Thursday, June 30, 2016

Guobin Yang's "The Red Guard Generation"

Guobin Yang is an associate professor of communication and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of the award-winning The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Red Guard Generation and Political Activism in China, and reported the following:
It seems that my book passes the Page 99 Test reasonably well.

The book traces the political activism of the Red Guard generation from the 1960s to the present. As the first cohort socialized in the People’s Republic, the Red Guard generation was cultivated as “flowers of the nation.” People of this generation grew up as true believers of Mao, revolution, and liberation. In their Cold War-imprinted imagination, the world was unequivocally black and white – communism vs. capitalism, east vs west, good vs. evil, oppressors vs liberators. They dreamed of saving the world by carrying out a new revolution, even if the revolution had to be violent and they had to sacrifice their own lives. When the Cultural Revolution started in 1966, they saw it as their opportunity to tear down the old world and prove their revolutionary credentials. This mentality of the savior of the world came from their education, but it also had Confucian origins.

The first paragraph on Page 99 discusses this Confucian origin by citing the following words from Kang Youwei, one of the greatest Confucians in modern China:

“The purpose of my creation was to save the masses of living things.... Thus every day the salvation of society was uppermost in my thoughts and every moment the salvation of society was my aim in life, and for this aim I would sacrifice myself.”

Page 99 then quotes the following pledge of the first Red Guard organization in 1966:
“We are the guards of red power. The Party Central and Chairman Mao are our mountain of support. Liberation of all mankind is our righteous responsibility. Mao Zedong Thought is the highest guiding principle for all our actions. We pledge: to protect the Party Central and our great leader Chairman Mao, we are determined to shed our last drop of blood!”
The page continues:
Despite differences in content and context, these pronouncements both effused over a sense of divine power of the kind typical of the neo-Confucian notion of the self. They both exhibited an aspiration to purportedly higher orders of life and an implicit rejection of the values of ordinary life. The Red Guard pledge was characteristic of the identity of the Red Guard generation at the beginning of the Red Guard movement. It was only in the course of the movement and then in the rustication period that this self-understanding began to change. The affirmation of the values of ordinary life in the rustication period constituted a crucial aspect of this change.
The remainder of the page begins my analysis of their experiences in the sent-down period by recounting the history of the policy of the sent-down movement.

Taken as a whole, then, Page 99 of my book discusses a pivotal turning point in the life course of the Red Guard generation – the change of their role from world-saving Red Guards to sent-down youth who came to embrace what they had previously rejected: personal interest and individual happiness. A central objective of the entire book is to try to understand the sources and consequences of this transformation. One of the most important results of this transformation was the Democracy Wall movement in 1978-1980. In articulating the political demands of freedom and democracy, the Democracy Wall movement represented the rejection of the values expressed by Red Guards in 1966. This reversal happened in the span of about ten years. It was one of the biggest ironies in modern Chinese history.
Learn more about The Red Guard Generation and Political Activism in China at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Walter Shapiro's "Hustling Hitler"

Walter Shapiro has covered every presidential campaign since 1980. A columnist at Roll Call, he is also a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU and a lecturer in political science at Yale. He is the winner of the Sigma Delta Chi Award, given by the Society of Professional Journalists, as the best 2010 online columnist for his work for Politics Daily. In recent years, Shapiro was the Washington bureau chief for Salon, twice weekly political columnist for USA Today and monthly columnist for Esquire. In prior incarnations, he was on the staffs of Time, Newsweek and the Washington Post. He was also a White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter.

For a decade, Shapiro performed standup comedy at clubs in New York and claims that his on-stage career is merely on hiatus. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, writer Meryl Gordon.

Shapiro applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Hustling Hitler: The Jewish Vaudevillian Who Fooled the Führer, and reported the following:
I am almost tempted to find my dog-eared edition of The Good Soldier from college to see what Ford Madox Ford put on his Page 99. My book, Hustling Hitler, is the story of my con-man great-uncle Freeman Bernstein, who started as a vaudeville booking agent in the early 20th century. From the beginning, Freeman's show-business exploits were chronicled by a fledgling publication called Variety, which treated him as a Runyon-esque figure at a time when the real Damon Runyon was still a cub reporter in Denver.

On Page 99 of Hustling Hitler, Freeman has just signed on in 1906 as the New York booking agent for John Considine's West Coast vaudeville circuit: "With a shock of white hair and a reputation as a handy man with a gun, Considine was a bighearted sporting man who got his start in Seattle running box houses (whorehouses that featured vaudeville acts instead of a piano player doing the best he can)."

Considine is one of the many compelling minor characters who populate Hustling Hitler. Actually, Considine isn't that minor. After Freeman was arrested leaving Mae West's apartment in Hollywood in 1937 on a charge of bilking the Nazis in a nickel deal, Considine rose from his sickbed to aid with legal fees and bail money. And Considine was by Freeman's side two months later when my great-uncle beat the rap -- thanks, in part, to a Hollywood legal defense fund backed by Al Jolson and Mae West.

The strand linking Freeman and his most loyal friend begins on Page 99. Which goes to show that Ford Madox Ford was onto to something with his Page 99 Test.
Visit the Hustling Hitler website.

My Book, The Movie: Hustling Hitler.

Writers Read: Walter Shapiro.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Erica Westly's "Fastpitch"

Erica Westly is a journalist and author currently based in Tucson, Arizona. She has a MS in neuroscience and a MA in journalism, and has written articles for Popular Science, Slate, the New York Times, and other publications.

Westly applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Fastpitch: The Untold History of Softball and the Women Who Made the Game, and reported the following:
Page 99 of the book falls near the end of Chapter 7, which is primarily about the economics of fastpitch softball and amateur sports, in general, in the 1950s. This particular page concerns a women's fastpitch team from Fresno, California, called the Rockets. They're not the main team discussed in the book, but they do arguably represent the spirit of the fastpitch story. There were hundreds of thousands of men's and women's fastpitch teams in the '50s. At the time, fastpitch was the dominant form of softball, and every town seemed to have competitive teams. Most were sponsored by local businesses and civic groups, such as the Lions Club.

The best teams tended to be sponsored by large companies, such as Caterpillar and Dow Chemical, which attracted top players by offering them jobs and travel perks, such as flying to long-distance games instead of driving. The Fresno Rockets were an exception to this rule, however. They succeeded at the highest level, winning three national championships, despite having hardly any money or even a consistent sponsor. As chronicled on page 99, the players traveled to long-distance games in their own vehicles, often driving through the night instead of staying at hotels in order to save money. They juggled the often-grueling softball schedule with full-time jobs that weren't always that accommodating. One player became a serial job-leaver, deciding that she'd rather be unemployed than miss a single softball game. Other teams may have won more trophies and received more media coverage, but it was hard to beat the Fresno Rockets when it came to talent, dedication, and grit.
Visit Erica Westly's website.

Writers Read: Erica Westly.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Campbell F. Scribner's "The Fight for Local Control"

After graduating from Haverford College, Campbell F. Scribner taught geography and world history for four years in Texas. His graduate work was at the University of Wisconsin, where he was awarded a joint doctorate in history and educational policy studies.

Scribner is now an assistant professor of education at the University of Maryland–College Park.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Fight for Local Control: Schools, Suburbs, and American Democracy, and reported the following:
The Fight for Local Control is a helpful book for anyone interested in education, municipal government, or grassroots conservatism in the twentieth century. The book discusses America’s fraught relationship with its school districts, which for much of the nation’s history remained its most politically accessible institutions. Education is technically a state responsibility, and school districts technically exist at the pleasure of state legislatures. Nevertheless, until the 1940s states devolved almost all administrative authority to local school boards. Only in the wake of World War II did state and federal officials begin to assert an active role in school governance, testing the viability of local control.

The most successful assertion of state control came with the consolidation of one-room schoolhouses in rural areas, which almost completely disappeared by the 1960s, replaced by larger, comprehensive schools. However, as policymakers tried use consolidation to equalize education in metropolitan areas they met with sharp resistance from the suburbs. In fact, suburbanites successfully invoked the legacy of the one-room schoolhouse to defend local control and thwart the expansion of state and federal oversight. The book traces that phenomenon across four issues: racial desegregation, teacher unionization, school finance, and curricular reform.

Page 99 discusses the rise of state aid to education over the course of the twentieth century, and it hints at the broader argument of the book:
With dependence on local property values thwarting hopes for equalization and a shift to statewide taxation politically unpopular, liberal policymakers decided to work within existing policy frameworks, particularly school district consolidation. Rather than jeopardizing the principle of local taxation they simply created larger localities, spreading pupils and costs over ever-wider swaths of land…. School consolidation promised economies of scale and a more rational, equitable system of property taxation, but that equity unavoidably came at the expense of small, locally controlled school districts.
The plan to equalize funding through consolidation has never come fully to fruition, of course, as wealthy districts continue to undermine efforts at revenue sharing and continue to benefit from preferential funding plans. On that subject, page 99 also has an image that I like:
By the early 1960s, one study found, seventy percent of state aid in Massachusetts was distributed on the basis of an “‘equalizing formula’…which purports to give more dollars to poor districts than to rich,” but in fact “the correlation between the rate of state support and local ability was so slight that the state could actually have done as well if it had…distributed its largesse in a completely random fashion, as by the State Treasurer throwing checks from an airplane.”
Visit Campbell F. Scribner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Katrina Jagodinsky's "Legal Codes and Talking Trees"

Katrina Jagodinsky is the 2015-2017 Harold and Esther Edgerton Assistant Professor of History at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Legal Codes and Talking Trees: Indigenous Women's Sovereignty in the Sonoran and Puget Sound Borderlands, 1854-1946, and reported the following:
Part of Chapter 4: “Juana Walker’s ‘Legal Right As a Half-Breed’: Arizona, 1864-1916,” page 99 describes the vulnerability of Akimel O’odham and other Arizona Indians denied the rights of citizenship. Barred from making economic contracts to secure title to their lands, denied the sanctity of marriage through miscegenation bans, and ignored by federal agents who failed to protect their interests, Akimel O’odham families used creative, and desperate, means to retain individual and tribal claims to the Gila River on the northern edge of the Sonoran Desert.

Sometime before 1873, Juana’s O’odham mother Churga married John D. Walker, an American who served during the Civil War hauling wheat from O’odham fields to supply the Union Army. Churga left John when their daughter was young, died a few years later, and Juana grew up with Mormon guardians even though her father continued to correspond with her and lived nearby until his death in 1891. Juana’s father had accumulated considerable wealth from a silver mine he acquired through the aid of O’odham friends who themselves were unable to exploit mineral claims on their reserved lands. At the age of eighteen in 1892, Juana sued her American paternal uncles for her father’s estate. Her “Legal Right As a Half-Breed” became the sensational question in the case because Arizona territorial law barred inter-racial marriages, made mixed-race children illegitimate heirs of white fathers, and denied Indian claims to mineral rights. Surprisingly, a jury made up of white men agreed that Juana deserved her father’s wealth even as they acknowledged her mixed-race and illegitimate status, showing that not all white Arizonans agreed that Indigenous contributions and claims to family wealth should be ignored. Juana’s uncles appealed the lower court’s ruling, however, and Arizona’s Supreme Court overturned the finding on Juana’s behalf. Having lost her claim, Juana lived a life of poverty until she died in 1916 despite her family’s rich history.

Page 99 explains some of the conditions that made Juana and her mother dependent on men like John D. Walker, and subject to dispossession in territorial Arizona:
Indian agents Ammi White and Levi Ruggles, charged with defending O’odham lands against unscrupulous whites, actually founded Florence and Adamsville on lands just north of the reservation and helped Americans claim uncultivated O’odham lands to the west. Anglo citizens viewed unimproved lands as public domain and registered their plots despite protests from tribal leaders. While [John D.] Walker and other Americans built homes and irrigated fields in the midst of O’odham territory, some diverted water that had fed O’odham crops and then made claims to the military for Indian depredations that stemmed from tribal crop failures…

When the Gila River began to fail in 1870 due to drought and upstream water demands from white farmers, O’odham families found the lands they had used for seasonal harvests and hunting occupied by settler-colonists, so they began to move north toward the Salt River—an area that had not attracted citizens because of its proximity to Apaches, who were feared by many and misunderstood by all. In his role as intermediary between O’odham and Americans, which he would fulfill for another twenty years, [John D.] Walker knew intimately the frustrations of his Indigenous friends and neighbors. By 1870, Juana’s father established his ranch on O’odham land and married his O’odham wife [Churga] in tribal tradition, demonstrating that his service to [O’odham leader Antonio] Azul profited him personally and politically. With little access to capital or contracts, the O’odham used sex and property to reward the citizens who befriended them. Contemporary observers noted that while the tribe struggled to reestablish self-reliance through agriculture on Salt River lands they claimed without federal sanction, some turned to “stealing, begging, and prostituting their women in efforts to survive” the devastation wrought by starvation and sickness. Although outsiders viewed some O’odham practices as prostitution, it is only because the federal and territorial governments barred the O’odham from citizenship, thus waiving Churga’s right to the marriage contract, that her commitment to Walker lacked legal and moral sanctity. Were she and her parents American citizens, Churga might have commanded more respect from Walker’s [American] friends and relatives, and the tribal land that Walker farmed might have been held in her name…
Legal Codes & Talking Trees: Indigenous Women’s Sovereignty in the Sonoran and Puget Sound Borderlands, 1854-1946 includes Juana’s story among five other Native women in Arizona and Washington who similarly used a daunting American legal system to make claims for protection and privileges other Americans took for granted. Some sought inheritance rights like Juana, while others lodged child custody petitions, filed sexual assault charges, and fought to preserve land claims. All bore the brunt of settler-colonialism, a process that relied on legal and violent means to ensure Indigenous dispossession, and all challenged their dispossession in creative and critical ways. Collectively, their histories reveal a long yet generally unacknowledged tradition of Indian women’s active critique of the U.S. legal system.
Learn more about Legal Codes and Talking Trees at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 23, 2016

J. Kael Weston's "The Mirror Test"

John Kael Weston represented the United States for more than a decade as a State Department official. Washington acknowledged his multi-year work in Fallujah with Marines by awarding him one of its highest honors, the Secretary of State’s Medal for Heroism.

Weston applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan, and reported the following:
Page 99 happens to be the fulcrum of the book -- a scene that details how policymaking in Washington met reality on the ground in Iraq, resulting in tragedy.

The page sets up a key discussion between senior Marines and me in late 2004. The exchange centered on where to send our troops in support of the first post-invasion Iraqi election scheduled for January 2005. Key phrases include: “Washington wanted to shift public focus to ballots instead of bullets”; “For Sunni politicians, and the Bush administration for that matter, the more ‘purple finger’ Iraqi voters observed by the media the better”; “At Camp Fallujah, decision time had arrived”.

A top Marine general wisely pushed for a narrowly defined and less risky mission for Marines. I argued the opposite, a strategy that led to Marines being sent to remote polling locations in sparsely populated areas in Anbar province. On January 26, 2005, one of two large Marine helicopters carrying election support troops crashed in the middle of the desert while on this expanded mission, leaving 31 service members dead. The accident remains the single largest casualty incident in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

When drafting this chapter, I wished I had been writing a fictional account of war -- able to craft a different ending. Instead, those of us in Iraq and Afghanistan who had to implement war policy were faced with real-time operational decisions. Sometimes our decisions went right. Sometimes our decisions went wrong. In this instance, the outcome of our deliberations meant death.

The content of page 99 reflects the responsibility I believed I had throughout my nonfiction book -- not only to remember these 31 dead, to tell a bit about each of them, but also to convey the stories of Iraqis and Afghans. Themes of wartime accountability and post-war reckoning form the book’s foundation across the 608 pages.

As the drafts progressed, I knew the book would require detours (more chapters than planned) and thereby ask more patience of readers. It would have been easier to end the book in the war zones and not add parts about each of the dead, their hometowns, and the memories of them their families and friends shared online. But I believe it was right to go deeper, adding pages of others’ voices as well in an “After War” section. A long book for two very long wars that go on…

Page 99 frames how war ultimately is about the human costs.

Had I pushed for a different decision that day (leading to no “31 Angels”), I doubt I would have written The Mirror Test. I probably would not have felt the need to try and resurrect, through words, some of the many, many war dead -- Iraqis, Afghans, and Americans.
Visit J. Kael Weston's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Peter J. Holliday's "American Arcadia"

Peter J. Holliday is Professor of the History of Art and Classical Archaeology, California State University, Long Beach. Trained as an historian of classical art and archaeology, Holliday has received awards for his research and writing from the American Academy in Rome, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and National Endowment for the Humanities.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, American Arcadia: California and the Classical Tradition, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford’s contention that the ninety-ninth page is representative of an entire book is indeed valid for American Arcadia, in that it features how Southern Californians considered adapting a classical form – a grand boulevard to link an expansive city – and using classical building types (triumphal arches, statuary groups, fountains) to define it. The key is in the book’s subtitle: California and the Classical Tradition. Classical antiquity could be considered second only to Christianity as a force in modeling America's national identity; this book uses material culture, literature, and architecture to demonstrate how, from the beginning, Californians in particular chose to craft their state visually and culturally using the rhetoric of classical antiquity. In its earliest days, California was touted as the last opportunity for alienated Yankees to establish the refined gentleman-farmer culture envisioned by Jefferson and build new cities free of the filth and corruption of those they left back East. Through architecture and landscape design Californians fashioned an Arcadian setting evocative of ancient Greece and Rome. Later, as that Arcadia gave way to urban sprawl, entire city plans were drafted to conjure classical antiquity, self-styled villas dotted the hills, and utopian communities began to shape the state's social atmosphere.

The specific boulevard discussed on page ninety-nine is Wilshire, which runs 15.83 miles from downtown Los Angeles west to the sea in Santa Monica. In the 1920s a group of powerful oligarchs sought to widen it on principles derived from the City Beautiful Movement, and give the region a classicizing identity by marking its progress with great civic monuments. Opposition from other business interests and property owners thwarted their plans. As indicated by the citations, my discussion rests on the work done by Greg Goldin and Sam Lubell for their provocative exhibition and catalogue, Never Built Los Angeles (2013). My goal is to place the Wilshire project within the context of Californians emulating classical models, and make comparisons with existing instances, whereas Goldin and Lubell discuss it as exemplary among an array of other unbuilt projects. As elsewhere in the book, my discussion builds on the important work of others, but whose different perspectives and alternative narratives I encourage readers to explore, too.
Learn more about American Arcadia at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 20, 2016

Ron E. Hassner's "Religion on the Battlefield"

Ron E. Hassner is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of War on Sacred Grounds and Religion on the Battlefield, and editor of Religion in the Military.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Religion on the Battlefield, and reported the following:
How does religion influence the modern battlefield? The preoccupation with religiously-motivated terrorists has focused our attention on religion as cause of war, motivating suicide bombers or ISIS militants, for example. But we should not forget that religion has been just as influential in conventional wars between professional armies. Soldiers pray too. And not just during the Crusades. In Religion on the Battlefield I look at how religion has constrained and enabled 20th century interstate wars.

For example, a respect for holy places influenced American bombing campaigns during World War II (including the ludicrously impossible task of bombing strategic targets in Rome without hitting any churches). Or, during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, calculations about sacred time affected Egyptian conflict initiation, which is why we know this as the “Yom Kippur War”. These calculations turn out to occur quite often (did you know that the Tet Offensive was timed with the Vietnamese New Year, aka “Tet”)? Even when religion is not a cause of war, as in the World Wars or conflicts during the Cold War, religious sites and the religious calendar tend to “interfere” with battle and have to be taken into account. Shrewd military leaders can learn to exploit these factors, as they would any other environmental factor like the weather or topography. Japanese decision makers timed their attack on Pearl Harbor with Sunday, not because they cared about American religion per se but because they knew that the Navy would not move it ships on a Sunday and because many sailors would be on shore leave.

I dedicate yet another chapter in my book to religious rituals, showing that many of the ceremonies and rites that we attribute to medieval wars characterize armies today: praying together, battlefield baptisms, religious charms and relics, or the blessing of weapons. The picture on the cover of Religion on the Battlefield, for example, shows a priest sprinkling holy water on Ukrainian soldiers in 2004.

Page 99 deals with yet another pervasive religious presence on the battlefield: chaplains. Beyond their pastoral duties, 20th century chaplains were charged with motivating troops but also with acting as a moral check on commanders. They have done a lot of the former but, puzzlingly, none of the latter. Page 99 in Religion on the Battlefield tries to tackle this puzzle:
A 1969 survey of RAF chaplains bolstered these findings. Most chaplains surveyed perceived no moral conflict between their religious and military duties. Those that did, resolved such tensions in favor of their military obligations. The chaplains questioned explained that their moral authority focused on personal, family and sexual issues, such as swearing, drunkenness and prostitution, and not on military matters. When it came to military decision making, they put their full trust in the judgment of military authorities. For example, two thirds of the RAF chaplains interviewed stated that they considered large-scale civilian bombings to be justifiable, or outside their prerogative to judge, or deplorable but something one had to resign oneself to. Those few who did consider protesting against military policy felt that their protest would have no impact and would thus be a waste of time.
Learn more about Religion on the Battlefield at the Cornell University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: War on Sacred Grounds.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Mark G. Hanna's "Pirate Nests and the Rise of the British Empire, 1570-1740"

Mark G. Hanna is associate professor of history at the University of California, San Diego, where he is the Associate Director of the Institute of Arts and Humanities. His new book, Pirate Nests and the Rise of the British Empire, 1570-1740, recently won the 2016 Frederick Jackson Turner Award for best first book in American history from the Organization of American Historians as well as the 2016 John Lyman Book Award, and honorable mention for books on U.S. Maritime History from the North American Society of Oceanic History.

Hanna applied the “Page 99 Test” to Pirate Nests and reported the following:
From page 99:
Soon more colonial captains without commissions began to seize Dutch ships and then peaceable French vessels, bringing the prizes back to Rhode Island. The entire Hull family faced charges when John, the mint master, was discovered to have invested his Pine Tree Shillings into the Swallow ‘under the command of Edward Hull, pirate.’ Dutch owners sued the Hull family during the fall of 1653. At the trial, John produced letters proving their attempts to stop Edward from going astray. John was acquitted, and Edward fled to England.
This short excerpt from page 99 encapsulates many of the themes from my book about the support of global piracy on the peripheries of the British Empire from 1590 to 1740. John Hull was a well-known and very well-respected New England Puritan. We do not typically associate Puritans with piracy but many considered attacks upon the Catholic antichrist that reaped Spanish silver a literal godsend in communities without a local medium of exchange. Amid the turmoil of the English Civil War, Hull built a mint where he melted down pieces of eight brought by sea marauders and transformed them into the iconic Pine Tree Shillings, British America’s first coinage. Piracy can not subsist without the active support from communities on land who helped fit out ships, man their crews, buy their plunder, provide legal protection, or present the former pirates the opportunity to settle down with their ill gotten gains. Although John Hull could rest assured that his own community of Puritans supported pirates who preyed upon technically allied Catholics far in the Caribbean, they feared the marauding performed by John’s brother Edward against local Dutch and French shipping might lead to retaliation.
Learn more about Pirate Nests and the Rise of the British Empire, 1570-1740 at the University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Karen J. Greenberg's "Rogue Justice"

Karen J. Greenberg is the Director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University. She is also the author of The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First 100 Days and coeditor of The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib.

Greenberg applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State, and reported the following:
There is no page 99 in Rogue Justice, as that is the break between the ending of Part I which describes the immediate panicked responses to 9/11, and the beginning of Part II, the discovery of the secret policies and the reactions of officials and the public. Browsers who usually use the 'page 99 test' might flip forward to page 101 where you would find..."The justices of the Supreme Court were not alone in having misgivings about the president’s power grab.”

2004 was a pivotal year in the war on terror – at least at the outset. Early in the year, lawyers in the Department of Justice discovered the secret memos that had been written in 2001 and 2001 by John Yoo, a young lawyer a the DoJ’s Office of Legal Counsel. Yoo’s memos authorized unprecedented presidential power when it came to surveillance, detention, and torture. Jack Goldsmith, who came in as head of the Office of Legal Counsel in late 2003, balked at the existence of these memos which stretched the law in some instances, and misrepresented it or violated it outright in others. Along with other lawyers at DoJ, including the current director of the FBI, Jim Comey, Goldsmith tried on the one hand to avoid a policy vacuum and on the other to avoid illegality.

In late spring 2004, the photographs from Abu Ghraib prison set in motion a public airing of the programs that the memos had created. Weekly, documents authorizing torture began to appear in public, including DoJ memos authorizing the use of torture against detainees. While officials scrambled to deny the torture program, the lawyers at DoJ saw the surveillance authorities that had been granted to be even more egregious than the torture memos – and potentially damaging to many more lives and people, including Americans.

That summer, Goldsmith quietly resigned, having revoked one of the torture memos, and having set in motion the process that would eventually remove some control of surveillance from the White House. In the months to come, the push to reform would be largely negated; new memos authorizing torture were written – and, as Snowden would later reveal, unprecedented, broad surveillance practices continued. In November, 2004, President Bush was re-elected despite the revelations of torture, and in a vacuum of public knowledge about surveillance. It was a missed moment in reversing the war on terror’s legal excesses, one that would not come again until the election of President Obama.

This 99 page test definitely works for this book, introducing the question of how hard it would be to fix what was so quickly and thoroughly broken. It is a turning point in the book, standing at the crossroads between the building blocks of rogue justice and the many attempts, from inside government and outside of it, to right what had gone wrong.
Learn more about Rogue Justice at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Least Worst Place.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Doreen Mattingly's "A Feminist in the White House"

Doreen Mattingly is Associate Professor of Women's Studies at San Diego State University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, A Feminist in the White House: Midge Costanza, the Carter Years, and America's Culture Wars, and reported the following:
Page 99 of A Feminist in the White House falls in a chapter describes Midge Costanza’s tenuous and often marginalized position within the administration of President Jimmy Carter. Eager to distinguish himself from the failed “imperial presidency” of Richard Nixon, Carter promised to run an open White House and named Costanza as the person to help him do it. As the first woman to hold such a high position, Costanza quickly became a media darling.
Marc Rosen, one of Costanza’s most trusted aides, reflected, “She believed in the campaign promises. She believed she could really make it an open administration in a post-Watergate era ... I think that she felt more than anything a need for people to feel more in touch with their government than they had before . . . She believed times were changing.” Costanza frequently offered her own story as evidence of Carter’s commitment to the people. Newspaper profiles recount her own rags-to-riches story, from her parents’ sausage factory, through the sexist Rochester City Council, to the White House, further defining her as a legitimate representative of the disenfranchised. Early profiles of Costanza are peppered with stories of people who never had a friend or advocate in the White House, until Costanza came. Some of her personal qualities shine through: her fierce Sicilian loyalty, her salty humor and in-your-face style, her enormous compassion. Most of the early articles mention that she never went to college, some speculating about its effect on her self-confidence and power in the White House. For Italian Americans, she was a particularly potent symbol. The Board of Directors of the Italian American Foundation wrote Carter commending him on Costanza’s appointment and the Italian American press covered her with “joy and pleasure.” The combined effect was to portray her as the real “common man” in the Carter White House: street-wise, blunt, and passionate.

Unfortunately, Carter’s idea of an open White House turned out to be quite different from Costanza’s. Rather than trying to include marginalized groups in decision-making, he kept his commitment to an “open, accessible Presidency” through personal humility and frugality. For example, after the inauguration, Jimmy and Rosalynn surprised observers by getting out of the armored car and walking from the Capitol to the White House. He also dismissed many of the trappings of power that had come to be associated with the “imperial presidency,” such as playing Hail to the Chief and giving staffers door-to-door limousine services. He enrolled his daughter Amy in a public school and carried his own bag when he traveled. In Carter’s presidential memoir Keeping Faith he wrote, “I tried in many other ways to convince the people that the barriers between them and top officials were being broken down. A simpler lifestyle, more frugality, less ostentation, more accessibility to the press and public—all these suited the way I had always lived.”

While most thought “an open administration” meant Carter would include input in his decision-making, Carter saw it as making decisions in a way that was transparent, rational, and efficient.
I don’t know that page 99 captures the “quality of the whole book,” but it does a nice job of introducing Midge Costanza, who was the most unlikely of White House officials. She was an idealist, a true believer in Carter’s campaign promises, and a symbol of inclusion for many Americans. When asked to keep his promise of an “open White House,” Costanza believed it meant bringing Carter input from people in all walks of life, especially those typically at the margins. Carter, on the other hand, meant that his White House would be open for viewing and more familiar to typical Americans. Despite the highly visible appointment of Costanza, his decision-making style was famously closed to input from all but his closest advisors, a circle that rarely included her.

This discussion of Costanza’s place in the White House, as well as her beliefs about why she was there, help frame Costanza later struggles. In particular, Costanza tried to use her position to advance the aims of the feminist and LGBT movements. When she encountered roadblocks, her sense of betrayal and her commitment to her beliefs kept her fighting, even when when it meant public disagreement with the president. For those watching the White House, Costanza was either a refreshing dose of honesty or a disloyal heretic. For those opposed to her positions, Midge Costanza was evidence that the Democratic Party was no longer a home to “family values” voters. Costanza’s story provides an inside look at the dynamics within the White House at the dawn of the now too-familiar and very partisan culture wars over abortion and gay rights.
Learn more about A Feminist in the White House at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Christopher Phillips's "The Rivers Ran Backward"

Christopher Phillips is Professor of History and Department Head at the University of Cincinnati. He is the author of seven books, including Damned Yankee: The Life of General Nathaniel Lyon; Freedom's Port: The African American Community of Baltimore, 1790-1860; Missouri's Confederate: Claiborne Fox Jackson and the Creation of Southern Identity in the Border West; and The Civil War in the Border South.

Phillips applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Rivers Ran Backward: The Civil War and the Remaking of the American Middle Border, and reported the following:
From page 99:
On July 4, 1857, a large crowd of Kentuckians gathered at the city cemetery just north of Lexington. For five years, it had boasted the unadorned remains of the state’s most celebrated resident, Henry Clay, whose whistle-stop funeral train had drawn men from their plows and girls in white dresses to stand along its route to honor the western region’s most distinguished statesman. Now, construction was begun on a fitting grave monument: a towering, 120-foot corinthian column topped by a twelve-and-a-half-foot limestone statue of Clay. Adorning the monument to the Great Compromiser, the first person to lie in state in the nation’s Capitol, was a simple headstone inscribed with perhaps his most famous utterance: “I know no North—no South—no East—no West.” Fittingly, eulogist Robert J. Breckinridge, a noted antislavery activist, lauded Clay as a slaveholder who had no hardened sectional inclinations over slavery.

Had any listeners been in attendance in early October 1842 at Richmond, Indiana, they would have recalled a harder, more sectionalized posturing from the great Kentucky pacificator. There, Clay had admonished local Quakers who had presented him with a petition, amid a chorus of boos from other Indianans then present, asking him to free his own slaves. Kentucky’s laws, he reminded them, clearly and unambiguously recognized “the right of property in slaves,” and universal emancipation and amalgamation would trigger a racial “civil war” in his home state. The great statesman condemned meddling abolitionists for their “unfortunate agitation of the subject,” and with unstatesmanlike annoyance dismissed “monomaniacs” in the audience “who think with [them].” “Go home and mind your own business,” he barked, “and leave other people to take care of theirs.” Fifteen years later, any of these Quakers who might have been in Lexington would certainly have noticed of the deceased Kentucky senator’s statue the effects of sectional strife on his non-nonsectional image, its south facing perhaps betokening the slave state’s future direction.
One cannot help but consider the irony of Henry Clay’s un-sectionalized celebration amid a growing sectional divide. Could antislavery free staters actually have revered a Kentucky slaveholder, nearly as did his kinspeople, a scant four years before the outbreak of the Civil War? Did Henry Clay’s reputation as an antislavery moderate actually grow in his proslavery home state after his death, in the midst of a sectional crisis in full flower? The answer to both, it would seem, is yes. Have we then misunderstood the nature of that war, one that in our understanding pitted proslavery southerners (including many Kentuckians and Missourians) against antislavery northerners (including many Ohioans, Indianans, and Illinoisans) in a contest to end the South’s peculiar institution? The answer, at least in this border region, is both yes and no, which of course is the purpose of this book to explain.

But to start the story where it should begin: The Rivers Ran Backward posits that the border didn’t create the war, the war made the border. Slavery might have lain at the heart of the war, but the Middle Border, west of the Appalachians, was hardly divided irrevocably over it as late as 1861. But it divided, slowly and often imperceptibly, and later than the nation as a whole and in part after the war. The book examines how a western political culture that traditionally accommodated slavery was transformed by the era of the Civil War into the cultural politics of region. It explains how slavery could organize the life of an entire region even as it became the foundation of the conflict while having at once been its least attributed and most unreconciled cause among those white residents who endured it. It also explains how in their haste to make a fully formed sectional border divided by slavery historians have largely ignored the centrality of Lincoln’s home region—the West—to perhaps the war’s most lasting outcome. Beneath the edifice of postwar American nationalism lay newly formed regional identities that were anything but unifying and have proven more enduring than their sectionalized predecessors. And by sustained and irreconciled postwar cultural politics surrounding the war and its divisive outcome—emancipation—claimants of the former West’s promise of liberty changed what was once a lived border of confluence into an imagined and antagonistic border of separation defined as North and South and, more complicatedly, Middle West and Midwest. The formation of regional identities completed the nationalistic struggle that brought the war, and in doing so, the West was effectively written out of the national war narratives, accomplishing the moving frontier not by conquering physical space or its inhabitants but by creating a new regional geography understood as culture. The experience on the Middle Border requires us to reconsider exactly what the “North-South” border itself actually means, or meant.
Learn more about The Rivers Ran Backward at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 13, 2016

David M. Pomfret's "Youth and Empire"

David M. Pomfret is Associate Professor of History at the University of Hong Kong and the author of Young People and the European City.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Youth and Empire: Trans-Colonial Childhoods in British and French Asia, and reported the following:
“While the internal hierarchy of the image is obvious, it suggests not intimacy between mother and children but detachment.” The first line of page 99 of Youth and Empire describes a stunning image captured by the photographer Jules Gervais-Courtellemont. Wandering around the Vietnamese countryside not far from Hanoi around 1900 Gervais managed to convince a soldier to allow his wife and four children to be photographed. Why did he pick this subject? The fact that four of the sentryman’s children had been born in ‘Tonkin’ (northern Vietnam) suited the photographer’s agenda. The image would appear in print supporting the controversial idea that this land might become a ‘New France,’ populated by French families. Gervais paired the image with a description of the children as “four dear little colonials, wearing topees, sitting on the grass at the feet of their mother.” They were, he claimed, “Alive and well, the living refutation of detractors of the Tonkinese climate.”

Looking at the image, what do we see? Four children seated on the ground appear as a part of ‘tropical’ nature, embedded in it, even as their white attire and hygienic topees mark them out as distinct. The mother is a marginal figure, but the girls gaze out into the surrounding countryside. Occupying a space lacking enclosure or private interiority underlines their potential as self-determining individuals. The image on page 99 thus confronts us with a strikingly active ideal of the child; one that horrified and delighted onlookers. It is just one of many images of children that highlight the importance of children and childhood to empire.

Youth and Empire argues that children, as both a cultural category and a social group, constituted a principal point around which empire was made in modern times. It shows how children’s lives and ideas about childhood changed as they travelled in connected places in East and Southeast Asia. The book moves the field of imperial history beyond its predominantly nationalist moorings, in the direction of comparative colonial studies. It breaks the bounds of Indo-centric empire history that – despite lots of calls for new transnational imperial narratives – still predominate for the modern period. It illuminates the subtle manner in which metropolitan and colonial discourses and practices relating to childhood intersected and interacted, and how their articulations changed over time. The book demonstrates the benefits of viewing the past from a variety of methodological vantage points, integrating the insights of ostensibly rival approaches of political, cultural/intellectual and social history. It doing so it speaks to a growing interdisciplinary audience of scholars and students working on empires, to specialists working in British or French imperialism, in regional (Asian) colonial studies, and in the interdisciplinary field of the history of childhood.
Learn more about Youth and Empire at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Joseph Persky's "The Political Economy of Progress: John Stuart Mill and Modern Radicalism"

Joseph Persky is Professor of Economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His work takes distributional questions as central to both history and current policy. His articles have appeared in a number of journals, including the American Economics Association's Journal of Economic Perspectives, where he is the informal editor of the Retrospectives feature. Persky is the author of The Burden of Dependency, an exploration of the history of economic thought in the Southern U.S. He is a co-author of When Corporations Leave Town, and Does "Trickle Down" Work?, both concerned with distributional implications of metropolitan economic development strategies. Persky's politics slant to the labor left.

Persky applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Political Economy of Progress: John Stuart Mill and Modern Radicalism, and reported the following:
Page 99 starts a discussion of British agrarianism's influence on John Stuart Mill's approach to land reform. As such most of the page is a fairly standard treatment of the "True Levellers" or Diggers. The line is strongly influenced by Christopher Hill. There are a couple of good quotes from Gerrard Winstanley. In one he argues that the "'Creator Reason' had fashioned the world as a 'Common Treasury'...But the earth has been "hedged in to In-closures by the teachers and rulers, and the others were made Servants and Slaves."

Interesting stuff, but not all that original.

Then I noticed part of a section introduction sitting at the very top of the page:
Mill eschewed broad calls for the expropriation and direct redistribution of land...Rather, his proposals paralleled the approach Britain had taken with respect to slave holders [i.e. compensation].
Reading that over, I felt better about the present exercise (and Ford Madox Ford’s proposition). For at the heart of the book is a reading of Mill that emphasizes his deeply radical vision, his conviction that progress makes possible meaningful change, and his fear of chaotic leveling. That thesis is at least partially suggested by the above quote. Mill anticipated the peaceful emancipation of labor, land, and capital. Over time, the wealth generated by the technological advancements of the industrial revolution would allow the compensation of slave owners, landlords and capitalists, while the working classes created a co-operative world that required their active participation and allowed their individual development. The book goes on to argue that from Marx to G.A. Cohen and the luck egalitarians, modern radicalism has been very much influenced by this political economy of progress, even though it has often failed to appreciate fully the coherence of Mill’s vision.
Learn more about The Political Economy of Progress at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 10, 2016

Shira Tarrant's "The Pornography Industry"

Shira Tarrant is Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at California State University, Long Beach. She is widely quoted in international media such as The Atlantic, and her work has appeared in Bitch, In These Times, and Religion Dispatches. Tarrant is the author or editor of eight books including Men and Feminism, Men Speak Out: Views on Gender, Sex, and Power, and Fashion Talks: Undressing the Power of Style.

Tarrant applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, The Pornography Industry: What Everyone Needs to Know, and reported the following:
On page 99 of The Pornography Industry, I wrote:
Whereas gay, transsexual, or bisexual are tagged categories of porn, heterosexual is not. Although Latina, ebony, or interracial is tagged, white is not. This reveals the implicit race and sexual bias embedded in pornography vis-à-vis keywords and tags. Unmarked terms are privileged with the assumption of being part of a dominant norm. Categories that are not heterosexual, white, or cisgender are set apart and defined, thus demarcating sociopolitical privilege and marginalization. “Tags can have different meanings in different contexts. Uses of porn categories greatly depend on national and geographical context. For example, the ‘Beurette’ (Arab girl in French) category is not understandable in isolation from an understanding of the French colonial past and postcolonial contemporary relationships, which produce young Arab girls as objects of desire for a white male gaze.”

Sinnamon Love, a performer who describes herself as multiethnic, self-identified African American, says that “racism is a symptom of the bigger problem of society and porn no more contributes to that than any other form of commercial media. Although there is certainly an element of racism in some adult movies, this is by no means the barometer to judge all pornography. This would be like judging all priests based on a few child molesters or all Southern white males based on a few members of the KKK.”

It stands to reason that any kind of hate found throughout society and media is also present in pornography. Although porn may not cause this hatred, its presence certainly does not interrupt the pattern. As with so much of pop culture, it isn’t hard to find racism, sexism, and imperialist exploitation. Yet it also stands to reason that within pornography—as with all forms of pop culture such as TV, music, or movies—it is possible to find genres that are nonracist, nonsexist, nontransphobic, and life-affirming. “I’m very critical of the industry’s racial politics and how people of color are treated. But I’m not anti-porn,” says [Mireille] Miller-Young. “Surely there’s racism in the porn industry. It affects how people of color are represented and treated but there are counter-stories—especially among women of color who are creating and managing their own product. This doesn’t get enough attention.”
In The Pornography Industry, I write about the history of pornography, legal issues, medical research, social affairs, and political debates. I also explain the industry basics—who works in porn, how much they earn, rapid technological changes that are shaping production, distribution, and user access, along with often-elusive revenue data.

Although why people like porn may seem obvious, there are important topics to consider such as: concern about teen viewers, whether porn causes violence toward women, debates about addiction, and whether watching pornography is infidelity. The debates over these topics are often infused with a high emotional pitch. Data, on the other hand, is comparatively harder to come by or often becomes obscured by strongly held opinions. The point of my book is to address these political debates and competing perspectives regarding pornography in an even-handed manner, giving equal time to various sides of the arguments. Page 99 takes up the issue of racism in pornography.

The page begins by referencing the practice of adding keywords or search terms to online porn content. Porn sites use search algorithms that are not unlike algorithms that Amazon or Netflix use. It’s curious that people forget this. It’s like part of the rational brain turns off and people think that pornography is a private sexual experience unlike the rest of their online consumer history. The chain starts with how pornography is keyworded. People put in search terms and various options pop up, but those search terms aren't all that original, really, because we learn the search words that we're looking for based on the options that are already available. And the available options are based on how keywords have been applied to content. And so porn gets keyworded in very stereotyped, often sexist, often racist ways, and often with a narrow-minded view of sexuality.

Keyword selection produces ideological and political framework that impacts how people come to think about identity and categories of sexuality. Marginalized or subjugated groups are often described using search terms that fetishize or degrade entire groups of people. This practice certainly does not interrupt patterns of racism in the culture at large. At the same time, pornography is not the sole cause of sociopolitical problems that are deeper-going and with histories that predate the Internet. In subverting racist pornography, however, there are industry insiders working to create adult content that is non-racist, sexually appealing, and life affirming.
Visit Shira Tarrant's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Andy Bruno's "The Nature of Soviet Power"

Andy Bruno is Assistant Professor in the Department of History and Faculty Associate in Environmental Studies at Northern Illinois University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Nature of Soviet Power: An Arctic Environmental History, and reported the following:
In the twentieth century the Soviet Union transformed a sparsely-populated territory called the Kola Peninsula into one of the most industrialized and environmentally-damaged parts of the global Arctic. In a day and age when climate change is rapidly altering the future economic possibilities of polar regions, it is well worth exploring the history of the earlier communist experiment to industrialize the north.

The Nature of Soviet Power tackles the environmental history of economic development on the Kola Peninsula, but also interrogates a myriad of questions about how the Soviet Union worked. It is organized around case studies of five industries that burgeoned while the Soviets were in power: railroads, phosphate mining and enrichment, reindeer herding, nickel and copper smelting, and the energy sector.

Page 99 of the book falls in the middle of the chapter focusing on the effort to build a new socialist city, Khibinogorsk (later Kirovsk), in the early 1930s. It was designed to mine and enrich apatite from the nearby mountains in order to manufacture phosphate fertilizers. The project combined much pomp and circumstance about the state’s Pollyannaish objectives and brutal conditions faced by forced peasant migrants laboring in a harsh environment. I label this experience “Stalinism as an ecosystem” because of the multifarious ways that interactions with the natural world affected the Soviet industrial campaign.

This page touches on evidence for two of my larger claims in the book. The top paragraph discusses a business trip that a pair of Soviet engineers took to America to learn about foreign enrichment techniques. While a certain cosmopolitanism appeared in this approach, the managers of the Soviet firm were also quick to denounce “bourgeois specialists” abroad who raised doubts about the viability of mining apatite in the Arctic. International engagement in these opposing guises was important throughout the Soviet era.

The bottom paragraph provides evidence for my argument that the material environment should be seen as a participant in Soviet industrialization. It describes the difficulties that enterprise personnel faced as they tried to lower ore from the mountains with slides that had worked in coalmines. The physical properties of the apatite ore rendered this method ineffective and forced an unanticipated revision to the operations scheme. Time and again throughout the book, rocks, reindeer, and radiation prove capable of interfering with Soviet goals.
Learn more about The Nature of Soviet Power at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Jessica Pierce's "Run, Spot, Run"

Jessica Pierce has written extensively within the field of bioethics, beginning with an early interest in the interconnections between health care systems, environmental degradation, and health (The Ethics of Environmentally Sustainable Health Care). Over the past decade, her work has increasingly turned toward one of her principle passions in life: animals. Her 2009 book Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals, written in collaboration with cognitive ethologist Marc Bekoff, builds a scientific case that nonhuman animals exhibit of a broad range of prosocial behaviors, including empathy, cooperation, fairness. Her 2012 book, The Last Walk: Reflections on Our Pets at the Ends of Their Lives, explores end-of-life care, dying, and euthanasia in the lives of our companion animals, weaving analysis together with a journal chronicling the decline and death of her beloved dog Odysseus.

Pierce applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Run, Spot, Run: The Ethics of Keeping Pets, and reported the following:
I’ve always had pets. I grew up with dogs and cats, as well as guinea pigs, rats, tropical fish, a rabbit, and a guinea hen named Ivan the Terrible who followed my father on the daily dog walks through the fields behind our house. My daughter apparently inherited the Pet gene, and through begging and cajoling expanded our family beyond two dogs and a cat to include rats, hermit crabs, a gecko, a snake, and various other creatures. Even as our interspecies household expanded, I was growing increasingly uneasy with the pet-keeping enterprise. I had misgivings about the happiness of the animals we held captive and began to see stuffing an animal into a cage or tank as a strange form of human-animal interaction. These niggling worries that eventually turned into the book Run, Spot, Run: The Ethics of Keeping Pets.

About 8 years ago, when I made a turn in my career from straight bioethics to work focused on animals, my thinking really started to change. It began as an intellectual journey: exploring the evolutionary roots of moral behavior, and the hypothesis that moral behavior is not unique to humans but is a broadly successful adaptive strategy. This exploration took me straight into the heart of the literature on animal cognition and emotion, and I’ve been actively reading in this area for many years now. What this body of research did was help me see how much we and other animals share: not only do we share anatomical structures, but we share the richer stuff of life—the subjective experiences and social connections that might life interesting. Animals feel fear, frustration, boredom, happiness, love. They form social bonds with their families that likely feel very much like what I feel for my family. They have individual lives that matter to them, just as my life matters to me.

This isn’t an earthshattering point—we all know that animals have feelings. But what I hadn’t adequately considered was what animals might feel about living in captivity as somebody’s pet. The more I thought about it, the more I wondered whether the feelings animals are likely experiencing in captivity are predominantly negative. To put this plainly, by keeping pets we are making animals suffer.

The third main section of Run, Spot, Run begins on page 99, which has just three words: “Worrying about Spot.” (Spot is a stand-in for all the pets in the world, and is a reference to the family pet in the Dick and Jane early reader books.) This section moves beyond questions of individual responsibility to consider the larger implications of our society’s pet-keeping obsession. Many aspects of pet-keeping are hard on animals: the confinement, the boredom, the stress of being placed in an environment very different from one’s natural habitat. Cruelty, abuse, and abandonment are shockingly common. And a number of tough issues need consideration: What happens when animals become commodities? Where do the animals on the pet store shelves come from? What happens to the “surplus” product? This is the darkest section of the book, and will hopefully encourage readers to become more careful “consumers” of pets.
Visit Jessica Pierce's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jessica Pierce and Maya.

The Page 99 Test: The Last Walk.

Writers Read: Jessica Pierce.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

William Paul's "When Movies Were Theater"

William Paul is Professor of Film Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. He is the author of Laughing/Screaming: Modern Hollywood Horror and Comedy (1995) and Ernst Lubitsch’s American Comedy (1983). In an earlier life, he was a movie reviewer for Rolling Stone and The Village Voice. Since then his writing on film genres, technology and movie theaters has appeared in academic journals and anthologies on film comedy, horror film and film exhibition. He has also provided a video essay for the Criterion Collection disc of Design for Living.

Paul applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, When Movies Were Theater: Architecture, Exhibition, and the Evolution of American Film, and reported the following:
When Movies Were Theater: Architecture, Exhibition and the Evolution of American Film examines the surprisingly varied ways in which the film image was situated within architectural space over a roughly eighty year period, from the earliest showings of short films in vaudeville theaters in 1896 to the Cinerama presentation of 2001 in the late sixties. Does context help determine content? That is the key animating question for this book, with context defined as both physical in terms of architecture and aesthetic in terms of exhibition practices. Page 99 introduces a key turning point in theater architecture with the 1914 opening of the Strand in New York, often taken as the first movie palace and a key influence on subsequent theater building. The earliest film showings in the United States were chiefly in large-scale vaudeville theaters, presented as one element in a variety show of discrete acts. In 1906, the popularity of films, and most especially dramatic films, gave rise to a new architectural form, the store theater, which had its dimensions limited by the lot size of an urban store, not unlike the auditoriums in early multiplexes. By the early teens, architectural writers defined the long and narrow shape of the store theater as most suited to the optics of the movie image. And yet the movie palace that would become the dominant form in the teens and twenties ignored that insight much as it also rejected the form of the late nineteenth century vaudeville theater.

With the emergence of the feature film as a dominant entertainment in the teens, an often heard claim was that movies democratized theater. They did this literally by making dramatic entertainments available to people who could not afford the prices charged by live theater. But, following a common understanding of the period, they did so in a more specific way: regardless of where viewers sat in the theater, the camera guaranteed that all shared the same perspective on the spectacle. To the extent that we can easily perceive a rationale for differential pricing in live theater, we can see that theater inevitably creates a hierarchical sense of space. But it was precisely in this regard that the Strand and subsequent movie palaces offered their most radical departure: they sought to embody the democratic nature of the film image in their architecture.

Architectural innovation was used to convey the impression that every seat was a perfect seat, but was this an accurate impression or more of an illusion? In writing about architecture here, I have not dealt with the other context I indicated above, the exhibition practices. Briefly, the important thing to keep in mind is that movies in the U.S. first appeared in vaudeville theaters, the store theaters were themselves like mini-vaudeville theaters on film, with a series of different films generally chosen for their variety, while the movie palaces throughout the silent area always featured live-performance entertainment alongside the film attractions. The movie palaces, then, were always dual-purpose theaters, with the differing functions of live and filmed performances placing limitations on how each was perceived. By the late 1940s, as only a small number of theaters in the biggest cities continued to feature live performance, the trade press wrote more explicitly about the problems of viewing movies in palaces. The exuberant decorations of these vast spaces has granted them a nostalgic aura, but truth be told they were not ideal for movie viewing. This fact leads me to my final concern with context: how the architectural space of the palaces contributed to the development of an American film style which sought to compensate for the spaces in which its images were shown.
Learn more about When Movies Were Theater at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Francesca Russello Ammon's "Bulldozer"

Francesca Russello Ammon is Assistant Professor of City & Regional Planning and Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Bulldozer: Demolition and Clearance of the Postwar Landscape, and reported the following:
Bulldozer chronicles the widespread application of building demolition and land clearance in the postwar United States. A “culture of clearance”—that is, the ideology, technology, policy, and practice of large-scale destruction—underpinned this work, and it was powerfully rooted in the preceding experience of World War II. Page 99 discusses this postwar transition, focusing on the roles of mid-century housing policy and defense industries in fueling this national story.

Federal legislation incentivized both the execution of clearance and the construction of housing that sometimes ensued. As page 99 reveals, the GI Bill of 1944 made homeownership more affordable. Through zero down-payment loans, coupled with low interest rates and long amortization periods, the bill enabled nearly four million World War II veterans to become homeowners. To make way for much of this housing, countless acres of farmland and forests fell. Earthmoving companies also leveled hillsides and moved massive amounts of dirt. These efforts helped create the large, flat, seemingly blank slates upon which suburban tract housing, shopping malls, and industrial and office sites were built.

As elaborated elsewhere in the book, additional policies further propelled the rise of the postwar bulldozer. The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 provided 90 percent federal subsidies for highway construction. It spurred the removal of large quantities of earth, rock, and physical infrastructure, while also facilitating the flight of residents and businesses to the suburbs. Meanwhile, in cities, Title I of the Housing Act of 1949 funded the bulldozing of buildings by covering two thirds of the cost of acquiring and clearing “slums” for urban redevelopment.

The large-scale application of construction equipment during World War II helped pave the way for these postwar policies and practices. As page 99 further discusses, Southern California quite tangibly exemplified the transfer of wartime men, machines, and methods from battlefront to home front. It was the port of departure and return for the Naval Seabees (short for Construction Battalions), many of whom settled in the defense-fueled region upon their return. Through postwar employment with wrecking, earthmoving, and construction companies, some of these men were able to put their new and war-honed skills to use. But the reach of the postwar bulldozer was not limited to California alone. Landscapes across the county felt its influence. As thousands of buildings and acres of natural growth gave way to the bulldozer, the culture of clearance dramatically remade the postwar American landscape.
Learn more about Bulldozer at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 4, 2016

David Satter's "The Less You Know, The Better You Sleep"

David Satter has written about Russia for almost four decades. He is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a fellow of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Satter applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Less You Know, The Better You Sleep: Russia's Road to Terror and Dictatorship under Yeltsin and Putin, and reported the following:
The book deals on page 99 with the Nord-Ost theater siege in 2002 in Moscow in which nearly a thousand theater goers were suddenly taken hostage by Chechen terrorists. The page, itself, describes the beginning of the siege which ended when Russian special forces flooded the theater with lethal gas killing at least 129 of the hostages. Page 99 is representative of the book because there is evidence of official involvement in the seizure of the theater and the book in its entirety deals with the major provocations that have characterized Russia since the fall of the U.S.S.R. and have been crucial to keeping the ruling group in power. These include the Ostankino Television tower massacre in 1993, the Russian apartment bombings in 1999, Nord-Ost, the Beslan school massacre in 2004 and, of course, the invasion of Ukraine in 2014.

Turning by chance to the Nord-Ost theater siege and its chilling beginning, the reader is given a very good idea of all of the other chilling episodes that are described in the book and finds hints of the conclusions that will soon be drawn.
Learn more about The Less You Know, The Better You Sleep at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Carl David Ipsen's "Fumo: Italy’s Love Affair with the Cigarette"

Carl David Ipsen is Professor of History at Indiana University. He is the author of Italy in the Age of Pinocchio: Children and Danger in the Liberal Era (2006) and Dictating Demography: The Problem of Population in Fascist Italy (1996).

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Fumo: Italy's Love Affair with the Cigarette, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Chapter 5: Camel – Women, Sex and Americane in the Postwar Decades

The cultural landscape of smoking in Italy underwent significant changes after World War II. Chapter 4 explored the link between poverty and smoking in the quarter-century or so after the conflict, a relatively unreflective era during which Italians embraced as a package both prosperity and smoking. Smoking of course had other valences than economic in the era before health concerns came to dominate the discourse surrounding tobacco consumption, and like the association of smoking and relative wealth, or at least the escape from misery, various of those valences were positive. In this chapter, we look at several of these: the symbolism of American cigarettes, continued tension about women and smoking, and the link, both implicit and explicit, between smoking and sex. As we’ll see, these categories overlap and together depict what we might call the Italian celebration of smoking, when smoking in Italy, to use Klein’s term, was still sublime. It was a tradition that persisted into subsequent decades, though ever more contested and subdued by the issue of smoking and health. That persistence owes something to Italian attitudes about smoking and risk, the topic of chapter 6.

Prevalence and Male versus Female Smoking in the Postwar Era

Smoking prevalence (the percentage of the population that smokes), both how it changed over time and the differences between male and female prevalence provides a useful background to a number of topics discussed in the next two…
Page 99 of Fumo is the first page of chapter five: “Camel – Women, Sex and Americane in the Postwar Decades.” As such it looks back at the previous chapter on smoking and poverty and also forward to the following one on smoking and risk. Each of my chapters incorporates a cigarette name in the title. Chapter 5 is Camel because of the fascination with American cigarettes in Italy after WWII (initially Camel, Chesterfield and Lucky Strike were available). American cigarettes constituted a tiny fraction of legal sales in those years but dominated the large contraband market. They were so familiar as to be simply referred to as “Americans” or americane ( These decades – the 1950s and 1960s – coincided with Italy’s “economic miracle” and also constituted the golden age of Italian smoking. More and more Italians could afford to smoke and widespread concern about the health risks were still in the future. Smoking enjoyed, alas, a host of positive associations: relative wealth (or at least escape from poverty), glamour, self-assurance, liberation (for women). In literature and films smoking punctuated all sorts of crucial moments, often sexual ones, standing in for the at the time unshowable act or employed as an antidote for sexual frustration. So page 99 is indeed representative of a large chunk of the book and speaks to the overall approach. It does not give any hints to my discussions of Italian smoking in the early years of the cigarette (after about 1880) and during Fascism. Nor does it look farther ahead to the chapters on the anti-smoking era in Italy, on contraband, and on the eventual privatization of the Italian tobacco monopoly (which controlled production and sales from 1861 to 1998). The book concludes with the successful (and well observed) anti-smoking law implemented in 2005.
Learn more about Fumo: Italy's Love Affair with the Cigarette at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue