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The Spice Necklace

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“The Spice Necklace: My Adventures in Caribbean Cooking, Eating, and Island Life” (Ann Vanderhoof)

Sounds interesting. I find books that merge history and culinary adventures are often fascinating.


Before beginning “The Spice Necklace,” Ann Vanderhoof’s engaging gastronomic memoir-travelogue of the Caribbean, readers should remember that the area they are about to enter is a miniature universe. Each little island—sometimes with only a few thousand inhabitants—is a world unto itself, existing in the same culinary solar system as its neighbors and yet with its own distinct nuances and genealogy.

Caribbean cuisine—whether in Jamaica, Trinidad, Grenada or elsewhere in the archipelago—has both virtues and limits. Whatever the nearby sea and the soil can yield makes for fresh, delicious ingredients, often prepared with gusto and spirited local touches but not always with balance; sometimes native exuberance boils over into excess, especially when it comes to seasoning.

Many of the standby herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables used in sophisticated cuisines elsewhere in the world are native to the Caribbean or are transplants of long standing. Allspice, chilies and breadfruit started in the region or elsewhere in the New World, and curry blends, ginger, mangoes and other ingredients came along with later migrations.

The Caribbean has obvious Spanish, Dutch and French influences, but many others too. The people of Trinidad, to cite but one example, are about equally divided between Afro-descendants of the original slave population and ethnic Indian (and, in smaller numbers, Chinese) citizens whose ancestors worked as indentured field laborers in the 19th century after the slaves were freed.

(click to continue reading Gastronomy Book Review: The Spice Necklace – WSJ.com.)

The Amazon review adds:

While sailing around the Caribbean, Ann Vanderhoof and her husband Steve track wild oregano-eating goats in the cactus-covered hills of the Dominican Republic, gather nutmegs on an old estate in Grenada, make searing-hot pepper sauce in a Trinidadian kitchen, cram for a chocolate-tasting test at the University of the West Indies, and sip moonshine straight out of hidden back-country stills.

Along the way, they are befriended by a collection of unforgettable island characters: Dwight, the skin-diving fisherman who always brings them something from his catch and critiques her efforts to cook it; Greta, who harvests seamoss on St. Lucia and turns it into potent Island-Viagra; sweet-hand Pat, who dispenses hugs and impromptu dance lessons along with cooking tips in her Port of Spain kitchen.

Back in her galley, Ann practices making curry like a Trini, dog sauce like a Martiniquais, and coo-coo like a Carriacouan. And for those who want to take these adventures into their own kitchens, she pulls 71 delicious recipes from the stories she tells, which she places at the end of the relevant chapters.

The Spice Necklace is a wonderful escape into a life filled with sunshine (and hurricanes), delicious food, irreplaceable company, and island traditions.

and as a bonus:

1. Wild oregano is a mainstay in the diet of goats that graze in the hills at the northwest edge of the Dominican Republic–which means the meat comes to the kitchen preseasoned, and infused with flavor.

2.Seamoss is a type of seaweed that is reputed in the Caribbean to be a potent aphrodisiac, the island version of Viagra. It’s dried, boiled until thick, then mixed with milk and spices (such as cinnamon and nutmeg). One restaurant in Grenada calls its version of the milkshake-like seamoss drink “Stay Up.”

3. Nutmeg and mace come from the same tree. When its apricot-like fruit is ripe, it splits open to reveal a lacy, strawberry-red wrapper around the hard glossy brown shell that holds the nutmeg itself. This waxy red corset is mace, and more than 300 pounds of nutmegs are needed to yield a single pound of it.

4. On the Scoville scale of pepper heat, Trinidadian Congo peppers rate about 300,000 units. Even the most fiery Mexican jalapeño only measures about 8,000.

5. Coconut water–the clear liquid inside a young or “jelly” coconut–has the same electrolyte balance as blood and was given intravenously to wounded soldiers as an emergency substitute for plasma during World War II. Coconut water is also better than energy drinks for rehydration, replenishing electrolytes and minerals such as potassium. For the same reasons, it’s used as a hangover cure in the Caribbean.

6. Much of the ground cinnamon sold in North America is actually cassia, which is the variety of cinnamon grown in the Caribbean. Cassia has a stronger, more pungent flavor than true cinnamon. Once a year, the trees are harvested by carefully peeling the bark away from the branches. After the outer layer is removed, the inner bark is dried in the sun. As it dries, it begins to curl into sticks, and then is rolled and pressed by hand to complete the process.

7.The aroma of allspice is a sensuous combination of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper– which leads to the common misconception that it is a blend of several spices. In fact, allspice is a single spice– the dried berry of a tree that is native only to the West Indies and Central America. Jamaica produces 90% of the world’s supply; Grenada, the remaining 10%.

