Monday, December 31, 2012

Jennifer Saul's "Lying, Misleading, and What is Said"

Jennifer Saul is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield. She works in Philosophy of Language, Feminist Philosophy and Philosophy of Psychology. She is especially interested in finding ways that philosophical debates (like that over what is said) connect up with real-world concerns (like lying and misleading). And she likes nothing better than an excuse to discuss political scandals in great detail. Her books include Simple Sentences, Substitution, and Intuitions and Feminism: Issues and Arguments. She is Director of the Implicit Bias and Philosophy Research Network.

Saul applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Lying, Misleading, and What is Said: An Exploration in Philosophy of Language and in Ethics, and reported the following:
Not a bad test, as it's the page on which I'm summarising my view on the ethics of lying vs misleading-- very roughly, I don't think there is a general ethical difference between the two. Though I do wish it had been a page on which I was working through some of the fun examples, like the Jesuit Doctrine of Equivocation. (According to this doctrine, an utterance isn't a lie if I silently think to myself something that makes my words true. So, famously, a Priest may truthfully say "I am not a Priest" as long as he silently thinks to himself "of Apollo." I leave further applications to the reader.)
Learn more about Lying, Misleading, and What is Said at the Oxford University Press website.

Writers Read: Jennifer Mather Saul.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Maria Wyke's "Caesar in the USA"

Maria Wyke has taught classics at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Reading, and she currently holds the chair of Latin at University College London.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Caesar in the USA, and reported the following:
I hope that Ford Madox Ford is not entirely right about the importance of a book’s ninety-ninth page – because page 99 of Caesar in the USA is blank apart from the heading of a new section called ‘political culture’. Julius Caesar holds an important place in the modern United States of America not least because in the first decades of the twentieth century young Americans read and reread his descriptions of his campaigns in Gaul in their Latin classes and acted out his assassination and its consequences in their English classes. Page 97 ends a discussion of how Caesar’s Gallic War and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar were taught to students –surprisingly - as moral mirrors in which they might glimpse ethical and political lessons for their lives and as a means to educate them into an identity as ‘Americans’. Yet Caesar was a troubling model. He might be praised by teachers as one of the greatest generals and statesmen who gave the Roman republic a different form of government ‘with absolute power centred in the hands of a single strong man’. But he was also damned for exactly the same reason. Page 101 begins a demonstration of how, outside the classroom, momentous political events (like assassinations, wars, or the rise of dictatorships and empires) could stimulate a sudden escalation of American interest in and topical use for the Roman statesman. For example, once Caesar had regularly been claimed in Italy as glorious predecessor of Mussolini, so Orson Welles played out the Mussolini/Caesar pairing on the New York stage in the 1930s as an attack on the rise of fascist dictatorships at home as well as abroad. Caesar in the USA shows how – from the Latin classroom to the Shakespearian stage, from cinema, television, and the comic book to the press and the internet – Caesar has been mobilized in the United States paradoxically as a resource for acculturation into the American present, a prediction of America’s political future, and as a way of providing both education and entertainment.
Read Chapter 1 of Caesar in the USA, and learn more about the book at the University of California Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Maria Wyke's Caesar: A Life in Western Culture.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Patricia Fara's "Erasmus Darwin"

Patricia Fara is the prize-winning author of Erasmus Darwin: Sex, Science and Serendipity.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to the book and reported the following:
When I opened my book at page 99, I was surprised to discover that it’s rather steamy: I’d forgotten writing about prostitutes, licentiousness and French women who (supposedly) were in the habit of biting the amputated legs of guillotined aristocrats. I wasn’t sure whether to feel embarrassed or pleased. After all, it wasn’t me who decided that ‘unhallow’d lust’ would make a good rhyme for ‘titillating dust’, but a reactionary clergyman who was parodying my subject, Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802). The father of twelve children by two wives and his son’s governess, Darwin envisaged a progressive universe that is fuelled by sexual energy and governed by natural laws rather than directly by God – and that’s why p. 99 appears in a chapter about female subordination, and why I put ‘Sex’ in my sub-title.

Although unfamiliar now, Erasmus Darwin – Charles Darwin’s grandfather – was well-known among his contemporaries, highly respected by many but reviled by others. Energetic and sociable, this corpulent tee-totaller ran a successful medical practice, was a Fellow of the Royal Society, promoted industrial innovation in the Midlands, campaigned against slavery, and was famous for his long poems on plants, technology and evolution. Committed to progress in every field – scientific, technological, social, biological – Darwin was a champion of Enlightenment thought who became a target of abuse.

Because of his links with industrialisation and his grandson Charles, Erasmus Darwin has mostly been portrayed as a lovable if eccentric individual who, with a greater or lesser degree of success, pointed the way towards the future. I decided to take a fresh look. Guided by serendipity – chance discoveries of unsuspected documents, unexpected conversations with friends, unanticipated links suggested by novels – I searched out a different Darwin. My hero is a controversial political radical who campaigned for abolition, supported female education, and challenged Christian orthodoxy by publishing a theory of evolution long before his grandson was even born.

The world, wrote Darwin, resembles ‘one great slaughter-house, one universal scene of rapacity and injustice.’ That is a fine image of competitive natural selection: but was it written by Erasmus or Charles? You can probably guess the answer, but to find out why, you need to read the book!
Read more about Erasmus Darwin: Sex, Science and Serendipity at the Oxford University Press website.

Writers Read: Patricia Fara.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Gil Troy's "Moynihan's Moment"

Gil Troy is  Professor of History at McGill University. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, The New Republic, and other major media outlets. His books include The Reagan Revolution: A Very Short Introduction, Leading from the Center, Morning in America, and Why I am a Zionist.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to latest book, Moynihan's Moment: America's Fight Against Zionism as Racism, and reported the following:
Whew, the book passed the page 99 test. There are two great nuggets on that page. First, Moynihan is in fine form, already at the UN, actually negotiating with his colleague Len Garment and other nations, an important reconciliation between the demands of the non-aligned nations who had just met in Lima, Peru, for more equitable distribution of the world’s resources, and American values. Moynihan and Garment mischievously “followed the Lima format and echoed the language just enough to obscure the subtle changes they inserted to make the document more palatable to the West.” But, typical of the times – and ours! – the New York Times reflected the new American apologist ideology Moynihan abhorred. The paper compared the North-South struggles to the “class struggle” of the 19th century, with the Southern Hemisphere as “the globe’s proletariat,” rather than seeing the world Moynihan saw pitting Western liberals against Third World totalitarians. “Such sloppy moralizing and Western self-abnegation, Moynihan believed, helped Foreign Service officers get along with their neighbors when they commuted home to ‘Scarsdale’ nightly.” Bam – Moynihan often spiced some class conflict and resentment into his social and political commentary.

On this page, the book also captures the essence of totalitarian anti-Zionism, willing, then as now, to sacrifice all scruples, all individuals, in the quest to destroy the Jewish state. I write in fall 1975, as the push to marginalize Israel grows and undermines the recent North-South cooperation: “The Soviet-Arab animus against Israel was so great, the desire to embarrass the United States so intense, that nearly all other agenda items became secondary.” This line reflects what today I call the Palestinians’ toxic embrace of the United Nations, undermining the institution, especially in American eyes, by exploiting the anti-Western, anti-Israel politics of the General Assembly to score empty symbolic victories that mean nothing and do not advance any chance of peace.
Learn more about the book and author at Gil Troy's website and blog.

