Saturday, March 30, 2019

Christopher J. Phillips's "Scouting and Scoring"

Christopher J. Phillips is assistant professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University. He is the author of The New Math: A Political History. His work has appeared in such publications as the New York Times, Science, and Nature.

Phillips applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Scouting and Scoring: How We Know What We Know about Baseball, and reported the following:
When I began writing Scouting and Scoring, I envisioned the book as a challenge to the “great man” accounts of the rise of data analytics. That is, the stories of a handful of mathematical savants, armed with data, replacing experts in fields from flipping burgers to conducting surgery. Instead I wanted to show the immense work, often from dozens of unnamed or unknown individuals, that was required for data to exist at all. Data don’t simply appear, waiting to be analyzed. They must be carefully created, collected, curated, and cleaned before they’re treated as reliable and useful.

In baseball, the main figure in the history of analytics was Bill James, and on page 99, I address why focusing exclusively on him or other analysts is misleading.
Though James was the face of this effort, and most accounts of the rise of baseball analytics…make him its protagonist, doing so obscures an important link. One reason an increasing number of people were asking questions about the level of detail in baseball data after midcentury was the success of the various mathematical sciences of modeling and prediction. In the development of these sciences James was the exception, the graduate school dropout and factory night watchman who became the father of baseball analytics. Nearly everyone else involved in this effort had scientific or technical training.
The new methods of data analysis did not spring fully formed from anyone’s head. They required fundamental shifts in methods of collecting and organizing data. These shifts were driven by those with technical training, particularly people in the emerging field of computer science. By taking a wider-lens view, we can focus on the dozens of people who took their technical training across many fields—accounting, computing, biology, chemistry, statistics—and applied them to baseball data.

On its surface, the rise of data analytics in baseball and beyond seems like a story of people being replaced by data and algorithms, but that’s a self-serving narrative promoted by the data crunchers themselves. Human labor and expertise are essential to making numbers stable and credible. Expertise wasn’t replaced by data; it was a precursor for knowing what should count as data and what questions could be answered by data. By focusing less on the wizardry of analytics and more on the mundane skills and effort required for data to exist at all, I wanted to reorient how we think about the rise of data science in the late modern world.
Visit Christopher J. Phillips's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Gavriel D. Rosenfeld's "The Fourth Reich"

Gavriel D. Rosenfeld is Professor of History at Fairfield University. He received his B.A. in History and Judaic Studies from Brown University in 1989 and his Ph.D. in History from UCLA in 1996. His areas of specialization include the history of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, memory studies, and counterfactual history.

He has written a wide range of books, including Hi Hitler! How the Nazi Past is Being Normalized in Contemporary Culture and the edited collection, "If Only We Had Died in Egypt!" What Ifs of Jewish History From Abraham to Zionism. Rosenfeld is also the author of Building after Auschwitz: Jewish Architecture and the Memory of the Holocaust, The World Hitler Never Made: Alternate History and the Memory of Nazism, Munich and Memory: Architecture, Monuments and the Legacy of the Third Reich, and the co-edited work, Beyond Berlin: Twelve German Cities Confront the Nazi Past.

Rosenfeld applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Fourth Reich: The Specter of Nazism from World War II to the Present, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Fourth Reich offers a glimpse into the struggles of postwar Germans to refashion their national identity in the wake of the Nazi catastrophe. In the fall of 1948, politicians were debating whether to call the incipient West German state a “Reich” or a “Republic.” SPD representative Carlo Schmid strongly opposed the former, saying that it had an “aggressive accent” and was best abandoned, given the many “psychological reasons” that existed for “avoiding the term.” Because Germany’s neighbors would look askance at a new Reich next door, he concluded, it was best to go with the term, “Republic.”

Ever since World War II, people throughout the western world have been wary about the return of Nazism in the form of a Fourth Reich. My book explores these fears by historicizing the concept and showing how it has evolved from the 1930s up to the present day. It examines the extent to which the danger of a Nazi return to power was a real one or merely a rhetorical device used by political activists to gain attention to various causes.

Given the present-day global upsurge in right-wing political activity, it is particularly timely to revisit how the western world has coped with the nightmare that never happened – the creation of a Fourth Reich. On the one hand, its history reminds us that people not too long ago were paralyzed by concerns that proved to be groundless. On the other hand, studying the Fourth Reich helps us realize that postwar fears of a Nazi return to power were also grounded in real dangers – ones that might have been realized had circumstances been slightly different.

By revealing how contingencies can determine history – by reminding us that our world was hardly inevitable – the history of the Fourth Reich warns against complacency. By revealing how our worst fears have gone unrealized, it cautions against hysteria. By examining how people have contended with fears in the past, it shows how they might cope with fear in the present.
Visit Gavriel D. Rosenfeld's website.

The Page 99 Test: Hi Hitler!.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Mark Wild's "Renewal: Liberal Protestants and the American City after World War II"

Mark Wild is professor of history at California State University, Los Angeles.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Renewal: Liberal Protestants and the American City after World War II, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Renewal marks the end of a section chronicling debates about the duties of mainline Protestant ministers after World War II. A movement within the church was pushing clergy to become more active in what had been considered secular affairs. Doing so, they hoped, would transform the church from an isolated, stilted institution into an instrument of social and spiritual transformation. But the idea raised a host of questions, not least about the potential impact on clergy: would ministers neglect their pastoral duties? Or might they burn out doing two jobs at once? On what grounds could clergy claim the right to intervene in the secular world anyway? And if they did, why have clergy in the first place? On page 99, individual church people weigh in on some of these issues and offer various answers.

I don’t know how well this page illuminates the book’s quality, but it certainly displays the book’s method. The mainline Protestant church bodies produced an astounding amount of evidence for historians to pick through. But these records—collected haphazardly and scattered across denominational and regional archives--are almost impossible to summarize in a simple narrative. So instead I tried to deliver a coherent account of a complicated, disparate set of issues that galvanized the renewal movement, most of which were never resolved. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this. Many of the most important problems in our world have no clear resolution, or even a clear nexus of debate. Instead, different people engage with the problem, sometimes in conversation with each other, sometimes alone. The problem may evolve, splinter, subside, persist, fade away, return. The last sentences of the section ending on page 99 serve more to introduce a new problem than to resolve the one introduced in that section. This approach fits the theology of my subjects. Rejecting the idea that the church existed outside human history, they insisted that history acted on the church. No resolution (wrought by humans anyway) can ever be permanent. We are perpetually undergoing renewal.
Learn more about Renewal: Liberal Protestants and the American City after World War II at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 24, 2019

D.W. Pasulka's "American Cosmic"

Diana Walsh Pasulka is a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion. Her research focuses on religion and technology, including supernatural belief and its connections to digital technologies and environments.

