Packer and Iraq

by Henry Farrell on September 7, 2005

Highly recommended: David Glenn has a new “article”: in the _Columbia Journalism Review_ on George Packer’s vexed relationship with the Iraq war (public health warning: David is a friend of mine, but when I say that it’s a great piece, I’m speaking truth).
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Wie es eigentlich gewesen

by Henry Farrell on September 7, 2005

Jennifer Howard has an interesting “article”: in the _Chronicle_ this week about a classic slave narrative which may not be what it seems.

bq. _The Interesting Narrative_ is a swashbuckling tale that takes its hero from an idyllic boyhood in Africa through the travails of slavery and a series of maritime adventures to spiritual, legal, and economic rebirth as a free man in England in the last decades of the 18th century. An immediate best seller in Britain, The Interesting Narrative had nine editions in its author’s lifetime. … Mr. Carretta[‘s] …. doubts about Equiano’s origins began only when he undertook a labor of love: a new Penguin edition of The Interesting Narrative. Mr. Carretta combed British records for traces of Equiano or Vassa, which was the name given him as a slave. “No one who had written on Equiano or cited him, even those who had reproduced versions of his text, had ever bothered to check. And I, having a mind of concrete, said, ‘He gives me a date, he gives me a place, he gives me a name, it should be verifiable.'” What the Maryland professor unearthed among public British documents — including a 1759 parish baptismal record and a 1773 ship’s muster, both of which list Equiano’s place of birth as South Carolina — came as a shock. “I was surprised. I was resistant, in fact,” Mr. Carretta says. “The naval record was the real problem to me, because at that point he’s free, he’s an adult. The pursers went and simply asked, ‘What’s your name? Where are you from?”

It’s not entirely certain that Equiano _wasn’t_ born in Africa; there’s a lively-sounding debate among historians on the topic. But the article still raises some quite interesting issues about the relationship between authenticity and identity. It seems to me that Equiano is an even more interesting and complicated figure if he invented part of his past than if he didn’t. Timothy Burke has an interesting “new post”: up on the Jared Diamond debates, suggesting, if I understand him rightly, that ‘authenticity’ can be quite as much of a trap as more overt forms of condescension. I’ll have more to say on this later.

Update: the Chronicle is hosting a “colloquy”: with Carretta on the topic at 1pm today.

Jim MacDonald (over at Making Light) offers us a compendium of vital life advice gleaned from folk songs. Number one is, if someone says to beware of Long Lankin, then totally beware of him, for real. More:

If you are an unmarried lady and have sex, you will get pregnant. No good will come of it.

If you are physically unable to get pregnant due to being male, the girl you had sex with will get pregnant. No good will come of it. You’ll either kill her, or she’ll kill herself, or her husband/brother/father/uncle/cousin will kill you both. In any case her Doleful Ghost will make sure everyone finds out. You will either get hanged, kill yourself, or be carried off bodily by Satan. Your last words will begin “Come all ye.”

Going to sea to avoid marrying your sweetie is an option, but if she hangs herself after your departure (and it’s even money that she’s going to) her Doleful Ghost will arrive on board your ship and the last three stanzas of your life will purely suck.

If you are a young gentleman who had sex it is possible the girl won’t get pregnant. In those rare instances you will either get Saint Cynthia’s Fire or the Great Pox instead. No good will have come of it….

Have nothing to do with former boyfriends who turn up and say it’s no big deal that you’re now married to someone else and have a child. If their intentions are legit, that’s got to be a problem. If it’s not a problem, their intentions are not legit.

You are justified in cherishing the direst suspicions of a suddenly and unexpectedly returned significant other who mentions a long journey, a far shore, or a narrow bed, or who’s oddly skittish about the imminent arrival of cockcrow.

If you are a young lady and you meet a young man who says his name is “Ramble Away,” don’t be surprised if, by the time you know you’re pregnant, it turns out he’s moved and left no forwarding address.

I’d just like to add a few words based on American folksongs (probably derivative of the English ones): if you do kill your pregnant lover by drowning her in the cold, cold sea, the odds are good that someone will find her body and make a fiddle bow of her long black hair, and pegs of her white finger bones, and then the only song that fiddle will play will cry your guilt out to the world. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Results of very quick survey: browser homepage

by Eszter Hargittai on September 7, 2005

This post is a follow-up to another from a few days ago.

First, the bullet-point version of this post:

  • A one-question survey has very limited utility
  • Most respondents have tweaked their default homepage
  • Several types of default pages are popular with respondents
  • We cannot generalize findings from one blog’s readership to another
  • When trying to learn about people’s Web uses, it can be very helpful and interesting to ask them for details

Second, thanks to the 784 of you who took the survey! Read on for more.

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Crossing the Great Divide

by Kieran Healy on September 7, 2005

Alan Wolfe and Tyler Cowen are “discussing”: Barbara Ehrenreich’s book “Bait and Switch”: on Slate this week. The book is a kind of white-collar counterpart to Nickel and Dimed, where Ehrenreich tries to get a job (using an invented identity) in the media/public relations sector. Neither Wolfe nor Cowen is much impressed by the result, so I wonder whether they’ll be able to keep agreeing with each other about this for the next few days.

Today, Tyler opens his comments by saying, “We still need a good book on why white-collar workers are having a harder time finding jobs.” I suggest Vicki Smith’s Crossing the Great Divide: Worker Risk and Opportunity in the New Economy, which does what Ehrenreich is trying to do, only — if Tyler’s characterization of Bait and Switch is accurate — with more nuance and better methods. Smith is a sociologist at U.C. Davis. Her book looks at the efforts of non-union, white-collar workers to build careers for themselves at three companies (including a photocopy service firm and a computer outfit) and a job-search club. It’s a clear and nuanced piece of work, and it might be what Tyler is looking to read. (The next few paragraphs draw on an unpublished discussion of mine about the book.)

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