December 15, 2011

Hi-ho, hi-ho and all of that shit…

Filed under: Uncategorized — carrite @ 8:37 am

Thursday morning.

I’ve been in a pissy mood about having to go back to work today. I need another day to finish Ellen Dawson, I knew beforehand that I was going to need another day on Ellen Dawson — and I just don’t have it. It’s pretty frustrating to know that with a simple stroke of the scheduling pen a week ago, I’d be here finishing that up rather than grinding out 8 more hours of existence. But today is pay day, I do have checks to write and stuff to do down there and it is what it is.

The Dawson piece, viewable in the link above, is coming along nicely, albeit slowly. There’s only about 3 and a half hours of work showing in that piece and I did another hour of typing on a way-too-long-for-what-it-is piece from the SLP newspaper The People from 1898, so yesterday has to be regarded as a poor one in terms of production. Maybe it’s good that I’m headed back to work for a few days. It will refocus my energy, which was dissipated writing the long “welcome — but there are problems with your article” thing to an AfD victim yesterday, and engaging in other forms of messing around.

The Dawson writing may not look like much. A professional historian, meaning somebody who has to publish or perish, would say that it is nothing more than a glorified book report. Even Wikipedians would call it “One Source” writing and flag it as such if that’s the condition the article remained in. But there is a real knack to that sort of writing, being able to distill the essence of 80 pages or whatever of a biography into a handful of readable paragraphs without engaging in “close paraphrase” or making other forms of copyright violation.

And if it’s so easy, how come more people don’t do it, in this age of hundreds of thousands of free pdf books on the internet?

No, indeed, it’s a hard form of writing all its own.

I just might be the best Junior High School Book Report writer of all time.

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Dawson is an interesting case. There is absolutely sufficient sourcing available to get her past Wikipedia’s “General Notability Guideline” as an encyclopedia-article-worthy topic. The fact that there is a book written ABOUT her gets her about 90% of the way home right there. She also figures as an object of significant coverage in two books by Communist historian Philip S. Foner and one monograph on the 1929 Gastonia strike, at a minimum. But outside of that, it’s slim pickings — an “incidental mention” here or there.

I honestly don’t know if her name was ever mentioned in the New York Times, for example. Her obituary is said to say nothing of her life as a textile union leader, the basic mainsteam histories of American Communism don’t mention her, nor do the basic volumes of labor leader biographies, and her time as a person of significance was short — 1926 to 1930 or so, it would seem.

Her biographer speaks of having “saved her from oblivion” or some such, echoing the sentiments I expressed myself about what I do at the start of this blog, and he sort of did. I knew OF her before I knew of his book, I had her bio listed on my “to do” list. But would I have ever been able to muster sufficient sources to flesh out a useful biography, would it have ever been written?

Not likely.

As it stands, I have McMullen’s bio to use as a main source, then I can flesh out detail with the sources dealing with that little 5 year interlude of activity and slide a couple primary sources in at the end, assuming I go back and get them. The end result will be a pretty good piece, very much an “addition to the literature” in its own way.

Another little step forward to “saving” Dawson’s memory.

Again: that’s what my Wikipedia work is all about, that’s all there is, there is no more — either you “get it” or you don’t…

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I spent another 90 minutes searching for photos last night, with nothing much found. There was a sort of interesting shot of Big Bill Haywood for $30, but it was literally a strip torn out of the middle of a larger image. Maybe worth half that, if I were feeling generous. Lots of interesting crap to look at. For example, did you know that Deep Dish Pie was invented in California in 1918 as a means of saving dough for crust as an austerity measure during World War I? They called it “Hoover Pie,” Hoover being the US government’s “Food Czar” in this period…

It’s almost worth dropping $30 on that to make a gift of it to the Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, which is a place I’ve been a few times to do historical work. Almost, but not quite.

Still, it’s really cool hunting through old newspaper photos. My one seller has over 400,000 currently listed on ebay, by the way. That’s a pile.

Well, time for me to go eat some food and to get ready for work.

I’d rather be writing.


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