Friday, June 23, 2017

Samuel C. Heilman's "Who Will Lead Us?"

Samuel C. Heilman is Proshansky Chair in Jewish Studies at the Graduate Center and Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Queens College CUNY. His many books include (with Menachem Friedman), The Rebbe: The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson, winner of the National Jewish Book Award.

Heilman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Who Will Lead Us?: The Story of Five Hasidic Dynasties in America, and reported the following:
Page 99 discusses how the Bobover Rebbe managed to transform his followers or hasidim during the early twentieth century when he was becoming a larger than life figure. I think it's interesting but not necessarily representative of the whole book which, after all, details many leaders and the stories of their dynasties.
Learn more about Who Will Lead Us? at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Jean R. Freedman's "Peggy Seeger"

Jean R. Freedman is a folklorist and author whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Journal of American Folklore, and the Fast Folk Musical Magazine, among other publications. Her first book, Whistling in the Dark: Memory and Culture in Wartime London, analyzes popular culture and political ideology in London during World War II. She teaches at Montgomery College and George Washington University and lives in the Washington, DC area with her family.

Freedman applied the “Page 99 Test” to her recent biography, Peggy Seeger: A Life of Music, Love, and Politics, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my biography, Peggy Seeger: A Life of Music, Love, and Politics, finds Peggy in Moscow as part of the American delegation to the 1957 World Youth Festival. At the age of 22, she was in the early, stormy portion of her relationship with Ewan MacColl, then married to Jean Newlove, who had accompanied him to Moscow. Peggy was a musical success at the festival, where she and Guy Carawan led the American delegation in a concert of American folk music at the Bolshoi Theater. But her youthful naïveté ran afoul of Ewan’s Marxist politics when she and Guy gave a concert of gospel music to a group of left-wing writers who believed that religion is the opiate of the masses. Ewan was so angry that he threatened to break off the relationship – a threat he could not keep – and he and Jean returned to their home in London. Peggy and the other members of the American delegation were then invited to visit China. This was a momentous decision. On page 99, I write:
Traveling behind the Iron Curtain during the height of the Cold War was an unpopular choice for Americans; Life magazine reported that the festival participants “went despite State Department warning that the festival was a propaganda gimmick.” The State Department could not forbid them to go to the Soviet Union, but China was a different matter: the United States had no diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, and an American passport forbade travel there. According to Time magazine, a letter from Acting Secretary of State Christian Herter was delivered to the American delegates, advising them, “By traveling to Communist China at this time you will, in the considered view of your government, be acting as a willing tool of Communist propaganda intended, wherever possible, to subvert the foreign policy and the best interests of the U.S.”
The letter went on to warn of possible consequences that the Americans would face when they returned home from China: loss of passport, fines, even prison. Most of the Americans heeded the State Department’s warning and declined the invitation.

Peggy, on the other hand, chose to go to China. This decision was a turning point in her life, though she did not yet know it and the reader does not yet realize it on page 99. Afterward, she did not return home, fearing the loss of her passport, a consequence that would keep her in the United States and effectively end her relationship with Ewan MacColl. So she continued traveling and giving concerts of American music – in Russia, in Poland, in France, until finally, in 1959, she settled in London with Ewan, her musical and personal partner until his death in 1989. American folk music remained the backbone of her career, while her politics underwent a rigorous and willing transformation under Ewan’s tutelage; a gentle American progressive became a staunch British leftist. The decisions she made on page 99 altered, irrevocably, the course of her life. But she never returned to China.
Visit Jean R. Freedman’s website.

My Book, The Movie: Peggy Seeger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Howard Jones's "My Lai"

Howard Jones is University Research Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Alabama.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, My Lai: Vietnam, 1968, and the Descent into Darkness, and reported the following:
From page 99:
[PFC Michael Bernhardt] from the 2nd Platoon had not entered My Lai 4 along with his company commander; [Captain Ernest] Medina ordered him to inspect a suspicious-looking wood box just outside the subhamlet to determine whether it was a booby trap. After finding it harmless, Bernhardt caught up with the command group inside My Lai 4 and was shocked to see the 3rd Platoon setting the huts afire and shooting their inhabitants as they ran outside, or breaking into them and shooting everyone inside. Other GIs assembled the villagers in small groups outside their homes and shot them on the spot. "The whole thing was so deliberate,” he told [reporter Seymour] Hersh. “It was point-blank murder and I was standing there watching it. It's kind of made me wonder if I could trust people anymore."

The 3rd Platoon, led by Lieutenant Jeffrey LaCross, began the final phase of the operation before the other two platoons had made it through the village, but its so-called “mop-up mission” quickly became a euphemism for killing anyone still alive. Photographer and Sergeant Ronald Haeberle took picture after picture of civilians scattered everywhere, some already dead and the others now slain by the 3rd Platoon. No doubt out of concern for his own safety, he decided against photographing soldiers shooting villagers, but his camera recorded a great number of bodies spread out or together, depending on where the victims had been when they were murdered. It also showed bunkers, sometimes filled with villagers, ripped apart by grenades; domestic structures damaged or destroyed by what he at first assumed was errant artillery fire; hooches burned to the ground by Zippo squads; pigs and water buffaloes killed; wells contaminated by animal remains.

“I knew it was something that shouldn’t be happening but yet I was part of it,” Haeberle recounted in an interview years later. “I think I was in a kind of daze from seeing all these shootings and not seeing any return fire. Yet the killing kept going on.” Several soldiers rounded up the civilians and shot them, while others killed them individually or in small groups on the spot. Everyone in Haeberle’s mind bore responsibility, including Major General [Samuel] Koster and Lieutenant Colonel [Frank] Barker for failing to monitor and control their troops. All refused to take prisoners. “It was completely different to my concept of what war is all about.”

