Textual Commentary

One of my favorite activity in the archive was to work on the marginalia of the manuscript – mostly just trying to decipher but often thinking through the gloss it ‘added’ to the text.

Thinking about digital archives, I have been keenly aware that this ‘conversation on the margins’ must be incorporated into the text – along with layers, annotations etc – if we are to ever fully realize the promise of hypertext. [Basically think of having the Discussion and the History sections of any wikipedia entry remaining integral to the presentation of the text while adding commenting].

We can take, at least, one step forward on that project today: The Institute of the Book’s newly released Open Source Word Press theme, CommentPress 1.0. It allows one to display a text with the unique ability that interlocutors can discuss down to an individual paragraph. The genius of course is that in breaking the text up in such a manner, it makes the text far more legible and readable online.

This is a first step but I think that the Future of the Book folks deserve a huge round of applause.

In terms of application for historians, an easy one is the ability to workshop a paper – elicit comments, suggestions, etc.

Some of us from the history blogging world will be doing a roundtable at the AHA in January. Our intention is to present our panel work at Memory Matters. On this site, in the coming months, we will expand, discuss, debate some of the themes that underline our research and which we will presenting at AHA. Hopefully, this will serve as an example – even if it ends up being a cautionary one – of extending the ways in which we share and learn.

The Pearl Project

I just found out about it, though it had been announced back in March. In Fall 2007, Georgetown’s School of Continuing Education will begin a seminar, The Pearl Project, to “investigate motive and attempt to determine who really killed Pearl. They will also examine the wider relationship between the Muslim world and the press and profile others who have died in the frontlines of journalism.” It will be led by Asra Q. Nomani and Barbara Feinman Todd. More here.

I wish this was a congressional inquiry rather than a journalism class but every little bit helps.

Affliction with Little Dragons

Jimmy Carter on the cover of Africa TodayHave you heard the good news? For those of us who may have lost hope– expect the worst from humanity– no end to war, pollution and the like– the world has been handed an inspiring example in the form of the eradication of everyone’s favorite parasite, the guinea worm. In a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine, Michele Barry, M.D. explains how the guinea worm, or dracunculiasis (Latin for “afflication with little dragons”) has been virtually eradicated world-wide through an unprecedented global public health effort spearheaded by Jimmy Carter, among others:

The World Health Organization (WHO) has now certified 180 countries as free of guinea worm disease, and all countries where the disease was endemic have signed a WHO Geneva declaration pledging to wipe out the parasite by 2009. Whereas massive funding is funneled into campaigns to eradicate poliovirus, to control malaria and tuberculosis, and to prevent the spread of human immunodeficiency virus, guinea worm disease is about to be eradicated without any drug therapy or vaccine. Its demise will be proof that people can be persuaded to change their behavior through innovative health education.

Life Cycle of the Guinea WormI first got to know of the affliction of little dragons from a wonderful little handbook for traveling hypochondriacs, Where There Is No Doctor (more intriguingly, there now seem to be similar titles for situations in which one might find one’s self without a dentist or psychiatrist). For those of you who are not familiar with our friend the guinea worm, it is a very special parasite whose larvae, when ingested through contaminated water (in the stomachs of tiny water fleas), hatch within the flesh of their host and then burrow outward, becoming very long, disgusting white slippery worms. People with these worms hanging out of their legs then go and fetch water from a step well or pond, and the worms immediately toss a few eggs into the well, thus contaminating the water for future users. The only way to remove the worm is to slowly draw it out over a period of months using twigs and bits of string. Needless to say, the guinea worm is an excellent candidate for global eradication. Continue reading Affliction with Little Dragons

Tick Tock V

CelebrateThe Supreme Court of Pakistan, finally realizing that they can do better by not trussing up the dictatorship, reinstated CJ Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and nullified the reference filed against him by Musharraf.

I find it hard to imagine how The General will survive all this. CJ Chaudhry back at the bench will surely pick up where he left off – hearing cases about the disappeared. Musharraf has lost all credibility and legitimacy since Feb/March. Even the Lal Masjid operation provided temporary relief. The General has already declared that there will be elections and he will run in them ‘in uniform’ – which sounds as unhinged as anything Yahya declared in East Pakistan.

In the meanwhile, human bombs continue to blast away.

I feel like reciting some Faraz but I will restrain myself.

Also in grand academic tradition, I am recycling.

Update: Guardian has an investigative piece on Musharraf/Bhutto.

I am a horse.

ghoredaan_3_small.jpgAs you can see, I am a magnificent horse. Proof of my magnificence lies in the fact that I was presented as a special gift to First Lady of the United States Jacqueline Kennedy by Field Marshal Ayub Khan in 1962. During the First Lady’s resplendent tour of South Asia, she was presented with many fine gifts, including me (Sardar), an elephant named Urvashi (presented by the Nehrus), and two baby Bengal tigers (presented by Air India) whom the First Lady had planned to name Kitty and Ken after Ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith and his wife. I say she had planned to name them Kitty and Ken because they perished before they could be shipped to the United States from India. Clearly I was the most suitable gift of these as the First Lady was an equestrienne nonpareil and I was successfully brought to the state of Virginia in the United States so that Mrs. Kennedy might enjoy my company as much as possible.

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking, “You say you are magnificent, but you are only half a horse! Where is the other half of your body?” This is an excellent question. As it happens, I am actually a painting of a horse, representing a particular horse, named Sardar, that existed in history. My photograph was taken in Virginia in the company of the First Lady and Field Marshal Khan, and an artist has rendered that scene in a triptych. During the course of this rendering, the artist has made certain stylistic decisions, causing me to be only half a horse in her painting, though I remain a full horse in the original photograph. This decision was no doubt made because, in the style of miniaturists of old, she did not wish to make the animal larger than the two great human leaders also present in her painting, yet, bound by the duties of a perspectival painter in the Frankish mold, she was not able to bring herself to make me a very small horse in proportion to the First Lady and the Field Marshal. Thus, I have become half a large horse.
Continue reading I am a horse.