Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Christopher Scheitle & Roger Finke's "Places of Faith"

Christopher P. Scheitle is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Sociology at the Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of Beyond the Congregation: The World of Christian Nonprofits. Roger Finke is Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at the Pennsylvania State University and is Director of the Association of Religion Data Archives. He is the author of many books and articles, including The Churching of America, 1776-2005 with Rodney Stark.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Places of Faith: A Road Trip across America's Religious Landscape, and reported the following:
Places of Faith is the product of a six-week expedition exploring the unique geography of American religion. Through photographs, interviews and observations we report on our expedition. We share with the reader how religion is experienced in local congregations and we explore the relationship "places of faith" hold with the larger community. Page 99 finds us at about the midpoint of our journey. Specifically, we are in San Francisco exploring how Asian traditions, such as Buddhism and Taoism, have shaped the city. This influence is displayed most prominently but not exclusively in San Francisco’s historic Chinatown, where barely marked staircases on the street lead you up to an ornate temple on the top floor of a building.

A complex interplay between religion, race, persecution, resilience and adaption have left its mark not only in San Francisco, but in other communities featured in the book, such as Memphis, TN, Brooklyn, NY, Detroit, MI and Salt Lake City, UT. Of course, the specifics vary in each of these locations, but the outlines are often similar. Yes, the worship service in a Detroit mosque is very different than that in a African-American Pentecostal church in Memphis. Yes, the lifestyle of an Amish family in Pennsylvania is quite different than that of a Buddhist software programmer in San Francisco. But often the concerns and hopes of different religious communities are the same. Across the nation we heard the same concerns expressed in religious congregations coming from a wide-range of traditions: What do you do with the children when school is out for the summer? How do you care for elderly family members? How do you live a healthy and productive life? How can our religious congregation help the community? Our road trip presented us with an intriguing paradox. Religion in the United States is both dizzyingly diverse and strikingly similar as you travel from place to place.
Learn more about Places of Faith at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Thomas A. Robinson & Lanette Ruff, "Out of the Mouths of Babes"

Thomas A. Robinson  is Professor of Religious Studies at The University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, and Lanette D. Ruff teaches Criminology at Eastern College in New Brunswick, Canada.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Out of the Mouths of Babes: Girl Evangelists in the Flapper Era, and reported the following:
Our book deals with girl preachers in the 1920s. This decade was the golden age of the girl evangelist. It was the golden age of the flappers too. One represented the old; the other represented the new. A revolution in manners and morals was underway. The young sexually provocative flapper, with a glass of gin in one hand and a cigarette in the other, shocked the sensibilities of many. What better and reassuring challenge to this new image of the feminine than young girls upholding traditional values, calling sinners to Jesus and condemning the dress and the deportment of the modern flappers? Such little girl preachers in the thousands were welcomed on revivalist platforms as featured speakers. Some were as young as three; many were successful before they were ten, and the more successful drew crowds into the thousands night after night and year after year. A spotlight soon found these girls, for this was the age of the child star, and newspapers were ready to feature the clash of values that the two types of girls reflected.

Page 99 addresses one of the most fascinating aspects of this phenomenon. That is the number of these girls who identified with Pentecostalism, the newest religious option on the scene. Part of the reason for this was that the hottest Pentecostal revivalist was a thirty-year-old woman, daring and dramatic, who had come to Los Angeles to make a name for Jesus, for Pentecostalism, and for herself. Her name was Aimee Semple McPherson, and soon she was a household name across North America. Thousands flocked to her new 5300-seat auditorium, and millions heard her over her radio station, the first station ever to be owned by a woman. She was a star, indeed as much a star as anything that Hollywood, a mere five miles away, had produced. Many fell under her spell, and many of these, both men and women, were inspired to become preachers. Little girls fell under her spell too. In the environment of the conservative church world, McPherson became a mentor and a role model for many of these young girl evangelists. She was a star; they hoped to become one.
Learn more about the golden age of girl evangelists at Thomas A. Robinson’s website.

My Book, The Movie: Out of the Mouths of Babes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 27, 2012

Jo Reger's "Everywhere and Nowhere"

Jo Reger is an associate professor of sociology and the director of the Women and Gender studies program at Oakland University in Michigan. She is the editor of Different Wavelengths: Studies of the Contemporary Women's Movement and a co-editor of Identity Work in Social Movements.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Everywhere and Nowhere: Contemporary Feminism in the United States, and reported the following:
From the bottom of page 99 of Everywhere and Nowhere:
The creation of a generation gap made feminist activism seem more difficult. Tadeo, who had been an organizer on the West Coast since she was 13, explained:
I’m tired of the generation gap, personally. I’m tired of not having—[she pauses]—I’m tired having to always make my own way in society. Always having to carve my own path, which is fine, it gives me character. It puts ‘hair on my knees,’ or whatever. … But I wish that I could have an older activist sit by my side and say, “It’s going to be okay.” And [to] talk with them about stuff or have them listen so I can share ideas. Or at least have—have that. And there’s such a division between older feminists and younger feminists because—not just age, it’s the politics primarily.
I think this quote from Tadeo (a pseudonym) is one of my favorite for a lot of reasons. As a young feminist at an East Coast college who does transmasculinity (but prefers to use female pronouns), Tadeo represents the gender, sex and sexual orientation fluidity of contemporary society. Also important is the idea that she was working for social change as a teen, evidence we are not in an apathetic generation, and her identity as a young transmale is of a feminist. However, it is the idea of the generation gap in feminism that is the most meaningful to me in this quote. Feminism has been declared “nowhere” by the dominant society and also by some older feminists who dislike the focus and tactics of a younger generation. Here Tadeo talks about the ramifications of this divide on her desire and ability to make social change. Having grown up on a society forever changed by feminism (i.e. the “everywhere”), Tadeo struggles to find older allies to work with her. Everywhere and Nowhere is meant to open our understandings of multiple generation movements and how social change can be stymied when we act on stereotypes and not realities.
Learn more about Everywhere and Nowhere at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bruce Schneier's "Liars and Outliers"

Bruce Schneier is an internationally renowned security technologist who studies the human side of security. A prolific author, he has written hundreds of articles, essays, and academic papers, as well as eleven books that together have sold more than 400,000 copies. He has testified before Congress, is a frequent guest on television and radio, and is regularly quoted in the press.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive, and reported the following:
Liars and Outliers is a book about trust in society. My aim is to explore how society induces mutual trust among its members. As a social species, our societies require an enormous amount of trust to function. Just today, I bought a lamp -- trusting not only the merchant but also the banking and credit card systems. I drove my car, trusting other drivers. I ate in a restaurant, trusting even more people, plus a complex food production and delivery system. And then I boarded an airplane to Europe. Delineating all the different people, organizations, things, and systems I trusted there would take pages. I could have been taken advantage of, cheated, physically harmed, or even killed many times. And yet I wasn't. In fact, I was so trusting that I never gave it a moment's thought.

There's a fundamental tension between group interest and self-interest going on. It's in the group interest for commerce to be both safe and reliable, yet it is in both mine and the lamp salesman's interests to cheat each other. We don't because of a complex of both evolved social systems and deliberately created legal and technical systems. Those are all what I call societal pressures.

Morals are one societal pressure. Page 99 is near the end of the chapter about reputational systems. One of the reasons that lamp merchant -- or, indeed, the restaurant's owners or the airline -- didn't cheat me is that none of them want a reputation as a cheat. Reputation, and the consequences of both a good and bad reputation, is an example of a societal pressure. After explaining how reputation works, I turn to ways in which reputation can fail.
Defectors take steps to hide facts that can harm their reputation, or manipulate facts to help their reputation. Recall that in the mid-1970s, John Wayne Gacy managed to rape and kill 33 young men. All the while, his Chicago neighbors and colleagues on civic and charitable committees never suspected "Pogo the Clown" Gacy was involved in any work more diabolical than entertaining children for good causes. In the UK, Dr. Harold Shipman had a similar story. Described as "a pillar of the community" by his neighbors, he killed at least 250 people, mostly elderly widows, before he was caught. Most examples are less extreme. A politician might go to church and publicly pray, to encourage people to think he's honest: a whited sepulchre. An American trekking through Europe might sew a Canadian flag on his backpack.

Confidence tricksters spend a lot of time manipulating reputation signals. They employ all sorts of props, façades, and other actors—shills—to convince their victims that they have a good reputation by appearing authentic, building confidence, and encouraging trust. Corporations and political candidates both do similar things; they use paid supporters to deliberately spread artificial reputational information about them. This is becoming even more prevalent and effective on the Internet. Hired hands write fake blog posts, blog comments, tweets, Facebook comments, and so on. Scammers on eBay create fake feedback, giving themselves a better reputation. There are even companies that will give you fake Facebook friends, making you seem more popular with attractive people than you actually are.

Defectors try to minimize the effects of their bad reputation. People get new friends, move to another city, or—in extreme cases—change their names, get plastic surgery, or steal someone else's identity. Philip Morris renamed itself....
The other two societal pressures are institutional pressures, like laws, and technical security measures. How they all work, how they fail, and what this all means for 21st century society are all covered in the book. I hope you'll click through and give it a look.
Learn more about the book and author at Bruce Schneier's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Jennifer C. Lena's "Banding Together"

Jennifer C. Lena is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Barnard College in New York, and the author of Banding Together: How Communities Create Genres in Popular Music. A classical music composition that Lena helped to commission (“Hilos” by Alias Chamber Music Ensemble and Gabriela Lena Frank) was nominated for a 2012 Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to Banding Together and reported the following:
Page 99:
distribution systems, and, as a result, was able to realize an Industry-based genre. In the contrast, we see that it was not the case that mass audiences for black music did not exist in the early twentieth century, but rather that a racist production system prevented them from hearing the music except when it was provided by a parallel production system supported by, and designed for, black Americans. This then leads me to investigate the success of rap music, which had its origins at black-owned independent and small record labels, but came to be embraced (in a limited economic sense) within the mainstream mass media. The history of racial organization of musical production in the United States is, therefore, a series of stages whereby black-owned industries are created and eventually come to facilitate the mainstream popularity of particular music.

The music designated here as “New Orleans jazz” is also known as Dixieland jazz, hot jazz, or early jazz, and emerged in Louisiana during the opening years of the twentieth century. The style reflects the cultural mélange found in the city of New Orleans: a blend of brass band marching songs, French quadrilles, ragtime, and blues. The emphasis on collective, polyphonic improvisation and its definitive sound are created by a front line of trumpet, cornet, trombone, and clarinet and a rhythm section of piano, guitar, banjo, drums, double bass, and tuba. The term “Dixieland” was widely used to describe the form in the wake of the first million-selling hit records by the Original Dixieland Jass Band in 1917, although Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars may be more commonly associated with the music. The rise of swing in the 1930s ended the careers of many early jazz players, but the music experienced a revival in the 1940s and 1950s. New Orleans jazz is an early example of racist exclusion from Industry-based genres.

The New Orleans jazz style had coalesced by the time trumpet player Oscar Celestin led the Tuxedo Brass Band, around 1910. Some historians trace the music to 1897 and the cornet playing of professional barber Charles “Buddy” Bolden.112 By 1901, Bolden was listed in the city directory as a musician, although it appears that most early jazz performers worked manual labor or in the trades in addition to performing music.113 Early performers, including Bolden, played multiple styles of music including ragtime, quadrilles, waltzes, “sweet music, and ... nothing but the blues,” according to bassist George Foster.114 Steadily working musicians heard each other’s music, drifted in and out of each other’s bands, and were linked through kinship and neighborhood ties.115
Buddy Bolden, the New Orleans jazz player I discuss toward the bottom of page 99, is one of the most interesting and compelling characters in the history of American popular music. He was, by all accounts, a musical genius, but it may have been that genius that led to his confinement in a sanatorium for the last twenty-four years of his life. Few records of his life and work remain, although several tribute songs (including “I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say,” performed by Jelly Roll Morton) carry his name and legacy forward. In Banding Together, I introduce readers to musical geniuses in more than 60 popular musical styles, from bluegrass and rap to South Texas Polka and Techno; however, my argument is that a musical history that places responsibility on “genius performers, opportunistic promoters or divisive wives” is incomplete at best.

I argue that musical history can be understood as “a series of stages,” as I state above—starting with small groups of friends messing around in garages or basements, to local scenes where groups of performers work out technique and style and play gigs, until finally some of this music is picked up by record labels and becomes popular music. After these three stages, which I call Avant-Garde, Scene-based, and Industry-based genre forms, we sometimes see a group of old timers come along to preserve the music, reissue albums, and hold conferences with other members of the Traditionalist genre.

My theory of genre forms and the trajectories of musical styles across them (a process I document in brief for New Orleans Jazz on page 99) suggests that communities matter more than individual people. We do tend to view music as an intensely collaborative, community-based activity, and yet we really don’t understand much about how these communities operate. For example, when we consider the racist actions taken by individual bandleaders or record labels, of the kind we find in histories of New Orleans Jazz, we’re distracted from the institutionalized racism of the music industry, that later limits the sales and reach of other “black” music, including gospel and rap, an argument I’m starting to make on page 99.

For those of you who are like me and are passionate about music, I’ve created a Spotify playlist (free software, search for user name “lenajc”) so that novice and expert music fans can hear the tunes I describe.
Learn more about the book and author at Jennifer C. Lena's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 24, 2012

Robin Meyers's "The Underground Church"

Robin Meyers is a nationally known United Church of Christ minister and peace activist. His congregation describes itself as unapologetically Christian and unapologetically liberal. He writes for Christian Century, is an award-winning commentator for NPR, and a professor of rhetoric in the philosophy department at Oklahoma City University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Underground Church: Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus, and reported the following:
On page 99 of The Underground Church the first full sentence will be a difficult one for many orthodox Christians to read: "Easter is not a transaction for sin but a revelation about God." I go on to remind readers that the idea of the blood atonement would not be fully formed in the church for a thousand years, and that no art would show a crucified Jesus hanging on the cross for that long as well. Because for the first half of the life of the church, a crucified Jesus paying the price for our sins was not the iconic image of Christianity. Instead the church considered itself to be paradise restored (and restoring) on earth. "Early Christians did not think of heaven or paradise just as something beyond this life. It was, first and foremost, in this world. It is made possible by the spirit of God that permeates those at worship, who glimpse paradise around the communion table."

So what is this book about? In an age of hyper-partisan politics the church is also guilty of a kind of spiritual gridlock. Liberals and Conservatives continue to argue over abortion and gay marriage instead of feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and joining forces to resist a culture of violence and greed. In The Underground Church, I issue a clarion call for the church to return to its roots as a Beloved Community working across theological differences to heal a broken world. Modeled on the idea of the Underground Railroad of the 19th century, where being subversive meant working together in a quiet conspiracy to free slaves, The Underground Church is a call for followers of Jesus to be subversive again for the cause of love. Instead of insisting that others convert to our way of thinking, all churches can join this movement, without sacrificing their identity or their theological traditions—so long as love of God and neighbor is more important than doctrinal purity. I'm a practicing pastor with 30 years of experience working across theological and political differences on behalf of peace and justice, and The Underground Church is both a manifesto and a practical guide offering advice to help churches renew themselves by reaching out to one another instead of circling the wagons. Such a quiet conspiracy of love is the true meaning of Christianity.
The Underground Church is endorsed by Desmond Tutu, Bill Moyers, Marcus Borg, Brian McLaren, Harvey Cox, Diana Butler Bass, Parker Palmer, and Fred Craddock.