Numerous soldiers’ accounts confirmed the continuing slaughter. In the CID Report, Sergeant [Charles] West admitted that they had killed women and children. PFC Richard Pendleton and his men shot a half dozen men and women running from the village, killing three of them. Fred Dustin watched his fellow grunts kill a group of Vietnamese that included children. Stephen Glimpse saw a soldier behind him shoot a wounded youth.
I was amazed that so many themes of my book ran through page 99.

Not everyone killed with impunity. Even in the absence of return fire, the GIs were at first convinced the enemy was there and more than a few of them sought to survive by following orders to kill everyone, whether man, woman, or child—or baby. Bernhardt refused to kill non-resisting villagers and was appalled and sickened by what he witnessed. Yet he felt powerless to stop the killing. His commander, Captain Medina, later warned him not to tell his congressman what he saw. And from his vantage point, Bernhardt saw a microcosm of the whole: Vietnamese villagers rounded up and shot in groups or one by one; grenades tossed into bunkers and homes with the survivors running outside only to be shot, while others remained inside, perhaps injured and also shot; wanton and illegal destruction of property, including homes, buildings, and contamination of wells, along with the slaughter of water buffaloes, pigs, and other animals.

The mass killings and widespread destruction were purposeful and could not be attributable to so-called inadvertent collateral damage. Despite U.S. intelligence warnings to the contrary, no Viet Cong forces were in My Lai 4, which meant that the infantry had gunned down unarmed civilians erroneously believed to be the enemy—including those killed after it was clear that there was no enemy in the village. No superiors were in charge after the first few moments of the operation. The Americal Division commander, Major General Koster, was not monitoring the situation; Lieutenant Colonel Barker was in a helicopter hovering over the village and lacked firsthand information on what was going on below; and Medina quickly lost control of his three platoons of about a hundred troops in Charlie Company, allowing 2nd Lieutenant William Calley and others to follow their orders as they perceived them to be.

In the meantime, army photographer Ronald Haeberle took pictures of the victims, providing evidence of a massacre that he at first kept hidden and thereby became part of a cover-up. And he was not alone. Most soldiers, whether or not they participated in the killings, maintained their silence about what had happened—doubtless for fear of death at the hands of the perpetrators. Some GIs told their story to members of the army’s Criminal Investigation Division; but as time passed, most of them either changed their accounts or asserted that they could no longer remember what happened in those four hours that day. Yet Haeberle and every other soldier in My Lai that morning realized they were part of this massacre and would carry the memory of these events with them for the rest of their lives.
Learn more about My Lai: Vietnam, 1968, and the Descent into Darkness at the Oxford University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: My Lai: Vietnam, 1968, and the Descent into Darkness.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Jack Ewing's "Faster, Higher, Farther"

Jack Ewing is European economics correspondent for The New York Times and author of Faster, Higher, Farther: The Volkswagen Scandal. He lives in Frankfurt.

Ewing applied the “Page 99 Test” to Faster, Higher, Farther and reported the following:
Bad luck! Page 99 in Faster, Higher, Farther: The Volkswagen Scandal is the end of a chapter and about one-third white space. Nevertheless, the page is not a bad place to judge the book. It marks a turning point in the story, which can be summed up as follows: how a company that began as a Nazi propaganda project became the largest car company in the world--only to be exposed as emissions cheaters by a handful of university researchers working with a $70,000 grant.

The chapter that ends on Page 99 describes the last days of Ferdinand Piëch’s reign as chief executive of Volkswagen. Piëch, grandson of legendary car designer Ferdinand Porsche, has just driven an experimental “one-liter auto”—so-called because it could travel 100 kilometers, or about 60 miles, on a single liter of diesel fuel—to the Volkswagen annual meeting in Hamburg. There Piëch received a standing ovation from shareholders grateful that he saved Volkswagen from near bankruptcy and made it the largest car company in Europe.

But, as I argue in the book, Piëch had already created a climate where the emissions scandal could breed. A brilliant engineer, he was also an authoritarian known for dismissing or exiling subordinates who failed to meet the ambitious goals he set for them. And Piëch was not really giving up power. He continued to dominate Volkswagen from his position as chairman of the company’s supervisory board. Piëch’s hand-picked successor, Bernd Pischetsrieder, quickly fell out of favor when he tried to remake Volkswagen’s corporate culture to be less dictatorial. Pischetsrieder was replaced by Martin Winterkorn, a long-term Piëch protégé known for his unwavering loyalty to his mentor.

Under Piëch and Winterkorn, failure was not an option. When Volkswagen engineers realized in 2006 that a new diesel engine could not meet pollution standards in the United States, they devised emissions-cloaking software to fool regulators. When the deception was discovered almost a decade later, Volkswagen was forced to pay more than $22 billion in fines and legal settlements in the United States.

Page 99 hints at the main themes of the book—how the ambition and ruthlessness of top managers can turn ordinary employees into criminals, and ultimately endanger the jobs of thousands of innocent employees.
Follow Jack Ewing on Twitter and Facebook, and read more about Faster, Higher, Farther at the W.W. Norton website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 19, 2017

Llana Barber's "Latino City"

Llana Barber is assistant professor of American Studies at the State University of New York College at Old Westbury.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Latino City: Immigration and Urban Crisis in Lawrence, Massachusetts, 1945–2000, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Latino City explores how Latino Lawrencians “were blamed for the very obstacles they had to overcome in the city.” This does indeed capture a twinned emphasis of my book: Not only did urban crisis create hardship for the Dominicans and Puerto Ricans who settled in the city, but white residents also scapegoated the newcomers for the city’s economic troubles.