Writers Read: Gil Troy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sarah Conly's "Against Autonomy"

Sarah Conly is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Bowdoin College. Her book, Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism, has just been published by Cambridge University Press.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to Against Autonomy and reported the following:
We make bad decisions all the time. Even when we are properly informed—we know what our BMI should be for health and a longer life, we know how many calories are in our McDonald’s meal, and we know that excess calories make us fat-- we go ahead and eat. When we know what our income is, we still buy the house we’ll only be able to afford if we win the lottery; and instead of saving, our plan for a solvent retirement is to cross our fingers and hope for the best. In these and other familiar areas, when we are left to our own devices, we do things that undercut our ability to reach the goals that we, ourselves, really care about. The argument of my book is that we should be stopped: that it is sometimes permissible—even obligatory—for the government to interfere in what we normally think of as our personal lives. While it’s true that we typically talk about the importance of our ability to decide for ourselves how to live, about what we call our autonomy, I think that autonomy is overrated. When our decisions keep us from doing what we want to do in the long run, it’s time for the government to step in. Paternalism— a system of laws that prevent us from doing what is harmful to ourselves—is justified.

Page 99 of my book addresses the typical response that is made to arguments in favor of paternalistic laws: that even if those laws help us reach our goals, they will make us unhappy. I respond that this danger is overrated:
All in all, the dangers of paternalistic regulation per se for psychological health are not great. While it does constitute a loss of control in some areas, those losses are not likely to be experienced as significant, and are furthermore compensated for by improvements that may allow more meaningful choices. The recognition that we need help in certain areas is not itself destructive, especially when the help we need is provided.
How much does it bother us to wear seat-belts? Not much, and the results are worth whatever irritation we may feel. Why not extend such legislation into many more areas of life?

Of course, this is not the only danger we perceive in paternalism. Against Autonomy systematically addresses the various dangers of paternalism, and systematically shows that they are not so great as we fear: that in the end, the state in which we surrender more control over our lives is the one in which those lives are much, much better.
Read an excerpt from Against Autonomy, and learn more about the book at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 21, 2012

David Hochfelder's "The Telegraph in America, 1832-1920"

David Hochfelder is an assistant professor of history at The State University of New York, Albany.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Telegraph in America, 1832-1920, and reported the following:
On page 99, I discuss the supposed impact the telegraph had on written prose. Previously in that chapter, I explained how the telegraph changed newsgathering through the wire services and how it changed the psychological experience of reading the news. The telegraph created what we today call the news cycle, and newspaper readers began to develop a compulsion to obtain news quickly and often. To my surprise, however, I discovered that the telegraph had very little effect on written prose outside the newspaper page. Since the telegraph was the first new technology since the printing press to interact strongly with the written word, it seems self-evident that it must have affected prose style. For example, both Emily Dickinson and Ernest Hemingway wrote in what might be described as a “telegraphic” style. However, my research led me to conclude the opposite—that the telegraph had very little effect on literary style. Instead, cultural forces were responsible for changes in American literary style in the 19th century.

Page 99 is representative of the book as a whole because my main concern is to investigate the telegraph as a disruptive technology. I identify areas in which it led to profound changes in society and economic relations. However, a technology like the telegraph does not affect all areas of society and culture. Discovering what a technology cannot do is just as important as explaining what it can do.
Learn more about The Telegraph in America, 1832-1920 at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

Writers Read: David Hochfelder.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Marc Myers's "Why Jazz Happened"

Marc Myers is the author of Why Jazz Happened—the first jazz social history that looks at the unlikely social, economic and technological events that caused jazz styles to change between 1942 and 1972, the music’s golden three decades.

Myers is a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal, where he writes on music and architecture, and he posts daily at, which recently was named “Blog of the Year” by the Jazz Journalists Association.

Myers applied the “Page 99 Test” to Why Jazz Happened and came to the following conclusions:
This is a fascinating test. Upon opening to page 99, I landed on one of the most exciting chapters of my book—the reasons for the rise of West Coast jazz in the early 1950s. Most people view this form of music as laid back jazz played mostly by white jazz musicians. And both were true. But the contrapuntal, yawning style also was a result of Los Angeles’ rapid suburbanization after World War II and the relaxed lifestyle’s impact on musicians and what new homes with phonographs wanted to hear in the pre-rock era.

Page 99 begins to detail how Los Angeles decided to expand and why prefab housing and freeways were essential to this growth and style of music. Ultimately, the suburbs become segregated white enclaves as a result of real estate covenants that prevented white homeowners from selling to minorities and aggressive police pullovers of vehicles with African-American passengers in neighborhoods other than South Central L.A.

As one West Coast jazz musician remarked about the connection between the environment and the music: “We woke up happy, drove around optimistic and ended the day content. It only would make sense that the jazz many of us played would sound the way we felt. We were blessed. The musicians were all playing harmony because we were having a great time. You could say that all of that spirit and feeling came out in the music that writers called West Coast jazz.”
Read more about Why Jazz Happened at the book’s official site, and visit

Writers Read: Marc Myers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Amy J. Binder and Kate Wood's "Becoming Right"

Amy J. Binder is associate professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego. She is the author of Contentious Curricula: Afrocentrism and Creationism in American Public Schools. Kate Wood is a doctoral candidate in the department of sociology at the University of California, San Diego.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Becoming Right: How Campuses Shape Young Conservatives, and reported the following:
Page 99 in our book lands squarely in the middle of chapter 3, which is an analysis of the national conservative organizations that mobilize right-leaning college students in various ways. Offering fellowships, internships, ready-made posters for use on campus, national databases of students, conferences, and other events and materials to encourage collegians to get active on their campuses, organizations such as the Young America’s Foundation and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute have a considerable influence on conservative students’ ideas and practices at their universities. On page 99 we discuss some of the resources given to students by an organization called the Leadership Institute.

While the content of this page showcases an important piece of the puzzle (national organizations’ influence on conservative students), it is far from the whole story. The bulk of our book focuses on how college campuses—due to the particular cultural understandings of what it means to be a student at this university, and the specific organizational features present there (admissions selectivity, faculty-to-student ratios, percent of students who live on campus, registration policies...) actually create different kinds of conservatism. Where students feel more anonymous and atomized on a large state school campus, they are more suspicious of their peers and professors’ political motives and they develop more of an “anything goes” attitude about their political events. It is on these campuses where you are likely to see the infamous Affirmative Action Bake Sales and Catch an Illegal Alien Days, where the idea is to provoke liberals. On the other hand, where students feel more part of a special community bubble, where they feel welcomed into an elite band of professors and classmates, where they anticipate having long careers in leadership positions interacting with alums of their university, such provocative actions don’t appeal, and students tend toward what we call a civilized discourse style. This style is aimed at talking deliberatively with liberals and moderates, convincing them that conservatives are not “whackos” (to quote one of our interviewees), potentially even recruiting them to conservative ideology.

Although there is of course much more to say about all of this, such campus-centered analyses are the real crux of Becoming Right: How Campuses Shape Young Conservatives. That provocation and confrontation are currently the dominant forms of conservative politics these days—leaving civilized discourse in the dust—lends our findings added value.
Learn more about Becoming Right at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Melinda Pash's "In the Shadow of the Greatest Generation"

Melinda L. Pash received her Ph.D. in history from the University of Tennessee in 2005 and teaches at Fayetteville Technical Community College in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, In the Shadow of the Greatest Generation: The Americans Who Fought the Korean War, and reported the following:
Page 99 of In the Shadow of the Greatest Generation features a 1950 photo of Captain Johnnie Gosnell’s wife and two young kids saluting him as he leaves Japan for a mission over Korea and an explanation that because the Korean War began so unexpectedly American servicemen were sent into the war quickly, often without regard for training or military occupational specialty.

I do think that in many ways this page reveals the quality of the entire book. Though categorized as military history, the book does not focus on great battles or important generals. Instead, it is more a generational biography of the men and women who answered the country’s call to colors and served in the Korean War zone from June 1950 to July 1953. It details their experiences as well as the human consequences of service. And, you see that in the photo of Gosnell’s family. Here are a wife and two young children patriotically ushering their husband and father off to war, not knowing if he’ll come back safely. Even I don’t know if Gosnell survived the war, but the photo illustrates the sacrifices made by hundreds of thousands of Americans and their families, nearly 40,000 of whom did not return home alive.

In many other ways, page 99 alone does not capture the whole essence of the book. It merely crystallizes a single moment at the beginning of the war. The men and women who rotated in and out of Korea had lives before and after their tours of duty. Those experiences—the impact of World War II on decisions to enlist, the childhoods of want in the Great Depression preparing them for sudden reversals of fortune, the mark left by combat on human psyches—these can’t be explained or chronicled in a single picture or on a single book page. Korea, for many participants, signified a break between existences. Without looking at where these men and women started and where they ended up, it is impossible to understand the impact of this war on those sent to the Korean Peninsula.
View the trailer for In the Shadow of the Greatest Generation, and learn more about the book at the New York University Press website.

Writers Read: Melinda L. Pash.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 17, 2012

Brian Norman's "Dead Women Talking"

Brian Norman is an associate professor of English and director of African and African American studies at Loyola University Maryland. He is author of Neo-Segregation Narratives: Jim Crow in Post–Civil Rights American Literature and The American Protest Essay and National Belonging.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Dead Women Talking: Figures of Injustice in American Literature, and reported the following:
The page 99 test for Dead Women Talking is delightfully apt, at least if I cherry pick the quotation. The test brings me to the middle of chapter six, “Dead Women Heckling,” which considers the role of Ethel Rosenberg in Tony Kushner’s fabulous play Angels in America. The first line of the new section reads, “If we expect progression toward some higher ideal of forgiveness or reconciliation, a posthumous glasnost between the wrongly executed and the gleeful prosecutor, we will be disappointed, or at least perplexed.” The discussion concerns the bedside sparring match between Ethel and Roy Cohn. Cohn is the McCarthy sidekick who helped send Ethel to the gas chamber and now, in Reagan-era America he lies in a hospital dying of AIDS, though he prefers to call it liver cancer lest he be outed as gay. The question in this chapter is whether forgiveness is required to achieve justice and, if so, what we do with the fact that Cohn dies as gleefully unrepentant as ever.

The page 99 test brings the reader to the line I quoted because it also speaks to the book’s overall argument about the responsibility of the dead. Or rather, the proper responsibility of the living in matters of justice. That is, we call on the dead to talk when the living abdicate the responsibility to seek justice to repair the wounds of history, be it slavery, female silence, or a zealous execution of an innocent mother. As a result, the dead women talking in American literature – from Faulkner’s Addie Bundren to Morrison’s Beloved and even to the narrator of television’s Desperate Housewives, if we push it – are often rather beguiling figures. As they speak and insert themselves into the present community, it is not always clear that they mean the living well. Ethel, too, is one of those figures and page 99 quotes at length her beautifully ferocious curse. It includes such memorable lines as, “You who I have hated so terribly I have borne my hatred for you up into the heavens and made a needle-sharp little star in the sky out of it. It’s the star of Ethel Rosenberg’s Hatred, and it burns every year for one night only, June Nineteen. It burns acid green.” This is why I love Kushner’s Ethel Rosenberg: she is smart, she is ferocious, she is bitchy. And she is right.
Learn more about Dead Women Talking at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 16, 2012

W. Patrick McCray's "The Visioneers"

W. Patrick McCray is professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of Keep Watching the Skies!: The Story of Operation Moonwatch and the Dawn of the Space Age and Giant Telescopes: Astronomical Ambition and the Promise of Technology.

McCray applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Visioneers: How a Group of Elite Scientists Pursued Space Colonies, Nanotechnologies, and a Limitless Future, and reported the following:
If we look at the broader history of technology, we see rare individuals who have had a clear and strong vision of an expansive future created by technologies they studied, designed, and promoted. People who would fit this category are Nikola Tesla in the 1890s (wireless transmission of electricity) or Wernher von Braun in the 1930s (rocketry and human spaceflight) or Doug Engelbart in the 1960s (human-computer interactions).

A neologism of “visionary” and “engineer,” visioneer captures the hybrid nature of these technologists’ activities. The visionary aspect is central – these are people who aren’t simply imagining a faster airplane or a new electronic gadget. They present a vision of society as a whole that could be altered, shaped, and improved by technologies they see as necessary and even inevitable. The engineering element is just as, if not more, critical. Visioneers base their imaginings on detailed engineering studies and technical designs. They also engage in another form of engineering as they build communities of supporters and patrons. At its core, visioneering entails developing a broad and comprehensive vision for how the future might be radically changed by technology, doing research to advance this vision, and promoting one’s ideas to the public and policy makers in the hopes of generating attention and perhaps even realization.

The Visioneers focuses on two such individuals. One is Princeton University physicist Gerard O'Neill who, in the 1970s, became a minor celebrity for promoting what he called the “humanization of space.” Central to O'Neill’s visioneering were space settlements. The other main character in my book is K. Eric Drexler. Originally drawn to O'Neill’s ideas while a student at MIT, Drexler went on to promote a different technological frontier – nanotechnology. Whereas space promised the infinitely vast, nanotechnology – engineering to design and build new materials and things with near-atomic precision – shifted things toward the molecular scale. Both of these men imagined futures which were catalyzed by advocates’ belief that new technologies offered radical solutions that countered the sense of impending planetary limits and ecocatastrophe that permeated thinking in the early 1970s.

Page 99 of my book reveals an interesting problem that visioneers like O'Neill faced. Here, we find that Timothy Leary – yes, that Leary – was also drawn to space colonization. While in jail on drug charges, Leary began to think about a new trip – humanity’s exodus into space. After California governor Jerry Brown paroled him in April 1976, Leary, now even more on the fringes of respectability, added these new ingredients to his evolving recipe for mutation. Ever adept at coining a catchy phrase, Leary cheerily christened his new plan SMI²LE: “Space Migration, Intelligence Increase, and Life Extension.” In books, lectures, radio shows, and even comic books, Leary and a few close associates promoted SMI²LE to a small community of devotees. The well-publicized placement of Leary’s ashes into orbit symbolized Leary’s longstanding interest in space, immortality, and (to be fair) publicity.

From his own home, tucked away in one of Los Angeles County’s steep shaded canyons, “where the migrants and the mutants, and the future people come from, the end point of terrestrial migration,” Leary spread his SMI²LE. No visioneer, Leary did no design or technical work to bolster his ideas and O'Neill avoided direct associations with him. Nonetheless, Leary dropped the Princeton physicist’s name into almost every exposition of SMI²LE and claimed “sexy Gerard O'Neill” was proof that the days of the “retiring, square, fuddy-duddy scientist” were over.

Leary’s enthusiasm for “high orbital living” highlighted difficulties that visioneers have in controlling their message and ideas. It also showed how far O'Neill’s humanization of space had migrated from its origins in Ivy League classrooms and NASA workshops. And, as the idea of space migration circulated between university campuses and sci-fi conventions and the coffee shops and hot tubs of coastal California it continued to mutate in ways O'Neill would never have imagined.
Learn more about the book and author at W. Patrick McCray's website.

The Page 99 Test: W. Patrick McCray's Keep Watching the Skies!.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Ian Worthington's "Demosthenes of Athens and the Fall of Classical Greece"

Ian Worthington is Professor of History at the University of Missouri and author of Alexander the Great: Man and God and Philip II of Macedonia.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Demosthenes of Athens and the Fall of Classical Greece, and reported the following:
Page 99 of the book oddly enough is a turning point for both its central character, Demosthenes, and his bitterest adversary, King Philip II of Macedonia. Demosthenes came to be the most powerful politician of ancient Athens and Greece's greatest orator. His earlier political career, however, was undistinguished, and his first political speeches of the mid 350s were failures. It was not until Philip II began to threaten Greek independence in the same decade that Demosthenes shot to power on a platform of resisting Philip at all costs before it was too late.

The Athenians were at war with Philip from 357 to 346 BC, although neither side faced the other in battle. Philip had inherited a kingdom in 359 when he became king that was a political, social, military, and economic backwater, but during the years he was at war with Athens he had reshaped Macedonia, stimulated its economy, created an unstoppable army, and made formidable inroads in Greece. His legacy allowed his son Alexander the Great to achieve his spectacular successes in Asia. As a stepping-stone to establishing a power base in Greece, Philip had exploited a "sacred war" waged by several Greek states to liberate the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi from the clutches of another state and a large band of mercenaries. Both of these wars ended in 346. Page 99 of my book talks of the strength of Philip at the end of his war with Athens and the death throes of the sacred war, which propelled Philip to influence central Greek affairs until his assassination a decade later. The same page also speaks of the Athenian resolution to continue resisting Philip, and thus sets the scene for Demosthenes' rise to prominence. His anti-Macedonian policy of the later 340s and early 330s BC would become that of Athens, but ultimately it resulted in failure when Philip defeated the Greeks at the famous Battle of Chaeronea in 338 and imposed Macedonian hegemony over them.
Learn more about Demosthenes of Athens and the Fall of Classical Greece at the Oxford University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Demosthenes of Athens and the Fall of Classical Greece.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 14, 2012

Dora Apel's "War Culture and the Contest of Images"

Dora Apel is an associate professor and the W. Hawkins Ferry Endowed Chair in Modern and Contemporary Art History at Wayne State University. She is the author of Memory Effects: The Holocaust and the Art of Secondary Witnessing and Imagery of Lynching: Black Men, White Women, and the Mob.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, War Culture and the Contest of Images, and reported the following:
Page 99 concludes a discussion of several video and performance works by artist Coco Fusco, who critiques the expanding role of women as military perpetrators and examines female complicity with military power in response to the “war on terror” first launched by the Bush administration. Her work was inspired by the sexualized use of American female soldiers in the tortures and humiliations of Arabs and Muslims at Abu Ghraib and Guantànamo Bay. Fusco’s most daring project, Operation Atropos, involved herself and a group of six women volunteers who enrolled in a four-day interrogation training workshop led by Team Delta, a group of retired U.S. military interrogators in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, which Fusco filmed and turned into a fifty-nine minute video. Four of the seven women broke down under the stress and revealed their “mission information.” While a brave experiment, page 99 discusses the potential for trauma of such an experience, suggesting that even voluntary exposure to stress can still have damaging effects. It cites a white paper by Physicians for Human Rights on the unlawful collusion of physicians with torture and human experimentation under the Bush administration, which concluded that adverse psychological effects occurred even when “stress hardy” soldiers familiar with psychological testing were exposed to “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.”

Fusco’s work is part of a larger chapter on war experience in relation to gender, sexuality and the body. This chapter discusses the sexual abuse and discrimination against women in the U.S. military and how the reception of the Abu Ghraib photos was inflected by that; it also considers the suppressed image of rape in the Abu Ghraib photos coupled with the appearance of Iraqi women raped by American soldiers on Internet pornographic sites. In addition, it examines the low resolution “mediality” of cell phone technology and its importance to the documentary affect of such images.

Overall, War Culture and the Contest of Images examines a wide variety of cultural representations of war in the United States and the Middle East that also includes photography, video gaming technologies, war reenactment, social networking sites, and advertising campaigns. I argue that in modern warfare and in the accompanying culture of war that capitalism produces, the contest of images is as critical as the war on the ground.
Learn more about War Culture and the Contest of Images at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 13, 2012

David Skinner's "The Story of Ain’t"

David Skinner the editor of Humanities, and before that he was an assistant managing editor at The Weekly Standard. He has written for the Wall Street Journal, the New Atlantis, Boston magazine, the Washington Times, American Spectator, Slate, Salon, Education Next, The Public Interest, and several other publications. His writing about dictionaries has been featured on Slate and National Public Radio.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his recent book, The Story of Ain't: America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published, and reported the following:
From page 99 of The Story of Ain't:
Next Macdonald was taking it to The Nation, for skipping a Trotsky Commission meeting; for playing nice with New Deal Democrats; and for avoiding the question of whether Stalinism was building socialism or destroying it. Shrewdly, Macdonald realized the left’s vulnerability on the matter of Stalin’s brutality, but with extravagant outspokenness he used his own personal experience, his own life story, as warm-up for his attacks.
The Story of Ain’t is the history of a comic, over-the-top, one-of-a-kind public controversy that erupted in 1961 when G. and C. Merriam Co. unveiled its new unabridged dictionary, Webster’s Third, which, according to the press release, described ain’t as “used orally in most parts of the U.S. by cultivated speakers.”

Scores of mocking headlines resulted. Said one newspaper in reply: “Cultivated, our foot.”

Next, the New York Times was calling on Merriam to scrap the new dictionary and start over. In the Atlantic, Wilson Follett called Webster’s Third “a very great calamity” and accused its editors of trying to sabotage the language. In the American Scholar, Jacques Barzun called Webster’s Third “the longest political pamphlet ever put together by a party.”

The Story of Ain’t is also about our attachment to the language and how upset we get when people use it in ways we do not approve of. (Some people, for instance, get quite annoyed when a sentence ends with a preposition.) And it is about American history leading up to the controversy, especially how the language was churning in response to the Great Depression, World War Two, the G.I. Bill, popular culture, and the Cold War.

Why, then, on page 99 was I discussing a minor internecine feud between the New York intellectual Dwight Macdonald and The Nation magazine? One reason is that it partly illuminates the parade of changing cultural and intellectual fashions between that 1920s and the 1960s. Macdonald is, to me, symbolic of the then-developing adversarial culture of American intellectuals.

But the main reason is that Macdonald becomes the major critic of Webster’s Third, and here in these other spats we can glimpse his development as a putdown artist: the upper cut of his sarcasm, the left jab of his questioning, the knockout punch of his moral indignation. Some years later he would put these to use against the most controversial dictionary ever published.
Learn more about the book and author at David Skinner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jayne Elizabeth Lewis's "Air's Appearance"

Jayne Elizabeth Lewis is professor of English at the University of California, Irvine, and the author of Mary Queen of Scots: Romance and Nation.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Air's Appearance: Literary Atmosphere in British Fiction, 1660-1794, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Air’s Appearance happens to be about ... air’s appearance! How, that is, does air look to human observers? It’s a trick question of course: Air is invisible. So it can only ‘look’ any way at all by virtue of what we project into it. Indeed, we communicate these projections through the air, insofar as we communicate via speech and its ethereal proxies, text and screen.

Page 99 attempts to stabilize an obviously slippery situation by approaching it from a historical point of view: How were things that literally appeared in the air—meteors, comets, rainbows, the aurora borealis—seen in later seventeenth-century England? Here we’re not just in the midst of the so-called scientific revolution but also in the aftermath of the so-called Puritan revolution and political backlash against it. At a time of multiple (hence suspended) worldviews, not everyone saw aerial things as things, which is to say as purely physical events occurring, unconditioned, in the atmosphere. Instead, aerial phenomena from shooting stars to parhelia (double suns) to reddened clouds were also seen as portents, reprimands, and divine or demonic signatures.

So what did air register consistently across observers? The answer appears on Page 99: Air registers habits of human speculation themselves, their inevitable intermixture with the objects we speculate about. Further, things in the air reveal the representational aspect of any objective phenomenon that appears to the human eye. Page 99 cites several contemporary figures who understood the air in figural, even aesthetic, terms as a “theater of light.” What’s more, print’s emergence as the dominant medium in the second half of the seventeenth century meant that English readers were now as likely to see the things that appeared in the air through the screen of visible words—hence in the minds’ eye—as they were to see those things themselves. Thomas Burnet’s Sacred Theory of the Earth (1681) treats modern meteorological spectacles as “signs of another nature” insofar as they make their meaning apparent in the moment of their appearance to the eye. Because mediation still occurs at that moment, experience of them matches the experience of literary representation.

Air’s Appearance connects the emergence of “atmosphere” as an aesthetic program in early English fiction with contemporary conceptions of air as these were forged in natural philosophy, demonology, and social theory. Page 99 is in Chapter Four, which sets Daniel Defoe’s 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe amid rival meteorologies of its time, foregrounding the weather journal that Crusoe keeps on his desert island in relation to contemporary weather writing. I interpret the inset journal as a tutorial in how to read the atmospheres of fiction, even as it proves eerily indistinguishable from ‘real’ weather journals of the time and other contemporary representations of aerial events.
Learn more about Air's Appearance at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Darlene J. Sadlier's "Americans All"

Darlene J. Sadlier is Professor of Spanish and Portuguese and Adjunct Professor of American Studies and Communication and Culture at Indiana University–Bloomington. Her books include the cultural history, Brazil Imagined: 1500 to the Present (2008).

Sadlier applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Americans All: Good Neighbor Cultural Diplomacy in World War II, and reported the following:
Page 99 [inset below left, click to enlarge] is from a chapter on the Radio Division that was part of a cultural and commercial agency created by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1940 to strengthen ties between the United States and Latin America during World War II. Nelson A Rockefeller was appointed by Roosevelt to head the agency, which was called the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs. Within the agency there were divisions dedicated to film, press and publications, art and education, cultural relations as well as radio. Among those who worked for the Radio Division was the poet Archibald MacLeish, who was also head of the Library of Congress and Assistant Director of the Office of War Information. Along with programs such as Land of the Free, his The American Story episodes (1944) were featured in the agency’s NBC University of the Air, a broadcast that focused on programs to educate listeners about the history of the Americas. Also popular with listening audiences were musical programs that were transmitted throughout the U.S. and Latin America. U.S. listeners were already well-acquainted with Brazilian samba and other Latin American music and they were delighted with programs that featured other popular rhythms. Latin Americans were less interested in North American swing and jazz than they were in folkloric music and symphonic compositions from the U.S. Although the Office of the Coordinator for Inter-American Affairs tried to emphasize the Good Neighbor similarities among the countries of the Americas, music was among the subjects where one can see differences of opinion and taste.
Learn more about Americans All at the University of Texas Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 10, 2012

Louis Mendoza’s "A Journey Around Our America"

Louis G. Mendoza is a professor and Chair of the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies, as well as an Associate Vice Provost in the Office for Equity and Diversity at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. He is the author and editor of numerous essays and several books, including, Conversations Across our America: Talking About Immigration and the Latinoization of the United States, raúlrsalinas and the Jail Machine: My Weapon is My Pen, and Crossing into America: The New Literature of Immigration.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, A Journey Around Our America: A Memoir on Cycling, Immigration, and the Latinoization of the U. S., and reported the following:
A Journey Around Our America chronicles the almost six months I spent riding through 34 states around the perimeter of the country from July through December 2007. I took this trip as on a research sabbatical from the University of Minnesota as a non-traditional scholarly approach to investigate how Latinos are changing the country’s cultural geography through demographic change, with recent immigration being only one factor driving this transformation. My primary goal was to listen and learn. I published a collection of interviews I conducted along the way. This book is the trip from my perspective and all the adventures I had along the way.

On the 99th page of A Journey Around Our America, I am writing about my time in Iowa City. It’s my third day back on the road after taking a 10 day hiatus at my home in Minneapolis where I rested after the first segment of my trip was completed in late August. I am visiting friends in Iowa City and I see the news about the resignation of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. On page 99 I reflect on this and talk about several conversations I have with locals, a labor education specialist, entrepreneurs, and a small town city councilman. In many respects, this page is indicative of the book as a whole as I muse on Latinos in the news and gain insight from new people I met who are at different stations in life but who are critically aware of how changing demographics in the region (the Midwest in this case), are obliging people to adjust their perceptions of Latinos.
On Monday morning we watch the news coverage on Alberto Gonzales' resignation as U.S. Attorney General as a result of accusations of perjury before Congress. Gonzales had been the highest ranking Hispanic public official in the country. He was involved in several controversies in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, including his approval in 2002 of a memorandum that called the limitations on the questioning of prisoners under the Geneva Convention "obsolete" when dealing with terrorism, his August 2007 testimony regarding unauthorized government surveillance programs, and his confusing accounts of having approved the dismissals of nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006 while denying detailed knowledge of the circumstances or reasons. Hearings on the firings led to the controversy that ended in his resignation, though he was later exonerated.

We listened to his statement in horror as he speaks of how much he loves this country and that even his worst days in office (presumably the more recent ones when he's been under scrutiny for misleading Congress) are better than his father's best days in Mexico. I hope his father and others explain to him how insulting that statement is. His scheduled departure date of Sept. 16th will give new meaning to Mexican independence--or should I say, our freedom from this tyrannical Mexican American? To be sure, many saw in Gonzalez a shining example of American meritocracy in which an ethnic minority member could rise to the highest ranks of power. However, for many progressive-minded Latin@s, Gonzalez has represented the limits of access to power unless one is willing to mimic the tactics and values of the ruling elite.

Iowa City and West Liberty

The following day, Omar takes the day off to show me around Iowa City and surrounding communities. I have a great meeting with Ángel González, a program coordinator with the University of Iowa's Labor Center, we visit La Reyna, a small store and restaurant in the area and speak briefly with one of the co-owners and hear a little about how she started her business. She and her husband moved from Chicago so her children would not have to attend public schools there. I am fascinated with how new immigrants are able to open new businesses and they trade stories of how this is achieved through the pooling of money. Omar makes the point that would become more and more clear to me throughout my trip, that new immigrants of any background often take business risks here because their chance for mobility and entrepreneurial success are greater here than in their home countries. Omar arranges a meeting for me the next day with José Elizondo, the first Latin@ city council person elected in the town of W. Liberty, which is about 20 miles east of Iowa City.
Learn more about A Journey Around Our America at the University of Texas Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Jennifer Jensen Wallach's "Well Met"

Jennifer Jensen Wallach is an associate professor of history at the University of North Texas who specializes in African-American history and United States food history. She is the author of Closer to the Truth than Any Fact: Memoir, Memory, and Jim Crow (2008), Richard Wright: From Black Boy to World Citizen (2010), and the co-editor of Arsnick: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Arkansas (2011). She is also the author of How America Eats: A Social History of U.S. Food and Culture (2012) and is the series editor of the University of Arkansas Press Series on Food and Foodways. In collaboration with Lindsey R. Swindall, she is also at work on two edited food history collections titled American Appetites: A Documentary Reader and High and Low on the Hog: African-American Foodways from Slavery to Obama. In 2010 History News Network named her a “Top Young Historian.”

Wallach applied the “Page 99 Test” to How America Eats and reported the following:
I would rather that readers ignore the old adage and judge my book by its playful and artfully designed cover rather than on the basis of page 99. Out of curiosity, I applied the test to a number of the novels on my bookshelves, and they all passed handily. Each page 99 captured something of the author’s style and essence as a thinker and writer. However, the same practice is more haphazard when applied to works of non-fiction. Novelists have creative control over how they shape the fictional worlds their characters inhabit while historians, like myself, owe fidelity to the real word. Sometimes that obligation to an externally existing historical reality makes for dull reading. For example, look at this passage from page 99 of How America Eats:
Refrigeration technology became increasingly more effective decade by decade, but the necessary equipment and infrastructure remained expensive. Just as improvements in wheat milling were too costly for small millers to install, refrigeration equipment too was affordable only to major meat packers. By 1890, four companies packed 89 percent of the country’s beef. Year by year, the American food supply was controlled by fewer and fewer corporations.
If the entire book read like that I would certainly crush my editors’ hopes that I have written a book that will prove enticing to hard to please undergraduate readers, to the discerning “general reader,” and to the historical community. The book surveys United States food history from the time of European contact through the present. I investigate how Americans have used food practices as a way to perform religious, gendered, racial, and political identities. All of these categories are subsumed under the larger question of what it means to be an “American.” A partial answer is manifested in how inhabitants of the United States have chosen to fill their stomachs. Technology is an important theme because many have taken pride in the country’s industrial prowess and technological innovation. As a result, Americans have generally shown a preference for inexpensive, industrially produced food over developing an artisan food culture. In order to show how this came about, I had to write about the technology that made this choice possible, even if that discussion does not make for riveting reading.

The discussion on page 99 is necessary and important but not representative of more nuanced and interpretive passages elsewhere in the book. My favorite chapter, “Food Habits and Racial Thinking,” examines the paradoxical fact that European American eaters have been willing to embrace the foods of members of various racial and ethnic groups but generally reluctant to bestow first class citizenship on the creators of these cuisines. That observation is more in keeping with my expertise and my approach to the subject than the rather technical contents of page 99.
Learn more about How America Eats at the Rowman & Littlefield website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Harold James's "Making the European Monetary Union"

Harold James is Professor of History and International Affairs at Princeton University and Professor of History at the European University Institute, Florence. A specialist on German economic history and on globalization, his books include The Creation and Destruction of Value: The Globalization Cycle and Krupp: A History of the Legendary German Firm.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Making the European Monetary Union, and reported the following:
I was initially quite skeptical when I learned of the Page 99 Test, and wondered whether my page 99 was filled with peripheral technical details about the arcanae of monetary integration. But in fact, p. 99 is indeed a kind of microcosm of the book. It deals with two themes: the European response to the global monetary uncertainty that followed the closing of the gold window by President Nixon in August 1971; and the institutional maneuvering through which central bankers and the Basel-based Bank for International Settlements wanted to place themselves at the center of the European response. The BIS suggested that it should build up a permanent secretariat around the committee of European central bank governors that had been meeting in Basel.

Overall, the book tells the story of European monetary integration from the 1960s to the 1990s as a story of a European response to global monetary and financial turbulence. Some people believe that the Euro was driven by a fundamentally political logic (to make war in Europe impossible), and that the economic side was not well thought out: I lay out the basis for the economic and monetary thinking (and the way in which the technical experts guided and shaped that thinking) that drove the creation of the Euro.

Obviously, there are also themes that do not appear on this one page. A big obstacle to clear analysis of the Euro and its problems today lies in a propensity to develop myths about the origins of the single European currency. In one very powerful view the currency union was a high-minded European political project that ignored economic realities. It was needed to stop the recurrence of war between France and Germany. Both proponents of the Euro project such as the veteran German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher but also by opponents such as the economist Martin Feldstein have touted this theory. But it is implausible. Americans are perfectly aware that they haven’t had a war with Canada or Mexico recently (although in the long past there were indeed such conflicts), and that they don’t need a currency union to improve relations with neighbors.

The book shows how a political consensus alone was never enough, and how political initiatives only succeeded when they were underlined by a solid economic logic.
Learn more about Making the European Monetary Union at the Harvard University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 7, 2012

Jessica Pierce's "The Last Walk"

Jessica Pierce has taught and written about philosophy for many years. She is the author of a number of books, including Morality Play: Case Studies in Ethics and The Last Walk: Reflections on Our Pets at the End of Their Lives.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Last Walk and reported the following:
Page 99 finds us in the middle of chapter 4, which is called “Pain.” Pain is a subject that could fill several Libraries of Congress; in my chapter, the agenda is to talk specifically about the pain experienced by animals—especially companion animals, with an eye toward how we can ensure that our pets don’t suffer at the end of life. One of the most important things we can to do improve animal welfare generally, and improve the lives of companion animals, is to pay careful attention to pain. Undertreated or untreated pain is epidemic among animals, even though good palliative care is available and relatively affordable. Still, although it is easy to agree that we should attend to pain in our animals, treating pain is tricky. Managing pain well takes determination and effort, and close collaboration between veterinarian and pet guardian.

By the time we reach page 99, I’ve set forth the scientific case for animal pain—and not just nociception (the physiological response to tissue damage), but the conscious perception of pain as an unpleasant emotional experience. You might think this point needs little in the way of proof, but you’d be surprised how much “pain skepticism” still pervades animal science. I’ve touched on which animals can experience pain: mammals, certainly, but also birds and fish and perhaps even some invertebrates (the jury is still out on lobsters and crabs). I’ve also talked about the difference between pain and the broader category of “suffering.” On page 99, I am in the middle of a discussion about how, exactly, we can begin to understand and measure pain in our companion animals, particularly if we take our own human experiences of pain as a starting point. I talk about “translational pain medicine,” which seeks to translate animal pain research, usually performed on rodents, into human clinical practices. And I explain that pain responses are highly individualized and will vary not just by species, but also by gender, age, past experiences, and personality.

The last paragraph of the page delves into somewhat more tentative speculations about pain in animals.
Although we might assume that the greater complexity of the human mind means that we will suffer more deeply from pain than other, less complex animals, this may not be true. Consider the following observations, from a scientist, a veterinarian, and a philosopher. Our scientist notes that the adrenal response to stress is more pronounced in animals than it is in people. Why? It may be because people can deal with stressful situations using psychological tools that animals lack—for example, we can understand why we’re being poked with a needle. Our veterinarian suggests that animals may suffer more severely from pain than people. Pain, he says, is divided into a sensory-discriminative dimension and a motivational-affective dimension, and since animals are more limited in the first dimension, they may have more pronounced reaction in the second dimension. And finally, our philosopher points out, “If animals are indeed… inexorably locked into what is happening now, we are all the more obliged to try to relieve their suffering, since they themselves cannot look forward to or anticipate its cessation, or even remember, however dimly, its absence... If they are in pain, their whole universe is pain; there is no horizon; they are their pain.”
Learn more about The Last Walk: Reflections on Our Pets at the Ends of Their Lives at Jessica Pierce's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Jessica Pierce and Maya.

Writers Read: Jessica Pierce.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Justin G. Wilford's "Sacred Subdivisions"

Justin G. Wilford has a PhD in cultural geography and an MA in political theory.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Sacred Subdivisions: The Postsuburban Transformation of American Evangelicalism and reported the following:
The “Page 99 Test” produced a positive result in the case of my book. The central argument of my book is that American evangelical megachurches are growing at a time when other Christian denominations are shrinking because they have rooted themselves on the post-suburban fringe of large metropolitan areas and have found a way to make these environments religiously meaningful. One of the key ways they do this is through the church’s self-initiated fragmentation and diffusion.

The most successful evangelical megachurches, like the one I focus on in my book—Saddleback Valley Community Church in Orange County, California—do not revolve around the central church campus, at least for their most devoted members. The religious practices and narratives that capture the hearts and imaginations of the churchgoers takes place in residential homes, scattered across the post-suburban landscape. On different week nights, Saddleback church members gather in groups of 5-15 in each others’ homes, and pray, share stories, and discuss various Christian readings or watch short christian videos. At Saddleback they simply call these gatherings “small groups,” while at other churches they have slightly more descriptive names such as, “home groups,” “community groups,” or “discipleship groups.” But generally their purpose is the same: to provide members with an individualized, intimate, and flexible mode of connecting their everyday lives with conservative evangelical narratives. The church, then, becomes as fragmented, mobile, and diffuse as its members’ post-suburban lives.

In older or less innovative forms of American Christianity, this fragmentation of the church into thousands of small groups, might be cause for concern. But for a church like Saddleback, it’s embraced. And this is how my page 99 begins:
“Who is the church?” and “Where is the church?” are not questions that a Saddleback pastor wants to answer with any certainty. In attempting to mirror its postsuburban environment, Saddleback refuses to draw growth boundaries, locate a dominant multifunctional center of activity, and enact strict regulation on what can and can not take place in given zones.
Learn more about the book and author at Justin G. Wilford's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Laleh Khalili's "Time in the Shadows"

Laleh Khalili is a Reader in Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London), and the author of Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine: The Politics of National Commemoration.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies and reported the following:
Page 99 is part of the conclusion of the chapter on Guantánamo Bay detention camp, and the legal struggles around the status of detainees there. When Camp X-Ray was first used to house detainees of the War on Terror we regularly heard that Guantánamo was a legal black hole. But what interested me was that the Camp was exactly the opposite. The vast edifice of laws, treaties, and court cases arguing its jurisdictional status loomed over the camp. But also what was really interesting to me was how much the discussion of Guantánamo as something monstrously new and unprecedented seemed amnesiac: what about the Haitian detainees held there in the mid-1990s, or all the other island prisons and detention centres used to hold combatants in small wars and counterinsurgencies over the course of the long 20th century?

On page 99, I sum up what I found most extraordinary about the mass of laws and legal arguments around Guantánamo: how all the cases revealed themselves for what they were via the precedents they invoked (colonial rulings, or cases which justified injustices). Page 99 mentions the Indian Wars, where many of the legal arguments of the War on Terror seem to have been rehearsed, including the usage of military commissions to summarily try non-citizens.

The book’s other chapters look at other forms of detention in the War on Terror, their ancestors from other wars, and the particular aspect of these liberal counterinsurgencies they reveal. So, extraordinary renditions, for example, tell us something about the use of proxies and local clients in these wars and the “plausible deniability” they grant the more powerful actor. Or the large-scale sweep of men between the ages of 16 and 55, and gigantic POW camps (such as those in Abu Ghraib, Camp Nama, or Bagram Air Force Base) reveal the vast apparatuses of information-gathering, bureaucracy, and re-education –alongside torture– used to “turn” suspected combatants. I also write about the mass incarceration of civilians via enclavisation or encirclement (as was done in a number of cities and neighbourhoods in Iraq, or indeed Strategic Hamlets in Vietnam), and how these forms prepare civilian spaces for door-to-door search-and-sweeps, intelligence gathering, and collective punishment of civilians that are the hallmarks of such asymmetric and unconventional warfare.
Learn more about Time in the Shadows at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Judith S. Weis's "Walking Sideways"

Judith S. Weis is Professor of Biology at Rutgers-Newark. She is the author of Do Fish Sleep? and coauthor of Salt Marshes: A Natural and Unnatural History.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Walking Sideways: The Remarkable World of Crabs, and reported the following:
Page 99 discusses territorial behavior of fiddler crabs. Fiddlers live in the intertidal zone and are active during low tide, when people can easily observe them without snorkels or scuba gear. Fiddlers are unusual, since they are not active when underwater, but out in the air. Fiddlers are small (1-2 inches across) and named for the enlarged claw of the males, which they wave to attract females. They dig burrows with multiple uses: to hide from predators, use during high tide, recover from a molt when soft shelled and especially vulnerable, and (for some) mate. While most are tropical, some species live in temperate zones and hibernate during the winter. Since burrows are of major importance, they defend them from other crabs. When a wandering crab approaches a burrow “owner” the owner may chase it away or make contact and push it away. Fights may ensue, in which one crab is picked up and flipped over by the other. I describe a study of a species which also defended burrows of their neighbors, but only when the neighbor was smaller and the intruder was of intermediate size. This provides an advantage to the defender since it is easier to have the smaller original neighbor than to re-negotiate territory boundaries with a new larger neighbor. In another species, males protected female neighbors from male but not from female intruders. Since females sometimes mate with their neighbors, this “chivalrous” behavior could result in mating opportunities.

Crabs have other fascinating behaviors - varied feeding behaviors and defenses from predators, walking (sideways and forwards), swimming, communications (visual, chemical, or sound) that are described. Other chapters cover other aspects of crab biology including their habitats (deep sea, freshwater, dry land, even trees), anatomy and physiology, reproduction and life cycle, ecology (including the important change from small floating larva to bottom-dwelling adult, extensive migrations (land crabs must migrate many miles to release their larvae in the ocean) and interactions with other organisms. Various crabs live with seaweeds, sea anemones, sea urchins, or jellyfish – which generally provide protection to the crab. Of greatest importance to a hermit crab is finding the right size snail shell to live in – this can produce aggression or cooperation. The chapter “Crab Problems and Problem Crabs” covers various diseases and parasites that crabs can have (including a bizarre parasite that causes “parasitic castration”), as well as crabs that are themselves parasites or arrive in new locations and make trouble – “invasive species.” There are also chapters dealing with interactions of crabs and humans – one about crab fisheries, another about eating crabs, and the last chapter about crabs as pets, in astrology and mythology, and in popular culture.
Learn more about Walking Sideways at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 3, 2012

Melanie Challenger's "On Extinction"

Melanie Challenger is the author of Galatea, an award-winning first collection of poems, and co-author, with Zlata Filipovic, of Stolen Voices, a history of twentieth-century conflict compiled through war diaries. She has received a British Council Darwin Award for her work. She lives in the Scottish Highlands.

Challenger applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, On Extinction: How We Became Estranged from Nature, and reported the following:
On being asked to perform the 99 Test on my book On Extinction, I turned to the requisite page only to discover that in this edition of the book, the page is a blank. At first I stared at the blank page and felt rather silly. But, then, of course, it struck me. On Extinction is just that: a meditation on the loss of species, places, ways of life, languages, and an exploration of the human capacity to feel loss. It's a book about this point in human history, when the Earth's diversity and also, in different ways, the diversity of human experience is under threat. And so a blank page is actually rather poetic, rather redolent of the subject. Think, for instance, of the permanent silence of the song of New Zealand's wonderful Laughing Owl or of the thrumming wings of Kerr's Noctuid Moth. Think of the last breath of the last speaker of the Eyak language spoken by tribes from the mouth of Copper River. The particular dreams and myths and intonations of their way of life were extinguished on the speaker's deathbed. And so a blank page is suggestive of extinction itself but also of the unwritten annals of the future. While I can’t pretend to readers that On Extinction is a laugh-a-minute, it’s none-the-less a heartfelt, deeply hopeful book. My argument throughout is that there are sentiments intrinsic to human nature that might yet enable us to resist the destruction of other life-forms and of the special ways we inhabit the earth. In this way, that blank page also points to the possibility that the future environmental disaster is not inevitable, if, and only if, these sentiments can be aroused in us.
Learn more about On Extinction at the Counterpoint website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Brycchan Carey's "From Peace to Freedom"

Brycchan Carey is currently reader in English literature, Kingston University, London. He is the author of British Abolitionism and the Rhetoric of Sensibility: Writing, Sentiment, and Slavery, 1760–1807.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, From Peace to Freedom: Quaker Rhetoric and the Birth of American Antislavery, 1657-1761, and reported the following:
From Peace to Freedom tells the story of how Quakers, first in Barbados and later in Pennsylvania, came to question slavery and later to outlaw it within the Society of Friends, as the Quakers are also known. Appropriately, therefore, page 99 discusses the somewhat strained relationship between Friends in those two places, showing how Barbadian and Philadelphian Friends corresponded over the slavery question in 1698, and how Friends in the more northerly colony requested that those from the Caribbean send no more slaves to Pennsylvania. This was one of several similar moves by Quakers in Pennsylvania that, on first sight, look like statements of antislavery but which on closer inspection emerge from less noble motives; page 99 concludes with the observation that “the reason given in 1698 was neither the Golden Rule nor the assertion of African humanity, but merely that Philadelphian Quakers felt that slaves ‘are too numerous here.’ Opposition to slavery was not always motivated by the purest humanitarianism.” This, sadly, would prove to be true on several other occasions.

The most visible feature of page 99 is the long quotation in the middle of the page. This is a substantial portion of the text of the letter sent in 1698 by Friends in Philadelphia to those in Barbados. This long quotation is not unusual. Throughout the book I have quoted generously from sources that are not easily accessible to the general reader. On other pages, one can find the full text of the 1688 Germantown Protest Against Slavery, plentiful minutes of debates in Quaker meetings which reveal that Friends were not above arguing with one another, lengthy extracts from pamphlets by pioneering antislavery Quakers such as John Hepburn and Ralph Sandiford, and a full report of what the eccentric Quaker Benjamin Lay actually said when he famously spattered the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting with fake blood in 1738.

All in all, page 99 is representative of the book as a whole in that it shows that early Quaker antislavery was tentative and often rather self-serving at the same time that it was intercolonial and international. The page also displays my method of quoting extensively from primary texts. On this occasion, Ford Madox Ford’s test holds good!
Learn more about the book and author at Brycchan Carey's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 1, 2012

David Papineau's "Philosophical Devices"

David Papineau has a BSc in mathematics from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and a BA and PhD in philosophy from Cambridge. Since 1990 he has been Professor of Philosophy at King's College London. He was President of the British Society for the Philosophy of Science from 1993 to 1995. In 1999-2000 he was a Leverhulme Research Fellow and in 2007 a Mind Fellow. He was President of the Mind Association for 2009-10. In 2010 he gave the Rudolf Carnap Lectures in Bochum, Germany and in 2011 the Gottlob Frege Lectures in Tartu, Estonia.

Papineau applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Philosophical Devices: Proofs, Probabilities, Possibilities, and Sets, and reported the following:
On page 99 I come to the end of my introduction to subjective probabilities and start on objective probabilities. As I explain, ‘subjective probabilities’ are simply psychological states, the degrees to which we subjectively expect certain outcomes. Objective probabilities are quite different—they are out in the world, not in people’s heads. They quantify the objective tendency for certain kinds of results to happen, and would still have existed even if people with degrees of expectation had never evolved.

Probability is just one of the ‘philosophical devices’ discussed in my book. The aim of the book is to introduce philosophy students and others to some of the technical ideas assumed in present-day philosophical writing. Once philosophy students get beyond the foothills, they are likely to start coming across passing references to ideas like denumerability, Bayesian conditionalization, modal scope distinctions, logical completeness, and so on. Yet often there will be nothing in their education designed to explain these technical notions to them.

The book aims to remedy this. As the subtitle explains, it deals, not just with probability, but also sets, possibilities and proofs. More specifically, the book contains four sections, each of three chapters. The first section is about sets and numbers, starting with the membership relation and ending with the generalized continuum hypothesis. The second is about analyticity, a prioricity and necessity. The third is about probability, outlining the difference between objective and subjective probability and exploring aspects of conditionalization and correlation. The fourth deals with metalogic, focusing on the contrast between syntax and semantics, and finishing with a sketch of Godel’s theorem.

I do this all in under 50,000 words including exercises and solutions. Some will think that a book like this can only be a bluffer’s guide. But I think I explain everything properly, and moreover make it philosophically interesting. Of course I don’t provide the depth available from higher-level courses in mathematical logic and the like. But for readers who will never go near such courses, I at least offer a way of understanding what the experts are talking about.

When I explained the idea of this book to one of my more technical colleagues, he complained ‘But you’re just picking all the plums!’ Exactly. I want readers of this book to enjoy the juicy fruit that are normally available only to specialists.
Learn more about Philosophical Devices at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue