Friday, February 28, 2014

David Auerswald & Stephen Saideman's "NATO in Afghanistan"

David P. Auerswald is professor of security studies at the National War College. His books include Congress and the Politics of National Security. Stephen M. Saideman holds the Norman Paterson Chair in International Affairs at Carleton University. His books include For Kin or Country: Xenophobia, Nationalism, and War.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, NATO in Afghanistan: Fighting Together, Fighting Alone, and reported the following:
Page 99 of NATO in Afghanistan contains key insights into our approach when examining NATO behavior in Afghanistan. The book looks inside NATO countries to explore how government structures and party politics shape how battles are waged by NATO militaries. Domestic constraints in presidential and single-party parliamentary systems - such as the U.S. and Great Britain - differ from those in countries with coalition governments - such as Germany and the Netherlands. Those domestic constraints influence how civilians provide direction to their military forces. A leader's type of government influences the guidelines given to their forces overseas, and which tools will be used to ensure that those guidelines are incorporated into battlefield behavior.

Page 99 is part of the chapter that discusses presidential governments - specifically the U.S., France, and Poland - and their contributions to the NATO effort in Afghanistan. Our expectation was that leaders in presidential governments would influence the behavior of their deployed military commanders through two tools: the careful selection of officers and the manipulation of incentives aimed at those officers. These expectations were borne out in the evidence presented in this chapter.

Our discussion on page 99 focuses on the selection of General David McKiernan to command ISAF in June 2008, and General David Petraeus to command U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in October 2008. To put these events into context, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had been increasingly dissatisfied with the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan during 2007. McKiernan's predecessor, General Dan McNeill, was one of Donald Rumsfeld's last appointments as Defense Secretary. Rumsfeld had instructed McNeill to build the Afghan National Army and conduct counter-terrorism operations. With the situation in Afghanistan rapidly degrading, Gates changed U.S. mission priorities to be more in line with counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy, and then selected two senior generals to implement that strategy. McKiernan immediately focused on the behavior of ISAF troops in an effort to limit casualties, and Petraeus brought his population-centric COIN strategy to CENTCOM.

In short, the U.S. used the selection of commanders to effect change in the focus and behavior of its deployed troops. Careful selection of commanders is politically acceptable and indeed only possible in presidential and single-party parliamentary government. The same type of selection process would not have been possible in countries with coalition governments. Page 99, then, is a good representation of one of our book's main arguments.
Learn more about NATO in Afghanistan at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Virginia Berridge's "Demons: Our changing attitudes to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs"

Virginia Berridge is Professor of History and Director of the Centre for History in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London. She has published widely on the history of illicit drugs, smoking, and alcohol and has worked in both historical and non-historical settings.

Berridge applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Demons: Our changing attitudes to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book Demons, Our changing attitudes to alcohol, tobacco and drugs tells how new technology led to mass production of beer and spirits, especially whisky, in the nineteenth century. By the end of the nineteenth century, whisky was the most popular spirit in England , promoted by advertising and labels which became household names. It was a consumer product.

This page is part of a chapter in the book where I discuss the key role of technology in pushing the substances- alcohol, tobacco and drugs –down different paths in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Alcohol and tobacco became mass market commodities but opium did not, at least not in the same way. The invention of the Bonsack machine in the 1880s had an impact on tobacco. It enabled the mass production of the cigarette, which became a leading consumer commodity in the early twentieth century. Soldiers smoking in photos of the First World War testify to that change. But technology had a different impact on drugs such as opium. The invention of the alkaloids of morphine, codeine and heroin in the nineteenth century and the development of the hypodermic syringe saw a medical rather than a mass market model come into play. Opium had been a drug with wide cultural usage in the first half of the century but increasingly it was restricted to medical usage and control.

The role of technology is one of a number of factors which had this differing impact on the substances. I also talk in the book about the role of social movements; and of fear, whether of ethnic minorities-the Chinese and their opium smoking-, or of women consuming alcohol; the differing role of professional interests; and the dynamics at the international level.

Such issues have not gone away. In the final chapters of the book, I show how they have continued to help determine responses in the present, and the changing of boundaries between the substances. Technology has a role now through the rise of methadone as a substitute medication for drug users. For tobacco, the promotion of nicotine replacement therapy and more recently the electronic cigarette, delivering nicotine only, have demonstrated the compelling role which technical change can have. This technology has underpinned new directions for both these substances and the rise of what has been called ‘harm reduction’ approaches in policy which aim to mitigate the bad effects of substances rather than trying to stop use altogether.
Learn more about Demons at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

T. Birkhead, J. Wimpenny & B. Montgomerie's "Ten Thousand Birds"

Bob Montgomerie is Professor and Research Chair in Evolutionary Biology at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He and his coauthors, Tim Birkhead and Jo Wimpenny, wrote their new book Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin to explore the various ways that the study of birds was central to the development of the biological sciences in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Montgomerie applied the “Page 99 Test” to Ten Thousand Birds and reported the following:
Ernst Mayr was an icon of evolutionary biology in the twentieth century. Born in 1904 he lived to be 100 and oversaw much of the transformation of biology into a cutting-edge science. He was also an ornithologist, and we encounter him in chapter 3 on page 99 in a section called ‘Ernst Mayr’s Century’. That chapter—‘Birds on the Tree of Life’—is about the long and tortuous history of bird classification, a story in which Mayr was the dominant figure. On page 99 he is just 27 years old, having recently joined the staff of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) after a two-year-long and very successful bird-collecting trip to the South Pacific. Mayr was to stay at the AMNH for two decades before moving to Harvard for the next fifty years, laying the foundations for a synthesis of evolutionary biology, systematics and a philosophy of biology.

Page 99 provides a good example of some of the things we wanted to achieve with this book: stories about people who did meaningful studies of birds, and some insights into why the study of birds was—and is—so influential. To help us think about the page 99 question, we turned it on its head and asked whether any single page in our book would satisfy the “page-99 test” to be representative of the book. The answer is a resounding “no”. To meet that requirement a single page would have to tell a little-known story about an interesting character—like that of Baron Franz Nopcsa von Felsö-Szilvás, the eccentric, self-taught, Transylvanian palaeontologist who in the early 1900s developed original ideas about the origins of both birds and flight while traveling around Europe on a motorcycle with his male lover/secretary. It would also have to tell about some interesting discoveries about birds; to show some excellent photos and paintings of iconic birds; to include some historical pictures of interesting and influential people who studied birds—both amateur bird enthusiasts and professional ornithologists; and to provide historical context for the study of bird biology using both timeline diagrams and stories about the often serendipitous nature of discovery. Our book weaves together all those attributes and we have tried to do so in a way that makes the subject both interesting and accessible to anyone interested in learning more about birds and the people who have studied them.
Learn more about this book and the scientific study of birds at

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Noel Leo Erskine's "Plantation Church"

Noel Leo Erskine is Professor of Theology and Ethics at Candler School of Theology and the Laney Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Emory University. He has been a visiting Professor in ten schools in six countries. His books include King Among the Theologians and From Garvey to Marley.

Erskine applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Plantation Church: How African American Religion Was Born in Caribbean Slavery, and reported the following:
From page 99:
“Jamie Parker’s grandfather, and fellow slave Scipio, was put to death for attempting to teach Jamie to read and spell from the Bible.” …The truth is that the relationship of the master to the enslaved person was not just one of the powerful in relation to the powerless, but of one who made decisions in matters of life and death in relation to enslaved families…. In order to institutionalize plantation ethics and etiquette, many masters devised and developed ways to ensure that enslaved persons internalized their own inferiority in relation to their beliefs and the superiority of their masters…. “Whatever his name, ‘every man slave is called boy until he is very old, then the more respectable slave owners call him uncle. The women are girls until they are aged, then they are aunts.’”
Plantation Church underscores the plantation as the new reality that confronted Africa’s children who were brought as human cargo to the New World. In spite of the inhumanity of the master class to enslaved persons they were open to the new religion of their oppressors. This is one of the mysteries this book seeks to answer – how could Africa’s children who were brought across the Black Atlantic as property in the holds of ships, turn to the religion of their captors and enslavers? A part of the answer is they found ways to maintain the integrity of their religious beliefs while at the same time they were open to the new that the sociological and theological environment suggested.

The book argues that for the first two hundred years of slavery Plantation Church was not a Christian but an African church guided by an African priest/herbalist. The priest was guided and supported by the world of spirits, good and evil. It was African religion carried by enslaved persons from the African homeland that engendered their survival “a long ways from home”, -plantations in the Americas.

The marks of Plantation Church are the embrace of African world views informed by the question, “Where do I stand in relation to Africa?” Other marks of this church are an openness to embrace the new in history in the quest for survival and liberation. An acknowledgement that there are evil forces in the world and a need to be protected from evil through the aegis of ancestors and the ministry of medicine man/woman or priest. The plantation was often seen as site of evil where drumming, dancing and “redemption songs,” serve as instruments of survival and liberation. There was the recognition that in Plantation churches the spirit often takes over the bodies of believers. To be possessed by spirit would mean that one’s body becomes an altar and medium through which the spirit would work.

The Black religious experience was born south of the border, in the Caribbean, and not in the United States. The African presence began in the Caribbean as early as 1502, well over a hundred years before Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. This calls attention to the historical and political priority of the Black religious experience being born in the Caribbean and not in the United States. Central questions are – What does it mean to be church when people of African descent are the political and cultural majority, which is the case in the Caribbean. And the converse is true. What does it mean to be church when people of African descent are the political and cultural minority, which is the case in the United States.
Learn more about Plantation Church at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 24, 2014

Jennifer Stromer-Galley's "Presidential Campaigning in the Internet Age"

Jennifer Stromer-Galley is Associate Professor in the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Presidential Campaigning in the Internet Age, and reported the following:
So, when I open Presidential Campaigning in the Internet Age to page 99, which is embedded in the chapter that details the 2004 presidential campaigns, the following sentences that start the three paragraphs on this page jump out at me:
Of all the presidential campaigns, Howard Dean's organization established the digital media team as central in the campaign, a key component to the success the candidate enjoyed.

If the celebration for Dean's meteoric rise rested on DCTs [Digital Communication Technologies], part of the cause of the campaign's demise was in its organization and strategy.

A second cause of trouble [for the Dean campaign] was advertising.
In short, this page summarizes what were some of the factors of candidate Dean's success as well as factors that lead to his demise in 2004.

This page encapsulates well the work I try to do in this book, which is fourfold: a) provide a history of presidential campaigns—not only the winners, but the also-rans—and their strategic uses of digital media as part of campaigning since 1996; b) examine the uses of digital media in the campaign within the context of other elements of the campaign, including fundraising, organization, and the social, technological, and political context that drove strategy during the campaign, to name a few; and c) examine and explain the functions that campaigns see digital media having that might give them the strategic edge over their opponents; d) provide greater understanding of how strategies by the campaigns have changed over time, as we have moved from the age of mass messaging to that of networked messaging.

If readers are hoping for a starry-eyed assessment of how digital media contributes to democracy, they won't find that in this book. Unfortunately, campaigns aren't using digital media to try and lift up our democracy by genuinely engaging ordinary people in the political process. Instead, what I provide in this book are the stories of the ways campaigns, from Bob Dole to Barack Obama, provide controlled interactivity to citizens in order to mobilize enough of them to help the candidate win on Election Day.
Learn more about Presidential Campaigning in the Internet Age at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Daniella Martin's "Edible"

Daniella Martin is the host of Girl Meets Bug, the insect cooking/travel show. She also blogs about bugs for the Huffington Post.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Edible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet, and reported the following:
People generally have the wrong idea about insects. But adopting them into our food supply could help change the world in some of the areas that most need changing: resource usage, farming practices, food shortages, and even global warming. Eating bugs or “entomophagy” is like this logically elegant, yet irrationally reviled solution to a lot of our problems.

I tried to make my new book Edible interesting as a stand-alone work of nonfiction, and not only for people who might be interested in eating insects. Even for someone who has no interest in entomophagy, Edible breaks down what it currently takes for our protein to get from farm to table: species-by-species resource usage, production efficiency, nutrient density, and so on. It sets the scene for someone to understand why this aspect of our food production is so ripe for innovation. It also provides insight into how other cultures view this kind of food.

There have been a few other forays into this subject, but none I think with as much an attitude of normalcy. Getting past the ick-factor is where the real learning (and the real insight into an unseen world) begins. Sometimes the answer to our question lies in the place we're least likely, or least willing to look.

On page 99 of Edible, I interview attendees of the Stanford alumni dinner after serving them “Corn Caterpillar Tamales.”

From page 99:
Almost everyone agrees the tamales were, at the very least, tasty.

“They certainly weren’t any worse than regular tamales,” one discerning person said. “I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say they were better, but they weren’t worse.”

“Yeah, if they were similarly priced, I’d consider ordering them at a restaurant.”

I take that as a compliment.

“They were excellent,” says another guest. “They were my favorite food of the night.”

I’m particularly interested in what people think of the idea of bringing food pests to the table. Their reactions to this are mixed.

“I love the idea,” says John Openshaw, a medical doctor who researches infectious diseases. “I think it’s ahead of its time. But I think it will have its time.”

“‘Corn earworm’ is a terrible name,” puts in Paul Hsu.

“Maybe use their Latin name.” Heliothis zea tamales. Heliotamale?

“Also, ‘pest’ has bad connotations,” adds food blogger Rory Everitt. “Maybe make it into a symbol of purity, like they did with mezcal worms. It’s going beyond just farm-to-table, it’s like bringing the whole ecosystem to the table.”


“I liked the novelty of it. Something different, something that has a social-good factor. You’re doing something good for yourself and the environment. It’s a win-win,” someone else adds, chewing thoughtfully.

Why don’t we eat insects anymore? What caused the big “bug breakup”?

No one knows for certain why we stopped eating bugs…
(Excerpt by permission of publisher, Amazon Publishing/New Harvest. Copyright Daniella Martin © 2014. All rights reserved.)
Learn more about the book and author at Daniella Martin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Charles Kenny's "The Upside of Down"

Charles Kenny is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Upside of Down: Why the Rise of the Rest is Good for the West, and reported the following:
The Upside of Down is mainly about tackling all of the bad reasons for America fearing growth in emerging markets –that they’re going to take our jobs, that the US will lose out when it is no longer the largest economy, that the relative success of the rest of the world is because of something we’ve done wrong. Page 99 of the book is in the middle of a chapter about the one comparatively legitimate reason countries in the West has to fear economic progress in the Rest: that if they grow like we do, the planet won’t be able to bear the environmental cost. The page is tackling the idea that growing global wealth will lead to excess demand for limited resources.

Page 99 argues that growing and increasingly wealthy global populations will not lead to mass starvation in the future. It quotes Amartya Sen that famines are “so easy to prevent that it is amazing that they are allowed to occur at all,” notes that recent Food and Agriculture Organization estimates suggest hunger dropped during the recent food price spikes, and reports that one-third of food production is simply wasted worldwide—spoiled before it reaches consumers or thrown away after it does. That all suggests significant slack in the global food system. Again, a growing proportion of crops are used to feed the animals that end up as special-sauced patties between sesame seed buns. If those crops were eaten directly, the global food challenge would be over today.

The chapter goes on to discuss the more significant risk of over-consumption, and in particular the risk of carbon emissions and climate change. It suggests that if we stay on our present course, Atlanta in the summer will have all the charm of an easy-bake oven. But even here, the book suggests some hope: not least, China, India and other emerging markets are already responding to climate change with policies that favor renewable energy. The chapter suggests that the costs of moving to a low-carbon global economy are considerably less than the benefits, and that with even limited leadership from the West, the world can enjoy continued global economic growth that leads to a sustainable future for the planet. And the book goes on to explain the huge benefits the US and Europe could enjoy from such a scenario.
Visit Charles Kenny's blog and learn about his six favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Steve Longenecker's "Gettysburg Religion"

Steve Longenecker is professor of History at Bridgewater College in Bridgewater, Virginia.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Gettysburg Religion: Refinement, Diversity, and Race in the Antebellum and Civil War Border North, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Gettysburg Religion begins a thumbnail sketch of Abraham and Elizabeth Brien, African Americans who owned a very small farm on what became the Gettysburg battlefield. They represent the local African American community, including an AME Zion congregation.

The Briens illustrate the capacity of religion in the small-town Border North to embody large trends in American life and often to anticipate the future. Abraham and Elizabeth Brien were free but impoverished, second-class citizens, which became the lot of all African Americans after the Civil War. Other tendencies in Gettysburg religion similarly reflected or even predicted national characteristics. Refinement, for example, was pervasive as fellowships pursued improvement through material goods, better music, upgraded facilities, and polished behavior. In subsequent generations refinement grew even more deeply embedded in American society. Likewise, diversity in Gettysburg and the region was a forerunner of modern America. With racial, ethnic, and doctrinal variety intermingling with an assortment of denominations, including Anabaptists, Scottish Dissenters, Roman Catholics, and a recent immigrant fellowship, Gettysburg boasted of a mixture surprising for a small town. In this, the region anticipated the complex diversity of modern America.

The great battle turned Gettysburg religion inside out, but congregations recovered quickly and caution against popular wisdom that the Civil War created a huge watershed. The war’s most permanent influence on religious life was civil religion, which is yet another way that Gettysburg religion serves as a predictor of America yet to come.

In many ways, then, Gettysburg and its surrounding Border North religion belonged to the future and signaled a coming pattern for modern America. But on another level, the book simply aims to resurrect small town society and congregational life during the antebellum and Civil War periods.

Postscript: The thumbnails of the Briens and several others in the community are called “divertimenti,” a musical term. A divertimento is light, entertaining music that is nevertheless serious and perhaps difficult, and in this spirit the book’s divertimenti are hopefully interesting and entertaining while making helpful points. This is the author trying to have fun with his book.
Learn more about Gettysburg Religion at the Fordham University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Leah Vincent's "Cut Me Loose"

Leah Vincent is a writer and activist. The first person in her family to go to college, she earned a BA in psychology as a night student on a Presidential Scholarship at Brooklyn College before going on to earn a Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School as a Pforzheimer Fellow. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Unpious and The Jewish Daily Forward. Vincent is an advocate for reform within ultra-Orthodoxy and for the empowerment of former ultra-Orthodox Jews seeking a self-determined life. She is a co-producer of the It Gets Besser project and a member and board member of Footsteps, the only organization in the United States supporting formerly ultra-Orthodox individuals.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Cut Me Loose begins with “Hey Princess” --a symbolic quote, perhaps, in that it echoes one of the major themes in this book. In the general mythology of royalty, princesses are defined and made special by their relationship to the male authority figure, the king.

It was Nicholas, my 24-year-old Rastafarian boyfriend who was calling my 17-year-old self “princess” - a nickname that reminded me then of my estranged father’s nickname for me – Leahchke. Cut Me Loose explores how I defined myself by the love and then the rejection of both these men, how religion and sex and trauma shaped me to be a woman dependent on male approval (and then, how I broke free of that paradigm).

On page 99, I’m in the basement of a famous Manhattan club, and Nicholas asks me to take my clothes off. I was still wearing the modest attire of my ultra-Orthodox upbringing: a long skirt, long sleeve blouse, high socks. Although I had been branded a rebel, there were many pieces of my religious childhood I had not yet abandoned.

There’s a small amount of bittersweet pride captured on this page, for me, because I describe how, before complying, I asked Nicholas what his last name was (I didn’t know it). This basic question took a great deal of courage, as I was a quiet and shy girl, wary of ever questioning the men in my life.

I enjoy this page for many reasons, and it does seem to encapsulate the tone and ideas in this book. One other thing that is interesting to me about this page, is that it describes me getting undressed for the first time in front of Nicholas:
He watched with his arms folded as I flailed out of my shirt and skirt and removed my underwear and bra. He has never seen me without my clothes. No man ever had. My breasts, my stomach, my thighs-they seemed to take up too much space, chunks of unwieldy fat affixed to a trembling core. I backed up and sat on the bench, the metal cold on my bare behind.
I remember those sensations, and they reverberate within me now, as there seems to be some faint parallel between the raw and awkward vulnerability of revealing one’s body for the first time and the raw and awkward vulnerability of revealing the very personal secrets of my life to the world, in this memoir. Of course, the latter is an empowered act, a triumphant act, but it does, also, carry its intensities.
Learn more about the book and author at Leah Vincent's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Catherine Zuromskis's "Snapshot Photography"

Catherine Zuromskis is Assistant Professor of Art History at UNM with a focus on photography, contemporary art, and twentieth-century American visual culture.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Snapshot Photography: The Lives of Images, and reported the following:
At first glance, page 99 may seem to have very little to do with the snapshot photographs that are the central object of my book. Page 99 discusses literary scholar Lauren Berlant’s concept of infantile citizenship—the idea that American political culture is heavily invested in the figure of the child both as a symbol of innocence and the national future and as an iconic victim in need of constant monitoring and protection. As such, Berlant suggests, the seemingly innocuous representation of the child is often heavily weighted with ideological baggage, thinly veiling a ferocious dedication to American patriotism and family values.

Snapshot Photography is a book about photographs, but it is also a book about the way that personal and private images have broader public meanings. Though we often think of snapshots as the kinds of images we make just for ourselves, my book argues that the kinds of images we make—who we photograph, how, and when—and the way we use them, are guided by a strict sense of cultural convention. We encounter snapshots everywhere in mass culture: in advertisements, in movies and on TV, in political coverage of politicians, and even in picture frames we buy at the store. Whether or not we are conscious of it, these representations guide us to photograph a certain way, and in so doing to reinforce a dominant narrative about family life in contemporary American culture.

And at the center of that narrative is the child. The child is perhaps the most frequent subject of snapshot photography. Indeed, to leave the lens cap on during a child’s formative moments could be construed as bad parenting. To get to the root of why these images really are so important socially and politically as well as personally, my book explores both private photographs and those that find their way into the public spaces of popular culture and fine art. Ultimately, I find that the snapshot constitutes both a form of cultural conformity and a collective social force by making the private, public and the personal, political.
Learn more about Snapshot Photography: The Lives of Images at the MIT Press website.

Writers Read: Catherine Zuromskis.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Steven Cassedy's "Connected"

Steven Cassedy is Professor of Slavic and Comparative Literature at University of California, San Diego. He has published in a variety of fields, including Russian literature, French literature, philosophy and history of religion, Jewish studies, philosophy, history of science, history of music, history of ideas, and American studies. His books include Dostoevsky's Religion and Flight from Eden: The Origins of Modern Literary Criticism and Theory.

Cassedy applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Connected: How Trains, Genes, Pineapples, Piano Keys, and a Few Disasters Transformed Americans at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century, and reported the following:
From page 99:
It’s as if the story went something like this: Zeno’s paradoxes had been around for over two thousand years; the field of mathematics had brought new methods and concepts to aid our understanding of those paradoxes; recent figures, major and minor, had continued to write about them; and so, in the intellectual climate that existed in France in the early 1880s ... Henri Bergson, reflecting on Zeno, came up with his own peculiar approach to the problems of space, time, and motion . . . In this story, everything that happens in the world happens in books and universities. But let’s have a look at something that was going on at exactly the same time that Bergson had his revelation and wrote the Essay.
On page 99, I’m talking about the famous (at the time) French philosopher Henri Bergson, who had decided in the 1880s that time as measured by clocks and watches was not time as we experience it. He used the phrase “real duration” to describe time as we actually do experience it: it ebbs and flows, expands and contracts, its different levels overlapping and blending into one another. Historians always speak of Bergson’s ideas as if they had just sprung up out of nowhere. Bergson said he came to them by thinking about a set of funny paradoxes invented by an obscure Greek philosopher named Zeno. The most famous one has been called “Achilles and the Tortoise.” Fleet-footed Achilles challenges a tortoise to a footrace. Because the tortoise is much slower (let’s say exactly ten times slower), Achilles generously gives him (to put it in anachronistic terms) a 100-meter head start. By the time Achilles reaches the 100-meter mark, the tortoise has traveled another 10 meters. By the time Achilles reaches that mark, the tortoise has plodded on to a meter beyond that, and Achilles never catches up. To Bergson, this paradox showed that time can’t be standardized and measured out as if it were space. Time and motion happen in a single sweep—and Achilles does catch up.

But it can’t be an accident that Bergson stumbled upon his ideas exactly when the world was debating Standard Time. Standard Time was a railroad phenomenon: make sure all the railroad companies agree on a single standard, to keep people from missing trains and to makes sure trains keep missing each other. It came along right when the US was beginning to mass-produce inexpensive and highly accurate watches. The result was an inescapable form of networking. If you wanted to make your train, arrive at the correct time for an appointment, or keep your job, you had to own a timepiece and keep it set to a time that everyone agreed on. The standard was based on the Greenwich Meridian in England. In the US, it was telegraphed all over the country from the Naval Observatory in Washington DC. So forget about “real duration.” Where Bergson really got it right was in describing the deadening, standard form of time (measured out spatially) as a social necessity. He was spot-on. That time bound everyone together.
Learn more about Connected at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Paul Giles's "Antipodean America"

Paul Giles is Professor and Challis Chair of English at the University of Sydney. He is the author of several books, including The Global Remapping of American Literature, Atlantic Republic: The American Tradition in English Literature, and Virtual Americas: Transnational Fictions and the Transatlantic Imaginary.

Giles applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Antipodean America: Australasia, Colonialism, and the Constitution of U.S. Literature, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Antipodean America addresses Charles Brockden Brown’s concern to situate early American literature within the shadow of the British Empire, rather than endorsing Thomas Jefferson’s mantra that there should be an “ocean of fire” between America and Europe. In this sense, Brown’s geographical consciousness was highly aware of ways in which the Pacific was becoming a contested, politicized space even as it was being opened up through new voyages of discovery. Brown positions Wieland and his other works of fiction between the new republic of America and the old colonial interests of Europe, and for him the spectre of New Holland, as he called Australia, operated effectively as a reflexive mirror in relation to America, the kind of country the United States might have become if it had not declared independence from Britain. To quote from page 99: “Geography thus becomes a way for Brown to reconceptualise the United States within larger epistemological perspectives, to build displacement into its mode of representation, so that ghostly doppelgangers of America paradoxically become a constitutional part of US national identity.” The more general point here, one addressed repeatedly throughout the book, is how Australia is represented in the American consciousness as its shadow self, its repressed colonial other, something we see in a wide variety of American authors from Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson through to Emily Dickinson, Henry Adams and Mark Twain and then on into the twentieth century. Although American literature is generally considered as having little contact with or interest in Australasia, this book suggests there is a deep structural engagement at all levels, since the terms of American independence, both political and cultural, could be defined only through a deliberate and systematic inversion of British colonial interests as they were disseminated across the globe. This triangular relationship among Britain, the United States and Australia sometimes appears as more playful than competitive, but its all-pervasive nature testifies to the planetary dimensions of both American and Australian literature.
Learn more about Antipodean America at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Global Remapping of American Literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Melissa Schwartzberg's "Counting the Many"

Melissa Schwartzberg is an associate professor in the Department of Politics at New York University, specializing in political theory. Her research centers on the historical origins and normative consequences of rules governing democratic decision-making. She has a particular interest in ancient Greek political thought and institutional design.

Schwartzberg applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Counting the Many: The Origins and Limits of Supermajority Rule, and reported the following:
Counting the Many is divided into two parts. Part I traces the original use of supermajority voting rules as an alternative to unanimity rule; whereas under unanimity rules (as for papal elections prior to 1179), any ill-intentioned or wrong voter could veto the decision of the whole, supermajority rule accommodated fallibility. Part II then examines supermajority rule in its modern guise as a remedy for the putative deficiencies of majority rule: the risks that bare majorities will destabilize institutions, fail to seek consensus, and abuse minorities.

Page 99 marks a transition between the two parts, appearing in the final pages of the first. It comes at the end of chapter 4, which takes up eighteenth-century debates in France over supermajority rule. The core insight for institutional design that emerges from the historical discussion is that both majority and supermajority rule are superior to unanimous decision-making. Both trump unanimity because of the problem that one fallible person can veto a decision, and because of the risk that lone holdouts will be coerced into altering their votes. In the section of chapter 4 that includes page 99, I address contemporary examples in which supermajority rule might substitute for unanimity. I begin by considering the implications of dropping the vote threshold for criminal juries, and then turn to international organizations’ use of “qualified majority rules” (as supermajority rules, often accompanied by weighted voting, are usually called in that context).

On page 99, I argue that in the international realm, supermajority rules tend to mimic unanimity rules, although the power to veto is typically distributed unequally among members. I suggest that in international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, “qualified majority rule combines supermajority threshold with unequal voting weights, ensuring that powerful actors preserve a capacity to veto decisions.” The IMF requires an 85 percent majority for most important decisions; as of January 23, 2014, the United States possessed 16.75% of the total votes, guaranteeing it an effective veto. Beyond formal voting, decision making both within IMF bodies and by other international institutions (particularly within the European Union) often relies on consensus. Though consensus-building may entail deliberation and enable the body to speak univocally, it may, like unanimity, also entail coercion and the concealment of dissent.
Learn more about the book and author at Melissa Schwartzberg's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 10, 2014

Tim Harford's "The Undercover Economist Strikes Back"

Tim Harford is an economist, journalist and broadcaster. He is the author of The Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run-or Ruin-an Economy and the million-selling The Undercover Economist, a senior columnist at the Financial Times, and the presenter of Radio 4′s “More or Less” and “Pop Up Ideas”. Harford has spoken at TED, PopTech and the Sydney Opera House and is a visiting fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Undercover Economist Strikes Back and reported the following:
From page 99:
The question we have to answer is whether more recessions are like babysitting co‑op recessions or like POW camp recessions. When we try to understand the economy, should we start with the assumption that it functions smoothly, like the prison camp, but is buffeted by external shocks and hamstrung by policy errors? Or should our starting point be that the economy itself is, like the babysitting co‑op, prone to malfunction—and needs Bill Phillips–style tinkerers to keep it running nicely?
You might wonder what an economist is doing talking about babysitting co-ops and prison-camps. Here's why: the the economy is a huge system. We're constantly being led astray by pointing to one part of that system - a tax cut, perhaps, or a change in interest rates, or perhaps a government stimulus program - and failing to see how every change to the economy ripples through and has all sorts of strange consequences in unexpected places. Often we simply fall back on our political prejudices, left or right - or we have to look at complex mathematical models, which frankly aren't a lot of fun to write about.

What I tried to do in The Undercover Economist Strikes Back was produce a fun economic explainer without the maths and without the political polemics: and that means understanding how these systems work in plain English. Enter the babysitting co-op and the prison camp: these are two economic systems that are simple enough to describe in words; both of them fell into recessions, but the recessions had very different causes. (These are true stories, by the way - not cute thought experiments.)

The babysitting co-op example has become quite well known thanks to its popularisation by Paul Krugman, and it's a great example of a recession caused by a misfiring economic system, curable by government intervention. The prison-camp recession is much less well known, but it's an example of an economy that worked very well on its own terms but fell into recession because of shocks from outside the economy itself - in such cases, government stimulus isn't going to help.

When you hear economists argue that government stimulus is a good idea, or government stimulus is a bad idea, what are they really arguing about? They're really arguing about what sort of recession we were in to start with - prison-camp, or babysitting co-op?
Learn more about the book and author at Tim Harford's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Tim Harford: top 10 undercover economics books.

The Page 69 Test: The Undercover Economist.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Adrian Bonenberger's "Afghan Post"

Adrian Bonenberger deployed twice to Afghanistan with the U.S. Army infantry, witnessing some of the most savage fighting of the counter-insurgency. He has written for the New York Times and Policy Mic, and is currently a student at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. He recently published his war memoirs, Afghan Post, through The Head and The Hand Press.

Bonenberger applied the “Page 99 Test” to Afghan Post and reported the following:
Afghan Post is an epistolary memoir, written through journal entries and letters and supported by a terminology glossary, as much military language is obscure to civilians. I drew on existing journal entries, letters, phone conversations, and emails.

Training, in the military, is the time when an infantryman learns how to act and think like a soldier (when I was in the infantry, it was an all-male organization). It’s where one’s civilian mentality disappears (or else you, the trainee, disappear), or at least becomes subordinated. It’s where the “warrior creed” replaces every other thought or sentiment. It’s a strange time.

Page 99 occurs during training, and includes the tail end of one letter that sees me looking forward to a weekend of socializing, and the beginning of a letter that describes a foggy day during my time in Airborne School. There are instances of the type of observational writing I was doing at the time, such as, “The fog suffocated light and sound; the only thing I could hear was the muted chugging of my car’s engine…” Page 99 also hints at the lasting social bonds that developed in training (more so even than in combat, where the stresses twisted people in funny ways) – Bob and Mike are friends of mine to this day. The page accurately captures what I looked like as a psychologically unified whole in the process of deconstructing into two different personae, my “military” personality and my “personal” personality. Later on in Afghan Post, during both deployments to Afghanistan, my personality fractures or compartmentalizes further, as the stresses pile up.

A lot’s been made of the different path I took to the infantry – Yale graduate, intellectual, etc. – the truth is, in America, this story isn’t exceptional at all. Everyone hears the call to service, many heed it, and collectively we find a way to do what’s needed. Afghan Post is a story for everyone who served, or knows someone who did.
Learn more about Afghan Post at The Head and The Hand Press.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 7, 2014

Karen J. Alter's "The New Terrain of International Law"

Karen J. Alter is Professor of Political Science and Law at Northwestern University, and a permanent visiting professor at the iCourts Center of Excellence at the University of Copenhagen.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The New Terrain of International Law: Courts, Politics, Rights, and reported the following:
The New Terrain of International Law seeks to make sense of the growing role of international courts in international politics today. There are now over 24 operational international courts that have collectively issued over 37,000 binding rulings. How do we begin to understand which ICs matter, why they matter, and when ICs end up affecting domestic and international politics?

Page 99 does not tell the reader anything about the quality of the book, but it does encapsulate the challenge this book embraces.  Page 99 [inset, below left; click to enlarge] is a complex Venn diagram of Africa’s ten regional courts and the states that have committed to their compulsory jurisdiction. The image is bewildering. A number of the listed courts are little more than virtual entities that exist mostly on paper.  Although the Venn shapes are different, this shapes are designed to catch groupings of states committing to the IC’s jurisdiction. The irrelevance of the shape works as a metaphor. The differences in shape really does not tell us much about the IC as it works in practice, just like the formal similarities of ICs also does not tell us much.

To some extent p. 99 is a Rorschach test. Untrained eyes may see p. 99 as an incomprehensible mess. For me, p. 99 helps us visualize what is often hard to see: the overlap of IC membership and the fact that half of African states are yet to consent to the compulsory jurisdiction of the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights. Without maps like these, we are left with an alphabet soup of international judicial bodies and no guide to make sense of them. Meanwhile Americans and Europeans may not care at all about African ICs, although I argue that they should care.

The quality of the book lies in its other 364 pages. According to Thomas Risse, The New Terrain of International Law "gives a definitive account of the growing significance of international courts in global affairs." Erik Voeten of Georgetown University says "Anyone even thinking about studying international courts in law, political science or sociology will have to start here-- this book sets the standard for years to come." Joseph Weiler of New York University Law School and the European University Institute says "there is no lawyer who will not become wiser from reading it, while many a political scientist will marvel at their failure to note a seismic change in the international order." And Robert Keohane advises that "If you can read only one book on how international courts affect the politics of international law, this is the one to read."
Learn more about the book and author at Karen J. Alter's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Patience Bloom's "Romance Is My Day Job"

Patience Bloom is a senior editor at Harlequin Books and focuses specifically on Harlequin Romantic Suspense, which gives her full license to indulge in her love of the thriller genre and all things suspense.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Romance Is My Day Job: A Memoir of Finding Love at Last, and reported the following:
In Romance Is My Day Job, I remark how the romance novels I edit never resemble my actual love life. In fact, I keep having one dating disaster after the next. On p. 99, upon meeting my online suitor Gunther face-to-face, I go wildly off course and decide to move closer to him, New York City. For six years, I’d been hiding in New Mexico, avoiding the traffic, the noise, and scary people. In a moment of holiday boredom, I befriended this stranger, who invites me back to the chaotic world I’d fled. New York—with all the pushiness, tiny apartments, and gum stains on the subway platforms--becomes my new comfort zone.

Sadly, I discover that adults fight. Conflict in a romance novel is way more fun, such as:
“How could you try to take over my father’s business and blackmail me into marrying you, you pig!” Louisa Toner-Cartridge tries to smack her boss, Lars Corporateraider, but he catches her delicate hand in midair.