Latino City explores Lawrence’s transformation to New England’s first Latino-majority city in the late twentieth century. Lawrence today is nearly three-quarters Latino, mostly Dominican and Puerto Rican, yet this demographic shift was fraught with struggle. White flight, suburban competition, and deindustrialization devastated Lawrence’s economy in the postwar decades, and Latinos entered into a city in crisis. Many white residents correlated the city’s economic decline with the arrival of Dominicans and Puerto Ricans, and became convinced that if they could halt the Latino influx into Lawrence, they could restore the city’s prosperity.

Although this scapegoating took multiple forms, page 99 focuses on the street level contestations between white and Latino residents, as daily issues became racialized within the broader political processes operating in the city, culminating in two nights of rioting in 1984:
In the larger context of white hostility, ostensibly neutral issues could become sources of bitterly racialized tension. One Dominican Lawrencians who lived in the Lower Tower Hill neighborhood where the 1984 riots would take place recalled the tension leading up to the explosion. She described frequent arguments in the neighborhood, as white and Latino residents yelled and cursed at each other about seemingly superficial things that had become racialized only in the context of the larger changes in the city, such as “‘why are you parking here’ or ‘pick up your garbage.’” White and Latino Lawrencians even fought over whose music would fill the air... In 1984, one presumably white resident summed up how racial tension was reflected in cultural terms in his assertion that Lawrence needed “more Van Halen and less Michael Jackson.”
While this page captures well the quotidian struggles Latinos had to engage in to settle in the city, it is missing the book’s larger emphasis on the metropolitan political economy that generated urban crisis and the role of U.S. intervention in Latin America in generating Latino migration, as these points are addressed in other chapters.
Learn more about Latino City at the University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 17, 2017

J.M. Opal's "Avenging the People"

J.M. Opal is Associate Professor of History at McGill University. He is the author of Beyond the Farm: National Ambitions in Rural New England and the editor of Common Sense and Other Writings by Thomas Paine.

Opal applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Avenging the People: Andrew Jackson, the Rule of Law, and the American Nation, and reported the following:
This passage from Avenging the People covers the mysterious ending of a mysterious war. From 1792 to 1794, Cherokee and Creek men attacked the far reaches of the Southwest Territory, which became the state of Tennessee. Andrew Jackson and one of his mentors, James Robertson, played key roles in the climactic “Nickajack” campaign, during which white militiamen torched that town, killed most of the inhabitants, and took some girls as captives.

From page 99:
Legend says that Andrew Jackson took part in this campaign as a humble private, not as judge advocate. There is no way to verify this claim…. Jackson buried much of what happened deep inside. Clearly he emerged from Tennessee’s two-year nightmare as one of its trusted avengers, a man who bore its scars and secrets. In 1795, Robertson took the fall for Nickajack…. Some years later, after Robertson again offered his services, Jackson paid his respects to the old warrior. The men who served under your command, Jackson told Robertson, were a “Corps of Invincibles.” They revealed a courage “to be found only in republicks”...[displaying] a “union of Sentiments and Action” in the face of demonic foes. “My God!” Jackson concluded. “How can I express my sensations!!!”
Much of Andrew Jackson’s military career is shrouded in myth. As such we rely on veiled references to the awful things that happened in the Tennessee woods, far away from any law. This points to one of the main themes of the book: the conflict between frontier elites like Jackson and Robertson, on one hand, and the national government on the other. Eastern politicians simply did not understand the terrifying bloodlands of North America, Jackson seethed. “How can I express my sensations!!!” The key to those “sensations” was Jackson’s deep feeling of prior innocence—and the resulting thirst for vengeance.

Where did those convictions and obsessions come from? For Jackson, the world had first turned on him during the American Revolution, when he lost his mother and two brothers. His sense of victimhood deepened when people whispered about his beloved wife, Rachel, in the early 1790s. It reached a fever pitch that decade as hundreds of settlers were killed by natives who were protected, to some extent, by the U.S. government. (Jackson made no mention of the more numerous native victims of this war, nor of the fact that speculators like him bore much of the blame for starting it.) His rage often made him unpopular, even in Tennessee. But during the War of 1812, his fury merged with the larger sense that the American people still suffered at the hands of the British and their native allies, forging a powerful “union of Sentiments and Action” between Jackson and his nation.

But look carefully: Jackson was not only a maverick warrior but also a “judge advocate” who brought the rule of law to the southern frontiers. In other words, he felt innocent because he served the law, even—or especially—when that law was unpopular. His life was thus an epic drama, a chronic struggle between his duty to inflict the law and his desire to transcend it. And that left a real mark on the United States.
My Book, The Movie: Avenging the People.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Robert E. Worden & Sarah McLean's "Mirage of Police Reform"

Robert E. Worden is Director of the John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety and Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at the University at Albany, SUNY. Sarah J. McLean is Associate Director and Director of Research and Technical Assistance at the John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Mirage of Police Reform: Procedural Justice and Police Legitimacy, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Mirage of Police Reform begins a brief summary of the reasons for citizens’ dissatisfaction with their recent contacts with police. We surveyed rolling samples of people who called police for assistance, were stopped by police, or were arrested. The survey included items for which respondents selected one among several possible answers, and most citizens were satisfied with their contact. But those who were dissatisfied could tell us why, in their own words. Their explanations, and the numerical data from all of the interviews, were consistent with social psychological theory holding that people evaluate their experiences with authority figures not only in terms of the outcomes that they receive but also their perceptions of the process: whether they are treated respectfully and given an opportunity to explain their situations, and whether they believe that decisions were based on facts and taking into account the citizen’s welfare. This theory has informed a contemporary prescription for police reform: if police officers acted with greater procedural justice in their day-to-day interactions with the public, levels of public trust and police “legitimacy” would rise.

With this theoretical premise we worked with two police departments to form monthly survey-based measures of citizens’ judgments about procedural justice and make them available to police managers through the departments’ management accountability systems. We supposed that, as Peter Drucker observed, what gets measured gets managed – that procedural justice would be better managed and hence improve. We were mistaken, at least in part, on two counts.

First, police departments are institutionalized organizations whose structures are only “loosely-coupled” with street-level policing, notwithstanding their image as quasi-military bureaucracies, such that the administrative commitment of their chiefs to customer service was not readily translated into officers’ behavior. We found a continuum of management with respect to procedural justice, from actively supportive to passively supportive to indifferent to hostile. We also found a continuum of resistance among officers.

Second, we quantified officers’ actions in the police-citizen encounters by reviewing audio and video recordings, and we found that the procedural justice of police action was weakly related to citizens’ judgments. Police seldom acted with procedural injustice, but when they did, it detracted somewhat from citizens’ subjective experience. When police acted with greater procedural justice, it had little detectable effect on citizens’ judgments. Improving the procedural justice with which officers exercise their authority, then, would do little to improve public trust and legitimacy.
Learn more about Mirage of Police Reform the University of California Press.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Gregory P. Magarian's "Managed Speech"

Gregory P. Magarian is Professor of Law at Washington University in St. Louis. He teaches and writes about U.S. constitutional law, with a focus on the First Amendment freedom of expression. His work also explores law and religion, gun regulation, and the law of politics. He has published widely in leading law journals, and he has taught and lectured around the world. Professor Magarian received his B.A. summa cum laude from Yale and his J.D. magna cum laude, as well as a master's degree in public policy, from the University of Michigan. He served as a judicial clerk, first for Judge Louis Oberdorfer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, then for Justice John Paul Stevens of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Magarian applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Managed Speech: The Roberts Court's First Amendment, and reported the following:
I’m a constitutional law professor, specializing in the First Amendment. My book talks about what the U.S. Supreme Court, during the decade John Roberts has been Chief Justice, has done with, or to, First Amendment free speech law. The book argues that the Roberts Court has used the First Amendment to protect respectable, nonthreatening speech, but the Court has let the government restrict strong dissent. I think the Roberts Court cares about free speech, within safe boundaries, but cares more deeply about preserving social and stability. Respectable speech sustains stability, while strong dissent threatens stability.

Page 99 falls in the middle of my account of a 2009 Supreme Court case called Summum. In that case, a small religious sect called Summum donated a monument inscribed with the sect’s “seven aphorisms” to a small city in Utah, for placement in a city park. (The park already had, among other things, a stone monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments.) The city refused to place the monument in the park. Summum, relying on an age-old chunk of First Amendment law called the public forum doctrine, claimed the city had violated the sect’s First Amendment rights. The public forum doctrine basically says that the government can’t pick and choose which speakers do and don’t get to speak on government property that’s open for public use, like parks.

The Supreme Court rejected Summum’s First Amendment claim and sided with the city. The Justices held that Summum wasn’t a public forum case at all. When the city accepts a donated monument, said the Court, the monument becomes the government’s own speech. The government doesn’t have to say anything it doesn’t want to say. The city therefore didn’t have to place the Summum monument in the park.

I think the Court in Summum reached the right result for an importantly wrong reason. The result is right because parks don’t have infinite space. People and groups can’t just plop down whatever giant slabs of granite they want to in whatever park they feel like. On the other hand, as page 99 stresses, the core of the public forum doctrine is that people – especially people without much money – need spaces where we can speak freely. The Court in Summum could have told the government to allocate finite space in parks through some kind of fair, inclusive process. By instead letting the government fill up parks’ expressive spaces with the government’s own giant slabs of granite, the Court diminished an important way for people to reach audiences.

Summum may not sound like an Earth-shaking case, but remember: Supreme Court decisions matter for the big principles they establish, and for how each individual case ties into broader ideas in the law. The public forum doctrine is far from perfect, but it’s one of the only pieces of First Amendment law that goes beyond protecting speakers of means against government regulation and actually tries to give people resources to help them speak out. The Roberts Court doesn’t appear to like that kind of positive constitutional commitment to free speech. In Summum and other cases, this Court has refused to let the First Amendment help social and political outliers like Summum, speakers who seek to challenge fundamental ideas in our social order. Summum hits dissenting speech especially hard, because it literally converts private speech into government speech and lets government substitute its own ideas for what dissenters want to say. Letting the government elbow dissenters toward the margins in public parks is a big example of how the Roberts Court cares more about social and political stability than about a broad-based principle of free speech.
Learn more about Managed Speech at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Geoffrey Evans and James Tilley's "The New Politics of Class"

James Tilley is a professor of politics at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford. He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book (co-authored with Geoff Evans), The New Politics of Class: The Political Exclusion of the British Working Class, and reported the following:
Page 99 of the book is at the centre of a chapter which discusses media coverage of class politics in Britain from 1945 to today. This chapter shows that media discussion of class, and especially the working class, has largely disappeared. That “until the 1970s newspapers talked more about the working class than other classes. After the 1980s newspapers talked more about other classes than they did the working class”. This represents one strand of the argument we make in the book which concerns how changes to parties, and the media coverage of parties, have affected British politics. Before page 99, we show that class divisions within society in terms of economic inequalities and political beliefs are very static over the last 60 years: divisions between voters did not change. By page 99 we are discussing the second part of our argument that parties, and the media’s coverage of class politics, did change, and this was rapid, and unprecedented, change during the 1990s. A crucial part of this is that “the nature of newspaper discussion about class changed”, but more central is the subsequent chapter which shows how parties became more similar in terms of policy, rhetoric and personnel. In particular, New Labour adopted policies that were aimed at middle class voters, began to speak not to ‘workers’ but ‘families’ and started to draw its politicians almost exclusively from the professional middle class.

The book goes on to show that these political changes have had two hugely important consequences for British politics. First, they have affected who votes for different parties. While over 60 per cent of the working class voted Labour in the 1960s, in 2015 Labour actually did better among middle class professional voters than among manual working class voters. Second, while some of those working class voters decamped to UKIP in the 2000s, many turned their backs on democracy altogether. Up until the 1992 election, differences in turnout among social classes were fairly small, a few percentage points at most. But in 2015 over half of people with low levels of education in working class jobs did not vote. This potentially leads to a spiral of exclusion: parties do not represent certain types of people, those people do not vote and parties become even less likely to represent those non-voting groups. Thus while class appears to have featured slightly more heavily in the current election campaign than for some years, it seems unlikely that the changes we document will be reversed.
Learn more about The New Politics of Class at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 12, 2017

John P. Richardson's "Alexander Robey Shepherd"

John P. Richardson is a retired intelligence officer, Middle East specialist, and author of a previous study on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He is an officer of two Washington area historical organizations and lives with his wife in Arlington, Virginia.

Richardson applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Alexander Robey Shepherd: The Man Who Built the Nation’s Capital, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Alexander Robey Shepherd: The Man Who Built the Nation’s Capital summarizes the principal challenges faced by Alexander Shepherd in the decade after the Civil War when he assumed responsibility for a public works program that would create the basis for a true national capital. Washington, D.C. was the stepchild of Congress, which had constitutional control over the District of Columbia but little interest in how it should function and, above all, pay for itself. Shepherd had shaped and guided the legislation (1871) that created the Territory of the District of Columbia, but page 99 captures the obstacles facing his administration in launching the first-ever attempt to put flesh on the bones of the Pierre L’Enfant plan, still only lines on a map and reeling from the effects of the Civil War, which saw the city’s trees cut down, the dirt roads churned into mud and dust, and barracks and hospitals everywhere. The first challenge was the vast scale of the L’Enfant Plan, which allotted more than half the total land area of Washington to streets and boulevards. The second challenge was the hilly topography of the city, whose rudimentary streets dutifully followed the ups and downs. The third challenge was the lack of a comprehensive sewage system, with much of the waste dumped into the Washington canal, sloshing back and forth between Potomac River tides. Shepherd’s achievement in creating an elegant basis for the nation’s newly-discovered sense of itself was nothing less than miraculous. The fact that his methods created chaos and bankrupted the nation’s capital would be substantially forgiven by Congress and time, even though it triggered 100 years of direct congressional rule and led to Shepherd’s self-exile to remotest Mexico, where he built a modern silver-mining establishment and died in 1902.
Visit John P. Richardson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Julia L. Mickenberg's "American Girls in Red Russia"

Julia L. Mickenberg is Associate Professor of American Studies and the Acting Director of the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of the award-winning book, Learning from the Left: Children’s Literature, the Cold War, and Radical Politics in the United States and co-editor of Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children’s Literature. She teaches courses on American radicalism, women’s history, children’s literature, higher education, and cultural history.

Mickenberg applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, American Girls in Red Russia: Chasing the Soviet Dream, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Thanks to intervention from the AFSC office in Philadelphia, Smith’s passport application was finally approved on the condition that she promise not to take part in any political activities. Smith found this stipulation “perfectly absurd and unjustifiable,” but concluded that since she had “no intention or wish to take part in any political activities,” she might as well promise. Smith also revised her application to the AFSC, clarifying that although she had originally been in sympathy with the Bolsheviks, because of their violent methods, she no longer was. But she still contended that Russians ought to be able to “work out their own destiny without interference” and ought to be given aid in order to recover from the famine.

Arriving in Russia in March 1922, Smith was stationed in Sorochinskoye, on the eastern edge of Buzuluk, as a district supervisor in the food distribution program. She remained for about seven months before moving to Gamaleyevka, a small village about 115 miles east of Kiev. The entire crop of millet had been destroyed by drought, along with most of the wheat, barley, and rye. There were reports of cannibalism the winter she arrived, and Smith was told that none of the villages in the region would survive the following winter without significant aid.

Amid the death and suffering, relief workers bonded quickly and cherished their small community. On a free day in May, Smith, Miriam West, and Cornelia Young “strolled over hill and dale and gathered wild flowers. Armfuls of yellow and purple blossoms repaid them for their efforts.” Besides beautiful views from the hilltop, the women saw “soosliks, butterflies, a lizard, bees, and birds. The birds seemed to be observing Sunday in the proper manner by singing in a chorus.”

Smith was apparently beloved by both coworkers and Russians. Robert Dunn described her as the “general belle of the ball” for whom “everyone has a pet name.” A Russian peasant who was diligently studying English with the help of a tattered dictionary provided by Quaker workers expressed particular gratitude for “gentlewoman Jessica Smith” among the “inappreciables and preciouses Bienfactores Gentlemen Cvakeres [sic].”

By January 1923 Smith had eagerly assumed Dunn’s job as director of publicity in Russia, a position she had requested based on her writing...
Page 99 doesn’t provide a sense of the book’s scope, but it does suggest the writing style, and (if you were to check the footnotes) the kinds of sources the book employs. Page 99 is part of a chapter called “Child Savers and Child Saviors,” pointing toward the way (starving) children in Russia represented the tragedy of promises unfulfilled and (when healthy) hope for socialism’s future. This page takes the reader into a discussion of Jessica Smith, a socialist and former activist with the National Woman’s Party (the more confrontational of the two leading suffrage groups in the United States), who had also been involved with an effort launched by former suffragists—basically immediately after they gained the vote—to end the allied blockade of Soviet Russia, which was instituted after the Bolsheviks made a separate peace with Germany in the midst of World War I. Smith was one of several women who volunteered with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) to get into Russia at a time when most other routes were closed. Although the American Relief Administration, which took charge of all US relief operations in Russia when it intervened in response to the devastating famine that began in 1921, did not normally allow women on the ground, it made an exception for the AFSC, which already had women in Russia helping children suffering from the effects of war and famine. And because they did not employ a political litmus test to its volunteers, they attracted many radical women seeking a way into Russia. Smith, who (as we read here) became director of the AFSC’s publicity operations in Russia, would go on to have a long career with the American Communist Party, in a sense still doing Russia-related work, editing magazines like Soviet Russia Today and New World Review.

The book treats a range of women, operating in different contexts, but all hoping the Russian Revolution would transform women’s lives and gender relations. Russian women gained the vote almost immediately following the revolution, and a variety of laws and institutions were put in place to ease women’s domestic burdens and to put them on equal footing with men. Page 99, like the rest of the book, draws from both private sources (Smith’s application to the AFSC, letters mailed home from the field) as well as material written for a wider public (Smith’s publicity).
Learn more about American Girls in Red Russia at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 8, 2017

"Living with the Living Dead"

Greg Garrett is Professor of English at Baylor University, where he teaches classes in fiction and screenwriting, literature, film and popular culture, and theology. The author or co-author of twenty books of fiction, nonfiction, and memoir, Garrett is (according to BBC Radio), one of America's leading voices on religion and culture, and a frequent speaker and media guest on narrative, religion, politics, literature, and pop culture.

Garrett applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Living with the Living Dead: The Wisdom of the Zombie Apocalypse, and reported the following:
From page 99:
In 28 Days Later Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and his daughter Hannah (Megan Burns) rescue Jim (Cillian Murphy) and Selena, and together they set out for the Manchester barricade. Frank describes horses playing in a field as “Like a family,” words we are clearly meant to apply to this new unit. Selena, in fact, retracts her earlier brutal assessment that being alive is as good as it gets in this brave new world. “She’s got a dad,” she says, “and he’s got his daughter.” There is something higher, something better, about that connection. As they camp out that night, Jim has a nightmare, and Frank comes over and comforts him, telling him it’s just a bad dream. Jim responds groggily, “Thanks, Dad.”
My book Living with the Living Dead is about a lot of things, but only incidentally about zombies, so I’d guess that the Page 99 experiment is pretty accurate this time out, seeing as how this passage and the rest of Page 99 focus on human characters and on relationship. As writer/executive producer Angela Kang told me about The Walking Dead, her show is not about zombies, but zombies offer a reason to explore stories about humans in desperate straits. What makes the Zombie Apocalypse so interesting is that, like war stories or disaster stories, it’s a genre about survival, about human beings in extremis and what they’re willing to do to survive. In 28 Days Later, the first of the great post-9/11 zombie films (it came out a month after the Towers fell), Selena (Naomie Harris) has revealed herself as a pragmatic survivor of the Rage virus that has turned humans into running, raging zombies. She resists connection, and tells Jim that if he gets infected, she will kill him “in a heartbeat.” You can’t afford to get too close to people. Emotion and connection reduce your chances of survival, she thinks.

But one of the central themes of these Zombie Apocalypse stories is community, both failed and dangerous ones and the ones that make life worth living. Being around Frank and his daughter Hannah reminds Selena of that, and it also offers Jim the first comfort he’s had since regaining consciousness in a world that has been mostly destroyed while he slept. In real communities, people offer each other love, compassion, hospitality, in addition to the more prosaic offering of encouragement, safety, creature comforts. A central message of many of the zombie stories I explore in Living with the Living Dead is that one of the things that makes us fully human is our ability to connect with other people. We see that in The Road, in lots of episodes of The Walking Dead, and especially in the ending of Zombieland, when Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) concludes that “without other people, you might as well be a zombie.” During the course of his story, he goes from loner on the road, as nervous about connection as Selena, to a person who grows and develops because of the relationships he finds along the way. It’s a great reminder that even in scary times—maybe especially in scary times—we need each other.
Learn more about Living with the Living Dead: The Wisdom of the Zombie Apocalypse at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Entertaining Judgment.

Writers Read: Greg Garrett.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Paul Shaw's "Revival Type"

Paul Shaw is an award-winning designer, typographer, and design historian based in New York City. He teaches at Parsons School of Design and the School of Visual Arts, and is the designer or co-designer of eighteen typefaces.

Shaw applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Revival Type: Digital Typefaces Inspired by the Past, written in collaboration with Abby Goldstein, and reported the following:
This seems like a ludicrous idea to apply to a non-fiction, non-continuous narrative book. You can dip anywhere into Revival Type rather than starting at the beginning. Although it is a de facto history of type design and its changes over time, each typeface is a stand-alone profile. Also, while books traditionally begin on the recto or right-hand page, Revival Type has been designed in spreads with each typeface beginning on the verso or left-hand page. This further dilutes the impact of page 99. With all of that said, page 99 is not a particularly revealing page in the book. It shows character sets for Big Moore and Austin Text Roman. Neither design is one that potential readers are likely to know before opening Revival Type and thus are not good for promotional purposes. The expectation of most design readers will be that Revival Type will include types by Jenson, Garamont, Caslon, Baskerville, Bodoni and Didot—but not by Isaac Moore or Richard Austin. However, one intent of the book is to expose designers to lesser known figures such as Moore, Austin, Eudald Pradell and Pierre Haultin.
Visit Paul Shaw's website and Abby Goldstein's website.

My Book, The Movie: Revival Type.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Dina Khapaeva's "The Celebration of Death in Contemporary Culture"

Dina Khapaeva is Professor of Russian at the School of Modern Languages, Georgia Institute of Technology.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Celebration of Death in Contemporary Culture, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Celebration of Death in Contemporary Culture discusses post-Soviet literary and cinematographic monsters as an extreme example of the popular culture movement that she termed the cult of death. In particular, this page examines the attitudes to people in the cult series Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko. In this universe ruled by two vampires clans, Dark and Light, bloodsuckers hunt people and kill them for food. As in countless other vampire sagas, both Western and Russian, the story’s first-person narrator is a vampire, with whom the audiences are supposed to identify and whose denigrating attitudes to people they are meant to share.

On this magical page, I argue:
People can never become vampires, or werewolves or magicians (other important protagonists in the novel). Those monsters’ abilities are innate, making them a whole different species. Even the choice of name for the vampires in Night Watch is telling: they are called Others, to emphasize the ontological gap that separates them from humans. At the beginning of the novel, the Dark vampires are portrayed as more human-friendly than the Light vampires, but the reader soon recognizes that the behavior of both Light and Dark toward humans is essentially the same: cynical and cruel. Unlike the Light vampires, the Dark vampires avoid forcibly drinking human blood, using instead willingly donated or animal blood. But both clans eagerly suck up the mental energy, both positive and negative, that humans produce. All vampires respect the treaty that governs the rules for hunting humans, but humans can still be killed for food, so long as it is all done by the book.
The “Page 99 Test” illustrates one of the book’s most important thesis: the murderous monsters of popular culture – vampires, werewolves, zombies, serial killers, and cannibals – can no longer be interpreted exceptionally as expressions of criticism of capitalist society, Western colonization, gender, race, or economic inequality. Since the early 1990s, they have acquired a radically different cultural function: to dehumanize humanity. For the first time in the Western cultural history, these contemporary icons are instrumental in representing people as legitimate food for other (even if imaginary) species. In the narratives featuring these monsters, they are idealized as superior creatures, while humans are considered an inferior species. Joining this superior species by rejecting one’s humanity, or “being turned,” is the utmost desire of human protagonists, as it is, for example, the case of Bella in the Twilight Saga. Monsters, the main heroes of a new popular culture movement, the cult of death, offer antihumanism as a popular commodity and symbolize the rejection of human exceptionalism. The cult of death dehumanizes humanity in general, rather than any particular social group or ethnicity, as it was the case with communism and fascism in the twentieth century. It offers the fascination with violent death as an expression of a profound contempt for the human race.

What distinguishes post-Soviet vampires from their Western counterparts is a much more straightforward analogy between vampire rule and the structure of a concentration camp. Differently from English-speaking vampires, who are marginalized in the imaginary Western society, post-Soviet monsters govern the world of humans. In this Russian fantasy, “people are deprived of all initiative and denied any political life. They are regarded as an inferior species whose dignity, morality, and freedom are at best a joke.”

Post-Soviet fiction reflects the emergence of a new political regime in Putin’s Russia. Gothic monsters provide an imagery and a vocabulary to make antihumanism a political motto and to reconsider the concept of citizenship in that country. And although the neomedieval society of orders that is taking shape in Russia has its undeniable specifics, it shows real social and political potential of the commodification of antihumanism.
Learn more about The Celebration of Death in Contemporary Culture at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Richard Ivan Jobs's "Backpack Ambassadors"

Richard Ivan Jobs is professor of history at Pacific University in Oregon. He is the author of Riding the New Wave: Youth and the Rejuvenation of France after the Second World War and coeditor of Transnational Histories of Youth in the Twentieth Century.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Backpack Ambassadors: How Youth Travel Integrated Europe, and reported the following:
Opening my book to page 99, I find myself at the beginning of my third chapter, “Youth Movements.” This chapter traces the mobility of young people participating in the various protests of 1968--Paris, London, Berlin, Prague, Amsterdam, and places in between--and emphasizes how young people had become a viable transnational social body that crossed borders willingly to pursue their social, cultural, and political interests. Some familiar figures make an appearance on page 99, such as Che Guevara, Rudi Dutschke, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, and Tariq Ali, but more generally I incorporate the voices and experiences of the non-famous, the everyday young folks who were moving in between sites of protest as a confluence of their international politics and travel.

Backpack Ambassadors as a whole is a history of backpacking in Europe from the end of the Second World War to the end of the Cold War, roughly 1945 to 1992. The postwar mass international tourism of youth hosteling, hitchhiking, and rail passes had stimulated an entirely new form of travel and my book traces that history in a variety of forms, the 1968 political protests among them. This new youth travel, in turn, helped to socially and culturally integrate Europe. Thus, I offer a bottom-up story of European integration that decenters the top-down integration of the European Union. From the beaches of Spain to the coffeeshops of Amsterdam, from hitchhiking in Sweden to hosteling in Germany, the practice of backpacking evolved into the form we know it today.
Visit Richard Ivan Jobs's website and learn more about Backpack Ambassadors at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 2, 2017

Jason A. Josephson-Storm's "The Myth of Disenchantment"

Jason Ā. Josephson-Storm is associate professor in and chair of the Department of Religion at Williams College. He is the author of The Invention of Religion in Japan.

Josephson-Storm applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity, and the Birth of the Human Sciences, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Tylor argued that over time the rude animism of the savage is ultimately replaced by polytheism; and then, finally, the most rational system of all— monotheism—emerges. Again, in Tylor’s evolutionary teleology, we arrive at a Voltaire-esque rational Supreme Being as the ultimate fruit of human cognition, and a rational religion that looks like Tylor’s minimalistic Quaker faith. Although never explicitly stated as such, cultural progress means the gradual elimination of paganism.

Tylor also explained why humans, despite our inherent empiricism and rationality, are not all believers in a rational Supreme Being. To do so, he invokes the concepts of superstition and survivals. Tylor argued that in direct contrast to a positive and progressive religion, humans also retain certain holdovers from previous cultural forms. According to a false etymology originally proposed by Cicero, Tylor calls these survivals, or remnants, “superstitions.” These false “superstitions,” which ought to vanish through successive stages in human cultural evolution, obscure or occlude the essentially rational nature of religion. Indeed, in a move reminiscent of the philosophes’ project, Tylor argues that the goal of ethnography is precisely “to expose the remains of crude old culture which have passed into harmful superstition, and to mark these out for destruction.”

“Magic”and the“occult sciences”—two terms Tylor treats as synonymous— represent the most dangerous form of superstition. In his account, magic belongs to “the lower races” and the “lowest known stages of civilization,” and the racialization is clear insofar as he means it to be the providence of Africans, Aborigines, and Native Americans. Magic resembles science in its style of reasoning but is based in a basically backward way of thinking or a confusion that mistakes an analogy or a symbol for the thing it represents. Magic is based in a savage semiotics, which fails to appreciate the civilized realization of the meaninglessness of the relationship between the sign and the thing. Tylor gave the example of a West African “Obi-man” who makes a packet of grave dust and bones in order to kill an enemy, thereby mistaking symbolic killing with real death.
Page 99 of The Myth of Disenchantment discusses the pioneering anthropologist E.B. Tylor. Tylor is today famous for having promoting the theory that animism or belief in “spiritual beings” was the foundation of “primitive” religion and for contending that religion evolves alongside culture (he thought advanced cultures had advanced religions).

The interesting, and less known, fact about Tylor is that he secretly attended spiritualist séances. As I discuss in p.100-101 this poses a problem for the way his theory of religion is often understood because Tylor knew that many of his fellow Victorians believed in roughly the same kind of “spiritual beings” that his own theory described as the essence of primitive belief. Moreover, as a reading of his diary shows, he was closer to belief in spiritual powers than is often supposed. In this respect, as I argue on p.101 Tylor failed to “recognize that he was one of his own primitives—or at least, that Victorians were the real animists.”

Although the book has only a handful of pages on Tylor, page 99 is representative of a broader pattern I observe in the book, namely that a number of influential figures—including Theodor Adorno, Francis Bacon, Walter Benjamin, Rudolf Carnap, Marie Curie, Denis Diderot, Sigmund Freud, G. W. F. Hegel, Max Müller, Friedrich Schiller, Arthur Schopenhauer, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Max Weber, and others—were not only aware of, but profoundly enmeshed in the occult milieu, such that the very objects of inquiry, methods, and even the self-definition of many disciplines still bear the marks of this important early encounter with esotericism.

In the book as a whole, I trace the genealogy of the myth of disenchantment and how it came to function as a regulative ideal, the myth itself producing both enchantment and disenchantment. Indeed, I show that it was specifically in relation to this burgeoning culture of spirits and magic that European intellectuals gave birth to the myth of a myth-less society—a claim that was simultaneously celebrated as progress and lamented—often while being described in terms of rationalization, divine death, and fading magic.
Learn more about The Myth of Disenchantment at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Joel Dinerstein's "The Origins of Cool in Postwar America"

Joel Dinerstein is the author of The Origins of Cool in Postwar America (2017), American Cool (2014), Coach: A Story of NY Cool (2016), and Swinging the Machine (2003). He is a Professor of English at Tulane University and has taught a course on "The History of Cool" for 20 years.

Dinerstein applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Origins of Cool in Postwar America, and reported the following:
Page 99 is a great intro to The Origin of Cool's themes and history, and theory. It kicks off a section analyzing This Gun for Hire, a surprise box-office hit from 1941, and one of the very first film noirs. This is part of my analysis of noir cool, a distinctive quality of the genre that I define as a certain stylish stoicism in its best actors and cinematography. This Gun for Hire also marked the debut of Alan Ladd, a postwar icon and one of the few true precursors of James Dean. It was the first film that paired Ladd with actress Veronica Lake. Reviewers noted Ladd's combination of toughness and vulnerability (the keynote of postwar masculine cool) while Lake's slow-burn sexuality that had men yelling out her name in movie theaters. The source novel was written by acclaimed British novelist Graham Greene and the screenplay co-authored by the noir master, W.R. Burnett.

Many reviewers identified a "strange" new mood to the film and its emotionally reserved young couple: they were groping for the word "cool" to identify the film's detached, low-key emotional mode, but only African-American jazz musicians then used the term. Contemporary film scholars today nearly always invoke the word "cool" to describe both Ladd and Lake. One biographer described Ladd this way on page one:
His aura was one of great cool, of a forceful, masculine presence with a strong undercurrent of violence and heavy sex appeal… That's how the fans who went to the movies in the 1940s saw Alan Ladd. He was aloof, self-sufficient, occasionally lonely, and sometimes outside the law.
The New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther nearly captured the appeal of cool in Alan Ladd's for a younger generation and I quote it at length on page 99. Crowther often watched films with swing-era youth since a given program included a band and a movie. Crowther referred to Ladd's performance as that of a "sympathetic rebel" since he projected a "gangster toughness combined with a touch of pathos." A decade later, this combination was the stock-in-trade of Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Elvis (on stage and screen), and as well to Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, and Neal Cassady. Crowther considered the attraction of this new kind of cool: "Do they see in him their own insecurities, a sympathetic rebel against the problems and confusions of modern youth? And do they find vicarious pleasure in his recourse to violence?" Rebellion was the keynote of postwar cool, with the threat of violence hanging in the background.

The word "teen-ager" had only just been coined and was not yet in common usage before World War II. But once you have teen-agers, the conditions are set for the importance of cool. I define cool as the process of negotiating an individual identity in modernity through the use of popular culture. Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake were two iconic figures that provided models for teen-agers of the 1940s. Ladd and Lake made seven films together, as successful in their way as Astaire and Rogers or Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland before them.
Visit Joel Dinerstein's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Origins of Cool in Postwar America.

--Marshal Zeringue