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Preview: Mark Bernstein

Mark Bernstein

Mark Bernstein: hypertext research

Last Build Date: Sat, 24 Sep 2016 14:41:09 -0400


The Woman In The Fifth

Sat, 24 Sep 2016 14:40:43 -0400

An intriguing story of being down and out in the Paris of outsiders. Harry Ricks is a mess. His marriage has collapsed, the student he was sleeping with has killed herself, his dean (who was sleeping with his wife) has fired him after making sure that the press knows every sordid detail. His daughter doesn’t want to talk to him, and Harry can’t entirely blame her. He takes off for Paris with his last $4000 in order to write a novel. He gets sick. People are horrid. The novel goes nowhere.

Then Harry meets a woman who lives in the nearby 5e arrondissement, and things go seriously wrong.

Wacky Wiki

Tue, 20 Sep 2016 11:14:29 -0400

I think we’ve got to start a discussion of whether Wikipedia is serving as a recruiting ground for anti-Semitic and racist extremists emboldened by the Trump campaign. We’re seeing ongoing efforts, for example, to pretend that Pepe The Frog is just a cute cartoon – just like those guys in white hoods are just having fun. We‘re also seeing a concerted effort to pretend that Gamergate harassers have nothing to do with Gamergate itself, that they’re just outside agitators.

I suspect all this is meant not to change the encyclopedia but to advertise the Reddit and *chan forums where the real anti-Semitic and racist bilge gets peddled. An earlier tactic was to deny that Gamergate’s rape threats were really rape threats, and to argue ad nauseam that the victims were simply over-reacting sissie girls. And blood was probably coming out of them.

Wikipedia itself thinks that this embrace of racism and sexual harassment is just fine, since it boosts the number of “highly engaged editors” and increases site traffic.

Katherine Clark (D-MA5) has some legislative proposals. They’re not nearly enough, but it’s a start.

Hammer Of The Left

Tue, 20 Sep 2016 11:11:06 -0400

During the chaos that followed hard upon the Brexit referendum, I realized that I know next to nothing about the modern Labour Party, how it works and how it is connected to he party of Victorian radicalism. I asked Twitter for a modern history of Labour and got this – a fascinating book, though not at all the book I was looking for. Golding was a combatant in the transition that led Labour out of the swamps that gave Britain a generation of Thatcher, a pro-union MP who was bitterly opposed to old Labour’s socialist programme.

One difficulty here is that Golding assumes the reader knows how everything works and who everyone was – not only the leading politicians but also the insiders who run the party. That’s a high standard for a first encounter with a foreign system. Golding loves acronyms too, and again assumes that the reader knows which committees do which things and wield which powers in fact as we as theory. I did enjoy learning about Annie’s Bar, a bar near an ancient inscription that read Anno Domini that for years served as a neutral ground where members of parliament and reporters could talk off the record.

One Hundred Letters From Hugh Trevor-Roper

Fri, 16 Sep 2016 18:06:23 -0400

A strong collection of fascinating and very readable letters by a prominent postwar historian. Trevor-Roper played academic politics for keeps and liked a good bit of gossip as much as the next fellow. He explains, for example, that our understanding of Cretan civilization stems from the accident of Sir Arthur Evans having been discovered on an park bench in Oxford in a compromising position with an attractive boy. The letters that surround Trevor-Roper’s endorsement of the spurious Hitler Diaries, and his prompt recognition that he was wrong, are particularly evocative.

Wikipedia Gets Worse

Fri, 16 Sep 2016 17:30:03 -0400

In a surprising development, I have been informed by Wikipedia’s oversight team that they no longer object to one of Gamergate’s favorite harassment tactics: suggesting (without evidence) that reports of sexual harassment has been faked, that police reports are fraudulent or non-existent, and that victims may therefore have committed fraud and perjury when reporting harassment. No source is required, for example, to insert “allegedly” against any complaint that victims have made or will make in the future. However widely reported the harassment may have been, Gamergate editors are free to suggest it’s just a silly or hysterically woman carrying on.

This new policy encourages “gas lighting” and discourages any attempt to report harassment; indeed, it magnifies the risk of objecting to Wikipedia harassment. As you would expect, the Gamergate boards are delighted, and even those Gamergaters who dislike harassment tactics now admit that they have been singularly effective.

Wikipedia’s oversight team did not respond to a request for comment.

True Soldier Gentlemen

Thu, 15 Sep 2016 10:58:14 -0400

An entertaining but scholarly reconstruction of life in the British infantry in the final years of the Napoleonic wars, commencing with the soldiers who are quartered near the town of Meryton, which you will recalls is situated at the edge of Pride and Prejudice. Indeed, Wickham makes an appearance, which (as you would expect) causes no end of trouble to all in the vicinity. Colonel Fitzwilliam means well and works hard, but again is out of his depth. So, for that matter, is Arthur Wellesley, a moderately obscure general who, for a few precious days, has an army of his own. It’s an opportunity.

Doonesbury Truthers

Tue, 13 Sep 2016 11:42:00 -0400

Saturday morning, I saw a clever Twitter posting cross my “politics” timeline. I tweeted it to my followers, so they’d see the image.

Actual Doonesbury cartoon from 1999.


It seems to have been the right thing at the right time, as it’s been liked and retweeted thousands and thousands of times.

What really surprised me, though, we the brigade of right-wing Doonesbury Truthers who descended on my to prove that this was obviously a forgery, concocted by evil liberals. The wrong panel is signed! The colors are wrong! The web site’s been hacked! All the web sites have been hacked! Before I blocked them, I was having to explain to these folks (some of whom, to be fair, probably live outside Moscow in their mother’s basement and so don’t remember reading the comics in 1999) that millions and millions of people know these aren’t forgeries because they remember reading newspapers.

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I pointed to the Amazon listing for the collected Doonesbury; they didn’t believe it. I argued that they could go down to their public library and read the newspaper themselves, forgetting that these people were likely living somewhere in Eastern Europe where American newspaper archives are a little bit less accessible than in, say, Peoria.

Still, my guess is that they weren’t all Russian, which means we have a lot of wingnuts who are so eager to find the next Dan Rather that they won’t even believe that stuff they can see in their bookstore actually exists.

You Will Know Me

Tue, 13 Sep 2016 09:55:41 -0400

Megan Abbot’s Dare Me is a mystery about frightening young female athletes who have no fear of adults, and don’t even think much about them. You Will Know Me turns this around: it’s a mystery about the parents of acrobats – especially of one girl who, in a few years, may have a shot at the Olympics. All the parents love their kids fiercely, and all work hard not to neglect their other children despite the long hours and financial requirements that the sport demands. Though the parents become focused on and consumed by the demands of the sport, they cannot fathom the concentration, the dedication, the passion required to perform these acrobatics. The love the kids, but they cannot imagine who they have become.