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Warsaw, 1938

The Times article on Roman Vishniac’s photographs of Jews in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust (a few days old now) is fascinating. I didn’t know him primarily through A Vanished World, the book that’s now (somewhat) in question. Rather, I knew first his scientific photography, probably through the many back issues of Scientific American lying around the house as I grew up. Then, when I began to look more seriously at general photography, I spent a long time with John Szarkowski’s Looking at Photographs, in which he’s represented by this dramatically suggestive scene.

From Maya Benton’s research, it seems that in composing the book, Vishniac winnowed down the wide variety of pictures he took, to present a vision of Jewish Eastern Europe as old, rural, narrow, timeless; and that he arranged them to illustrate narratives that didn’t really take place. Neither takes away, though, from the strength of individual pictures, especially when the suggestion of narrative within them is as strong and ambiguous as in this one. It looks like the man is telling the girl something, but what? Not exactly welcome news, I think.

A great many of the pearls of wisdom in this primer on how to write about Africa and Africans apply to writing about Native Americans and Indian Country.

Take note, young scholars, of how to make the subaltern bleak:

Throughout the book, adopt a sotto voice, in conspiracy with the reader, and a sad I-expected-so-much tone. Establish early on that your liberalism is impeccable, and mention near the beginning how much you love Africa, how you fell in love with the place and can’t live without her. Africa is the only continent you can love—take advantage of this. If you are a man, thrust yourself into her warm virgin forests. If you are a woman, treat Africa as a man who wears a bush jacket and disappears off into the sunset. Africa is to be pitied, worshipped or dominated. Whichever angle you take, be sure to leave the strong impression that without your intervention and your important book, Africa is doomed.

Broad brushstrokes throughout are good. Avoid having the African characters laugh, or struggle to educate their kids, or just make do in mundane circumstances. Have them illuminate something about Europe or America in Africa. African characters should be colourful, exotic, larger than life—but empty inside, with no dialogue, no conflicts or resolutions in their stories, no depth or quirks to confuse the cause.

These are words to live by. All you have to do is replace “Africa” and “Africans” with “Indian Country” and “Native People/Indians/Native Americans”.

Via.

I was excited to learn that there’s an iPad version of Keynote, Apple’s presentation program. Since 2006 I’ve written my lectures in Keynote, finding it superior to PowerPoint, and I had looked eagerly forward to making an iPad my classroom presentation device over the heavier MacBook.

But read, and weep, about what happens when you move a Mac version of a presentation to the iPad version of Keynote:

Presenter Notes and Comments are not imported.

This is very disappointing. Notes provide a valuable aid to memory for a good presentation. They’re a block of text. It’s hard to see why they couldn’t, or shouldn’t, come along to the iPad version of Keynote.

On some occasions, the river of time, anthropomorphically angered at being forgotten, floods the basement, or, alternatively, downtown Chicago:

The abandoned freight tunnels filled quickly, soon taking in about a quarter of a billion gallons. Water passed easily through old concrete barriers and soon began to fill the city’s subway system tunnels as well. Businesses that had forgotten about their illegal freight-tunnel hook-ups a half a century earlier were shocked to find their foundations filling with up to forty feet of water.The power grid began to short out, the Board ofTrade and Mercantile Exchange suspended trading when waters began to percolate up through their basements, and the entire downtown and financial district were eventually shut down and evacuated.

Lost urban undergrounds are an entire historical genre to themselves, whether they be unused bits of the London Tube, the (now touristy) ossuary under Paris, or a range of other oddities.

History isn’t always in the past, and sometimes it brings water-balloons.

P.S. And more links, courtesy of Jonathan: Cincinnati and Paris.

I, for one, think Brad DeLong should be telling us about his new iPad.

I sometimes imagine Statler and Waldorf sitting in the back row while I’m teaching.

Oh my.

A senior Vatican priest speaking at a Good Friday service compared the uproar over sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church — which have included reports about Pope Benedict XVI’s oversight role in two cases — to the persecution of the Jews, sharply raising the volume in the Vatican’s counterattack.

The remarks, on the day Christians mark the crucifixion, underscored how much the Catholic Church has felt under attack from recent news reports and criticism over how it has handled charges of child molestation against priests in the past, and sought to focus attention on the church as the central victim.

What do you make of this, Rabbi?

Rabbi Riccardo di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, who hosted Benedict at the Rome synagogue in January on a visit that helped calm waters after a year of tensions, laughed in seeming disbelief when asked about Father Cantalamessa’s remarks.

“With a minimum of irony, I will say that today is Good Friday, when they pray that the Lord illuminate our hearts so we recognize Jesus,” Rabbi Di Segni said, referring to a prayer in a traditional Catholic liturgy calling for the conversion of the Jews. “We also pray that the Lord illuminate theirs.”

Heh-indeed.

From Nate Silver, a social scientific lapse.

A study purporting to find a connection between stimulus spending and the partisanship of a district suffers from an obvious flaw. But in so doing, it provides an example of why it’s important to retain some common sense — and some sense of context — when conducting a statistical analysis.

The study, by Veronique de Rugy of George Mason University and the National Review, claims that congressional districts which elected a Democrat to the Congress received a larger amount of stimulus finds by a margin which is statistically significant even after controlling for certain other effects like the unemployment rate. However, the study does not control for at least one other variable that is overwhelmingly important in determining the dispensation of stimulus funds.

The variable in question is in fact pretty obvious if you simply look at the districts that have received the largest amount of stimulus money, according to de Rugy’s dataset.

The district that received the largest amount of stimulus funding in the 4th Quarter of 2009, according to de Rugy’s tally, is California’s 5th Congressional District. Is there anything notable about the 5th Congressional? Well, it is home to the state capital, Sacramento. Let’s keep that in mind.

Next on the list is New York’s 21st Congressional District. The largest city in the 21st is the state capital of New York, Albany.

Third is the 21st Congressional District of Texas. It contains parts of Texas’ state capital, the wonderful city of Austin. (Another district that contains parts of Austin — the 25th — ranks 14th on de Rugy’s list.)

At this point, it ought to be pretty obvious what is going on. The three districts receiving the largest amount of stimulus funds are home to the capitals of the three largest states — New York, California, and Texas. Let’s pause for a moment and make a bold prediction. I’ll bet you that the district that ranks 4th on the list will contain the capital of the 4th largest state, Florida.

Bingo. Up 4th on the list is Florida’s 2nd Congressional, home to Tallahassee.

Fifth is Pennsylvania’s 17th, which hosts the state capital, Harrisburg.

The sixth through tenth districts contain the capital cities of other large states: Ohio, Georgia, Michigan, Illinois and New Jersey, respectively. They are followed by districts that include the state capitals of Indiana, Tennessee, Virginia — then another part of Austin, Texas — then Arizona, Missouri, North Carolina and Wisconsin. Finally, in 19th place is South Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District, which does not host a state capital. (Ironically, it has elected a Republican — J. Gresham Barrett — to the Congress).

This, of course, makes perfect sense. A lot of stimulus funds are distributed to state agencies, which are then responsible for allocating and administering the funds to the presumed benefit of citizens throughout the state. These state agencies, of course, are usually located in or near the state capital.

Something similar occurs with scholars who get hot under the collar over the distribution of New Deal construction funds to the West and South. It’s politics! Because the western states were swing states, and the southern states were loyal Democratic states! Or perhaps it was because the West and the South were the parts of the country that most needed infrastructure spending and that would benefit most from it, and it was much cheaper to build in western states where the federal government already owned the land anyway.

are having trouble with mice:

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: I thank the noble Lord for his reply. How many calls have there been to the mouse helpline? Has the accuracy of that information been checked, given that the staff report seeing mice on a daily basis at the moment in the eating areas? Has consideration been given to having hypoallergenic cats on the estate, given the history? Miss Wilson, when she was a resident superintendent in this Palace, had a cat that apparently caught up to 60 mice a night. The corpses were then swept up in the morning. Finally, does the noble Lord recognise the fire hazard that mice pose, because they eat through insulating cables? It would be a tragedy for this beautiful Palace to burn down for lack of a cat.

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, there are a number of questions there. I cannot give an answer to the number of calls made to the mouse helpline-if that is its title. I suspect that it would not be a good use of resources to count them up. But I am well aware of the problem of mice, as I said in my Answer. It is something that we take seriously.

As for getting a cat, I answered a Question from the noble Lord, Lord Elton, last week on this matter. I was not aware that such a thing as a hypoallergenic cat existed-I do not know whether our cat at home is one of those. There are a number of reasons why it is not a good idea to have cats. First, they would ingest mouse poison when eating poisoned mice, which would not be very nice for them, and there would be nothing to keep them where they are needed or stop them walking around the House on desks in offices or on tables in restaurants and bars-and maybe even in the Chamber itself. Therefore, we have ruled out at this stage the possibility of acquiring a cat, or cats.

Further discussion reveals interesting insights into mouse psychology:

As I speak here this afternoon, the Bishops’ Bar and the Guest Room are being hoovered, so we can get rid of the food scraps from lunch. If you were a mouse, you would rather eat the crumbs of a smoked salmon sandwich than the bait.

Some low-grade British snottiness undone by some rather high-grade British self-deprecation:

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: Why should I and noble Lords trust the Executive to deal with mice when they cannot deal with the economy?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I do not actually deal with the economy. I am glad to say that that would be above my pay grade, whereas trying to deal with the mice is probably just about right for me.

And, finally, the awesome revelation of a “mouse helpline,” if an ineffective one:

Indeed, I invited Members of the House to telephone when they saw mice. The trouble is that when the person at the other end of the helpline goes to check this out, very often the mouse has gone elsewhere.

Truly, the sun never sets on the British empire.

Via

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