“Ah, but you like it.” Lars gazes down with his smoldering, dancing, coal-black eyes, then crushes his mouth to hers (crushing, it’s always crushing).
Real-life confrontations are uglier and there’s not as much “mouth crushing.” Right away, Gunther and I clash about my “father complex” and his wanting to drink a beer while in the hot tub (I find it doubly dehydrating). I’m chastised for ordering the vegetarian special in a fancy restaurant. The love affair with Gunther ends badly. On a positive note, he is the catalyst for my moving to New York City, a bold and fruitful decision. If I had stayed in New Mexico, a whole host of events never would have occurred: working for a romance publisher, spending additional time with my family, reconnecting with my future husband, and writing Romance Is My Day Job—which is out just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Learn more about the book and author at Patience Bloom's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 3, 2014

Aram Goudsouzian's "Down to the Crossroads"

Aram Goudsouzian is chair of the history department at the University of Memphis. He earned his B.A. from Colby College and his Ph.D. from Purdue University. He is the author of King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution, The Hurricane of 1938, and Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon.

Goudsouzian applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Down to the Crossroads: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Meredith March Against Fear, and reported the following:
While marching past cotton fields in the Mississippi heat, Coby Smith realized that he needed a toilet. He had swallowed a salt tablet that morning to fight off dehydration, and it was making his stomach churn.

The brash young activist was near the head of the column on the Meredith March Against Fear. He had been walking near civil rights leaders and a puttering truck filled with reporters and television cameramen. He slowly drifted back, letting a few hundred marchers past him, and warily eyed the grim-faced Mississippi Highway Patrolmen who were reluctantly protecting this mass demonstration for black freedom. Once behind the patrol cars, he was vulnerable to attacks by the nasty whites who had been constantly heckling the marchers. Before hurrying back to safety, he slipped into the cotton patch and relieved himself.

Page 99 of Down to the Crossroads profiles Smith. He was a bit character in this huge national and international story, but he embodied the forces that were transforming the civil rights movement by June of 1966. The march featured just about every major figure in the civil rights movement, including Martin Luther King, and involved such dramatic instances as the shooting of James Meredith and a tear gas attack by the Highway Patrol. Most famously, Stokely Carmichael unveiled the new battle cry of “Black Power.”

Smith’s story about his upset stomach is silly and embarrassing, yes, but it was part of his rite of passage. The march converted him into a militant activist. He admired King but came to revere Carmichael. He marched over 200 miles, much of it through lonely and difficult stretches, and ended among thousands of jubilant blacks in downtown Jackson, part of the largest civil rights demonstration in Mississippi history.

Down to the Crossroads tells a big tale about a critical turning point in American history. But while interviewing its participants, I realized that it was also a story about people. Interspersed throughout this narrative are the plights and dramas of “ordinary” marchers, who kept describing how this mass demonstration shaped so many lives. Coby Smith’s tale, which starts on page 99, is one great example.
Visit Aram Goudsouzian's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Todd Hartch's "The Rebirth of Latin American Christianity"

Todd Hartch is Associate Professor of History at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky. His first book, Missionaries of the State: The Summer Institute of Linguistics, State Formation, and Indigenous Mexico, examined the role of the Wycliffe Bible Translators in Mexico.

Hartch applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Rebirth of Latin American Christianity, and reported the following:
In looking at Christianity in Latin America over the past 60 years, I wanted to highlight both the desperate situation of “business as usual” Catholicism and the vibrancy of Protestant and Catholic reactions that have developed in recent decades. This page, which outlines the crisis of rapid urbanization and the Catholic Church’s inadequate initial response, describes the rings of shantytowns that grew up around major cities:
The institutional Catholic Church, unprepared for what amounted to the creation of entire new cities over the course of just a few years and suffering from both a priest shortage and a growing panic about the superficiality of the faith in places that did have priests, responded weakly. The hierarchy sent few priests to the shantytowns and built few churches and virtually no schools in these areas. In effect, most of these new urban areas had to fend for themselves as far as religion was concerned. From the migrants’ perspective, this institutional neglect proved more damaging than might have been expected. Since rural folk Catholicism had a strong local element that revolved around local patron saints, specific sacred places, and festivals infused with local customs, it did not transfer well to the new urban environments where people came from different regions of a given country, where the sacred caves and springs were only a distant memory, and where people from other regions had no familiarity with the rituals and distinctive calendars of their neighbors. Consequently, even devout migrants faced a religious dilemma: how could they keep the faith in the new environment?
This is the question that The Rebirth of Latin American Christianity seeks to answer. In a nutshell, many did not keep the Catholic faith, but rather turned to Pentecostalism. Even those who did stay in the Catholic fold rarely practiced the same kind of Catholicism. Base ecclesial communities, in which small groups prayed and studied in the Bible, often in ways influenced by liberation theology, provided one popular option. The Catholic Charismatic movement gave others the opportunity to speak in tongues while continuing their devotion to Mary and the saints. New ecclesial movements, lay Catholic groups characterized by specific charisms and emphases, offered another way to be Catholic in the challenging urban environment. The Focolare movement, for example, has over one million members in Latin America.

Early Catholic failures prompted some scholars to ask “Is Latin America Turning Protestant?,” but the story I tell is one in which the challenges of urbanization and Pentecostalism (and also military dictatorships and secularization) served as catalysts for the revitalization of Catholicism. Today, in fact, a Latin American is pope and the region is sending Catholic missionaries to Europe and the United States.
Learn more about The Rebirth of Latin American Christianity at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue