"One of the most enigmatic objects on display in the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is "Ashley's Sack." On loan from South Carolina's Middleton Place, this unbleached cotton sack features an embroidered text recounting the slave sale of a nine-year-old girl named Ashley and the gift of the sack by her mother. Until now, Ashley's identity has been unknown. New research by Mark Auslander traces Ashley's Sack from the initial gift during the era of slavery to the present."
Teaching Men to Be Emotionally Honest [NYT]: "By the time many young men do reach college, a deep-seeded* gender stereotype has taken root that feeds into the stories they have heard about themselves as learners. Better to earn your Man Card than to succeed like a girl, all in the name of constantly having to prove an identity to yourself and others." [more inside]
How do you quantify the effects of things that don't happen to you? "The whole point of living in a culture is that much of the labor of perception and judgment is done for you, spread through media, and absorbed through an imperceptible process that has no single author." (previously; via)
Selfies, Dating, and the American 14-Year-Old. "As crushes go from real-life likes to digital “likes,” the typical American teenage girl is confronted with a set of social anxieties never before seen in human history. Nancy Jo Sales observes one 14-year-old as she gets ready to embark on her first I.R.L. date."
"There was power in a name, and I figured if mine were Elizabeth, maybe the blue eyes and blonde hair would follow. I would look more like her. My mother. She has stories of walking around—me in her arms, my brother in a stroller—and people asking what country we were adopted from. My mother is too polite to say things like, The country of my vagina." "Where I'm Writing From" by Onnesha Roychoudhuri.
[E]ven though the restaurant's cartoonish decor bordered on offensive, it was still a temple to a people and a cuisine that America couldn't ignore. Taco Bells were everywhere. In every strip mall. Off every highway exit. Even the racists, the immigrant-haters, the people who'd laugh at my elementary-school stand-up comedy routine would run for the border.John DeVore writes about finding the "unexpected, self-affirming solace" of home... at Taco Bell. [more inside]
You can laugh or sneer at Taco Bell. Shake your head at its high fat and salt content. Go ahead and lecture on what true Mexican food is. My mom would probably just roll her eyes at you, and take a broken yellow shard of crispy taco shell and use it to scoop up the pintos, cheese, and salsa.
Halloween and Thanksgiving are two of the slipperiest holidays in the American tradition. Costumed masquerading and trick-or-treating used to happen on Thanksgiving, while Halloween was mostly devoted to vandalism. As Americans did they best to stamp out the vandalism, they also cleaned up the unruly traditions of Turkey Day, banishing the Thanksgiving Ragamuffins to October. [more inside]
Gun Wars: the struggle over gun rights and regulation in America, in the aftermath of the Newtown school shootings and the ongoing congressional stalemate over federal gun legislation. An investigative report from "29 students from 16 journalism schools, as well as an experienced staff of editors" for Carnegie-Knight News21. [more inside]
Envisioning the American Dream is "a visual remix of the American Dream as pictured in Mid-Century media" that discusses topics such as Man and Machines, Vintage Advice for Cheaters, and Suburbia for Sale, amongst many others.
Portrait of a Young Man with Down Syndrome. A father reflects on his son's search for employment.
In the face of racism, the great African-American jazz saxophonist Lester Young was “cool.” Credited with bringing the word into the modern American vernacular, “I’m cool” wasn’t Young’s reference to the sunglasses he wore day and night on stage, or the saxophone slung across his shoulder. It was his response to a divided society, a way of saying that he was still in control...
Gay Talese's "Frank Sinatra Has A Cold" appeared in Esquire Magazine in April 1966. Sinatra had turned down interview requests from Esquire for years and refused to be interviewed for the profile. Rather than give up, Talese spent the three months following and observing the man and interviewing any members of his entourage who were willing to speak -- and the final story was published without Sinatra's cooperation or blessing. In 2003, editors pronounced it the best article the magazine had ever published. Nieman Storyboard interviewed Talese last month about the piece and has annotated it with his comments. [more inside]
Leaving the Witness. "In one of the most restrictive, totalitarian countries in the world, for the first time in my life, I had the freedom to think." [more inside]
"When the lights go out for good, my people will still be here. We have our ancient ways. We will remain."
In the Shadow of Wounded Knee. Along the southwestern border of South Dakota is one of the most poverty-stricken places in the United States—the Pine Ridge Reservation, home of the Oglala Lakota people. After 150 years of broken promises, they are still nurturing their tribal customs, language and beliefs. Via [more inside]
In February, PBS and AOL launched Makers, a video archive containing personal stories and anecdotes told in the first person by women, many of whom have sparked groundbreaking changes in American culture. [more inside]
Don't judge Honey Boo Boo, because the tv show doesn't care what it's saying about American culture.
Jimmyjane (NSFW) makes luxury, design-oriented vibrators and other sex toys and accessories. ("Design inspired by Apple, not Hustler.") They'd like to change the way Americans think about them: instead of as 'dirty little secrets,' they're hoping for mainstream acceptance and to usher in an "Age of Great American Sex." (Via) [more inside]
Meet Jessica Beinecke. Her Chinese fluency and her bubbly personality make her a minor celebrity among young Chinese speakers. Her videos covers topics such as: Yucky Gunk ,which went viral. Fist Pumping. Badonkadonk. Yo, Homie. Mexican food. And her Thing. Brought to you by the Voice of America.
Going Straight: My Ex-Gay Friend Also: Living the Good Lie: Therapists Who Help People Stay in the Closet. (Both links NYT, via)
The American Festivals Project takes you along on two guys' National Geographic-funded 2008 tour of the "small, hidden, and bizarre" festivals celebrated all over the United States. Through photos, video, and a blog, discover Rattlesnake Roundup, Okie noodling, an American Fasnacht, the Idiotarod, and plenty more. [more inside]
In the 1960's, 70's and 80's, urban decay and high crime rates caused retail chain supermarkets to flee New York City. (google books link) Korean immigrants filled the gap with corner grocery stores. For nearly two decades they were ubiquitous -- symbols of the group's ongoing quest to achieve the American Dream. But 30 years later, Where Did The Korean Greengrocers Go? [more inside]
The New York Times covers a 'new celebrity trend', Unshaven Women, Free Spirits or Unkempt?
War Dances: “I wanted to call my father and tell him that a white man thought my brain was beautiful”. Sherman Alexie doing his thing in The New Yorker, excerpted from his upcoming book (early review; interview 1, 2.)
Land of the Free, home of the geek. Steven Schofield takes photos of british sci-fi fans, dressed in character in their homes. He treats it as 'found' photography, which seems to illustrate the subjects vulnerability. The title of the work is Land of the Free - and illustrates how American culture infiltrates, with the ironic edge of questioning the idea of the freedom of choosing to copy the look of these fictional characters. via kottke
"Hundreds of thousands of Americans have endured tours of duty in Iraq. They are returning home with a new word on their lips. It will have an impact on the American Experiment, inshallah."
Taylor Hicks wins American Idol.... It could be something worth talking about given how powerful the show has become: #1 show on television, contributed to over 30 million records (records -- yes records not itunes singles) sold, and a show where Queen, Rod Stewart, and, tonight, TAFKAP (or he could be Prince again) are clamoring to be on it. Moroever, some conventional wisdom seems to support that the show is not karaoeke-izing pop music and instead contributes to it surprisingly positively. While it might not lead to debates on metafiler, arguments as to what makes a good Idol can be seen here.
Vote For The Worst American Idol contestant and be a foot solider against cornball programming. In the battle between an Internet movement and television producers, so far the rouge site has the lead. But as we get closer to the show's finale, can the contrarians keep the worst contestants in the mix?
The National Museum of the American Indian opened on Tuesday. Although generally praised, the occasion did draw some mild concern that some groups are under-represented. The museum occupies one of the last few coveted spots on the National Mall. Washington Post collumnist Courtland Milloy comments on the contrast between the opening ceremonies for the museum in the home of the 'Redskins'. And I can't resist throwing in a plug for The Eiteljorg (flash splash screen) which is the only other museum with a partnership with the Smithsonian collection.
American Memory is a gateway to rich primary source materials relating to the history and culture of the United States. The site offers more than 7 million digital items from more than 100 historical collections. [more inside]