Filed under “history”

The prevailing worldview of the present

From the preface to The Vision of Islam by Sachiko Murata and William C. Chittick: In this book we try to pry open the door to the Islamic universe. We are not interested in evaluating Islam from within those dominant perspectives of modern scholarship that make various contemporary modes of self-understanding the basis for judging […]

Philanthropy’s progressive legacy

The following excerpts is from a paper Lenore T. Ealy and Steven D. Ealy entitled “Progressivism and Philanthropy”, published in The Good Society. Author Stephen D. Ealy is a senior fellow at the conservative Liberty Fund, so take this article’s purpose “to understand how we might best articulate a new rationale for philanthropic enterprises that are today working to return […]

Life before the chart

From Patricia Fara’s Science: A Four Thousand Year History: Armed with impressive arrays of accurate instruments, [Alexander von] Humboldt demonstrated that accumulating meticulous measurements could reveal patterns in nature’s vagaries, and so impose mathematical order on variable phenomena such as air pressure, magnetism, and plant distribution. Figure 33 [above] shows his visual argument that there […]

Scientific disunity

From Patricia Fara’s Science: A Four Thousand Year History. She takes a historical and comparative approach to explore the diversity of scientific experience (similar to Karen Armstrong’s A History of God). If you assume that todays science, along with its technological applications, represents the summit of human achievement, then Islamic philosophers do indeed appear to […]

What does your computer symbolize?

The introduction to Fred Turner‘s From Counterculture to Cyberculture: In the mid-1990s, as first the Internet and then the World Wide Web swung into public view, talk of revolution filled the air. Politics, economics, the nature of the self—all seemed to teeter on the edge of transformation. The Internet was about to “flatten organizations, globalize […]

History is an art form rooted in scholarship

A personal statement from a Public History grad student (taken from their Facebook Page): I am interested in using history as an instrument for social change; history with a pragmatic purpose. The power of the past can be used to engage the present in ways to fight corruption, aristocracy, inequalities, racial/gender divides, and other forms […]

He thinks I’m working on parts. I’m working on concepts.

The following quote is from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. (The John mentioned is the protagonist’s buddy who wants to escape modern technological life via a motorcycle he deigns to tune-up): Precision instruments are designed to achieve an idea, dimensional precision, whose perfection is impossible. There is no perfectly shaped […]

American Press Subsidies

A brief history of the United State’s subsidies to journalism and the press, from The Nation’s “How to Save Journalism” by John Nichols and Robert McChesney: Even those sympathetic to subsidies do not grasp just how prevalent they have been in American history. From the days of Washington, Jefferson and Madison through those of Andrew […]

Notes of the first water

Above is from the addendum of Zadok Cramer’s The Navigator from which I have quoted previously. Written buoyantly, it  makes jokes of specie (‘new notes of the “first water”‘ refers to the breadth of bank notes available at the time) and law (“club law” is the lynch mob). The text: [i2] STACK ISLAND, not long since, […]

Axemaker conclusions

The following is from the conclusion of the Axemaker’s Gift by James Burke and Robert Ornstein: The first step may be to recognize that we can use our technology as it has been used time and again through history. We can use it to change minds, but this time for our own reasons in our […]

Frames for Copyright

Lewis Hyde, author of The Gift, has a wonderful essay entitled Frames from the Framers: How America’s Revolutionaries Imagined Intellectual Property about the differing perspectives on copyright present during the drafting of the US Constitution. I have written of historical perspectives on copyright before, but Hyde outlines 3 different frames in which creative works and […]

Not another Rogue’s nest

The following is from the 1824 edition of Zadok Cramer’s The Navigator on Island 94: No. 94, Stack or Crow’s nest Island, six miles below 93, Has been sunk by the earthquake, or swept off by the floods; but just below where it stood is a high sandbar, covered with young willows, and is about […]

An ample account

As the 4th anniversary of this blog nears (November 12) I’ve been revisiting research that was near impossible when I began it. The namesake of this blog was Island 94, formerly sitting within the Mississippi River, which I was introduced to through the very excellent book When the Mississippi Ran Backwards by Jay Feldman. When […]

Marketing in Wealth Bondage

I’m thoroughly enjoying Douglas Rushkoff’s Life, Inc.—”how the world became a corporation and how to take it back”. The following comes from the middle of a discussion of how marketers themselves are stuck in wealth bondage, and a critique of Malcolm Gladwell: This [current] generation of ad strategists and corporation psychologists is well aware of […]

Current Consumption of Currants

While eating a delicious currant scone from one of my favorite cafes, I looked it currants on Wikipedia and discovered some interesting history of why currants are popular in Britain, but not the United States: During World War II, most fruits rich in vitamin C, such as oranges, became almost impossible to obtain in the […]

The Purpose of Copyright

I assume I’m not the only person making this connection, but it’s interesting how successful the entertainment industry (and anyone with an intellectual-property axe to grind)  has been in making this rhetoric commonly accepted: Ludvig Werner, the boss of IFPI’s local Swedish chapter, had a somewhat different perspective: The Pirate Bay is about keeping money […]

Lessons from the 1960s

A few weeks ago, I listened to Bill Ayers interviewed NPR’s Fresh Air. As an interview, it wasn’t very good, but Ayers himself said some really interesting things, which I went through and transcribed: You cannot live a political life—you can’t live a moral life—if you’re not willing to open your eyes and see the […]

The John Hancock Building

Dan in Real Life video The JHB was known as the “Plywood Skyscraper” after having faulty glass windows that would pop out during it’s construction in the 1970s. Police were left closing off surrounding streets whenever winds reached 45 mph Also interesting description of two 300-ton weights that sit on the 58th floor to damp […]


I happen to be particularly fond of Puddingstone, the conglomerate rock found around Boston. It’s also the official rock of Massachusetts; specifically Roxbury Puddingstone. College Road Trip ipod It’s a nifty looking rock, or rather a collection of different rocks within a sedimentary rock. Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol video It also has some […]

Politics of Fear

There are so many overlapping assumptions and statements in this congressman’s statement it’s amazing. It’s also amazing how 40 years of history inures you to something viciously contested by minds great and small. On September 21st [1964], Congressman Donald C. Bruce of Indiana lashed out at the Daisy and Ice Cream ads at a Republican […]

Copyright and the Nineteenth Century

I’ve had these notes kicking around my desktop for a few weeks and just got around to typing them up into a cohesive post. Drop Zone trailer I’ve an avid participant of Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center‘s Tuesday Luncheon Series. On February 27, author Matthew Pearl gave a great talk on copyright in the nineteenth […]

Boston Obscura: A halloween story

One evening, not far earlier than today, I was sitting upon Boston Common enjoying the last sloping rays of the day. As was my habit, I blissfully blocked out the city around me to better enjoy the feeble warmth of a setting sun. Sometime in this I was taken unawares by a man I did […]

About in Dorchester

Last weekend I took part in a fantastic community exploration walk of Dorchester organized by Boston Cares. About 15 other people and myself met at the Codman Square Health Center with it’s Executive Director Bill Walczak, our guide, and Tiffany, a Boston Cares’ volunteer and the coordinator of the walk; the walks themselves were Tiffany’s […]