8. To make removing coconut meat from the shell easier, bore holes in two of the eyes of the coconut using a pointed utensil and drain the liquid. Bake the nut in a preheated 400° F oven for 15–20 minutes. This cracks the shell and shrinks the meat slightly, so it virtually pops out.

9. Mauby, a popular West Indian drink, has a proven ability to reduce high blood pressure. It’s made by steeping the bark of a native Caribbean tree with spices such as bay, cinnamon, star anise, and fennel.

10. Vanilla is the world’s second most costly spice (after saffron). Not only do most vanilla flowers have to be hand-pollinated to produce beans, but the beans also have to be fermented and aged to develop their flavor. Straight off the vine, they’re odorless and tasteless.

Written by Seth Anderson

July 17th, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Posted in Food and Drink,Suggestions

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Woodrow Wilson and His Incapacitation

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“Edith and Woodrow: The Wilson White House” (Phyllis Lee Levin)

Utterly fascinating essay by Errol Morris, which dwells a bit on Woodrow Wilson and his wife, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, who seems to have been the de facto President for quite some time. I’m moderately well read in American history, and I did not realize quite how incapacitated Wilson actually was.

Wilson described himself as “lame” and referred to his cane as his “third leg,”[43] but otherwise he considered himself perfectly fit to be president. There was even talk of a third term. Yet his close associates noticed a change in his personality. He became increasingly suspicious, even paranoid, without having the dimmest awareness of the fact that he was perhaps becoming a different person from what he once was. Stockton Axson, his brother-in-law from his first marriage, wrote that “[Wilson] would be seized with what, to a normal person, would seem to be inexplicable outbursts of emotion.”[44] He was furious at anyone who suggested that he had physical and mental problems, and the last months of his presidency became a graveyard of fired associates. Edith Bolling Wilson, his second wife, had already deposed many of the president’s closest and most effective associates, including Colonel Edward M. House, who had played a major role at the Paris peace talks. Wilson also forced the resignation of Robert Lansing, his secretary of state, who had dared to call a cabinet meeting to discuss the president’s illness.

Phyllis Lee Levin delved into the medical records (with some pushback from Princeton University’s Wilson Papers)

In the preface to her book, Phyllis Lee Levin suggests a counterfactual history, a history with a League of Nations that included the United States. It is one of history’s great what-ifs. What if Edith Wilson had allowed her husband to hand the reins of government to his vice president, Thomas R. Marshall, in 1919? Would there have been no second world war?

Given Marshall’s reasonable temperament, is it not possible that he might have reached a compromise with Henry Cabot Lodge over the degree to which Americans ought to involve themselves in foreign wars, and have thus led the United States to membership in the League of Nations? Such great questions are central to my reconsideration, in the present book, of the role and influence of Wilson’s wife during “one of the most extraordinary periods in the whole history of the Presidency.” Edith Wilson was by no means the benign figure of her pretensions; the president far less than the hero of his aspirations. On closer examination, their lives are a sinister embodiment of Mark Twain’s tongue-in-cheek observation that he “never could tell a lie that anyone would doubt, nor a truth that anybody would believe.”[50]

What if the truth of Wilson’s condition, his anosognosia, had been more widely known? Was it just that the facts of the illness was suppressed? Or did the public want to believe that the president was healthy, that nothing was wrong. That even if the president was paralyzed, “. . . his mind was clear and untouched.” Edward Weinstein also weighed in on these questions. His view was unequivocal. The president had become intransigent, inflexible. There was no willingness to compromise and hence the Treaty [ratifying the U.S. participation in the League of Nations] was doomed.

It is the author’s opinion that the cerebral dysfunction that resulted from Wilson’s devastating strokes prevented the ratification of the Treaty.

(click to continue reading The Anosognosic’s Dilemma: Something’s Wrong but You’ll Never Know What It Is (Part 3) – Opinionator Blog – NYTimes.com.)

I have to read Ms. Levin’s book, sounds fascinating…

ERROL MORRIS: Did you feel, from the very outset, that there was something inherently dishonorable about what they did?  That they should have been completely transparent or forthcoming about the extent of his illness?  The idea that perhaps they were preserving his policies, a chance for world peace, that it was critical to —

PHYLLIS LEE LEVIN: But, they weren’t doing anything.  They weren’t executing anything at all.

ERROL MORRIS: So it was just a grab for power, power for its own sake, by Mrs. Wilson?

PHYLLIS LEE LEVIN: She was probably a very limited woman, intellectually. I’m being very kind.  She wasn’t a very educated woman.  And she was a very vain woman.  She honestly felt that her husband was the only one in the world entitled to be president, even in the shape he was in.

ERROL MORRIS: But who was in control?  Was it Wilson?  Was it Edith?

PHYLLIS LEE LEVIN: It was a conglomerate of people.  Republicans are always blamed for the failure of the peace pact.  When the vote came there had to be compromises.  But Wilson’s mind was so damaged by his illness that he had to have peace on his terms or not at all.  So we didn’t have the peace pact because of him.  Henry Cabot Lodge [the leader of Wilson’s Republican opposition] has been made the villain of all time for this.  Whereas, he had offered a compromise.  What the Wilsons did was just desperately terrible.  It was really the grandest deception in the world.   It’s really a very shocking story.

Written by Seth Anderson

June 24th, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Posted in Suggestions

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Mark Twain Autobiography Will Finally Reveal All – 100 Years Later

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Mark Twain’s will stipulated that his autobiography not be released until 100 years of his death, in 1910. Curious as to what new nuggets will be revealed.

Exactly a century after rumours of his death turned out to be entirely accurate, one of Mark Twain’s dying wishes is at last coming true: an extensive, outspoken and revelatory autobiography which he devoted the last decade of his life to writing is finally going to be published.

The creator of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and some of the most frequently misquoted catchphrases in the English language left behind 5,000 unedited pages of memoirs when he died in 1910, together with handwritten notes saying that he did not want them to hit bookshops for at least a century.

That milestone has now been reached, and in November the University of California, Berkeley, where the manuscript is in a vault, will release the first volume of Mark Twain’s autobiography. The eventual trilogy will run to half a million words, and shed new light on the quintessentially American novelist.

(click to continue reading After keeping us waiting for a century, Mark Twain will finally reveal all – News, Books – The Independent.)

 Speculation about the contents:

“Mark Twain’s Other Woman: The Hidden Story of His Final Years” (Laura Skandera Trombley)

One thing’s for sure: by delaying publication, the author, who was fond of his celebrity status, has ensured that he’ll be gossiped about during the 21st century. A section of the memoir will detail his little-known but scandalous relationship with Isabel Van Kleek Lyon, who became his secretary after the death of his wife Olivia in 1904. Twain was so close to Lyon that she once bought him an electric vibrating sex toy. But she was abruptly sacked in 1909, after the author claimed she had “hypnotised” him into giving her power of attorney over his estate.

Their ill-fated relationship will be recounted in full in a 400-page addendum, which Twain wrote during the last year of his life. It provides a remarkable account of how the dying novelist’s final months were overshadowed by personal upheavals.

“Most people think Mark Twain was a sort of genteel Victorian. Well, in this document he calls her a slut and says she tried to seduce him. It’s completely at odds with the impression most people have of him,” says the historian Laura Trombley, who this year published a book about Lyon called Mark Twain’s Other Woman.

And the Texas State Board of Education will probably stop teaching Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn in Texas classrooms, because Mark Twain had opinions of his own, opinions that the Christian Taliban won’t like:

"Mark Twain: Man in White: The Grand Adventure of His Final Years" (Michael Shelden)

Another potential motivation for leaving the book to be posthumously published concerns Twain’s legacy as a Great American. Michael Shelden, who this year published Man in White, an account of Twain’s final years, says that some of his privately held views could have hurt his public image.

“He had doubts about God, and in the autobiography, he questions the imperial mission of the US in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. He’s also critical of [Theodore] Roosevelt, and takes the view that patriotism was the last refuge of the scoundrel. Twain also disliked sending Christian missionaries to Africa. He said they had enough business to be getting on with at home: with lynching going on in the South, he thought they should try to convert the heathens down there.”

Written by Seth Anderson

May 24th, 2010 at 11:43 am

Posted in Suggestions

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Through the Cracks Now Available

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If you are in the market for a crime novel, one set in Chicago, no less, then why not pick up Babrara Fister’s new novel, Through The Cracks? Ms. Fister was kind enough to suggest my photograph be used as the basis of the cover, and David Baldeosingh Rotstein of St. Martin’s Publishing Group did so.1

Tunnel of Blues
Tunnel of Blues became…

“Through the Cracks” (Barbara Fister)

When Chicago private investigator Anni Koskinen takes on a new client, she finds herself working on an impossible case. After spending twenty years in prison, a black man convicted in a notorious rape case has had his sentence overturned. The victim wants to know who was really responsible for the crime that scarred her life. But even if Anni can find out who committed the brutal crime decades ago, a conviction will be impossible—unless the rapist has struck again.

The resourceful victim has uncovered evidence indicating that a serial rapist may still be at work, attacking women with ferocious anger. But as Anni digs deeper, the politically ambitious state’s attorney who prosecuted the original rape case insists that the conviction was solid. He believes there was no miscarriage of justice—other than that a violent felon has been released on a technicality.

As Anni’s cold case heats up, her friend Dugan, a CPD detective, is involved in a heater case of his own. An undocumented Mexican gang member has been arrested for the murder of a missing woman, and his uncertain fate has gripped the city and fueled anti-immigrant sentiment.

As both investigations unfold, the impact of racial prejudice radiates cracks through the criminal justice system, and it is through those cracks that Anni must try to glimpse the truth.

About the Author Barbara Fister lives in rural Minnesota, where she works as a librarian at a small liberal arts college. Please visit barbarafister.com.

(click to continue reading Amazon.com: Through the Cracks (9780312374921): Barbara Fister: Books.)

Buy a copy of Through the Cracks! Support the arts!

  1. paying me a small, one-time fee, of course []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 11th, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Suggestions

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Google Moves on e-Books

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Interesting. Hope Google uses ePub format, and not some goofy proprietary format that can’t be used on other platforms. Sounds like they are, but the article doesn’t give details, so who knows?

Te' Jay's Adult Books

Google Moves on e-Books: “Google plans to begin selling digital books in late June or July, aiming to let users to access books from a broad range of sites using multiple devices.”

Google says its new service—called Google Editions—will allow users to buy digital copies of books they discover through its book-search service. It will also allow book retailers—even independent shops—to sell Google Editions on their own sites, taking the bulk of the revenue. Google has yet to release details about pricing and which publishers are expected to participate.

(Via WSJ.com: What’s News Technology.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 4th, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Posted in Business

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“The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name” (Toby Lester)

Since his name came up in a book I’m reading12 called The Fourth Part of the World

Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn Jabir ibn Sinan ar-Raqqi al-Harrani as-Sabi al-Batani (Arabic محمد بن جابر بن سنان البتاني `Abū `Abd Allāh Muḥammad ibn Jābir ibn Sinān ar-Raqqī al-Ḥarrānī aṣ-Ṣābi` al-Battānī c. 858, Harran – 929, Qasr al-Jiss, near Samarra) Latinized as Albategnius, Albategni or Albatenius was an Arab astronomer, astrologer, and mathematician, born in Harran near Urfa, which is now in Turkey. His epithet as-Sabi suggests that among his ancestry were members of the Sabian sect; however, his full name affirms that he was Muslim.

One of his best-known achievements in astronomy was the determination of the solar year as being 365 days, 5 hours, 46 minutes and 24 seconds.
His work, the Zij influenced great European astronomers like Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, etc. Nicholas Copernicus repeated what Al-Battani wrote nearly 700 years before him as the Zij was translated into Latin thrice.
The modern world has paid him homage and named a region of the moon Albategnius after him.

Al Battani worked in Syria, at ar-Raqqah and at Damascus, where he died. He was able to correct some of Ptolemy’s results and compiled new tables of the Sun and Moon, long accepted as authoritative, discovered the movement of the Sun’s apogee, treated the division of the celestial sphere, and introduced, probably independently of the 5th century Indian astronomer Aryabhata, the use of sines in calculation, and partially that of tangents, forming the basis of modern trigonometry. He also calculated the values for the precession of the equinoxes (54.5″ per year, or 1° in 66 years) and the inclination of Earth’s axis (23° 35′). He used a uniform rate for precession in his tables, choosing not to adopt the theory of trepidation attributed to his colleague Thabit ibn Qurra.

His most important work is his zij, or set of astronomical tables, known as al-Zīj al-Sābī with 57 chapters, which by way of Latin translation as De Motu Stellarum by Plato Tiburtinus (Plato of Tivoli) in 1116 (printed 1537 by Melanchthon, annotated by Regiomontanus), had great influence on European astronomy. The zij is based on Ptolemy’s theory, showing little Indian influence. A reprint appeared at Bologna in 1645. Plato’s original manuscript is preserved at the Vatican; and the Escorial Library possesses in manuscript a treatise by Al Battani on astronomical chronology.

[Click to continue reading Muhammad ibn Jābir al-Harrānī al-Battānī – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

Al-Battani’s book, On the Science of the Stars, apparently discusses

the system proposed by Bartholomeus and confirmed by the ancients, in which the places and regions of the world are noted according to latitude and longitude.

  1. on my iPad, if you are curious []
  2. thanks to a tip by phule []

Written by Seth Anderson

April 30th, 2010 at 8:21 am

Posted in Arts

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Exegesis By Philip K Dick Will Receive 2-Volume Release

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Cool, I’ve always wanted to read these things, despite the fact that 90% will probably make no sense. Sort of like the first time I read Finnegan’s Wake…


After a lifetime’s worth of literature that explored the future, the farthest regions of space and the afterlife, a posthumous work by Philip K. Dick will take readers to a different alien terrain: the inside of the author’s mind.

Mr. Dick…spent years of his life wrestling with what he considered religious visions that he began experiencing in the 1970s. He recorded his reactions to and attempts at deciphering these spiritual visions in a work he called the “Exegesis,” reputed to be 8,000 pages – or longer.

Though few have read the work and fewer still have fully understood it, the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt plans to release “The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick” in two consolidated volumes edited by Jonathan Lethem and Pamela Jackson, a Philip K. Dick scholar, with the first to be released next year.

Mr. Lethem, the author of novels like “Chronic City” and “The Fortress of Solitude,” and who has written frequently on Mr. Dick, said Thursday in a telephone interview that he hesitated to describe ”Exegesis” as a work.

“The title he gave it, ‘Exegesis,’ alludes to the fact that what it really was, was a personal laboratory for philosophical inquiry,” Mr. Lethem said. “It’s not even a single manuscript, in a sense – it’s an amassing or a compilation of late-night all-night sessions of him taking on the universe, mano-a-mano, with the tools of the English language and his own paranoiac investigations.”

“Valis” (Philip K. Dick)

In 1974, after a number of novels that explored the notions of personal identity and what it means to be human, Mr. Dick had a series of experiences in which he believed he had information transmitted to his mind by a pink beam of light. He wrote about these and similar occurrences in autobiographical novels like “Valis,” but also contemplated their meanings in personal writings that were not published.

“It’s something that he talked about and created a kind of amazing aura around,” Mr. Lethem said, “so that people have an image of it as if it’s some kind of consummated effort. ‘I’m working on my exegesis.’ But what he really meant was, he was turning his brain inside-out on the page, on a nightly basis, over a period of years of his life.”

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which has also acquired the rights to 39 of Mr. Dick’s previously published works and will release them next year, plans to to release Volume 1 of “Exegesis,” which is about 350 pages, in the fall of 2011, and Volume 2, at the same length, a year later.

Mr. Lethem described the books as a chronicle of the period in which Mr. Dick “pulled himself together again, as a writer and a human being.”

“He’d been launched into outer space by the visions of the early 70s,” Mr. Lethem said, “and he was going to try to come back with the truth – and that, by definition is an impossible task.

He added: “It’s absolutely stultifying, it’s brilliant, it’s repetitive, it’s contradictory. It just might contain the secret of the universe.”

[Click to continue reading Philip K. Dick’s ‘Exegesis’ Will Receive Two-Volume Release – ArtsBeat Blog – NYTimes.com]

Wow, 39 published books? Jeez was PKD prolific.

Written by Seth Anderson

April 29th, 2010 at 11:10 am

Posted in Suggestions

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I Think I’ll Wait For The Movies

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I Think I'll Wait For The Movies
I Think I’ll Wait For The Movies, originally uploaded by swanksalot.

Shot with my Hipstamatic for iPhone
Lens: John S
Film: Kodot Verichrome
Flash: Off


Original photo of Barack Obama in an Iowa bookstore, taken by Doug Mills, graced the front page of today’s New York Times.

Such a beaming grin; a man comfortable in his own skin, as the saying goes.

An account by the pool reporter, Carol Lee of Politico, who was traveling with Mr. Obama, offers the details. (To decode just a little bit for the average reader outside the Beltway, POTUS is the code name for the president of the United States, the Gibbs referred to is Robert Gibbs, his press secretary, and your “pooler” means Ms. Lee, the reporter assigned on this day to cover the president as part of a small contingent of print and TV journalists as well as photographers who are among the White House correspondents rotating pool duty, which requires sharing their reports.)

Here’s the pool report:

“Well, this used to be my favorite place,” Obama told the owner as she showed him around.

He remarked how as president he can’t really mosey around bookstores anymore, and said the office comes with the good and bad.

Obama walked around the store apparently in pursuit of the children’s/young adult section.

Along his way, he picked up “No Apology” by Mitt Romney and “Courage and Consequence” by Karl Rove.

“What do you think, guys?” he asked the pool, holding up a hardback copy of each in his hands before setting them back down

[Click to continue reading Obama Stops to Browse at a Bookstore – The Caucus Blog – NYTimes.com]

Written by swanksalot

March 26th, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Posted in Photography

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History of White People

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“The History of White People” (Nell Irvin Painter)

White is a construct of language and culture, just like you would expect. We all contain roughly the same DNA, no matter our “race”.

In 2000, the Human Genome Project finally answered one of the most fundamental questions about race: What, if anything, is the genetic difference between people of different skin colors — black, white, Hispanic, Asian? The answer: nearly nothing. As it turns out, we all share 99.99 percent of the same genetic code — no matter our race — a fact that, geneticist J. Craig Venter claimed, proves that race is a “social concept, not a scientific one.”

But as Nell Irvin Painter explains in “The History of White People,” her exhaustive and fascinating new look at the history of the idea of the white race, it’s a social construct that goes back much further and is much more complicated than many people think. In the book, Painter, a professor of American history at Princeton, chronicles the evolution of the concept of whiteness from ancient Rome — where, she points out, the slaves were largely white — to the 21st century America and explains how, in the era of Obama, our once-narrow concept of whiteness has become at once far broader and less important than ever before.

The elevation of some ethnic groups — Germans and Scandinavians — as “whiter” than others can largely be tied to a small number of scientists who shared an obsession with both measuring people’s skulls and pinpointing the world’s “most beautiful” people. As Painter writes, a number of social and demographic upheavals (which she dubs “enlargements of whiteness”) over the last two centuries have gradually thrown many of those assumptions into question.

[Click to continue reading “The History of White People”: What it means to be white – Nonfiction – Salon.com]

Nell Irvin Painter made an appearance on Stephen Colbert’s show recently, but it was one of those interviews where Colbert didn’t let Ms. Painter talk much. The book looks interesting, I’ll let you know if it is worth picking up after I finish reading it. Bonus: more Saint Patrick history apparently included.

Who are white people and where did they come from? Elementary questions with elusive, contradictory, and complicated answers set historian Painter’s inquiry into motion. From notions of whiteness in Greek literature to the changing nature of white identity in direct response to Malcolm X and his black power successors, Painter’s wide-ranging response is a who’s who of racial thinkers and a synoptic guide to their work. Her commodious history of an idea accommodates Caesar; Saint Patrick, history’s most famous British slave of the early medieval period; Madame de Staël; and Emerson, the philosopher king of American white race theory. Painter (Sojourner Truth) reviews the diverse cast in their intellectual milieus, linking them to one another across time and language barriers. Conceptions of beauty (ideals of white beauty [became] firmly embedded in the science of race), social science research, and persistent North/South stereotypes prove relevant to defining whiteness. What we can see, the author observes, depends heavily on what our culture has trained us to look for. For the variable, changing, and often capricious definition of whiteness, Painter offers a kaleidoscopic lens.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Nell Irvin Painter
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Health Care reform

Written by Seth Anderson

March 23rd, 2010 at 8:38 am

Posted in Suggestions

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The 26 Letters by Oscar Ogg

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The 26 Letters by Oscar Ogg
The 26 Letters by Oscar Ogg, originally uploaded by swanksalot.

First heard of this book when reading that St. Patrick invented lowercase letters

Shot with my Hipstamatic for iPhone
Lens: John S
Film: Kodot Verichrome
Flash: Off

out of print – this is the 1971 revised edition (not the original 1948 edition which is rarer).

purchased used for about $4, via the internet tubes.

Written by swanksalot

March 22nd, 2010 at 6:19 pm

Posted in Photography

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Clinton Vs. Starr Et Al revisited in new book

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“The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr” (Ken Gormley)

I’ll admit to remembering, with somewhat guilty pleasure, that I read every word of the Starr Report and related texts when it was dominating the American news back in the late 1990s. Seems like so long ago, but it really wasn’t. The show trial was so obviously partisan even Republican rubes in the office I worked at during this time admitted as such. We still talked about it a lot during our “water cooler” moments.

At the end of “The Death of American Virtue,” Ken Gormley’s tough, labyrinthine account of the legal nightmare that beset Bill Clinton’s presidency and led to his impeachment trial, Paula Jones takes stock. Ms. Jones, the woman who accused Mr. Clinton, then governor of Arkansas, of sexual harassment and saw her lawsuit snowball its way to the Supreme Court and take on constitutional ramifications, complains about “the mud they’d drug me through” and about being called trailer-park trash. “I never lived in a trailer in my life,” she says.

In a book that will surely rivet those willing to revisit such byzantine material, the legal handling of Ms. Lewinsky emerges in a new light. Mr. Gormley provides a detailed account of her initial entrapment by investigators from Mr. Starr’s office and raises serious procedural questions about how she was treated. Lured to a mall for a lunch date by Linda Tripp, who in this book sounds even more troubled and delusional than she used to, Ms. Lewinsky was ambushed by agents and essentially held hostage in a hotel room while they tried to extract information from her. The book provides participants’ accounts of this showdown and describes the agents’ efforts to dissuade Ms. Lewinsky from calling a lawyer. The agents would later insist they had not tried to frighten or browbeat her.

“So if I was allowed to call a lawyer, why didn’t I?” the sharp-sounding Ms. Lewinsky now asks Mr. Gormley. “Period. End of story. I’m not that stupid.” This book startlingly claims that a report critical of the conduct of the agents, who were eager to discuss the minutiae of Ms. Lewinsky’s sexual behavior, has been withheld from the public for reasons of privacy — their privacy. It contains many a bombshell of that magnitude.

[Click to continue reading Books Of The Times – Ken Gormley’s ‘Death of American Virtue’ – Clinton on Trial – Review – NYTimes.com]

So will I read this book? Probably yes, eventually, though I’ll wait until it comes out in remainder bins first. The whole affair was so juvenile in retrospect, especially when contrasted to the lack of impeachment proceedings against George Bush for much worse crimes than lying about receiving a blow job or two.

This book’s readers will quickly think of water. Facts overwhelm you like Niagara. And when you’ve finished reading about President Clinton and special prosecutor Ken Starr, you may want to take a long shower. Gormley, a professor of law at Duquesne (Archibald Cox), reviews the entire sordid business of Clinton’s foolishness and his enemies’ efforts to bring down his presidency. It’s not an edifying tale. Very few of the book’s cast come off well, except for Secret Service officials and a judge or two. If there’s a sympathetic character, it’s Susan McDougal, who refused to rat on her friends. Starr makes error after error and confuses vindictiveness with duty. While not altering the basic story in any way, Gormley gains much from effective interviews 10 years after with participants and his use of newly available documents. While his book is too long, Gormley remains in control of the details, and this riveting first look at events that only future history will put into full relief shows how affairs of sex and enmity can become affairs of state. 24 pages of b&w photos.

Ten years after one of the most polarizing political scandals in American history, author Ken Gormley offers an insightful, balanced, and revealing analysis of the events leading up to the impeachment trial of President William Jefferson Clinton. From Ken Starr’s initial Whitewater investigation through the Paula Jones sexual harassment suit to the Monica Lewinsky affair, The Death of American Virtue is a gripping chronicle of an ever-escalating political feeding frenzy.

In exclusive interviews, Bill Clinton, Ken Starr, Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones, Susan McDougal, and many more key players offer candid reflections on that period. Drawing on never-before-released records and documents—including the Justice Department’s internal investigation into Starr, new details concerning the death of Vince Foster, and evidence from lawyers on both sides—Gormley sheds new light on a dark and divisive chapter, the aftereffects of which are still being felt in today’s political climate.

Written by Seth Anderson

February 14th, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Posted in politics,Suggestions

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When Giants Walked the Earth Playing Guitars

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“When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin” (Mick Wall)

Yet another gossipy book about the tabloid years of Led Zeppelin, ignoring, again, the actual music, its influences, how it was created, how it shaped music that followed, yadda yadda.

Rick Moody writes:

Young rock enthusiasts! The thing that this sensational material neglects is the music. In Wall’s biography you will learn that Page has voted Tory repeatedly, and you will learn that Peter Grant, the Zeppelin manager, also snorted mountains of cocaine and was very large, and you will also get very many italicized second- person portions of the text — the deep history — passages that are more showoffy than necessary but easily skimmed. What you may not get enough of is the astonishment of the music. Because, no matter how horrible they were as people — and, frankly, they do seem as if they were rather unlikable people who wasted immense talent in a spendthrift fashion — the music is still remarkable, even when borrowed. What enabled that spooky end section of “When the Levee Breaks,” which used to give me the chills when I first heard it in the eighth grade? What about Robert Plant’s amazing harmonica solo on “Nobody’s Fault but Mine,” on the considerably underrated “Presence”? And what about the Indian strings on “Kashmir”? Whose arrangement? And beyond saying that Page and Bonham banged out most of “Kashmir” by themselves, what accounts for this mesmerizing and timeless composition? And is it really possible that John Paul Jones has nothing to say, though many of the really interesting frills and ornaments are his? The tamboura on “In the Light,” or the electric piano on “No Quarter” or the lovely faux-Cuban piano riff on “Fool in the Rain.” Should we not, young rock enthusiasts, use language, use paragraphs, to account for these splendid moments?

Maybe this is arcana. And maybe the time for arcana is past, the time for the picayune details of dinosaur rock — such that it’s the dirt, not the song, that remains the same. Maybe some publisher was looking over Mick Wall’s shoulder saying, “Put more about the shark incident in there!” Or maybe the members of Led Zeppelin are themselves somewhat to blame, as Robert Plant muses aloud at one point, despairing of the true story ever getting out: “We thought it was time that people heard something about us other than that we were eating women and throwing the bones out the window.” Indeed! Wall is conflicted enough about the facts that he allows this mythologizing title to be appended to his work: “When Giants Walked the Earth.” But these were no giants, these were just young people, like you, who for a time happened to have more power and influence than was good for them. In the midst of it all, they made extraordinary music.

[Click to continue reading Book Review – ‘When Giants Walked the Earth – A Biography of Led Zeppelin,’ by Mick Wall – Review – Rick Moody NYTimes.com]

So far, the best book I’ve read about the band and its music is the 33.3 book by Eric Davis, though even this dwells1 on a discussion of Satanism and the occult as far as it related to Led Zeppelin.

“Led Zeppelin’s Led Zeppelin IV (33 1/3)” (Erik Davis)

  1. amusingly, actually, and one of the highlights of the book []

Written by Seth Anderson

February 13th, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Posted in Music

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C. G. Jung – Creation of a New Cosmology

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More on Carl Jung’s so-called Red Book, previously discussed, but still unread, at least around these parts

He wrote it out himself, using a runic Latin and German calligraphy. Its opening portion, which begins with quotations from Isaiah and the Gospel according to John, is inked onto parchment, each section beginning with an initial illuminated as if by a medieval scribe with a taste for eyes, castles and scarabs.

The book’s accounts of Jung’s visions, fantasies and dreams are also punctuated with his paintings (some of which are on display in the exhibition), images executed during the years of World War I and the decade after that now appear as uncanny anticipations of New Age folk art of the late 20th century. They display abstract, symmetrical floral designs Jung came to identify as mandalas, along with almost childlike renderings of flames, trees, dragons and snakes, all in striking, bold colors.

But what is particularly strange about this book is not its pretense or pomposity but its talismanic power. It was stashed away in a cabinet for decades by the family, then jealously withheld from scholarly view because of its supposedly revealing nature. Since being brought into the open, partly through the efforts of the historian and Jung scholar Sonu Shamdasani (who is also curator of this exhibition), it has become a sensation.

A meticulously reproduced facsimile, published in October by W. W. Norton & Company, with detailed footnotes and commentary by Mr. Shamdasani (who also contributed to the volume’s accompanying translation), “The Red Book,” costing $195, is in its fifth printing.

[Click to continue reading Exhibition Review – ‘The Red Book of C. G. Jung – Creation of a New Cosmology’ – At the Rubin Museum, a Psychoanalyst’s Inner Universe – NYTimes.com]

Eight photo slide show, here.

Amazon has the book listed for sale, but is continuously temporarily out of stock. Didn’t the publisher realize that this would be a big selling book? We’ve all heard about it for years and years.

Written by Seth Anderson

December 13th, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Posted in Suggestions

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Reading Around on November 18th through November 19th

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A few interesting links collected November 18th through November 19th:

  • North Branch Railroad Bridge Chicago and North Western Railroad Northwestern Historic Bascule Bridge – Sitting south of the Kinzie Street Bridge, this railroad bridge is always in the up position and is no longer used by trains. …On aesthetic terms, this strange movable bridge is one of only a few bascule bridges in Chicago where the counterweight is above the ground. Like the Lakeshore Drive Bridge, this bascule set records when it was built. At the time of its completion, it was the heaviest as well as the longest bascule leaf in the world! The bridge was built in 1907, with its design being provided by Joseph Strauss, who was an important person who worked to develop the bascule bridge designs, and would often be angry at Chicago since he felt the designs the city was using were to close to his patented designs. The steel superstructure was fabricated by the Toledo-Massillon Bridge Company of Toledo, Ohio. This rail-line was owned by the Chicago and North Western Railway until Union Pacific bought them out in 1995
  • Senators’ Statements — National Geographic Magazine – “To help kick off Geography Awareness Week, National Geographic invited all 100 U.S. Senators to draw a map of their home state from memory and to label at least three important places. Here’s the gallery of maps from the brave Senators who took the challenge. The maps reveal home-state pride, personal history, and even some geographic humor.” Some Senators link everything to their own history, some link to the history of the state itself.
  • Foodie Rant – Properly Sauced? Try Properly Ripped Off. – Chicagoist – Sometimes, one expects to be overcharged. If you’re having a drink at the Signature Room, you’re renting space at the top of the world. If you order a martini at Charlie Trotters, you probably don’t care about the price. On the other hand, when I walk into an average 2-star restaurant and get charged $14 for a martini, I want to go beat the bartender over the head with a bottle. If the martini is bad, as it often is, the situation deteriorates. A decent $14 cocktail is a mild insult; a bad $14 cocktail is a slap in the face.
  • This American Life-307: In the Shadow of the City – Act Three. Yes, In My Backyard.

    The story of the government cracking down on smokestack emissions at a city factory … even though the residents LIKE the emissions. We hear from Jorge Just, who explains the one, magical, special secret about Chicago no one outside Chicago ever believes is true, from Brian Urbaszewski, Director of Environmental Health Programs for the American Lung Association in Chicago; and from Julie Armitage, Manager of Compliance and Enforcement for the Bureau of Air at the Illinois State EPA. (9 minutes)

  • Ebook statistics | swanksalot | LibraryThing – ebooks available – much more than anticipated, many of them free, public domain books. If you are a Library Thing member, this link will link to your bookshttp://www.librarything.com/profile/MEMBERNAME/stats/ebooks

Written by swanksalot

November 19th, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Tunnel of Blues sold

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Looks as if I sold another photo to the astute folks at St. Martin’s Press for use as a book jacket photo illustration1.

Tunnel of Blues

I’m not positive about all the details yet, but I think this is the book: Through the Cracks, by Barbara Fister

More details as I get them2

The photo is of a viaduct on 24th Street between Canal and Stewart, heading towards our Chinese herbalist.

  1. earlier this year I sold a photo for Luck of the Draw []
  2. like when the publish date is, what the illustration will look like, etc []

Written by Seth Anderson

November 10th, 2009 at 6:33 pm