Pasulka applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology, and reported the following:
I conducted the Ford Madox Ford page ninety-nine test on my current book, and I found it to absolutely confirm Ford’s assertion that the quality of the whole book is revealed to the reader in that one page. Allow me to explain…

Far be it from me to criticize Carl Jung, but after reading everything he has written on the topic of flying saucers, I noticed that he missed a key, and very important factor in its mythic, legend-making features. This is what I write on page ninety-nine:
Jung wrote that the UFO was apparently impossible. He didn’t say it was impossible. His point was not necessarily to dismiss its objective reality, but to move the study of it into the realm of the psyche, his field of expertise. It was a methodological strategy. Jung missed an opportunity to note that it is the potential physical reality of the UFO that causes it to be a living myth
Furthermore, I elaborate on the point that the UFO “is both a myth and a potential future reality. [Jung] nods in this direction, noting that contemporary physics has revealed so many scientific truths that appear miraculous that ‘UFOs can easily be regarded and believed in as a physicists’ miracle.’”

Jung said that UFOs can be believed in as much as the stuff of physics. I didn’t say that, although I agree with him. What I said was that the fact that the possibility that there is life “out there” makes the UFO myth a particularly potent belief system. And, that is as defensible as stating that time is not linear. It may seem odd to tell your co-worker that you believe in UFOs, but it certainly is not as odd to suggest their real possibility.
Visit Diana Walsh Pasulka's website.

The Page 99 Test: Heaven Can Wait.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 22, 2019

Ann Gleig's "American Dharma"

Ann Gleig is associate professor of religious studies at the University of Central Florida. She is co-editor of Homegrown Gurus: From Hinduism in America to American Hinduism and has published widely on contemporary Buddhism.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, American Dharma: Buddhism Beyond Modernity, and reported the following:
Page 99 falls in chapter three “Sex, Scandal, and the Shadow of the Roshi,” which considers the ways in which American Zen Buddhist have incorporated psychotherapeutic and psychoanalytic discourses and practices into their communities as a response to reoccurring issues of sexual misconduct and abuse by Zen teachers. Using three case studies—Grace Schireson, Barry Magid, and Diane Hamilton—the chapter sets its specific aim as: (1) to reveal under what particular conditions psychotherapy had been incorporated into certain Zen communities; (2) to demonstrate which psychotherapeutic discourses have become dominant; and (3) how the introduction of psychotherapeutic has been legitimated within a wider Buddhist framework, which has produced new Buddhist discourses, practices and organizational forms.

The wider aim of the chapter is to show that American Zen Buddhists are employing dialogical rather than reductive approaches to psychotherapy. A reductive approach is one in which psychotherapy is privileged as the meta-discourse and religious (in this case, Buddhist) phenomena are assimilated and reduced to psychological discourse. A dialogical approach put religion and psychology into conversation as two distinct systems and generally employs psychology as a tool to extend the aims of religion. I argue that while most scholarly analyses of modern Buddhism focus on assimilative approaches, my research populations actually demonstrate dialogical approaches. This supports the overall thesis of the book, which is that development within American Buddhist communities cannot be contained within a modernist framework and show characteristics more associated with the postmodern, in this specific case the postmodern emphasis on difference rather than assimilation.

Both the specific and wider aims of the chapter as well as a glimpse of American Dharma’s basic thesis are illustrated on page 99, which overlaps between two of my case studies: Barry Magid and Diane Hamilton. In terms of its (longer) treatment of Magid, it notes that his work is particularly informed by relational and intersubjective theorists Jessica Benjamin and Philip Bromberg and that he explores the different ways in which attachment patterns play out in the teacher-student role. It also shows that he calls for the adoption of psychotherapy as part of Zen training in the U.S. and the development of an American Zen that acknowledges the emotional and relational needs of teachers and students. Most strikingly is the last paragraph in Magid’s section which notes that he explicitly differentiates between his dialogical approach and the mainstream medicalization of mindfulness in which Buddhist meditation has been completely assimilated to a scientific paradigm. As I conclude, “ Unlike this, his project is not concerned with the reduction of Zen to psychoanalysis but rather in fashioning a dialogue between the two as distinct systems that can each potentially correct the limitations of the other.” (2019:99).
Learn more about American Dharma at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Christopher Klein's "When the Irish Invaded Canada"

Christopher Klein is the author of four books, including When the Irish Invaded Canada: The Incredible True Story of the Civil War Veterans Who Fought for Ireland’s Freedom and Strong Boy: The Life and Times of John L. Sullivan, America’s First Sports Hero.

Klein applied the “Page 99 Test” to When the Irish Invaded Canada and reported the following:
When the Irish Invaded Canada is the true story of how a band of refugees from Ireland’s Great Hunger fought on both sides of the Civil War and undertook one of the most fantastical missions in military history—to hold the British colony of Canada hostage and ransom it for Ireland’s independence. The self-proclaimed Irish Republican Army attacked Canada not just once, but five times between 1866 and 1871.

I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler alert to let you know the IRA’s best-laid plans did not come to fruition. However, they did have some stunning successes, and perhaps their high-water mark came on June 2, 1866, outside the small Ontario village of Ridgeway, 20 miles south of Niagara Falls. In the Battle of Ridgeway, which is depicted in the colorized lithograph on the front cover of the book, Colonel John O’Neill led an Irish army to a victory over forces from the British Empire for the first time since 1745.

Page 99 of When the Irish Invaded Canada drops the reader in the middle of the firefight. The most fun I had in writing my last book, Strong Boy: The Life and Times of John L. Sullivan, was in describing the bare-knuckled boxing bouts held during the Gilded Age. Fight scenes naturally lend themselves to the use of action verbs, which makes the prose flow freely and jabs the reader in ways that expository passages simply can’t.

So with the Battle of Ridgeway, I enjoyed the chance to write another fight scene, albeit one with far deadlier consequences:
They dashed from stump to stump, throwing them¬selves flat on the ground still wet with morning dew as a deluge of bullets struck the stumps and rattled the orchards, sending a shower of apple blossoms down upon the heads of the Canadians. Once the Fenians had emptied their single shots and worked to reload, the Canadians rose to fire their repeating rifles. The Canadian skirmish¬ers advanced so far in front of their main body that they began taking on gunshots from both the front and the rear.
Page 99 also details how O’Neill, who was thrust by fate into a commanding role at the Battle of Ridgeway, proved himself to be a talented military tactician. O’Neill is the thread that stitches the narrative together. He is “radicalized” by the horrors of the Great Hunger and thought it his purpose in life to lead an Irish army on the battlefield against the British. When he gets his chance at Ridgeway, he takes full advantage of it, and I’m glad to see him in the starring role on page 99.
Visit Christopher Klein's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Jessie Morgan-Owens's "Girl in Black and White"

Jessie Morgan-Owens is the dean of studies at Bard Early College in New Orleans, Louisiana. A photographer with the team Morgan & Owens, she received her doctorate from New York University and lives in New Orleans with her family.

Morgan-Owens applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Girl in Black and White: The Story of Mary Mildred Williams and the Abolition Movement, and reported the following:
I turned to page 99 of Girl in Black and White and found the opening page (mostly blank) for "Part Three: Becoming Ida May." The crazy thing is, Ford Madox Ford was right to an extent -- I cannot speak to the quality of the three words found on page 99, but I will say that "becoming Ida May" is what this book is about. Mary Mildred Williams, an unknown girl from an enslaved family, became known as a fictional character "Little Ida May," the title character of the novel Ida May by Mary Hayden Green Pike, for the three months following her manumission in 1855. This marks the moment where seven-year-old Mary leaves behind enslavement, and when Senator Charles Sumner pushes her to center stage of the abolitionist debates around race. In other words, the true heart of the story! The previous 98 pages are the story of her family's struggle toward freedom; the following will be their journey through the limelight to a private life.
Visit Jessie Morgan-Owens's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 18, 2019

Steve Luxenberg’s "Separate"

Steve Luxenberg is an associate editor at The Washington Post and an award-winning author. During his forty years as a newspaper editor and reporter, Luxenberg has overseen reporting that has earned many national honors, including two Pulitzer Prizes.

His first book was the critically-acclaimed Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret, honored as a Michigan Notable Book and selected as the 2013-2014 Great Michigan Read.

Luxenberg's new nonfiction book is Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation. As a work in progress, Separate won the 2016 J. Anthony Lukas Award for excellence in nonfiction writing.

Luxenberg applied the “Page 99 Test” to Separate and reported the following:
Anticipation and trepidation.

Like inseparable twins, those emotions accompanied me as my fingers scrabbled to page 99 of my new book, Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation.

A smile came swiftly as I scanned the paragraphs.

New Orleans. Discrimination. The city’s free people of color. Their continuing struggle for full political and civil rights, long sought and long denied.

Of course.

New Orleans and its French-speaking, mixed-race group known as les gens de couleur libres are central to this story of racial separation and its roots. Ford Madox Ford may have gone overboard in saying that turning to page 99 of any book will reveal “the quality of the whole.” In the case of Separate, fortunately, that page offers a strong sample of the book’s sweep and depth.

Separate begins in the North at the dawn of the railroad age in the late 1830s and ends with the infamous Supreme Court ruling in the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson. Drawing on letters, diaries, and archival collections, the book depicts indelible figures such as the many resisters to separation during much of the 19th century, including a young Frederick Douglass on a Massachusetts railroad car in 1841; Louis Martinet, a lawyer and crusading newspaper editor who led the New Orleans committee that brought the Plessy case, Homer Plessy’s lawyer, Albion TourgĂ©e, the country’s most famous white advocate for civil rights; Justice Henry Billings Brown, from antislavery New England, whose majority ruling endorsed the idea of separate but equal; and Justice John Marshall Harlan, the Kentuckian from a slaveholding family whose singular dissent cemented his reputation as a steadfast voice for racial justice.

The New York Times, in a review by Rutgers professor James Goodman, describes the book this way: “Absorbing ... contains so many surprises, absurdities and ironies ... Segregation is not one story but many. Luxenberg has written his with energy, elegance and a heart aching for a world without it.”

A brief excerpt from page 99 hints at the New Orleans part of this stirring story. At a Louisiana constitutional convention in April 1845, a wealthy and flamboyant delegate named Bernard de Marigny had the floor. He was a slaveholder, and the developer of a neighborhood where many free people of color lived.

Here’s what happened:
He asked [the convention] to consider a clause allowing the legislature to “confer the rights and privileges of citizenship” on free people of color, if they were native born. It was a small step, only giving the legislature the option, without tying its hands. Take time to think about it, he urged....

The proposal died an undignified death a week later, never debated, a casualty of a hostile reception that Marigny could not overcome. “I believe it is my duty to withdraw it,” he wrote in a statement brimming with disappointment, but “I trust that the members of the Convention ... will do me the justice to believe my motives were pure.”
I did a test of my own after reading page 99. I went to pages 199, 299, 399 and 499. Readers might want to do the same. I’m pleased to report that each reveals “the quality of the whole.”
Visit Steve Luxenberg’s website.

The Page 99 Test: Annie's Ghosts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Kartik Hosanagar's "A Human's Guide to Machine Intelligence"

Kartik Hosanagar is the John C. Hower Professor of Technology and Digital Business and a Professor of Marketing at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Kartik’s research work focuses on the digital economy, in particular the impact of analytics and algorithms on consumers and society, Internet media, Internet marketing and e-commerce.

Hosanagar applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A Human’s Guide to Machine Intelligence: How Algorithms Are Shaping Our Lives and How We Can Stay in Control, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book A Human’s Guide to Machine Intelligence, discusses two ways to design Artificial Intelligence (AI). Specifically, it discusses AI that can diagnose diseases. The first way is to interview medical experts and identify a set of rules that doctors use to diagnose diseases. For example, a doctor might say that if a patient has a fever for over a week, he/she might focus more on bacterial infections than viral infections. An alternative approach to build AI is to simply feed a lot of data to an algorithm and have it identify patterns in the data. An algorithm might be given data on medical test reports of over 100,000 patients along with the diagnoses human doctors had reached, and it then infers which medical markers predicted which medical conditions. The discussion goes on to clarify how AI researchers were focused on extracting rules from experts in the 80s but the resulting AI couldn’t match human intelligence. However, AI based on learning patterns from large quantities of data (without being programmed with diagnostic rules) are working incredibly well and beating humans at games like Chess but also with tasks such as medical diagnosis. But this switch from programming AI with explicit rules to AI that can teach itself from large quantities of data has many implications. For one, AI based on rules are highly predictable because they are governed by precise rules. AI that teaches itself through analysis of large volumes of data can be more unpredictable because it’s hard to know what exact patterns it might discover in the data. This is why we are seeing examples of racism in algorithms used to guide sentencing decisions in courtrooms and sexism in resume screening algorithms. No engineer is programming bias into these systems. Instead, the bias is being picked up by the algorithms by analyzing data on past decisions by humans.

The discussion helps set up some of the emerging challenges with AI-based decisions and why it’ll be non-trivial to solve. The rest of the book explores the complex interplay between humans and AI and how we will stay in control of seemingly unpredictable AI systems. In the book, I explain why we are not helpless against algorithms unleashed by powerful tech companies to make decisions for us or about us. Instead, we can take control. Further, technology companies and governments will have a role to play as well. I discuss the role of consumers, companies, and governments in the final chapter.
Visit Kartik Hosanagar's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Keith Laybourn's "Going to the Dogs"

Keith Laybourn is Diamond Jubilee Professor and Professor of History at the University of Huddersfield.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Going to the Dogs: A history of greyhound racing in Britain 1926-2017, and reported the following:
Going to the Dogs: A History of Greyhound Racing in Britain, 1926-2017 is the first academic book to examine the rise and fall of greyhound racing in Britain, although there have been some popular publications on individual tracks. Greyhound racing began in Britain at Belle Vue in July 1926 and within five years there were more than 200 greyhound tracks in Britain and about twenty-four million attendances per year, peaking at well over 32 million in the late 1930s. In the words of the title of the hit-song of 1927, Everybody's Going to the Dogs. From the start , greyhound racing was essentially a sport for the working classes, offering them easily accessible, and legal, on-track, gambling opportunities, and an 'American Night Out', with the bright lights, excitement and spectacle of six, or eight, dogs racing around an oval track chasing a mechanical hare. Indeed, greyhound racing became 'An Ascot for the common man'.

Portrayed as the 'casinos' and the 'Monte Carlos ' of the working class, greyhound tracks became subject to criticism from the National Anti-Gambling League - which feared that gambling on greyhound racing would cause poverty and corrupt women and children - the churches, and some politicians who regarded greyhound racing not being a rational recreation. Winston Churchill referred to greyhound tracks as 'animated roulette boards', and John Buchan suggested that they were 'illuminated ribbons of turf'. As a result the police were constantly being asked to survey the tracks for signs of illegal gambling by children, dog fixing and gambling rackets amongst the bookies. However, the police found little more than petty corruption at most tracks for they were few crime gangs like the Sabinis (headed by Ottavio Sabini) of the track at Brighton and Hove. In the end greyhound racing declined as a result of the Attlee Labour government of the late 1940s imposing a 10 per cent tax on tote betting and demanding the payment of licence fees for on-track bookies rather than the opposition of the anti-gambling fraternity. Nevertheless, whilst it was at its height, greyhound tracking attracted financial investment from the lower middle-classes, who hoped that they had discovered something more lucrative than 'King Solomon's mines', generated local employment, and stimulated a whole industry in breeding, training and racing greyhounds in which the working-class breeders and trainers were in conflict with the large tracks. Indeed, greyhound racing was deeply divided between the large National Greyhound Racing Society tracks, run to the rules of the National Greyhound Racing Club, and the smaller 'flapping tracks'. Most working -class trainers found it difficult to get their dogs run on the NGRS tracks, where the big races such as the Greyhound Derby were held, and where Entry Bridge and Mick the Miller made their reputations. In other words, greyhound racing was deeply divided sport with the NGRS tracks offering tote betting and trying to exclude the bookies and the 'flapping tracks', where the smaller owner and trainers ran their dogs and where many tracks relied upon the bookies for their gambling activities. This tended to mean that family groups attended the NGRS tracks for leisure as well as gambling whilst the flapping tracks were attended by smaller groups of more ardent male working-class bettors. By the late 1940s greyhound racing may have attracted up to 40 million attendances per year but taxation, alternative gambling opportunities, and changes in betting reduced attendance to about two million in 2017 and there are only about 24 major tracks now in existence, and about 9 smaller 'private' tracks. As a sign of the times, even the famous Wimbledon track was closed and sold off for housing development two year ago. The heyday of greyhound racing occurred between 1926 and 1950, and it has declined ever since and now faces oblivion.
Learn more about Going to the Dogs at the Manchester University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 15, 2019

Vanessa McGrady's "Rock Needs River"

Vanessa McGrady spends time thinking about feminist parenting, high-vibrational food, and badass ways to do things better. She often wonders why people aren’t more freaked out about plastic in the oceans. Whether in New York, the Pacific Northwest, or Glendale, California, she is grateful to call each place home.

After two years of waiting to adopt—slogging through paperwork and bouncing between hope and despair—a miracle finally happened for McGrady. Her sweet baby, Grace, was a dream come true. Then McGrady made a highly uncommon gesture: when Grace’s biological parents became homeless, McGrady invited them to stay.

McGrady applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Rock Needs River: A Memoir About a Very Open Adoption, and reported the following:
From page 99:
I tried to explain that I was just helping on a call, getting my computer so I could work. I fought tears, scooped up Grace, and headed down to my car.

Grace had always been a strong traveler since her first ride in her daddy’s truck, but on this day, she wailed. I did everything I could do to calm her from the front seat, made sure she had a blanket, sang, offered toys and a bottle. Nothing worked.

Finally I took an exit, pulled over in a run-down, unfamiliar part of town, got in the back seat, and held her. We cried together.

That night, I had tickets to the Joffrey Nutcracker, in which my ten-year-old neighbor and BFF, Keya, was dancing as a snow angel. Peter was stuck working, so Grace and I put on our Christmas best and headed to the ballet.

We sat in the nosebleed section, getting the stink eye from the usher, who made sure I knew that if Grace made so much as a burp, we’d need to exit. Gracie settled in. The overture began, the lights dimmed, and guests began to arrive at Clara’s party. The Snow Queen floated, amid sparkly drifts, to her king.

Ballet is perfect for a six-month-old, by the way, as it’s all action and music, never a still moment, always changing light and something different to see. Grace was silently entranced on my lap for about twenty minutes, then settled into a deep sleep.
This part of the book discusses my struggle in going back to work with a new baby, and trying to balance it all. The book is about the path to becoming a parent, and the struggles afterward, as well as our relationship with my daughter’s birth parents. I loved this scene and also loved that feeling of escape and release in real life. To this day, seven years later, Grace adores the Nutcracker.
Visit Vanessa McGrady's website.

My Book, The Movie: Rock Needs River.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Jay Howard Geller's "The Scholems"

Jay Howard Geller Jay Howard Geller is the Samuel Rosenthal Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of History at Case Western Reserve University. He is the author of Jews in Post-Holocaust Germany, 1945-1953 and co-editor of Three-Way Street.

Geller applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Scholems: A Story of the German-Jewish Bourgeoisie from Emancipation to Destruction, and reported the following:
From page 99:
member of the party was the Hamburg banker and German patriot Max Warburg. Reinhold Scholem joined the party in 1919 and was an active member in the 1920s. While there is no reason to think that Reinhold disapproved of republican democracy, he was certainly a German patriot.

Overall, the Reichstag elections of May 1924 ended disastrously for the two liberal parties. The German Democrats slumped from 39 representatives to only 28, despite the votes of Betty Scholem and her maid. Similarly, Reinhold’s People’s Party went from 66 seats to 45 seats. However, as Betty reported to Gershom in Jerusalem, “German Nationalists (read: antisemites) and the Communists received the biggest increase, the Communists from 16 seats to 60.” The German Nationalists won 95 seats—24 more than four years previously. The gains made by the Communist Party were even more extreme than Betty described: going from 16 representatives (with only four originally elected as Communist Party candidates in 1920) to 62 representatives. One of the new Communists in the Reichstag was Werner Scholem.

His career was nearing its zenith. After the failure of the Communists to mount a successful revolution during the unrest of autumn 1923, Werner Scholem and his allies in the left wing of the party exploited the situation to take over the leadership of the Communist Party. They mobilized the rank and file against party chairman Heinrich Brandler, who belonged to the party’s right wing. At the same time, they cultivated important comrades in Moscow, including Grigory Zinoviev, the chairman of the Comintern, and Joseph Stalin, then still an ambitious member of the Russian Communist Party central committee. While Stalin had earlier criticized the Left Opposition, now he sided with it. He proclaimed that the German working class sought true revolutionary leaders—such as Werner Scholem, Max Hesse, and Ruth Fischer—not theoreticians. He specifically criticized Brandler, who enjoyed the patronage of Stalin’s rival Karl Radek, the Comintern’s representative in Germany. At the German Communist Party’s ninth party congress, held in April 1924, one month before Reichstag elections, the so-called Left Opposition came to power.