Learn more about the book and author at Robin Meyers's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Roger Trigg's "Equality, Freedom, and Religion"

Roger Trigg is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of Warwick, and Academic Director of the Centre for the Study of Religion in Public Life, Kellogg College, Oxford.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Equality, Freedom, and Religion, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book deals with the fact that ‘freedom of religion at its core must include the right to leave a religion, and to be converted to another’. That is a right denied in some Muslim countries. As I go on to say, however, if a change of belief is allowed, ‘the question still remains as to which practices are integral to the belief’. We are involved in the issue of the distinction between belief and manifestation. Limitations on belief, even as allowed in Charters of Rights, ‘can be far-reaching’. As I continue by saying on p.99, the limitation imposed (e.g. in the European Convention of Human Rights) ‘for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others’ is particularly relevant ‘when there is a clash between different human rights’. My book is in fact basically concerned with this clash, and argues that one right should never be allowed simply to ‘trump’ other rights. There has to be a balance drawn, and ‘reasonable accommodation’ made. One side should not simply win. Although the book is primarily concerned with the problems arising in European and North American jurisdictions (including the United Kingdom), I do range further and on p.99 I give an Australian example.

The last paragraph on the page begins to draw out problems in drawing distinctions between belief and manifestation. Courts in many countries are prone to draw this too narrowly so that freedom of religion can be reduced to freedom of worship, without adequate attention being given to wider beliefs (say about marriage or the sanctity of life.). As I say at the bottom of p.99 : ‘it becomes an uninteresting truism that people can believe what they like, as long as they never express their beliefs in word or action.’ Even a totalitarian government could accept that, but it is part of any democracy that its citizens must be allowed to speak about what they think most important in human life, and act on it. Otherwise they are not allowed to contribute to public conversation or to the life of a democracy.

The challenge is whether any freedom can be preserved for long, if the basic human right to freedom of religious belief and practice is dismissed as of little account. Given the central role of religion in human life, unnecessary limitations on its expression are attacks on human freedom itself. My book tackles this theme.
Learn more about Equality, Freedom, and Religion at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Anne Sebba's "That Woman"

Anne Sebba is a biographer, lecturer, journalist and former Reuters foreign correspondent. She read History at Kings College, London University and her first job was at the BBC World Services in the Arabic Department. She has written eight books, several short stories and introductions to reprinted novels. She has presented documentaries on BBC R3 and BBC R4, and is a member of the Society of Authors Executive Committee.

Sebba applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, and reported the following:
It’s a strange feeling, opening your own book to a random page and wondering what those few paragraphs could possibly tell you about the whole story. I was rather suspicious of the idea, doubting that it could reveal anything worthwhile, and resisted going to look immediately for fear that it could not possibly make any sense out of context. And if it did, then why had I bothered with character build up and scene setting in the preceding pages? Amazingly, however, I discovered that page 99, which sits bang in the middle of chapter 6, actually tells the reader much about not only Wallis but also Edward, at that point (1934) still Prince of Wales and still - but only just - considered young, glamorous and charming, often with the inevitable cigarette dangling from his lips in true film star pose of the day.

To set the scene: Wallis is approaching 40, an unhappy age for most women who recognise that their child-bearing years are over and worse, as they move into the second half of their lives, their attractiveness to men will fade. Wallis, the least maternal of women, nonetheless wrote to her aunt that she longed for a swansong before she was 40. At this point in the story she was married to long suffering husband number two, Ernest Simpson, and both were enjoying being part of the Prince’s circle in London as well as being invited to his country home, Fort Belvedere. They had been introduced to the Prince (well known for his love of all things American including painted fingernails, jazz, trouser turn ups etc) by his then mistress, Thelma Furness, who thought Wallis would amuse the easily bored prince. She did. But Wallis was constantly complaining that she and Ernest did not have as much money as she had hoped in order to keep up. When Thelma had to go to America she asked Wallis to look after ‘the little man,’ a task Wallis accomplished rather too well. On her return Thelma knew immediately not only that she had been replaced by Wallis, but that he was totally obsessed by her.

Back to page 99, which describes how Thelma understood this from the intimate body language and the private jokes, yet, when she confronts her replacement, Wallis replies that while Edward may like her he is not she insists in love with her.

This is significant because although the remark carries an element of disingenuousness, Wallis sincerely believed the relationship would last no more than a year or two, and certainly would not survive Edward’s transition to monarch. Then, somebody younger and more suitable as Queen of England who could provide him with an heir, would be found. She was convinced that the political establishment or the royal family would forbid him to continue his relationship to a twice-married woman and that she would then go back to Ernest, her safety net, and be left with a few jewels and memories. But at this stage, on page 99, she had yet to reckon with the King’s obsessional personality and deep need for her as a controlling presence in his life, which would prevent her from escaping. She had left it too late. Also crucially revealed on page 99 is that Edward’s cruel discarding of Thelma and his refusal to speak to his previous mistress, Freda Dudley Ward, behaviour always blamed on Wallis, had just as much to do with his own weak character and inability to face up to a situation, especially where personal relationships were concerned. Hardly surprising therefore that when Wallis found herself trapped in a situation, albeit of her own making but one she never expected to last, she could not discuss it with Edward the man she was assumed to love but could write only to Ernest, the man she was meant to hate and with whom communications were forbidden by law. The new archive of 15 letters from Wallis to Ernest during 1936-37, which I discovered in the course of researching this book, is shocking in some ways. But it would hardly be surprising to close observers of the couple at the time.
Learn more about the book and author at Anne Sebba's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

David Schiff's "The Ellington Century"

David Alan Schiff is R.P. Wollenberg Professor of Music at Reed College. He is a composer, journalist whose articles have appeared in publications including the New York Times and the Atlantic, and the author of George Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue and The Music of Elliot Carter.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Ellington Century, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Ellington Century is in the chapter called "Prelude to a Kiss": Melody. People often forget that Ellington, along with Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Cole Porter and Harold Arlen, was one of the great composers of American popular song. Their collective work, now called the Great American Songbook, mirrored the experiences of modern life in tunes and lyrics that traveled around the world. The jazz critic Gary Giddins once pointed out that Ellington had produced as many great songs as Kern, even though song writing was a sideline for him, since most of his compositions were instrumentals. You can hear most of the Ellington songbook, from "Sophisticated Lady" to "Satin Doll" on Ella Fitzgerald's classic album. Whether they are romantic, like "Prelude to a Kiss", bluesy, like "I Got it Bad and That Ain't Good" or spiritual like "Come Sunday" and "Heaven," they all bear the unmistakeable stamp of the Ellington style.
Learn more about the book and author at David Schiff's website and the University of California Press.

My Book, the Movie: The Ellington Century.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 20, 2012

Robert J. Sampson’s "Great American City"

Robert J. Sampson is Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University and Director of the Social Sciences Program at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford’s quip is okay by me. Page 99 is from Chapter 5 and lays out a central claim of the book so I quote a portion of it directly:
…I argue that a structural logic emerges that implies three broad ideas or theses that are interlinked:
  1. The “tangle of pathology,” or what today we would call social dislocations or social problems, has a deep neighborhood structure and connection to concentrated inequality.
  2. Neighborhood social disadvantage has durable properties and tends to repeat itself, and because of racial segregation is most pronounced in the black community. I would add a related implication or subthesis: black children are singularly exposed to the cumulative effects of structural disadvantage in ways that reinforce the cycle.
  3. The “poverty trap” cycle can be broken only with structural interventions of the sort that government or other large organizational units (e.g., foundations) are equipped to carry out.
The purpose of this chapter is to pursue these and related arguments, setting the stage for later analyses. I emphasize the big picture by showing both stability and change in neighborhood stratification and by showing that Chicago is not as unique as some claim. Inequality is durable and multiplex but not inevitable or natural, generating direct implications for theories of community-level processes, the social reproduction of inequality, …neighborhood interventions (thesis 3), and causality in the social world.
The book is based on fifteen years of research from the “Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods.” I unify a diverse set of behaviors and life outcomes previously studied separately within a general theoretical framework of what I call the “neighborhood effect.” The book examines neighborhood effects on violence, collective efficacy, moral cynicism, child heath, civic engagement, disorder (“broken windows”), leadership networks, residential mobility, and social altruism, among other outcomes. The analyses are situated in concrete places that ground the ideas, with a focus on “The 21st Century Gold Coast and Slum.” The final section of the book articulates a systematic theory of context followed by a revisit to key Chicago neighborhoods in the wake of the Great Recession.
Learn more about Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Boaz Atzili's "Good Fences, Bad Neighbors"

Boaz Atzili is assistant professor in the School of International Service, American University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Good Fences, Bad Neighbors: Border Fixity and International Conflict, and reported the following:
Good Fences Bad Neighbors is a book detailing how “border fixity”- the proscription of foreign conquest and the annexation of homeland territory - affects war and peace in the world in the last half century. Simply put, conquering and annexing your neighbors’ territory is no longer acceptable according to the “rules of the game” in international relations (as it was in the past). Despite the much larger discrepancy between the military power of the United States and Mexico, for instance, a land grab like the one done in the 1846-1848 Mexican-American war would be unthinkable today.

On face value, the development of border fixity should delight every peace lover, and indeed it yields significant peace dividends in some parts of the world. In those regions where most states are institutionally weak, however, border fixity in fact creates more conflict, not less. The reason for this counter-intuitive development, as I argue in this book, is that border fixity perpetuates state weakness in much of the developing world; and such pervasive weakness of the institutions and legitimacy of a state is a major factor in much of today’s violent conflicts, both domestic and international.

Before the last 60 years or so, territorial wars and preparation for these wars played a crucial role in strengthening state institutions and legitimacy, and this is where Page 99 comes into the picture. It is part of a historical case study which looks at the effects of territorial war on 19th century Argentina. In this page, I ask, “To what extent can we observe in Argentina, in the period 1810–80, the expected process of external territorial threats and opportunities leading to a successful project of state building?”

Page 99 also begins to answer this question. It starts by looking at the Argentine military: “At the start of the struggle for independence in 1810, Argentina did not exist as a nation. Thus, by definition, it possessed no national army… For most of this half century there was no central control of the state, and the various forces that controlled the towns of Argentina had their own military or proto-military forces. In the countryside the local caudillos had their own troops, consisting mainly of their gaucho peons.”

“The process of building a regular modern national army took more than half a century and was much less linear than in the case of Brandenburg- Prussia,” which is another historical case used for comparison in the book. “Very gradually, however, a more unified military institution emerged from this plethora of forces. Wars, international and domestic, were among the most important forces that affected this process.” The chapter goes on to detail the forces and processes that steered Argentina from a non-entity in 1810 to a fairly strong and unified one by 1880. It looks not only at military advances but at economic, social, and bureaucratic developments as well.

The Argentine case, the story of which begins in Page 99, as well as other historical cases, set the stage for an investigation of weak states in our own time, concentrating on the cases of Lebanon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and how their internal – and external – relations are affected by the border fixity norm.
Learn more about Good Fences, Bad Neighbors at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Thomas A. Kohut's "A German Generation"

Thomas A. Kohut is the Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III Professor of History at Williams College and author of Wilhelm II and the Germans: A Study in Leadership.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A German Generation: An Experiential History of the Twentieth Century, and reported the following:
The book tells the story of the generation of Germans born just before the outbreak of World War I whose lives spanned the course of the twentieth century. It tells and seeks to understand that story through the experience of 62 Germans belonging to this generation who told their life stories to interviewers in the mid 1990s. Although my book focuses on the entire history of 20th-century Germany, the Third Reich is at the heart of the book and of the experience of the interviewees, who generally recall it as the happiest time in their lives, at least until the tide began to turn against Germany after Stalingrad. Even though I found that I didn’t particularly like the interviewees, I sought to empathize with them, with their enthusiasm for National Socialism during the Third Reich, and in particular to understand their commitment to Nazism’s fundamental ideological tenet, the racial collective of the Volksgemeinschaft. Indeed, in the book generally, I seek to tell and understand the history of this generation by thinking my way inside the experience of its members.

Although seeking to empathize with people who had been enthusiastic Nazis is uncommon perhaps, what sets my book apart is the way I present historical material in it. In fact, my book’s structure is, as far as I know, unique. The book contains three different forms of historical writing: a presentation of the interview material, an analysis of that material, and, a series of essays presenting related work of other scholars that enable readers to determine how typical or representative the experiences of my interviewees are of other members of their generation.

Page 99 of the book lands the reader in the midst of the interview material. And here is where my book is most unique and, I suspect, controversial. Rather than present the 62 interviews individually, I have woven the individual interviews together to form six “composite” interviews, three men and three women, each pair representing one period in twentieth-century German history and one period in their lives: youth during the Weimar Republic; young adulthood during the Third Reich; and maturity in postwar West Germany. Readers will be able to see exactly how I have combined the interviews. Page 99 relates the experience of “Hans Orthmann,” who is in reality twenty-two different men. On page 99 “Orthmann” describes being wounded at the front during the last days of the war, his capture by the Americans, and his subsequent harrowing experiences in Soviet captivity.
Learn more about A German Generation at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 17, 2012

Robert N. Proctor's "Golden Holocaust"

Robert N. Proctor is Professor of the History of Science at Stanford University and author of Cancer Wars, Racial Hygiene, and The Nazi War on Cancer. He is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition, and reported the following:
Yes, it certainly can be true that the part reveals the whole, the mega- in the microcosm. On p. 99 of Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition, in the midst of a chapter on “Sponsoring Sports to Sell Smoke,” inside a section called “Product Mythology and the Cost of Converts,” we hear talk about how the makers of Camel cigarettes used a promotion called Camel Genuine Taste Mission to “convert” some 15,600 smokers to the Camel brand, via exposure to what R.J. Reynolds called its “product mythology.” Converts were urged to join a “Camel VIP Club,” requiring no more than preference for that particular brand. The company then used a “Convert-o-meter” to assess how different strategies could be used to generate converts at different costs.

“The cost per convert for motorsports, for example, was $1,064, whereas biker events generated converts for about $779 each. Sponsorship of pool cost nearly $2000 per convert.” Conversion specialists were hired to coordinate such activities, and in 1994 Reynolds even “entertained the idea of hiring strippers to smoke and display Camels at strip joints. The document unveiling this plan, drawn up by the company’s Cultural Initiator Task Force, referred to the strippers as ‘Camel ambassadors.’”

Every company of course performed such calculations, part of an effort to estimate how much bang could be had for a given advertising buck. All of this should be considered in light of the fact that cigarette manufacturers still today claim that they’ve never advertised to get people to smoke, their goal is only to get people to change brands. The industry’s own documents tell quite a different story, however. The net effect is that Americans still smoke about 350 billion cigarettes every year, enough to make a continuous chain that could circle the earth some 800 times. Some people seem to think that the tobacco epidemic is a thing of the past, when in reality it has only just begun. This book explores how that began and how it might end, with this one tiny slice from one page giving you a glimpse into the hidden world of smoke.
Learn more about Golden Holocaust at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Brian C. Kalt's "Constitutional Cliffhangers"

Brian C. Kalt is professor of law at Michigan State University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Constitutional Cliffhangers: A Legal Guide for Presidents and Their Enemies, and reported the following:
My book Constitutional Cliffhangers is about some serious weaknesses in the United States Constitution’s provisions for selecting, replacing, and punishing presidents. I consider six hypothetical controversies, and page 99 falls in Chapter 4, in which the president and vice president are dead, and the Speaker of the House and secretary of state are fighting for control of the White House.

There is a serious argument that the current succession law -- which puts the Speaker of the House and president pro tempore of the Senate (or PPT) in the line of succession -- is unconstitutional. It would take a certain special sort of situation for anyone to even raise this argument, but the scenario in this chapter raises such a situation: the Speaker has a hand in delaying the confirmation of a new vice president, and also in fueling the murderous rhetoric that leads to the assassination of the president. The secretary of state is thus speaking for those who feel as though the Speaker has essentially led a coup.

The chapter explores this hypothetical drama, and it fully engages the legal arguments on both sides, but page 99 is part of a different discussion. It deals with all the reasons why it is worse as a matter of policy to have the Speaker and PPT in the line of succession than the secretary of state. In other words, having the Speaker in the line of succession is not only risky, it’s also a bad idea. There are plenty of counterarguments, legal nuances, and dramatic scenes ... just not on page 99.
the presidency in mind. But the secretary of state is an executive officer, and a key player in the administration who works closely and directly with the president. This would make for a relatively smooth transition if the secretary ever needed to take over. In a time of crisis, the secretary of state’s presence at the helm would send a particularly reassuring signal to the rest of the world, for whom the secretary is already the president’s designated contact. Following the secretary of state (who has sometimes been a naturalized citizen, and thus statutorily disqualified from acting as president) is the secretary of the treasury, another key executive who would provide a smooth transition and a reassuring signal (in his case, to Wall Street).

By contrast, the Speaker and PPT are legislative officials. Moving the Speaker or PPT from legislation on Capitol Hill to execution at the White House, on a moment’s notice, would be more jarring -- for the Speaker or PPT themselves, for Congress, for the executive branch, for the country, and for the world. Notably, there have only been four sitting members of Congress elected president, in 1880, 1920, 1960, and 2008, and none of them were Speaker or PPT.* Compare that to the last government job held by other new presidents. Since 1920, there have been six vice presidents, five governors, a general, and a cabinet secretary -- all executives. It is true that the Speaker’s job is comprehensive in scope, while cabinet secretaries have a narrower portfolio, but when getting a new president, the voters have shown by a wide margin that executive promotions are easier to swallow than lateral moves from the legislature.

An even more jarring possibility is a change in party control. Cabinet secretaries are part of the president’s administration and are virtually always a member of her party. The president handpicks them. They work closely

* President Polk was a former Speaker but had more recently been a state governor. Three other Speakers -- Henry Clay, John Bell, and James Blaine -- ran unsuccessfully for president, but only Clay ran as a sitting Speaker, and Blaine had more recently served as secretary of state. No former PPT has ever been elected president, though former PPTs William Crawford and Hugh White ran unsuccessfully for president. Sitting Speakers Schuyler Colfax and John Nance Garner and sitting PPT William King were elected vice president. Former PPTs John Tyler and Charles Curtis were elected vice president, and Tyler succeeded to the presidency upon the death of President William Henry Harrison.
Learn more about Constitutional Cliffhangers at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lawrence M. Krauss's "A Universe from Nothing"

Lawrence M. Krauss is a renowned cosmologist and science popularizer, and is Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. Hailed by Scientific American as a rare public intellectual, he is also the author of more than three hundred scientific publications and nine books, including the international bestseller, The Physics of Star Trek. He received his PhD from MIT in 1982 and then joined the Society of Fellows at Harvard, and was a professor at Yale University and Chair of the Physics Department at Case Western Reserve University before taking his present position. Internationally known for his work in theoretical physics, he is the winner of numerous international awards, and is the only physicist to have received major awards from all three US physics societies, the American Physical Society, the American Institute of Physics, and the American Association of Physics Teachers.

Krauss applied the “Page 99 Test” to his recent bestseller, A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing, and reported the following:
Well, much to my surprise, Ford Madox Ford's statement seems to hold true for my book, A Universe from Nothing. Page 99 involves a discussion of one of the weirdest features of what is perhaps the most unusual and important discovery in cosmology in the past 50 years, something that has totally changed our picture of the present universe, and its future, and probably also its origins. I am referring to the fact that empty space--that is space devoid of any matter or radiation at all--actually contains energy, and in fact the dominant energy in the universe resides in empty space! This single remarkable fact is responsible for my decision to write a book describing the amazing revolutions that have taken place in the Universe over the past 25 years that have brought us to the threshold of addressing that longstanding question: Why is there Something Rather than Nothing? As I describe in the book, it is not only plausible, but indeed all evidence we have about the universe is suggestive of the fact that our universe arose from nothingness by natural processes that we may soon be able to fully describe, just as the presently observed diversity of life on earth arose by the natural processes of mutation and natural selection. While this doesn't preclude the possibility of some divine intelligence assembling the universe, it certainly makes the alternative much more plausible. Moreover, besides celebrating our newfound knowledge of nature and the excitement of discovery, I wrote the book to explain how the very notions of 'nothing' and 'something' have completely changed over the course of millennia, as science has progressed, and in particular to explain why these terms are scientific terms, and not religious or philosophical ones.

In any case, here is a key paragraph on that page that is at the heart of one of the reasons something can come from nothing:
This is an example of something that Guth coined as the ultimate "free lunch". Including the effects of gravity in thinking about the universe allows objects to have--amazingly--"negative" as well as "positive" energy. This facet of gravity allows for the possibility that positive energy stuff, like matter and radiation, can be complemented by negative energy configurations that just balance the energy of the created positive energy stuff. In so doing, gravity can start out with an empty universe--and end up with a filled one.
Learn more about the book and author at Lawrence M. Krauss's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Louis Galambos's "The Creative Society"

Louis Galambos is professor of History and Editor, The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower, at The Johns Hopkins University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Creative Society - and the Price Americans Paid for It, and reported the following:
“Lacking a coherent theory that cut across the entire economy, [Rexford Guy] Tugwell, the lawyers in government, and the other professionals who were concerned with [New Deal] economic policy had to live with a series of separate solutions for each problem, for each sector of the economy, without worrying about whether they might have conflicting results. Something had to be done.” Page 99 of The Creative Society – and the price Americans paid for it drops the reader into the Great Depression of the 1930s and into America’s efforts to develop the professional expertise and ideas needed to cope with the central problems of a modern, urban, industrial society. It was not easy to learn how to live in great cities. To exercise U.S. power overseas while remaining attentive to the nation’s democratic values. To keep the economy efficient and innovative while providing Americans with the economic security and sense of equity they badly needed in the Thirties. What was “the price” of change and who paid it? Under the New Deal regime in agriculture, for instance, white, property-owning farmers came out ahead while many African-American share croppers were driven off the land. Even then, the economic recovery was slow in coming. Eventually, World War II brought an end to the longest, deepest depression the United States had ever experienced. Does this seem to prefigure our problems with the Great Recession today? Of course it does. We are still trying to achieve market-centered efficiency and innovation without sacrificing economic security and equity. We are still trying to learn how to exercise our power in the world and come to grips with urban life. The nation has changed. It is still experimental, still creative, still providing professional paths to a better life and better society. But The Creative Society also tells you not to relax, not to close off those paths to the professions we need and the leaders who can steer the experts toward solutions acceptable to a democracy.
Learn more about The Creative Society at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Rosamund Bartlett's "Tolstoy: A Russian Life"

Rosamund Bartlett's books include Wagner and Russia and the acclaimed Chekhov: Scenes from a Life. An authority on Russian cultural history, she has also achieved renown as a translator of Chekhov.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Tolstoy: A Russian Life, and reported the following:
Page 99 in my life of Tolstoy finds my hero setting off on a momentous journey from the Russian heartlands of the north, across the steppe and down to the heady mountain scenery of the Caucasus on the country’s southern border. It will be the making of him. He is twenty four, feckless, dissolute, wayward, intellectually curious but lacking in discipline, and prone to mercurial decisions, such as the one which prompts him on a whim to accompany his elder brother Nikolay, an officer in the army, who is due to rejoin his battalion at the end of his leave in the spring of 1851. Tolstoy confesses with characteristic honesty in his famous diary when he arrives that he has no idea why he is there, but soon gets caught up in skirmishes with rebellious Chechens as a volunteer. When he leaves the Caucasus two and a half years later, he is a commissioned officer, and, more importantly, a published writer hailed as a rising new talent.

I was concerned in my biography of Tolstoy not just to tell the story of his life, but to convey a sense of how it fitted into Russian history, for at the time of his death, he was not just a writer but a celebrity - a moral and spiritual leader known throughout the world whose standing with the Russian people was far greater than that of the Tsar. I chose as the subtitle of my biography, ‘A Russian Life’ advisedly, as to me Tolstoy personifies so much of the Russian experience. In keeping with the country’s size, the quintessential Russian quality is perhaps extravagance, be it of commitment (as exhibited by all those great musicians, sportsmen and ballet dancers), corruption, spirituality or brutality. Tolstoy had this quality in spades, and he lived more than one life during his eighty two years, embracing not just traditional rites of passage typical for his social class, but specifically Russian and sometimes mutually exclusive archetypes, such as the ‘holy fool’ and the ‘repentant nobleman’. He came from the landed gentry, but identified with the peasantry; he was an anarchist and an apostate who was revered as the equivalent to an ascetic Russian Orthodox ‘Elder’; he was a ‘nihilist’ and a ‘sectarian’. Each of my chapters tells the story of one of more of Tolstoy’s lives. Page 99 comes from chapter 5, entitled ‘Landowner, Gambler, Officer, Writer’ in which Tolstoy begins to take responsibility for his life. As well as talking about what Tolstoy was doing in the spring of 1851, with the aid of what I hope are illuminating details, I seek to provide a historical and cultural context for Russian aggression in the Caucasus by tracing it back to Catherine the Great’s ambitions. So on the whole, what Ford Madox Ford says is probably pretty accurate for my book as a whole.

The received view of Tolstoy, and certainly the view that is entrenched in the West, is that he was primarily a great writer, who in latter life became a second-rate religious thinker. If Russians today tend to subscribe to that view, it is only because Tolstoy’s enormous spiritual legacy was suppressed in the Soviet Union. Tolstoy spent the last thirty years of his life propagating his own idiosyncratic brand of Christianity, a longer period than he spent as a full-time fiction writer, and I have tried to tell his story from his own point of view. It may seem odd not to spend more time going into works like War and Peace, but I wanted to encapsulate Tolstoy’s whole life, as it appeared to Russians while he was alive, and account for his extraordinary and lasting influence on figures as diverse as Wittgenstein and Gandhi. His unceasing campaign against poverty and the use of violence, coupled with his calls for people to go back to a simple life lived on the land have never been more timely than they are now, in our mechanized, individualistic age of social inequality, which has spawned both corporate greed, and a backlash against it, as we have seen in the numerous ‘Occupy’ protests around the world, and the increasingly popular urge to ‘downsize’.
Visit Rosamund Bartlett's website and learn more about Tolstoy: A Russian Life.

Writers Read: Rosamund Bartlett.

My Book, The Movie: Tolstoy: A Russian Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Tom Santopietro's "The Godfather Effect"

Tom Santopietro is the author of The Importance of Being Barbra, Considering Doris Day (a New York Times Editor’s Choice) and Sinatra in Hollywood. He has worked for the past twenty years in New York theater as a manager of more than two dozen Broadway shows.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Godfather Effect: Changing Hollywood, America, and Me, and reported the following:
The p. 99 test- great idea and I’m intrigued. I apply the test to my new book: The Godfather Effect, and full of confidence I read p. 99 only to find- hmmm....

I’ve structured The Godfather Effect on three levels: film study- a look at Coppola’s three iconic films and the hold they exert around the world forty years after the initial release, ethnic study- the (extraordinarily negative) images of Italian-Americans on film- and cultural study- growing up with an Italian name in a very WASPy world of private schools and Anglo society. (The idea for the book was planted during my years in law school when a friend smilingly observed: “Yeah, you’re Italian all right- Italian by way of the Taft prep school.” In other words, if you don’t act like a goombah from the Mean Streets, how can you call yourself Italian. Challenge accepted.) My goal was to try and write a book which would appeal to film lovers, observers of American life, and as I call them, Italians of all nationalities.

So how did I do on p. 99? I was 1 for 3- a stat I’m choosing to look at in baseball terms.

Page 99 delivers on the level of ethnic study, discussing the early, dynamic, flawed images of Italian-Americans as exemplified by Edward G. Robinson’s dying Rico in Little Caesar: “Mother of mercy—is this the end of Rico?”

It is not, however, a page on which I discuss The Godfather or my own family, which are the most important threads of the book. What’s missing on p. 99 is the central tribute to my grandfather, who arrived alone in the U.S. at age 13, armed only with 20 lira in his pocket and a fierce ambition to succeed. That he did, while faced with anti-Italian prejudice that considered all Italians to be mobsters like the Corleones.

You’d think I’d hate The Godfather- but I love it- for the sheer Italian-ness of it all, for its Italianization of American culture.

Well, we’re all at war with ourselves. Can we make this the p. 175 test?
Learn more about the book and author at Tom Santopietro's website.

Writers Read: Tom Santopietro (November 2008).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen's "Ground Wars"

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen is research fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford and assistant professor at Roskilde University in Denmark.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Ground Wars: Personalized Communication in Political Campaigns, and reported the following:
“Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you”—that was my introduction to the page 99 test, versions of which all book lovers are familiar with. Is it accurate for Ground Wars, my new book?

The question of quality is not for me to decide, but as it happens, page 99 does contain one of my central arguments about how we best think about how American campaigns operate on the ground, as they canvass voters door-by-door and over the phone and engage in what I call “personalized political communication”—the use of people as media for political communication.

Let me quote from the page:
We need to distinguish analytically between (1) the hierarchical campaign organization that staffers populate, (2) the wider network of allies involved in the assemblage, and (3) the ambiguous relations that exist at the interface between the staffers and the volunteers and part-timers who are mobilized to serve as media for personalized political communication. Analysis of these three facets shows how campaigns operate at numerous fractious intersections: between old hierarchical forms of campaign organizing and campaign practices premised on new technologically assisted forms of popular involvement; between temporary entities and permanent players; between national and local organizations; and between self-avowed professional operatives with a vocational interest in politics and the civically motivated volunteers and financially motivated part-timers with whom they work. Field campaigns in competitive districts are neither the kind of “grassroots politics” that some romantics long for nor the thoroughly professionalized operations that some other parts of politics are.
What is at stake in this argument? Think about it this way: news coverage will frequently talk about for example “the Romney campaign” doing this or that. Usually, they are referring to action by the campaign organization, the hierarchically organized group of people who work full time for the candidate in question. We associate such campaign organizations with what we might call the “logic of efficacy,” and see them as more or less effective instruments for a particular goal—winning the election.

As has been very clear throughout the Republican primary, however, these formal campaign organizations do not work alone. Even well funded ones are too small and don’t have all the resources and manpower they need to compete effectively. Hence, they work in concert with a network of allies that aren’t part of the formal campaign organization but are technically and legally separate entities (like Super PACs) that are integral to how the candidate campaign pursues its goal. In terms of ground war activities, such allies might include national party organizations providing data services, state and local party organizations lending staffers and local knowledge, and allied interests groups mobilizing volunteers.

This leads us to the much larger number of people that are sometimes implicitly included, sometimes implicitly excluded, when we talk about for example “the Romney campaign”—volunteers most obviously, but also part-timer workers (hired to, for example, canvass voters). Are these people part of the campaign? They are and they aren’t—they are not part of the formal campaign organization. But they are integral to how the campaign in a larger sense—what I call the “campaign assemblage”—becomes capable of contacting tens of thousands, and in some cases ultimately millions, of people, in person, at the door or over the phone.

So when we think about “the Romney campaign” we should think not only about the staffers who work for the formal organization “Romney for President, Inc” (80 Hayden Lexington, MA 02421), but also about the larger campaign assemblage that has formed around Romney’s candidacy, an assemblage that involves not only full-time staffers, but also a network of allies and numerous volunteers and part-time workers. It is only together that they can wage an effective ground war for votes.
Learn more about the book and author at Rasmus Kleis Nielsen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Tamler Sommers's "Relative Justice"

Tamler Sommers is assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Houston. He is the author of A Very Bad Wizard: Morality Behind the Curtain, a collection of interviews with philosophers and scientists.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Relative Justice: Cultural Diversity, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility, and reported the following:
Just after the terrible shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007, week Rev. Dong Sun Lim, founder of the Oriental Mission Church released this statement: “All Koreans in South Korea – as well as here – must bow their heads and apologize to the people of America.” The South Korean Ambassador Lee Taesik called on Korean Americans to repent. He suggested a 32-day fast, one day for each victim of the carnage. Many Americans found this attitude baffling. Why should Koreans living thousands of miles away from Blacksburg, Virginia feel compelled to apologize, never mind starve themselves, for an act they clearly had nothing to do with? Arian Hong of the Mirae foundation offered this explanation: “First-generation Koreans tend to have a cultural sense of shared responsibility. If something good happens to one, it happens to all Koreans, and if something bad happens to one, it happens to all of them.”

The Korean sense of shared blame is just one of many examples in my book of the diversity of cultural perspectives about moral responsibility. The book argues that the differences are sufficiently deep to show that there is no single correct answer to the question of when we can be blameworthy or praiseworthy for our behavior. Philosophical theories that try to establish conditions or criteria for moral responsibility are doomed to failure.

Sadly, very few philosophers agree with me about this. The most common objection is some variation of the following: “Look, just because there’s disagreement about a belief, it doesn’t follow that there is no fact of the matter about whether the belief is true. There are still people who believe the earth is flat—that doesn’t mean that there’s no objective truth about the earth’s shape. The same is true for beliefs about moral responsibility.”

Chapter Four of the book, home of p.99, deals with this objection. I examine the origins and the psychological mechanisms that underlie the differences in moral norms concerning responsibility. This excerpt at the top of p. 99 summarizes my claims about the origins:
Environments across the world pose a wide variety of challenges for groups who want to survive and prosper. Different norms [of responsibility] are better suited for different environments. And since the process of norm transmission generates changes in a culture’s social environment, there is a snowball effect in which new norms develop as responses to these changes.
The bulk of p. 99 introduces a model (developed by Stephen Stich and Chandra Sripada) describing the psychological mechanisms that allow us acquire and implement norms in our cultures. This excerpt focuses on how we acquire moral norms:
The acquisition mechanism begins early in life when children observe and internalize the norms of their group. It is automatic, not something they can choose to turn on and off. The implementation mechanism then stores the norms and motivates norm compliance and punitive behavior towards norm violators. Emotions like moral outrage or resentment play a pivotal role in the implementation mechanism, providing the intrinsic motivation to punish violators. general, and norms about responsibility in particular:
My overarching goal is to show two things. First, the variation in intuitions about responsibility is deeply entrenched in our psychologies, and so it is implausible to think that different cultures would converge in their beliefs about moral responsibility. Second, there is no reason why our judgments about this should converge. The different perspectives and norms have moral advantages and disadvantages, and each is only appropriate in certain environments. When the norms function properly, the competing conceptions of moral responsibility can be equally rational within their respective environments.
Learn more about Relative Justice at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Michael Cannell's "The Limit"

Michael T. Cannell is a former editor of The New York Times Home section, publisher of, and author of I.M. Pei: Mandarin of Modernism.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Limit: Life and Death on the 1961 Grand Prix Circuit, and reported the following:
The Limit primarily takes place in the late 1950s. The European racing circuit of that era was preposterously glamorous, like La Dolce Vita with car fumes. Many drivers came from wealthy or titled families. Wives and groupies sat in the pits wearing Capri pants and tight cashmere sweaters. But the glamour was closely accompanied by a dark aspect. The sport was dangerous to a degree that seems unthinkable today. For example, in 1955 a Mercedes sports car somersaulted into the grandstand at Le Mans, killing more than 80 spectators. The organizers didn’t even stop the race.

All of the glory and pain is neatly foreshadowed on page 99. As the page turns we find the German nobleman Wolfgang von Trips as a child mesmerized by the great German drivers of the 1930s who thundered around the Nürburgring track in powerful cars built with Nazi subsidies. His particular hero was the blond and buoyant driver Bernd Rosemeyer.

By the end of the page Rosemeyer lies dead by the side of the Autobahn. The school age von Trips has by now a full taste of the pageantry and pathos that will visit him in his own life.
Watch the trailer for The Limit, and learn more about the book and author at Michael T. Cannell's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Limit.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Jeffrey Abt's "American Egyptologist"

Jeffrey Abt is associate professor in the James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History at Wayne State University. He is the author of A Museum on the Verge: A Socioeconomic History of the Detroit Institute of Arts, 1885–2000.

Abt applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, American Egyptologist: The Life of James Henry Breasted and the Creation of His Oriental Institute, and reported the following:
The page falls in the middle of a chapter on one of Breasted’s most prolific periods. Between 1905 and 1906 he published three books that foreshadowed his scholarly career and established him as a rising international star in Egyptology. The first book, invited by a stereograph publisher, accompanied a set of 100 stereoscopic views of Egypt’s ancient sites. Egypt Through the Stereoscope, which included maps keyed to the views, was packaged with the stereographs as a “tour” to be experienced in the comfort of one’s home. The text exemplifies Breasted’s growing ability to integrate illustrations and text into colorful, inviting introductions to ancient history for a general reading public. He raised that skill to a much higher level a decade later in richly illustrated and beautifully written textbooks that transformed the teaching of ancient history in America. It was there that he coined the expression “Fertile Crescent” to characterize the cause and shape of ancient Near Eastern settlement patterns.

The next book, consisting of five volumes, was Breasted’s Ancient Records of Egypt. It was a massive undertaking intended to provide in English translation nearly all the surviving historical records of ancient Egypt. Possessing a particular genius for ancient and modern languages, Breasted rendered all the translations from Egyptian hieroglyphs himself. Page ninety-nine comes near the end of my discussion of the book and its reception. Ancient Records became one of Breasted’s most durable contributions to scholarship and remains in print to this day. It also served as the primary source for his remaining book published during this period, A History of Egypt. Breasted was determined to write a new history, based on his more accurate translations of the ancient inscriptions, in order to correct the errors of other scholars that he attributed to sloppy research and insufficient command of hieroglyphs. Covering the period from Egypt’s earliest times to the Persian conquest, A History of Egypt is also attractively written and well illustrated, and the original edition featured a lavish Egyptianesque binding, the cover of which was cleverly adapted for the dust-jacket of my book.
Learn more about American Egyptologist at the University of Chicago Press website and Jeffrey Abt's website.

My Book, The Movie: American Egyptologist.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 6, 2012

Yunas Samad's "The Pakistan-US Conundrum"

Yunas Samad is Professor of South Asian Studies and the Director of the Ethnicity and Social Policy Research Centre (ESPRC) at the University of Bradford. He is a leading expert on the study of South Asia and its diaspora and has published several books on the topic of Pakistani nationalism, ethnicity, Islam and the War on Terror and the diaspora.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Pakistan-US Conundrum: Jihadists, the Military and the People–The Struggle for Control, and reported the following:
Page 99 ends with the CIA involvement in Afghanistan against the Soviets and starts on the Saudi intelligence involvement. The significance is that Osama bin Laden was operating within the Saudi intelligence network and was considered highly for his support by Riyadh at that time.

The page is in the section Revenge of History that explains why the United States had to return to Afghanistan at the turn of the century. It examines the emergence of the transnational processes among Militant Islamic social movements that has become so problematic today and differentiates them according to their nationalist and internationalist agenda as well as ideology and politics. The War on Terror and the presence of US troops in Afghanistan, in some cases, collapsed the difference between these organisations and reactivated the transnational networks established during the Afghan intervention of the 1980s. These networks include wealthy benefactors in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states who financially support the Taliban insurgency to the tune of half a billion dollars a year.

The book begins with a sustained critique of the War on Terror as an inappropriate device for hunting down the perpetrators of 9/11. Osama bin Laden, killed a decade latter, could have easily, in that time period, have been brought to justice through a sustained criminal investigation rather than through the use of military might. The problem with War on Terror is that it is losing the battle for hearts and minds partly because of a worldview which sees only good guys and bad guys. If Washington really wants to leave Afghanistan a safer place it needs to use politics and negotiate with the Taliban, who are not necessarily pro-Al Qaeda. Politics is needed to drain the swamp and isolate the recalcitrant elements but its needs to involve the Pakistan army who have a considerable influence among the Taliban.

The third part of the book looks at issues within Pakistan and how the War on Terror has alienated public opinion, making it difficult for the government to extend support to the degree that Washington wants. Anti-American hysteria is also being used to destabilise a corrupt and inefficient government by the army to bring changes to the political situation. The book is highly critical of the Pakistan military for its anti-democratic role, for triggering an insurgency in Baluchistan and for maintaining close relations with militants, some of whom are attacking the state. The army support for militancy is threatening to draw the country into hostility with India, potentially a nuclear conflict. An alternative strategy of peace with India is evaluated and the enormous impact it would have on Pakistani body politics by allowing for a discussion on the downsizing of the army and the delinking of national security from militancy.
Learn more about The Pakistan-US Conundrum at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Frank Costigliola's "Roosevelt’s Lost Alliances"

Frank Costigliola is professor of history at the University of Connecticut and former president of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. He is the author of France and the United States and Awkward Dominion.

Costigliola applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Roosevelt's Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War, and reported the following:
Page 99:
listening to others. Stalin was a master of charm, feint, and argument. Vast distances and busy schedules, however, made meetings difficult. Roosevelt and Stalin hated flying. Along with the readiest traveler, Churchill, they often became ill after the strains of a long trip. A “summit” meeting could prove risky in terms of prestige and effort. Hence the importance of trusted envoys.

In the first eight months of 1941, five personal missions laid the foundation for the Grand Alliance. In January, Harry Hopkins flew to Britain on a six-week journey to assess Churchill as a person and as a leader. Averell Harriman arrived in London in March as Lend-Lease “Expediter” and as FDR’s personal representative to the prime minister. Both Hopkins and Harriman grew close to the Churchill family. Indeed, Harriman, U.S. Ambassador Winant, and famed radio broadcaster (“This is London”) Edward R. Murrow each developed sexual relations with a member of that family. A key figure in this network was Pamela Churchill, the twenty-one-year-old wife of Randolph Churchill, Winston and Clementine’s son. Estranged from her husband within a year of their October 1939 wedding, Pamela Churchill became a central player in an Anglo-American web of friendship, flirtation, sex, and secrets. An analogous Anglo-Soviet or Soviet-American network in Moscow would have been impossible. Instead, the Kremlin-enforced isolation of foreign diplomats and journalists ignited frustration and anger so intense that it would eventually burn through the wartime alliance. Nonetheless, Kremlin culture—and the Georgian predilections of Stalin—mandated lavish hospitality to temporary visitors, such as Roosevelt’s envoy, Hopkins. His was the fourth mission, a July flight to Moscow to foster trust and understanding between his boss and the Kremlin vozhd. The fifth was the first summit of Roosevelt and Churchill, at the Atlantic Conference off the coast of
Perhaps Ford Madox Ford had a premonition about Roosevelt’s Lost Alliances when he made his statement. Page 99, as it happens, lays out some major themes of my book. In exploring the intersections between the personal and the political relationships of top leaders, I bring new insights and perspectives to a story that we thought we knew very well already: how key players put the Grand Alliance of World War II together, how it operated, and why it fell apart. I argue that Franklin D. Roosevelt was the pivotal figure in forging the alliance and in making it work. After his death, Harry Truman and his advisers needlessly allowed the wartime alliance to slip away. Neither FDR’s death in April 1945 nor the subsequent Cold War was inevitable.

My book examines how the family and cultural backgrounds, personalities, and physical limitations of Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin influenced how they dealt with vital subordinates as well as with each other. Personal dynamics helped shape the outcomes of the great wartime conference at Tehran and Yalta. Before these summits could take place, however, the personal and cultural foundations of the political/military alliance were put in place by five personal missions that took place in 1941. Page 99 outlines the nature of these meetings, including the role played by sex in building an Anglo-American network of trust, intimacy, and secrets. Quite different were the personal dynamics shaping the political perspectives of George Kennan and other Western diplomats in Moscow.
Learn more about Roosevelt's Lost Alliances at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 3, 2012

Robert Mason's "The Republican Party and American Politics from Hoover to Reagan"

Robert Mason is a Senior Lecturer in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Republican Party and American Politics from Hoover to Reagan, and reported the following:
The Republican Party and American Politics from Hoover to Reagan investigates a period when defeat usually characterized the GOP’s electoral record, when a majority of Americans identified with the Democratic party. The book analyzes the debate among Republicans about these problems, together with their efforts to restore their party to majority status. It explains why these efforts usually ended in failure.

Page 99 is about an atypical phase of this quest. It features part of the book’s discussion of Wendell Willkie, the party’s 1940 presidential nominee and a charismatic iconoclast, and his effort to reshape the GOP approach to foreign policy. An outsider to party politics when he won the nomination, he then pursued a project to transform the party’s policy agenda and to boost its electoral appeal. Page 99 sees Willkie at his most controversial, during 1941’s “Great Debate” about World War II. Willkie argued against most fellow Republican politicians in echoing Franklin Roosevelt’s sympathetic policies toward the Allies. Willkie’s project to transform the GOP earned him widespread enmity among Republicans, ensuring both the project’s failure and the destruction of his party career.

The Willkie episode is an atypical part of the book because of the policy ideas that informed this project of party transformation. At that moment of extreme geopolitical instability, Willkie cared most of all about foreign policy. He wanted to challenge the neutrality that informed how many Republicans viewed the aggressive, expansionist threat of dictatorships in Europe and East Asia. Most of the book, however, deals with the Republican response to the Democratic party’s domestic agenda. During this era, government activism in response to the nation’s socioeconomic problems was consistently more popular than laissez-faire, fiscally conservative principles. In practice if not in theory, Americans preferred big government to small government, accounting for the Democrats’ majority status. How to respond most effectively to this New Deal liberalism is the Republican challenge that the book investigates.

This electoral challenge was never far from the center of the Republican debate during this period. The problem of minority status also informed the Willkie project; it is Willkie’s potential as a party outsider able to reach out to Americans beyond conventional Republican ranks that had helped to win him the party nomination. In this sense, the discussion of Willkie on page 99 is closely related to the analytical focus of the book as a whole. The Willkie project failed, but so did many other Republican initiatives to boost the party’s fortunes during this long period of the twentieth century.
Learn more about The Republican Party and American Politics from Hoover to Reagan at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue