Wikipedia:Peer review/Hadji Ali/archive1

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Hadji Ali[edit]


* Further information

This peer review discussion has been closed.
The quirky and bizarre is fascinating, and a professional regurgitator is that. A lot of work has gone into this, especially given that the available sources are almost all newspaper articles, many covering the same details but adding a new fact here and there which needed to be woven together into a whole. I would like to take this to FAC and would appreciate a second set of eyes before doing so as to all aspects: a copyedit to the extent deemed necessary; organizational criticism; anything else you see. I am much obliged in advance.--Fuhghettaboutit (talk) 23:42, 26 November 2011 (UTC)

Comments from Jappalang

Lede and Infobox

  • The Infobox should not be titled "1913 Adolph Friedländer Company poster showing Hadji Ali performing water spouting". The Infobox's name is for the subject of this article (Hadji Ali), not a poster.
    • Done.
  • I am also not certain whether it is better to put in an abstract image (poster) as the lede picture when we have a photographic capture (the photo from the National Photo Company Collection).
    • I think it's a striking image of him that sets the stage for an article dominated by material about his performance (since there's little else that can be found).
      • It is your choice; I think you would have to be prepared for this argument if you are going for FAC though. Jappalang (talk) 03:02, 8 December 2011 (UTC)
  • I am not sure there needs to be so much bold-face titles. I think only the most common performance should be highlighted here (I presume these would be the ones for his US performances). In any case, the current six titles are not noted in the main text (and cited). So that exclusion fails WP:LEDE.
    • All alternate titles are now cited. We list and boldface alternate titles normally in the lead (though it's true that this subject has far more than your typical topic). I'm not sure what you mean by "performance" in this context--they're names he was known by.--Fuhghettaboutit (talk) 12:38, 8 December 2011 (UTC)
      • Sorry, I meant "most common performance name(s)". The gamut of constantly-changing names suggest to me that all these titles are just fluff (names coined by the promoters); they never stuck to the man, who is more likely to be known by everyone as Ali or Hadji Ali, the super "regurgitator (vomiter or whatever they think of his act)". Jappalang (talk) 01:55, 9 December 2011 (UTC)
        • The use of these names was not just by promoters. It was how he was billed and referred to everywhere. The titles appear in articles about him and in his own and other's posters and advertisements. There are hundreds of uses of these names (unfortunately, so little else is ever explored about his life).
          • My issue with this is that the promotion titles are not the names of the subject; they are not his stage names (which could be Hadji Ali as far as we can tell). Bold facing them violates the recommendations in MOS:BOLDTITLE and Wikipedia:Article titles. Those performance titles are not common names: Ali is not known by those promotion titles that change from place to place and year to year. They just appear on the billboards and posters to attract attention. Harry Houdini, David Copperfield, and Evel Knievel have been billed with many different titles that have been forgotten as time passed, and I would equally protest if someone were to put in bold faced titles in any of their ledes, cited or not. Jappalang (talk) 03:16, 14 December 2011 (UTC)
            • I've simply removed the boldface.
              • I think the italics are not needed either, but I find them less objectionable than the bold face. Jappalang (talk) 13:12, 20 December 2011 (UTC)
  • "... Ali's daughter sorrowfully stated to reporters ..."
    The emotional appeal in this sentence is definitely not WP:NPOV approved.
    • Removed. It actually comes from the sources themselves, though I see how it could be read as editorializing.--Fuhghettaboutit (talk) 13:41, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
  • "Presuming that Ali's daughter knew her father's age, this renders an 1892 date of birth an impossibility."
    This should not be here. It is not to us to make assumptions and conclusions. What should have been simply stated is that the 1888 birth year is taken from Ali's daughter. No judgment should have been made about the other sources. Which year to take is supposed have been the common editorial decision (guided by policy) taken by major contributors to this article. It is not an uncommon thing for performers to spread misinformation about the details of their origins to increase their mystique or to dodge certain laws; media sources depend mostly on revelations by foreign performers, so it would not be amiss to recognize that either the daughter or the sources could be stating the wrong information.
    • I have changed it to list both years and tweaked the footnote.
  • The opening lede sentence seems too long and could probably be broken into two.
    • Done.
  • "However" is needless for the following sentence. I found it to break the reading flow as well.
    • Done.
  • The opening sentence of the second paragraph (particularly the break between the preceding and last clause) reads awkwardly to me: "Ali performed ... and gained ..., worked regularly and for good pay."
    • Done.
  • "Two films of the day" is kind of awkward and vague (since he performed for decades); "Of the day" is meant for one day if I am not wrong ("It was the news of the day"). Why not just "two films in the early 1930s", which is more precise and clear (and we could eliminate "1930" from the later "1930 short as well—an oddity when Politiquerias has no year attached to it)?
    • Done. Note that "of the day" is a common idiom meaning during a particular era.
  • "Two contemporary documentaries" would mean to be documents that were produced at the same time as his acts. "Contemporary" is not the word you are looking for here. It would be best to remove it.
    • Done.
  • "Because of his unusual gastric abilities, during his lifetime rumor had it that a large sum was offered for his stomach upon his death."
    The main text stated that such rumor existed before and after he died. The current sentence is also a bit confusing as to when the rumor started ("during his lifetime ... a large sum was offered ... upon his death"). "His unusual gastric abilities led to rumors that the Rockefeller Institute offered a large sum of money to obtain his stomach on the event of his death.
    • Done.


  • "Born in approximately 1888, according to his daughter, Almina Ali, her father became aware he had an unusual gastric ability at seven years of age, when he inadvertently swallowed a fish and an ample volume of water while bathing in the Nile river."
    It seems a bit strange to name the daughter but not the father (who is the subject of the article). This sentence could be broken up into two to deal with this (first sentence: birth, second: awareness of his ability).
    • I have completely restructured this section.
  • The Niagara Falls Gazette did not identify "his unusual duodenal facility" as related to "the first part of the small intestine immediately beyond the stomach, leading to the jejunum."[1] I would rather just put it simply as "his unusual ability".
    • Done.
      • Using "facility" in place of "ability" (even though a definition of facility is "natural aptitude") seems a bit awkward to me, but I do not see it as a big issue. Jappalang (talk) 03:16, 14 December 2011 (UTC)
  • "... that he had naturally discovered as a young boy that he could swallow a large amount of water while swimming in the Nile and blow it out like a whale spouting, and that he continued to develop the ability as he grew older."
    The second clause is awkward (with "that ... that"). These clauses could be broken down into their own sentences. Note that the semi-colon preceding these statements make for an awkward break in reading.
    • Section restructured.
  • "... while in Cairo Ali met an Italian man who signed him ..."
    Suggestion: "... Ali met an Italian man in Cairo who signed him ..."
    • Done.
  • Any information about European circus performances?
    • Nothing. I've attempted to check the archives of a smattering of publications that would not be found through Google Books or News such as Die Zeit, and using various different searches such as the alternate spelling seen in the German poster and the billing name it provides. I may head over to the Russia Wikiproject and ask for help with a search in Cyrillic, given that he performed for the Tsar.--Fuhghettaboutit (talk) 00:10, 8 December 2011 (UTC)
  • "Almina played the part of assistant in her father's act, billed as 'The Princess'."
    With the italics and the current sentence structure, it reads to me as if the act was The Princess. Is this the case?
    • Done. I changed it to "... billed in his show as "The Princess" for clarification.
  • "Once gaining some notoriety, ..."
    I prefer "Once he had gained some notoriety, ..."; is there a date to this?
    • Done. There is no date.
  • "A $1,000 per week salary in 1937 translates to approximately $15,300 per week as of 2011."
    You need a source for this or state/explain the inflation method used. FAC reviews have been getting opposes for using the wrong methodology or unsourced figures. Personally, I would rather just put out cited information of what $1,000 could have bought in 1937 (what a house or luxury would cost then would also be good) instead of messing with extrapolation.
    • {{Inflation}} takes its data from United States Consumer Price Index. I will provide in text attribution to that index.
      • Take care there, the template has a big warning of original research if used inappropriately (I am not an expert in economics what it can be implicitly applied for). Perhaps, asking User:Fifelfoo for advice would help. Jappalang (talk) 03:02, 8 December 2011 (UTC)
        • I have used in text attribution as well as a footnote using {{Inflation-fn}}.


  • "Water spouting was followed by Ali downing a quantity of one kind of unshelled nut, approximately 30 to 50 hazelnuts was typical (though one of Ali's posters advertised 40 pecans), and then one solo nut of another variety was taken in, such as an almond. Ali would bring them up one by one ..."
    Suggestion: "Ali's next trick in his act was to swallow 30 to 50 unshelled hazelnets (although one of his posters advertised 40 pecans), followed by another nut of a different variety, such as an almond. He would bring the nuts up one by one ..."
    • Done.
  • "Similarly, Ali would swallow ..."
    Suggestion: "In another trick, Ali would swallow ..."
    • Done.
  • Since the comments following the tricks are reasonings of their workings, then perhaps the first two paragraphs should be combined instead. Right now, the first paragraph ends with the nut trick, but the workings are explained in the second (which starts with the handkerchief trick).
    • I have moved once sentence from the second to the first. The division between the paragraphs now is that the first explains three tricks, and the second explains some of their workings.
  • "... and other oddments."
    I think "oddments" ("a remnant or part of something, typically left over from a larger piece or set")[2] is wrong here. "Odd objects" seems to be what is being sought.
    • Done.
      • Note that "delicacies" seems wrong, as some of the items are definitely not "choice or expensive food", so I boldly tweaked the sentence. Jappalang (talk) 00:30, 10 December 2011 (UTC)
        • This is an everyday word. This was mild irony, juxtaposing things that are very obviously not normal food objects or even foods with “delicacies”. I don't believe anyone would come away from this saying "wait a second, those aren't delicacies!"
          • This matter of "twisting" a word to produce mild irony is, in my view, "editorializing". A certain amount would help to liven up the reading, but I believe this has crossed the boundaries. Delicacies is defined as food, which some of the listed objects is definitely not. I believe an encyclopaedia would not "twist" the facts, even as obvious humor, to present information (that is for Wikipedia:Do you know). Jappalang (talk) 03:16, 14 December 2011 (UTC)
            • It remains nixed, though I think it was a rather mild and obvious use of language to liven the reading, not a "twisting" of the facts in any way.
  • "... swallowing the smoke of multiple cigarettes ..." reads to me as if he lit multiple cigarettes in front of himself and swallowed the smoke. Is the act more like he lit the cigarettes, stuffed them in his mouth and smoked them (or continuously smoking them one by one), then exhaling the cigarette smoke in one belch? Or did he swallow those lit cigarettes whole (as seemingly suggested by his manager's quote)?
    • I have clarified the description. Regarding the quote from his manager, it is about swallowing cigarettes, unrelated to the volcano trick.
  • What is a "pint chaser"?
    • Clarified.
  • I think "The stage thus set, to a drum roll, Ali becoming a human flamethrower, eructating the accelerant in a long stream over the sacrificial structure, setting it spectacularly ablaze." is not an actual complete sentence. It seems to be lacking a main clause.[3]
    • I think "Ali became a human flamethrower" is the main clause (I don't know how "becoming" crept in). In any event, I have rewritten the entire section.
      • I took a shot at tightening the sentence further (there was also the odd capitalization of kerosene). Please have a look. Jappalang (talk) 00:30, 10 December 2011 (UTC)
        • Great.
  • "While all such feats were performed, a panel selected from the audience was allowed to stay in close proximity to Ali, to verify as best they could that no trick mechanism was being employed; that he was actually swallowing the items in question and delivering them back through an act of regurgitation."
    Suggestion: "Ali's acts were performed in close proximity of a panel selected from the audience, allowing them to witness that he employed no trick mechanisms: he swallowed the items and delivered them through regurgitation."
    • I have tweaked the sentence. The colon may work but I don't think it making it declarative after the colon does because it no longer reads as defining what the jury was there to verify.
      • One problem I have with the original and tweaked sentence is the semi-colon followed by "that". That breakage does not read well to me. Jappalang (talk) 03:16, 14 December 2011 (UTC)
        • Changed to a colon. It does not work without the "that".
          • It seems okay to me, but I am no expert in the proper use of the English language to be a judge of it. Jappalang (talk) 13:12, 20 December 2011 (UTC)
  • "Despite the nature of his feats, essentially controlled vomiting, one newspaper reported that they were performed in 'a manner without the least bit of unpleasantness or anything bordering on repulsiveness.'"
    I think we can avoid the social bias here. i.e. "One newspaper reported that his feats, essentially controlled vomiting, were performed in 'a manner without the least bit of unpleasantness or anything bordering on repulsiveness.'"
    • Done and lead in sentences tweaked.
  • "Not all were so sanguine."
    I fail to see how this was a bad or difficult situation.[4] "Others did not agree/had different opinions." would work better in my view.
    • This is standard usage and to my ear works perfectly here. Please see this search.
      • I disagree. The phrase is grammatically correct, but the usage/context seems wrong to me. As defined by Oxford, "sanguine" means being optimistic in a difficult situation. In the examples you linked, we have the thoughts of those in wars, facing difficult decisions that affect the countries, and such. In this article here, the statement is being used to comment on reporters who are judging Ali's performances. I cannot fathom how they were in any difficult situation to type their reports. Jappalang (talk) 03:16, 14 December 2011 (UTC)
        • Not getting bogged down in this. I have simply changed it.
          • Eh, this is a peer review, so all this is just pretty much my opinion. They can be disregarded if one desires; there is nothing really to be "bogged down" over... (it is at FAC (and GAN) where reviewers might feel some things are worth opposing or supporting). Jappalang (talk) 13:12, 20 December 2011 (UTC)

Film appearances

  • "... two films of the day ..."
    Per my above comments about this in the lede
  • Done previously.
  • "Two contemporary documentaries ..."
    Again, per my above views
    • Fixed. It's often difficult to know whether contemporary's use is to the setting of what you're writing about or to the time of the writing.
      • "Contemporary" is still in there. Jappalang (talk) 03:16, 14 December 2011 (UTC)
        • Oops, done for the body as well.
  • "... PBS' American Masters series ..."
    Per Wikipedia:Manual of Style#Abbreviations, an abbreviation should be listed in full on first mention. Since the Public Broadcasting Service (I am presuming this is what PBS is referring to) is only used once, then the full name with no abbreviation should be used.
    • Done.
  • "Speaking about the democratic nature of vaudeville, Vaudeville's writer and executive producer, Greg Palmer said, referring to Ali, that the film 'embraced everything from Caruso to a guy who threw up.'"
    Suggestion (mainly to eliminate the repetitive "vaudeville, vaudeville"): "Vaudeville's writer and executive producer, Greg Palmer, referred to Ali as the "guy who threw up" when speaking about the theatrical genre's democratic nature."
    • I've tweaked the section and removed some of the detail.
      • I am not that certain about using the title of the documentary to name it as "the art form" (the descriptive clause). If one does not see it that way, he or she will be left wondering what is the "art form". Jappalang (talk) 03:16, 14 December 2011 (UTC)
        • I've tweaked it so that vaudeville is not right next to Vaudeville.
  • "By contrast with Palmer's negative description, in episode 30 of the Sundance Channel television program Iconoclasts, featuring renowned magician David Blaine and artist Chuck Close, Blaine enthusiastically spoke of Ali. While together in a car, Blaine shows Close part of Ali's footage from Politiquerias on his phone (allowing the television audience to see the clip as well) and says while they watch Ali do his kerosene and water finale, that Ali is his 'favorite magician ... it's real but nobody's been able to do it since ... his name was Hadji Ali ... he's my favorite of all time.'"
    Suggestion (too much detail and was Palmer's comments actually "negative" in nature or just "matter-of-fact"): "David Blaine, a magician, was more enthusiastic than Palmer in his opinion of Ali. In an episode of Iconoclasts, a documentary series about celebrities, Blaine showed a clip of Ali's kerosene and water finale in Politiquerias to Chuck Close, an artist, and said that Ali is his 'favorite magician ... it's real but nobody's been able to do it since ... his name was Hadji Ali ... he's my favorite of all time.'"
    • Also tweaked.
      • The tense of the second sentence (present) clashes with the first (past). I think pointing out they were in a car is also superfluous. Jappalang (talk) 03:16, 14 December 2011 (UTC)
        • Tense changed and car detail removed.


  • "... the ghoulish rumor had ..."
    "Ghoulish" can be done away with; let us not comment on the nature of the gossip.
    • Done.
  • Would it not have been better to cite to the direct blog post?[5] From the date of the poster, it would be in 1937 (since September 27 occurs in that year).
    • Done, and the archive link has also been updated.
  • "Postmortem, a Rockefeller Institute manager said the offer had never been made but that nevertheless, 'we should very much like to see the body.'"
    That is not how I see "postmortem" as being used.[6]
    • Did you read the adjectival definition in the link you provided: “happening after death”? provides “of, pertaining to, or occurring in the time following death” and even generically “occurring after the end of something; after the event: ‘’a postmortem criticism of a television show.’’”
      • I know it is an adjective; by the same reasoning, "Fast (adjective), he ran" is not sound to me. Adjectives modify nouns.[7] "Postmortem" modifies nothing in this sentence. Jappalang (talk) 03:16, 14 December 2011 (UTC)
        • It can be used in this way. See, e.g. [8]. Anyway I've removed. No reason to get stalled over this.
  • "Upon her arrival in the U.S. Ali's daughter donated her father's remains to Johns Hopkins for study."
    Suggestion (eliminating redundancies): "Upon her arrival, she donated her father's remains to Johns Hopkins for study."
    • Done.
    Question: So what was Johns Hopkins' conclusion about Ali's ability?
    • There's nothing, and I don't know that this would be published anywhere even if a conclusion had been reached (and even more likely to not be published if they found nothing, which is also likely).
      • That may be that, but it appears on page 13 of the New York Post (November 29, 1937) that Hubert Julian accompanied Almina (or is that Alemani according to the newspaper) Ali and her father's body back to the United States. Curious question would be why is Ali given the title of royalty? Perhaps that is the standard of journalism in those days but Julian's role seems established (as also noted on pages 1-A and Five-B of the California Eagle, December 9, 1937). The NYP article also noted that Ali's body would be interred in Egypt after the examination. These information could help to establish a conclusion. Jappalang (talk) 03:16, 14 December 2011 (UTC)
        • I cannot find a single other reference to her name presented in this form (other than a Chicago Tribune article that appears to have the identical text). Looks like someone was taking the piss, since they were not actual royalty, or at least numerous articles say she was "billed as the princess" and never mention any actual royalty, even speculating he was not even from Egypt and his origins were unknown. I have incorporated material about the body being taken back to Egypt. As a point of speculation, Ali was a sideshow act, while Julian was quite famous in the U.S. The article was really prompted by him, not the Alis, and Julian was described on the first page of the California Eagle you reference, here as the "world's greatest publicity seeker" who had put on a monocle for his own sideshow with the" royalty" he was accompanying. Anyway, the royalty schtick seems to have carried over to a few other newspapers reporting on mainly Julian's return (one of which gives Almina yet another name "Almenia"). Her age keeps changing in these stories, and its interesting to note that, as they feed from the same trough, they all parrot each other in saying gasoline, when there are hundreds of sources (including primary) providing kerosene. I did find one more detail from this line of inquiry though: Apparently Johns Hopkins refused the body, which I've added in, so there is no conclusion for them to have reached.
          • The article now has a more conclusive ending. I am questioning the omission of Julian though. He might be exploiting the Alis (if the "world's greatest publicity seeker" has more than a grain of truth to it), but he could equally be an acquaintance who is worth of some note. Regardless, I do not see his omission as something that would fail the "comprehensive" requirement of FAC. Jappalang (talk) 13:12, 20 December 2011 (UTC)
            • I'm confused: What omission? He's named in the article as his manager, described briefly and it says that he accompaniend them back to the U.S. on the Queen Mary? What more can (or should) we say about him?--Fuhghettaboutit (talk) 01:01, 21 December 2011 (UTC)
              • Oops. I really have to apologize. I was of the mind that the manager was another Herbert Julian... Mea culpa. Jappalang (talk) 03:26, 22 December 2011 (UTC)
  • "According to a November 29, 1937 article in the the New York Post, ..."
    I am not too sure whether there should be a comma after "1937" in this case... Would it be better to just omit the date entirely? It (the date) does not seem to add value to the sentence. Jappalang (talk) 13:12, 20 December 2011 (UTC)
  • The reason I put in the date for this is because it felt to me that it gives some structure to the time frame for when the date of the announcement of the offer's decline occurs. I personally don't think a comma is needed.--Fuhghettaboutit (talk) 01:06, 21 December 2011 (UTC)


A most interesting article and it seems whatever can be gleamed from the sources is here. I still feel it left me a bit wondering who Ali was as a person though, and the ending left one big question. I think the prose could also do with a bit more polish. Jappalang (talk) 08:49, 5 December 2011 (UTC)

Jappalang, thanks much for the thorough review and follow-ups!--Fuhghettaboutit (talk) 15:12, 18 December 2011 (UTC)
Okay, I think that is all I can offer in suggestions and critique for this article. I think we have pretty much hammered out the sources, images, and structure. You might want to actively seek another editor's advice (especially about the other areas) since the peer review has been opened for some time. You could try for FAC after that or now if you wish. My personal view is that the personal life aspect is still a bit weak (we only know his early life, but we do not know about his character or other adult aspects of his life, e.g. wife, social status among Egyptians, etc), but that may be due to the availability of sources. Other editors would likely have different opinions. Jappalang (talk) 03:26, 22 December 2011 (UTC)
Preaching to the choir. If I had found anything else I would have included it. He has a daughter but who was the mother? Was he married? Where did he live? etc. but I haven't found anything, and not for lack of looking. Thanks again.--Fuhghettaboutit (talk) 22:42, 22 December 2011 (UTC)