While Jews comprised a minuscule percentage of the Communist Party’s membership, they had been vastly overrepresented in its leadership since the party’s establishment in 1919. Moreover, this overrepresentation was never greater than in 1924. Of the fifteen members of the party’s new central committee, five came from Jewish families: Werner Scholem, Ruth Fischer, Iwan Katz, Arkadi Maslow, and Arthur Rosenberg. Moreover, all five were university educated, a rarity in a workers’ party. In addition to serving in the Reichstag and on the party’s central board and politburo, Werner Scholem also directed the party’s Organization Bureau, giving him vast power
It’s the mid-1920s in Germany, and the Weimar Republic offers unprecedented opportunities to Jews. The professorate and judiciary are fully open to Jews. Jews sit in the Reichstag as representatives of center-left and left-wing political parties. But dark clouds also loom on the horizon. The First World War inflamed social tensions that were muted or latent, including antisemitism. Extreme German nationalists overtly call for excluding Jews from positions of authority. Popular perceptions of the Treaty of Versailles, war reparations, and even Western democracy induce many voters to support illiberal and anti-democratic political groups rather than the social democratic and liberal parties that are the mainstay of the Weimar Republic.

Under these circumstances, how did German Jews respond? What political options did they see available to them? These questions figure prominently in The Scholems and particularly on page 99, which captures the flavor of this book about German Jews and their society.

Betty Scholem—as well as her son Erich and most German Jews—gave their support to the left-liberal German Democratic Party. They maintained their belief in liberalism and saw the preservation of the progressive republic as the best defense against political extremism and antisemitism. Betty’s oldest son, Reinhold, served as an officer in the World War and still maintained a highly patriotic outlook after the war. He supported the national-liberal German People’s Party (DVP), whose social conservativism alienated it from the bulk of German Jewry. Son Gerhard (later Gershom), who does not figure on page 99, embraced Zionism and emigrated from Germany. He saw his future and that of the Jewish people in their historic homeland, the Land of Israel.

But son Werner turned to socialism and later communism. And 1924 was his moment. He and his circle on the left wing of the German Communist Party rose to power. He was elected to a seat in the Reichstag, Germany’s national parliament, and was selected to run the Communist Party’s internal bureaucracy. But his power base was narrow. Moreover, he soon came into conflict with Joseph Stalin as he outmaneuvered his rivals in the Soviet Union and other communist parties.

But at this moment, in 1924, it was unclear what the future held in store for the Jews of Germany.
Learn more about The Scholems at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

W. Ian Bourland's "Bloodflowers"

W. Ian Bourland is an assistant professor of global contemporary art history and criticism at Georgetown University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Bloodflowers: Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Photography, and the 1980s, and reported the following:
From page 99:
[F. Holland] Day is well known among historians of early modernist “amateur” photography, and his works are held, for example, in the the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But to reference his oeuvre so overtly between 1983 and 1989 would have been idiosyncratic, and certainly not accidental. One possible explanation is that Fani-Kayode was reactivating a lineage in which he was signaling himself as a part, doing photo-historical work and also directing the reception and interpretation of his portraits.
By-and-large, Bloodflowers — my book about the photographer Rotimi Fani-Kayode and the cultural politics of the 1980s — is encapsulated on page 99. The overall claim of the book is that Fani-Kayode, though excluded from an art world that was far less inclusive than now, produced images that were visionary and polemical. They insisted on a world that was more diverse, more idiosyncratic, and more interconnected by desire and communion. One way that he did this was to draw on a wide range of traditions and put them in relation to one another.

Sometimes this was more geographic—blending elements of a Yoruban spirituality with Christianity. Sometimes it was chronological, merging aspects of modernist photography (like the surrealism of the 1930s) with the “pictorialism” that preceded it. His updates of 19th century Massachusetts photographer F. Holland Day is a case of the latter. Day was known as a somewhat “decadent” artist in his time, known for posing black models and underscoring religious scenes with homoeroticism. Fani-Kayode, like Day, faced homophobia and marginalization in his own life some 100 years later. He found many visual and procedural affinities with his predecessor, but was also keenly aware of the complex politics of representation at work when white photographers depict subjects of color.

On the whole, while there are marked differences in the context of their work, Day and Fani-Kayode are both important figures in a deeper history of queer imagery, and their work is plainly in dialogue. The nature of this dialogue is spelled out on page 99 of Bloodflowers, and it exemplifies an art practice that thoughtfully engaged with a wide array of source material and interlocutors.
Visit W. Ian Bourland's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Christina Thompson's "Sea People"

Christina Thompson is the author of Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia and Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All, which was shortlisted for the 2009 NSW Premier's Award and the 2010 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to Sea People and reported the following:
When I wrote the proposal for Sea People, I included an anecdote that seemed emblematic of the larger story I was trying to tell. A proposal is a sales pitch, and I picked this tale because I felt it would deliver the concept in a way that was quick, effective, and easy to grasp. It had a fine cast of characters (including Captain Cook); it was set in a part of the Pacific that many people knew (New Zealand); and it conveyed an important idea narratively, which is not always easy to do.

Later there was some discussion as to whether I should use this particular story as my opening gambit. Many books these days, especially histories, open with a climactic moment and then go back and fill in everything the reader needs to know. But in the end I decided not to do this; the story, I felt, would have more resonance if I led up to it gradually. In the finished book this anecdote appears in a chapter entitled “An Aha Moment” which begins on page 99.

Page 99 also contains one of my favorite descriptions in the entire book. At the opening of this chapter, Captain Cook is at sea in the Endeavour with his passenger Joseph Banks. Banks is a wonderful observer, and occasionally he writes something that is too marvelous not to use. Here, the explorers are traversing a great stretch of emptiness in the southern Pacific Ocean; there are no islands, no people, just sea life and birds. Banks records albatrosses and petrels, pods of whales and groupings of seals, as well as porpoises, which he describes charmingly, as leaping and jumping over each other like “a pack of hounds.”
Visit Christina Thompson's website.

The Page 99 Test: Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 11, 2019

Adom Getachew's "Worldmaking after Empire"

Adom Getachew is the Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Political Science and the College at the University of Chicago.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Worldmaking after Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Resolution 1514 and, more broadly, the anticolonial politics of reinventing self-determination were efforts to constitute the foundations of an anti-imperial world order—one in which colonial domination was illegitimate for the first time in modern international society, racial hierarchy was abolished, and sovereign equality extended to all member states. Far from the realization and unfolding of Westphalia, the universalization of independence and equality became possible only with European decline and was predicated on the revision and remaking of a Eurocentric international society.
Here and throughout Worldmaking after Empire, I make the case that rather than reading decolonization as the realization of an existing model of international society, we should understand it as a radical rupture that promised an egalitarian world order. Central to this argument is the view that the imperial world order was not constituted by exclusion from international society, but rather organized through processes of legal and economic unequal integration that generated a racialized and hierarchical international order. Facing with the problem of unequal integration rather than exclusion, decolonization could not be limited to securing membership in international society. Instead, it was project of founding a post-imperial world order. For anticolonial nationalists such as Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kwame Nkrumah, and others, the universal right to self-determination, articulated in UN General Assembly Resolution 1514, was the first step in founding this world order. By conceiving of international equality as a necessary foundation for independence and self-government, the right to self-determination open the door for more expansion conceptions of sovereign equality. As the chapters that follow illustrate, anticolonial nationalists extended their commitment to equality by demanding global redistribution through the New International Economic Order.

While the most ambitious elements of anticolonial worldmaking were unrealized, returning to this history in our time can inform contemporary debates about international order. The anticolonial insight that democratic self-government depends on international guarantees of equality can inform our own projects of worldmaking.
Learn more about Worldmaking after Empire at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Andrew Warnes's "How the Shopping Cart Explains Global Consumerism"

Andrew Warnes is a Professor in American Studies at the University of Leeds. He is the author of American Tantalus: Horizons, Happiness, and the Impossible Pursuits of US Literature and Culture and Savage Barbecue: Race, Culture, and the Invention of America's First Food.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, How the Shopping Cart Explains Global Consumerism, and reported the following:
This, to be honest, turned out to be something of an anticlimax. On submitting to Ford Madox Ford’s famous test, I experienced the usual low-level anxieties, wondering what stylistic outrages I would find in the middle stretches of my new book. But when I reached page 99 of How the Shopping Cart Explains Global Consumerism, I discovered that the helpful typesetters at the University of California Press had handed me a free pass: rather than my own unvarnished prose, it features someone else’s photograph [below left; click to enlarge]—and a really interesting one at that.

As a press photographer in postwar Washington DC, Thomas O’Halloran usually plied his trade by focusing on the manly icons of the Cold War: John Glenn, LBJ, Nixon, Kissinger, Khrushchev. But it is his impromptu shots—his images of off-duty soldiers, mustering Civil Rights marchers, and Virginian schoolchildren—that are perhaps likelier to catch the eye today, opening a window on everyday Washington life. His 1957 photos of unnamed customers in a suburban supermarket certainly captured my interest, and not
“Shopping in Supermarket” 1957
least as they call attention to details in this new approach to food shopping that never showed up depicted in the newspaper and TV ads of the period. Maybe, like such promotional material, they too confirm that Americans were becoming a “people of plenty,” in David M. Potter’s phrase. But whereas female shoppers in these ads often seem at ease, even spellbound by such plenty, O’Halloran shows how his subjects must kneel and bend and reach into it, inspecting and calculating it as they assemble the “big shop” of the week. As such he reminds us that the supermarket’s epic achievement of transferring American plenty into American homes only became possible because such stores handed an individual cart to each of their shoppers and required them to fill it up.

Although it is given over to visual illustration, then, page 99 still encapsulates the later stages of How the Shopping Cart Explains Global Consumerism. It captures what I elsewhere try to put into words: that the cart acts upon us as individual consumers by urging us to consume, to consume too much, and to take upon ourselves some of the work of this overconsumption. But I would add that, in emphasising both the long parallel lines of the grocery shelves and the text and images of the packages placed upon them, O’Halloran’s unusual perspective also looks ahead to modes of shopping that have become prevalent in our own period. His shoppers here become speed readers, rapidly scanning the shelves before they reach through the representation of the thing to pick up the thing itself. This alone seems to me to call attention to the continuities between the supermarkets of the last century and the touchscreen technology of today, and to the way in which the latter, too, urges us to scan a rich surface of vibrant goods and to spirit those we want or need into a cart whose overall price is not quite under our control. Opinions will no doubt differ in this regard, but I think the photo is full of contemporary resonances; a justification, if you like, for the fact that the central verb of my book’s title—Explains—is in the present, not past, tense.
Learn more about How the Shopping Cart Explains Global Consumerism at the University of California Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Savage Barbecue.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Jean E. Jackson's "Managing Multiculturalism"

Jean E. Jackson is Professor Emerita of Anthropology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her books include Indigenous Movements, Self-Representation and the State in Latin America (2002), co-edited with Kay B. Warren, and "Camp Pain": Talking with Chronic Pain Patients (2000).

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Managing Multiculturalism: Indigeneity and the Struggle for Rights in Colombia, and reported the following:
With respect to Ford Madox Ford’s statement about page 99 of a book revealing the “quality of the whole,” I have this to say: it depends on the reader. If we know very little about the genre called ethnography, then we will get a pretty good impression of what ethnographic description looks like from page 99 of my book, Managing Multiculturalism: Indigeneity and the Struggle for Rights in Colombia. That page describes the plight of a group of desperate naked women and children, members of a hunter-gatherer culture known as Nukak, who have decided to travel to a frontier town in a particularly lawless plains area of eastern Colombia and throw themselves on the mercies of the townspeople. We learn that various non-indigenous actors—missionaries, anthropologists, state agents—are searching for an effective humanitarian solution. We get a glimpse of my authorial position with the appearance of the word “putative,” and comments about government bureaucrats’ mistakes lead us to guess that the solution chosen will not be successful.

But a reader who knows much more about what good ethnographies do will feel, most likely, quite bereft. The page contains no discussion, theorizing, contextualizing nor history—no real analysis.
Learn more about Managing Multiculturalism at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 8, 2019

Margaret Mih Tillman's "Raising China's Revolutionaries"

Margaret Mih Tillman is an assistant professor of history at Purdue University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Raising China's Revolutionaries: Modernizing Childhood for Cosmopolitan Nationalists and Liberated Comrades, 1920s-1950s, and reported the following:
From page 99:
In these early days of the Japanese Occupation, Westerners continued to run “the lone island” in ways that belied their true status as Western imperialists rather than auxiliary modernizers of the Chinese state. Nevertheless,the International Settlement also gave Chinese elites, especially those oriented to the West, an independent base to continue their operations during the war. Tensions in the International Settlement mounted as the United States increasingly came into conflict with Japan. In early 1941 the United States issued a blockade on Shanghai. Owing to concerns about the flight of financial assets from China, the U.S. Treasury froze Japanese and Chinese assets in the United States, rendering it difficult to wire money to China. The year 1941 thus marked a nadir for U.S. funding for Chinese child welfare, which halted temporarily before famine conditions forced the ROC to assume greater responsibility. In that same year Western missionaries noticed that collaborationist governments (established in 1938) also ramped up anti-Western sentiment and advised “loyal Chinese subjects” to build their own Christian Church, since all “religion must be united to the State,” in accordance with Japanese policies.

Even after the retreat of the ROC in November 1937, those who remained behind continued the work of the Shanghai NCWA [National Child Welfare Association]. National leaders like Kong Xiangxi left to serve the ROC, but many middling professionals stayed in Shanghai. Among them were Christians like Chen Heqin and Reverend Andrew Wu, as well as the Chinese Christian women who executed much of the wartime relief work. NCWA accountant Lin Kanghou (1876–1949), who had during the warfare of 1937 suggested diverting SFCO funds to attend to the wounded military, remained in Shanghai throughout the war. In 1938, acting as Shanghai NCWA treasurer from the Chung Wai Bank Building, Lin appealed to the French Settlement for funds to care for children sent by the court. To continue these operations after 1941, Lin registered the Shanghai NCWA with the Social Welfare Bureau of the Occupation government. He succeeded in petitioning ​the collaborationist Shanghai municipal government for subsidies. (In 1945 Lin was sentenced to six years imprisonment on charges of collaboration with the Japanese.) In Chongqing, Kong Xiangxi also continued correspondence via the International Settlement of Shanghai even after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Kong probably considered these ... [channels a clandestine maneuver to fortify ROC legitimacy behind enemy lines.​]
Page 99 appears at the beginning of the conclusion for Chapter Three: "The Calculus of Child Welfare: the Democratization of Fundraising for Shanghai, 1937-1942." As such, it's less evidentiary based (as would be the case for a middle section), or theoretical/comparative (as might be the case for an introductory section), and more broadly synthetic and narrative. That chapter covers the withdrawal of the Nationalist Chinese government in the wake of Japanese aggression, and shows that Chinese Christians were able to continue to conduct charity work in Shanghai’s International Settlement based on the privileges afforded to Americans, which remained in effect before Pearl Harbor. This context, I argue, highlighted the semi-colonial dimensions of transnational philanthropy (even when led by local Chinese) in ways that had been less obvious before; the specifically Christian character of the children's charity I focus on, the National Child Welfare Association, also became more prominent with the absence of the Nationalist Chinese state. The privation of war and the refugee crisis also pushed charity organizations to cooperate with outsider groups such as Buddhists, and to become more transparent in their fundraising activities and accounts. In that chapter, I also examine what I call the "democratization" of fundraising, from large, elite donors to small, private donors in both the US and in China. I examine new and more popular methods of fundraising, as well as minutes from charity organizations and their published records, to indicate this expansion, which included the sale of materials directed at children for the benefit of other children. Fundraisers argued that children were both uniquely vulnerable as well as especially resilient and thus a good investment for charity. My point is to draw attention to the effect of the war on reshaping elite philanthropy for children.

The page is good indication of the rest of the work as a whole in terms of analyzing transnational organizations and political forces that shaped child welfare. The book spans the period from the 1920s to the 1950s. The chapter described above is but one of two chapters on the wartime period because it was a significant turning point with ramifications for postwar reconstruction. Despite the ultimate breakdown of significant Allied partnerships with the onset of the Cold War, Raising China’s Revolutionaries argues for the endurance of some of the social relationships and symbolic meanings of childhood, such as the conferral of national significance onto children.
Learn more about Raising China's Revolutionaries at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Kristen Ghodsee's "Second World, Second Sex"

Kristen Ghodsee is Professor of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Her books include Red Hangover: Legacies of Twentieth-Century Communism, Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism: And Other Arguments for Economic Independence, and the newly released Second World, Second Sex: Socialist Women's Activism and Global Solidarity during the Cold War.

Ghodsee applied the “Page 99 Test” to Second Sex and reported the following:
Page 99 is the second page of my 4th chapter, “A Brief History of Women’s Activism in Domestic Political Context – Case 2: Zambia.” This page is a record of a conversation that I shared with a woman named Chibesa Kankasa in January of 2013 in Lusaka, Zambia. Kankasa was the president of the United National Independence Party (UNIP) - Women’s League for many years, and today she is considered a national heroine in her country. Through her personal story of growing up under British colonialism and the efforts that she and her husband made to create a free and independent country in Southern Africa, this chapter explores the specific historical context of women’s organizing after Zambia’s independence in 1964.

On this page, Chibesa Kankasa tells me:
“This country was ruled by capitalists. It was ruled by colonialists before when it was the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The colonialists ruled with an iron bar. The system was that of horse and the rider. Let the natives be the horses and the white settlers be the riders. Women of this country were looked down on as second-class citizens. We were not allowed to enter any European markets; we called them European butcheries. The reason was because [Europeans thought that] African women had a bad smell.”
Since the book focuses on the relationship between socialist women in Eastern Europe and socialist-leaning background information for why Zambian women later found their interests aligned with women from the Eastern Bloc, particularly during the United Nations International Women’s Year (1975) and the subsequent U.N. International Decade for Women (1976-1985). The major argument of the book is that socialist alliances of leftist women provided an important foil to Western liberal feminists on the international stage during the Cold War, and that superpower rivalries over which economic system could better emancipate women proved a catalyst for social progress for women across the globe.
Learn more about Second World, Second Sex at the Duke University Press website.

Writers Read: Kristen Ghodsee.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Kieran Connell's "Black Handsworth"

Kieran Connell is Lecturer in Contemporary British History at Queen’s University Belfast. He is co-editor of Cultural Studies 50 Years On: History, Practice, Politics (2016).

Connell applied the “Page 99 Test” to his recent book, Black Handsworth: Race in 1980s Britain, and reported the following:
I was delighted when I turned to page 99 of Black Handsworth and found a photograph. I’m not sure how this fits in with Ford Madox Ford’s famous maxim that the 99th page of a book is a guide to the overall quality of an author’s writing. But it is certainly in keeping with an approach I have taken throughout my work – in Black Handsworth, which has nineteen illustrations and a chapter dedicated to the ‘politics of representation’, and beyond. The photograph on page 99 also encapsulates the wider arguments I am attempting to make in the book. It shows a performance by an African dance troupe based in Handsworth, an inner city area of Birmingham – Britain’s second largest city and my book’s case study. The troupe was made up of local black youth, most of whom had been born in Britain but – in the context of widespread societal racism and socio-economic disadvantage in Britain’s turbulent 1980s – were going through a profound crisis in identity. African dance, I argue in this chapter, like reggae music, the styles of Rastafarianism and a more general ‘sound system’ culture, helped facilitate an encounter with the politics and cultures of diaspora – one that had a critical impact in helping this generation come to terms with the many inequalities of the locale. In turn, I suggest toward the end of the book, this helped establish the diverse nature of the diasporic tradition as a forcible presence in the everyday landscapes of post-colonial Britain – in Handsworth and far beyond.
Learn more about Black Handsworth at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Wendy Kline's "Coming Home"

Wendy Kline is professor and Dema G. Seelye Chair in the History of Medicine in the Department of History at Purdue University. She is the author of Building a Better Race: Gender, Sexuality, and Eugenics from the Turn of the Century to the Baby Boom and Bodies of Knowledge: Sexuality, Reproduction, and Women's Health in the Second Wave.

Kline applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Coming Home: How Midwives Changed Birth, and reported the following:
The “Bowland Bust,” as I call it in the book, is one of the most surprising and significant moments in the history of alternative birth in the recent United States. So I’m delighted that a humorous description of the arrest, as well as a photograph of the undercover agents in hippie regalia, appear on page 99 of Coming Home:
The scene unfolding inside the Birth Center quickly drew media attention. The drama was enhanced by the appearance of two officers in hippie attire, much to the puzzlement and amusement of witnesses. Carol Bredsel, a registered nurse who was in the house during the raid, described the disguises as “really hysterical. I don’t know why they wore those hippy clothes. I told the guy, ‘your beads are getting caught up in your beard.” Linda Bennett reflected, “it’s as if you decided to dress as a hippie and you only had Woolworth’s.”
Because of the presence of the photograph, there isn’t very much text on the page, thus limiting the extent to which a reader can get a sense of the entire book. However, it’s such an intriguing moment – the reader knows that there’s been a raid, and that somehow, law enforcement believed that undercover agents disguised as hippies would result in greater acquiescence among the midwives and pregnant women located within the center. Readers might be familiar with the conflicts between the counterculture and law enforcement (particularly around illicit drug use), but unaware that the subject of home birth was equally, if not more, a source of major tension at the time.

Coming Home tracks the source of that tension – the rising tide of home births beginning in the 1970s along with the increasing visibility of midwives. For many, this came as a surprise. By the mid-twentieth century, two things appeared destined for extinction in the United States: the practice of home birth and the profession of midwifery. In 1940, close to half of all U.S. births took place in the hospital, and the trend was increasing. By 1970, the percentage of hospital births reached an all-time high of 99.4%, and the obstetrician, rather than the midwife, assumed nearly complete control over what had become an entirely medicalized procedure. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, an explosion of new alternative organizations, publications, and conferences cropped up, documenting a very different demographic trend; by 1977, the percentage of out-of-hospital births had more than doubled. Home birth was making a comeback, but why? A quiet revolution spread across cities and suburbs, towns and farms, as individuals challenged legal, institutional and medical protocols by choosing unlicensed midwives to catch their babies at home. Drawing on archival materials and interviews with midwives, doctors, and home birth consumers, Coming Home analyzes the ideas, values, and experiences that led to this quiet revolution and its long-term consequences for our understanding of birth, medicine, and culture.
Learn more about Coming Home at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 4, 2019

David McGowan's "Animated Personalities"

David McGowan is a professor of animation history at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Savannah, GA.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Animated Personalities: Cartoon Characters and Stardom in American Theatrical Shorts, and reported the following:
My manuscript argues that animated characters of the studio era should be viewed as legitimate stars – not just because they were given lead roles in Hollywood films, but because they were also regularly evoked in surrounding media texts as individuals with an apparent private existence. Page 99 of the book is part of a chapter on the Second World War. This particular page covers The New Spirit (1942), a Donald Duck cartoon made by Disney for the United States Treasury, in which the Duck learns the value of paying his taxes promptly and accurately to support the war effort. The film makes some surprising revelations about Donald’s life as an actor, including his $2501 annual salary from the Disney Studio. Such a figure was significantly lower than most human stars of the period and – although this was clearly just a fictional construct – it generated some positive responses in a number of contemporary publications. Time magazine, for instance, noted that the Duck’s modest salary – which also had to cover the childcare costs of his adopted nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie – reflected “pure patriotism” on the part of Disney’s protagonist.

The New Spirit did, however, manage to generate some controversy. While a human actor could theoretically step in front of the camera and donate his or her services for free, animation was somewhat pricier. The budget of The New Spirit allegedly exceeded $40,000 and – while the film was broadly viewed as a success in its propaganda efforts – the production cost became the subject of debate in several quarters. Although the actual controversy surrounded the Disney Studio and the US Treasury, it is notable how often Donald Duck was personally brought into this discussion. Senator Sheridan Downey even spoke up for Donald in Congress, meaning that the official Congressional Record has an entry for “Duck, Donald” – as well as “Disney, Walt” – in its index.

The discussion surrounding The New Spirit reiterates my wider argument in the book that the animated status of cartoon stars was rarely a barrier to them being treated as distinct personalities in their own right – even, as page 99 indicates, by elected government officials! Cartoon characters proved their ability to create enough of a tangible impression on the screen to inspire a nation, and even generate some controversy in the process.
Learn more about Animated Personalities at the University of Texas Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 2, 2019

John Wall's "Streamliner"

John Wall has a BA from Ohio State University, worked as a journalist at Pacific Stars and Stripes in Tokyo, Japan, the Toledo Blade, Insight magazine and the Altoona Mirror. At the Mirror he also was a syndicated movie critic for Thomson Newspapers.

In 1994 Wall left journalism to become a writer-editor at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences and later worked as director of media relations at Juniata College, a tiny liberal arts college in rural central Pennsylvania. He's now retired and lives in Altoona, Pa. and is mulling over ideas for his next project.

Wall applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Streamliner: Raymond Loewy and Image-making in the Age of American Industrial Design, and reported the following:
As I leafed through Streamliner: Raymond Loewy and Image-making in the Age of Industrial Design toward page 99, I was a bit anxious that the target page would fall upon one of Raymond Loewy’s more obscure designs or that the page would center on railroad statistics or the historical background for one of the many industries Loewy worked in. After all, when you write a book about one of the most influential industrial designers of the 20th century, choosing a single page to write about could result in an exegesis of the design of Air Force One or, unfortunately, an explanation of how a cream separator operates.

Imagine the relief when page 99 turned out to be the resting place for one of the book’s most important photographs, a shot of Raymond Loewy posing in the middle of the “Designer’s Studio,” a special exhibit Loewy created with architect Lee Simonson for a 1937 exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s one of the more familiar images of Loewy and had appeared in pretty much every book or article ever written about the man who some influential critics and authors consider “the father of industrial design.” This also is the same person other design writers denigrate as a shallow opportunist who sold a public image of himself while taking credit for others’ designs. As I discovered while researching and writing this book, there are elements of truth in both views and clues to both sides of Raymond Loewy are contained in this single image.

The design career of Raymond Loewy, who emigrated from France to the United States after World War I, stretched from 1928 almost until his death in 1986. His design career began with a simple “makeover” for an ungainly European copying machine called the Gestetner Duplicator. He, along with three other pioneering designers — Norman bel Geddes, Walter Dorwin Teague and Henry Dreyfuss — transformed the American consumer marketplace by democratizing design, creating products that put beautiful objects within affordable reach for rich, poor and in between. Loewy accumulated assignments and attracted attention for his designs for Sears (the Coldspot refrigerator), the Pennsylvania Railroad (three classic streamlined locomotives), International Harvester (tractors and corporate logo, American Tobacco (Lucky Strike), Coca-Cola, NASA (Skylab) and Studebaker Motor Company (the 1953 Starliner coupe, the Avanti sports car).

The photo of Loewy in a model design is a classic study of the artist as businessman. Loewy is immaculately attired in patterned slacks and sports jacket. He’s perched against a desk so minimalist it looks barely able to sustain his weight. The space, with walls lined by horizontal moldings, horizontal windows finished in a semicircle, and metal-framed furniture, is decorated by a model of a Loewy automobile and framed sketches of a ferry Loewy designed for a subsidiary of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The photograph is aesthetically perfect and taken in the perfectly composed “Hollywood glossy” style of George Hurrell and Cecil Beaton. The preserved image was one of Loewy’s most important photo opportunities, as it established for the public what a designer should look like. Loewy also realized that photography and publicity would be the key to making the term “designer” and “Loewy” synonymous. Until his retirement in the late 1970s, Loewy never missed an opportunity to be interviewed, photographed or consulted, almost always next to one of his designs. He was among the first to realize that successful people must not only be recognizable but also identifiable in the correct context. Close observers of the photo see the office is hardly functional and would be a used in the real world. It is tiny, cramped, and bereft of the storage space any businessperson would need. The office is, in the end, a stage set, created by a man who had no connection to the theater yet constantly played the role of the cultured, cosmopolitan aesthete.

The rest of the book examines how Loewy created the art of “branding” to hone his image with every design his company produced. The book also traces Loewy’s gift for design—not necessarily a hands-on talent—but rather as an editor armed with what one of his business partners called “unerring taste.” When consumers see Loewy posed next to a product, Ralph Lauren in a faded denim jacket, Martha Stewart next to a bountiful table, and even President Donald Trump with a black bankers overcoat and long red tie, the spark of familiarity conceivably can be traced back to this photo.
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--Marshal Zeringue