

But no, wait. As neither a scholar nor historian, but as an observer and writer of stories, page 99 reveals my style, one of describing a scene or a person (admittedly sometimes in excruciating detail) and allowing the reader to join me in discovering what the experience means, but it also might be misleading. This is not a history book, nor is it a foreign policy or international relations book. What about my opéra bouffe? The opening of the book, page one not 99, which I write as a play, complete with a dramatis personae? It is not a real play of course, just real life. And for real life you need real people, just like Mohammad on page 99. Perhaps the brief encounter we have with him on that page does get to the essence of what my writing is about, after all.
Read more about The Ayatollahs' Democracy, and visit Hooman Majd's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Ayatollah Begs to Differ.

Writers Read: Hooman Majd.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gyan Prakash's "Mumbai Fables"

Gyan Prakash is the Dayton-Stockton Professor of History at Princeton University. He is the author of Bonded Histories and Another Reason (Princeton University Press) and the editor of Noir Urbanisms.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Mumbai Fables, and reported the following:
Cities are not just bricks and mortar, and demography and statistics, but also myths and imaginations, dreams and nightmares. This is all the more so in the case of Mumbai where fables and fantasies abound. Its very being as an Island City, forged out of seven islets on the Arabian Sea, is told as an epic tale of human artifice, of culture’s triumph over nature. Fascinated by the force of imagination in Mumbai’s past and the present, I set out to explore the fabulous stories the city has told about itself – and the backstories – through the course of its history as a modern metropolis. Mumbai Fables is a result of this quest.

The book presents the contrasting worlds of colonial administrators and nationalist muckrakers, of radical writers and artists and right-wing political activists. It brings into view the cinematic vision of cosmopolitan life. The scandalous city unearthed by tabloids, and the actions of a comic book hero to save the crisis-ridden urban society offer yet other facets of Mumbai’s mythic life.

So do the dreams of urban planners and architects. Page 99 of Mumbai Fables captures their fable of the city. The page deals with the construction of the panoramic Marine Drive. Running along the arcing shoreline, the promenade calls to mind the visual drama of the city by the sea. It stands as an iconic expression of the desire to create the city as a society of immense openness – open to the sea, to the outside world, a dream city of cosmopolitan desire. According to received history, the promenade stands on reclaimed lands, as if there was a prior claim on them. In fact, the lands were stolen from the sea. On theft fictionalized as reclamation stands Marine Drive. With its Art Deco buildings expressing a stylish and technologically advanced modern life, the fable of the city on the sea presents itself before us. As I write on Page 99:
By 1940 the construction of Marine Drive was complete. It was, the Indian Concrete Journal proclaimed, the “Finest promenade in the East, built in concrete.” Lining the Drive were Art Deco apartment blocks, looking out to the Arabian Sea. Behind them, on Queens Road, were also modern buildings of steel and concrete, staring across the Oval Maidan at the medievalism of the Gothic Revival buildings. The new built form represented an architectural shift from Victorianism to modernity.
Read an excerpt from Mumbai Fables, and learn more about the book at the Princeton University Press website.

Visit Gyan Prakash's faculty webpage.

Writers Read: Gyan Prakash.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 8, 2010

Darin Strauss' "Half a Life"

Darin Strauss is the international bestselling author of the New York Times Notable books Chang and Eng and The Real McCoy, and the national bestseller More Than It Hurts You. Also a screenwriter, he is adapting Chang and Eng with Gary Oldman, for Disney. The recipient of a 2006 Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction writing, he is a Clinical Associate Professor at NYU's creative writing program.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Half a Life, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book concerns the court case that followed the accident that makes up the heart of my book, Half a Life. It's the first of my four books that is -- unfortunately, when you learn what it's about -- a true story. A girl turned her bicycle into my car and died. The police and five cars of eyewitnesses declared me innocent. The girls' parents said, We'll never blame you Darin, but you have to live your life for two people now. I said okay. They turned around and sued me for millions of dollars.

Here's how page 99 starts (I'm being grilled by their attorney):
I was lucky I didn't fall thwap on the floor.
I think that line gets at what I was trying stylistically to do: be conversational and yet not careless. I hope it works here.
"So which [is it] then," the lawyer said. "One second or half? We're all here to listen to what you have to say." [He's asking me the time between her cutting in front of my car, and impact.]

[The girl's father], meanwhile, was bashful with his gaze until it failed him; he turned from the questioning and kept his eyes on his watch, on his cuffs. (Mrs Zilke, like my own mother, wasn't there.)
I wanted here and everywhere to be honest -- respectful to the Dad, who must have been going through more than I'd have been able to -- and yet truthful about the thorns and difficulties, too.
....More questions for me: Were you drunk? The Zilkes' lawyer had the structural design of a Saint Bernard, sags and weight and flaccidity. Can you prove you weren't drunk?
I guess I didn't like the lawyer.

I go on, at the bottom of the page, to talk about culture a little. I wanted the book to be a lot of things -- not a self-help book, but self-helpful. A book for people who're dealing with guilt they can't to express or handle, even if they weren't at culpable -- and, of course, for people who feel grief over something. But I also wanted it to snapshot the milieu in which I grew up: the American suburbs at the end of last century.
Robed in the prestige of the state, [the judge] was the one relaxed figure in the room. He leaned forward to whisper something. Without ever having been in a court, I realized I knew the ins and outs of this place—attorneys approaching the bench; my having made the official promise to tell the truth; and direct- and cross- and redirect examinations — just as everyone in the country did: from TV. Which is to say in my bones.
And so that's page 99. Thanks for reading.
Learn more about the book and author at Darin Strauss's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Jennifer C. Hunt's "Seven Shots"

Jennifer C. Hunt is a sociologist and university professor. She has done fieldwork among police in New York City and Philadelphia and also worked in the training division of the NYPD. Her publications include police department training materials, as well as a book on ethnography.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Seven Shots: An NYPD Raid on a Terrorist Cell and Its Aftermath, and reported the following:
On July31,1997, a six-man Emergency Service team from the NYPD raided a terrorist cell in Brooklyn and narrowly prevented a suicide bombing of the New York subway that would have cost hundreds, possibly thousands of lives. Seven Shots tells the dramatic story of that raid, the painstaking police work involved, and its paradoxical aftermath, which drew the officers into a conflict with other rank-and-file police and publicity-hungry top brass.

Applied to Seven Shots, the page 99 test is somewhat deceptive. Page 99 gives the reader a snapshot of the bombs that were found inside the suspects’ apartment. It provides a glimpse of the official account of the lethality of the bomb in a quote by Police Commissioner Howard Safir’s that appeared in the New York Times. It also provides information about how the two Palestinian terrorists managed to sneak across the U.S. border and attempt to execute their plot. What doesn't come through on page 99 is the essence of what appears in the bulk of every chapter of the book except the introduction. Seven Shots provides a rich description of a major police event that penetrates beyond the official version of a high profile event to reveal what really happened underneath and how it was experienced by the cops and detectives who risked their lives to serve and protect the people of New York. Included in every chapter are accounts of the officers’ thoughts, dreams, conversations,arguments, and how they managed to survive the highly politicized environment that is the NYPD. Seven Shots thus provides a riveting account of the experience of five police officers and some of their bosses from the near disaster in 1997 through 9/11 when they once again risked their lives to aid in the rescue and recovery attempts that surrounded the World Trade Center disaster. In so doing, Seven Shots reveals how the interests of rank and file police officers are sometimes sacrificed in order to enhance a public image of a police administration. Extraordinary actions that should have resulted in the gaining of medals and promotions turned into the opposite, resulting in a downward turn in the officers’ career.
Read an excerpt from Seven Shots and visit the Seven Shots website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Joshua W. Busby's "Moral Movements and Foreign Policy"

Joshua Busby is an Assistant Professor of Public Affairs and a fellow in the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service as well as a Crook Distinguished Scholar at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Moral Movements and Foreign Policy, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book Moral Movements and Foreign Policy picks up the story of why the Japanese government finally supported efforts to write-off developing country debt relief in the early 2000s even though they really did not want to. If you recall, there was a burst of advocacy activity leading up to the millennium by the Jubilee 2000 campaign. Inspired by a biblical verse, the idea was to give poor countries a fresh start in time for the new century. The campaign attracted a diverse base of support around the world from the left and the right and was one of the early efforts in the internet age to recruit celebrities for international development causes. Some years ago, I wrote about this in a piece entitled, “Bono Made Jesse Helms Cry” which is also the title for Chapter 3 of my book which includes page 99.

Looking at four campaigns on debt relief, climate change, HIV/AIDS, and the International Criminal Court, I ask a broader question in my book, why do some moral movements succeed in some places and fail in others? The answer has to do with (1) how advocates frame their appeals, (2) whether what they are seeking is costly, and (3) if the gatekeepers in charge of that particular policy believe the costs are worth it. Some campaigns do a better job framing their arguments to appeal to the values of the country they are targeting. However, sometimes the costs of supporting an advocacy campaign’s goals are high, putting decision-makers in a bind, “Do I support costs or values?” Some political systems make it possible for lots of actors (Congressional committee chairs, heads of agencies, the President) to block policies. Where those actors disagree, it will be more difficult for a campaign to win.

Coming back to page 99, that section gets into how Japan’s decision to support debt relief was implemented. The back-story revolves around how the issue was framed. The Bible was the inspiration for the Jubilee campaign. Obviously, Japan has a different religious tradition, but the issue was re-framed in Japan to be a test of the country’s reputation as a good “international citizen,” an important value in Japan since the end of WWII. Even though Japan faced high costs of writing off the debt, this appeal was deemed important enough that Japanese policymakers supported debt relief despite their misgivings.
Read an excerpt from Moral Movements and Foreign Policy, and learn more about the book at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 4, 2010

Peter H. Wood's "Near Andersonville"

Peter H. Wood is Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, "Near Andersonville": Winslow Homer’s Civil War, and reported the following:
By the time you reach page 99 of Near Andersonville, Winslow Homer’s Civil War, you have already finished the three-chapter text, and you are plunging into the web of primary sources that underlie this short exploration of a remarkable painting by one of America’s great artists. Why such brevity? Because the book began as three illustrated talks at Harvard University in 2009, focusing on a little-known Homer oil called Near Andersonville. The Nathan I. Huggins Lectures in African American Studies allowed me to take a close look at a single work, much as I did with Weathering the Storm: Inside Winslow Homer’s ‘Gulf Stream’ (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2004).

Both of these Homer pictures zero in on an African American figure caught in a difficult dilemma, but they differ in many ways. Though often misunderstood, Gulf Stream (1899) in New York’s Metropolitan Museum remains an American icon. The picture of a man at sea surrounded by sharks is one of Homer’s final African American images and certainly his most famous. In contrast, Near Andersonville is one of Homer’s earliest black images, and probably the least well-known. This oil of an enslaved black woman at a cabin door disappeared for a century after its completion in 1866. Even after it was given to the Newark Museum in 1966, its correct name remained unknown for several decades, and its rich but subtle symbolism is only now being explored.

The notes on page 99 help reveal how I uncovered the original owner of the painting for the first time, and they suggest why Homer might have been motivated to create such an unusual painting. I go on to explain the relevance of Andersonville Prison and General Sherman’s Georgia Campaign to the meaning of the picture. I show that Homer leads the viewer “behind enemy lines” to provide a unique perspective on the tumultuous national events of the summer and fall of 1864—including Lincoln’s surprising re-election. As the notes make clear, the book combines elements of black history, women’s history, art history, and Civil War history. Its publication by the Harvard University Press this fall seems one suitable way to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of Winslow Homer’s death, on September 29, 1910.
Learn more about "Near Andersonville": Winslow Homer’s Civil War at the Harvard University press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Claudia Card's "Confronting Evils"

Claudia Card is the Emma Goldman Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Confronting Evils: Terrorism, Torture, Genocide, and reported the following:
My book Confronting Evils: Terrorism, Torture, Genocide follows up on my earlier book The Atrocity Paradigm: A Theory of Evils (Oxford 2002). Confronting Evils is divided into 2 parts: a more theoretical part (the first four chapters, which slightly revise the theory of the first book and extend it to apply to structural evils) and a more specific part, with 2 chapters each on terrorism, torture, and genocide. Page 99 offers a taste of the theoretical part; it's from the chapter on the question to whom evils can be done. Page 199 offers a taste of the second part; it's from one of the torture chapters that takes up ticking bomb issues.
Read an excerpt from Confronting Evils, and learn more about the book at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 1, 2010

Shane McCorristine's "Spectres of the Self"

Shane McCorristine is a cultural historian with research interests in spiritualism and psychical research in British culture, the literature of the supernatural, surrealism, and Arctic exploration during the Victorian period. He received his Ph.D. in History from University College Dublin in 2008 and since then has worked on research projects in Paris (Irish participation in Bourbon naval forces) and at UCD (history of Irish Victorian science). From October 2010, he will be a Government of Ireland CARA Postdoctoral Mobility Fellow at National University of Ireland, Maynooth and Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge for a period of three years.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Spectres of the Self: Thinking about Ghosts and Ghost-Seeing in England, 1750–1920, and reported the following:
I am delighted to report that the “Page 99 Test” has found one of the more representative pages in Spectres of the Self! My main hypothesis in writing the book was that the ghosts which haunt the modern world should be considered spectres of the self, that is, figures which are both more real and less real than the haunting ghost of traditional Western culture, clanking chains in an old castle. They are more real because they involve all the senses, they visit people in mourning, and they now appear on photographs and on the television. But they are less real in that for the past two centuries thinkers have been exploring the way in which it is the mind itself which must be considered a haunted entity – that it is the mind which projects the phantoms of its own production onto reality.

One of the recurring riddles in much thinking about ghosts in England was “why do ghosts wear clothes?” If the ghost was an objective reality why should it be wearing clothes, and why should it be wearing the very specific clothes that were associated with a deceased person? If the spiritualistic hypothesis was true, should the soul which has returned to visit the earth not be perfectly nude, ethereal, or at least clothes-less? On page 99 I was midway through a survey on the thoughts of prominent psychical researchers about the ghost clothes issue, when many held this phenomenon to be proof that ghosts were projections of the mind – the idea being that the ghost-seer “dresses” the ghost in the manner they remember.
For Myers, the theory that the percipient was in the position of the clairvoyant when hallucinating a telepathic impression explained the fact that there were no cases of naked ghosts: ‘it therefore would be strange if I phantasmally saw the dying man unclothed, – as I have never seen him in life; if he, in his last moments, pictured himself as he has never hitherto pictured himself in colloquy with his friends’. In this sense, the clothing of ghosts, along with their other material accruements, were to be understood as symbolic representations indicative of an effort at recognition or, as Gurney put it, the ‘ghosts of old clothes’…Podmore [] noted that most apparitions were clothed as the percipient was accustomed to see the agent clothed, and not, as we should imagine given the sheer number of crisis-apparitions reported, dressed in bed clothes or night-wear. He therefore believed that the agent did not transmit to the percipient any ‘superficial content’ of his consciousness, but rather ‘the underlying massive and permanent elements which represent his personal identity’, thus allowing the percipient’s imagination to conceive of such an impression through the signifiers of identity, namely clothing and other relics of selfhood.
Read an excerpt from Spectres of the Self, and learn more about the book at the Cambridge University press website.

--Marshal Zeringue