The November 6th elections saw a lot of historic decisions made in the United States -- the first black president re-elected, marijuana legalized for the first time in two states, gay marriage affirmed by the voters in four, and even the first openly gay senator. But perhaps the most underreported result yesterday came from outside the country altogether: in the commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a solid majority voted to reject the island's current status and join America as the long-fabled 51st state. How the bid might fare in Congress is an open question, but both President Obama and Republican leaders have vowed support for the statehood movement if it proves successful at the ballot box (while D.C. officials ponder a two-fer gambit to grease the wheels). Though it would be the poorest state, joining the Union might bring economic benefits to both sides [PDF]. And politically, some argue the island might prove to be a reliably red state, despite the Hispanic population, although arch-conservative governor and Romney ally Luis Fortuño appears headed toward a narrow loss. But the most important question here, as always, is: how to redesign the flag? (Puerto Rican statehood discussed previously.)
Beautiful Georgia, my adopted state as I finish life’s journey ... my last year ever to vote in a presidential election. I wanted to feel part of this great privilege, wanted to again walk out of my precinct tapping my Georgia Peach voter sticker. Even if the day were dark, gloomy and cold, the sun would be shining. One Georgia nonagenarian's quest for voter ID
Stephen Fry in America is a six part BBC television series of one hour shows in which Stephen Fry travels across the United States of America. He travels, mostly in a London cab, through all 50 U.S. states and offers his unique variety of insight as well as his infectious optimism and genuine love for many things American. New World, Deep South, Mississippi [US Edit], Mountains and Plains, True West, and Pacific. [more inside]
From the mid 40s to the mid 50s Coronet Instructional Films were always ready to provide social guidance for teenagers on subjects as diverse as dating, popularity, preparing for being drafted, and shyness, as well as to children on following the law, the value of quietness in school, and appreciating our parents. They also provided education on topics such as the connection between attitudes and health, what kind of people live in America, how to keep a job, supervising women workers, the nature of capitalism, and the plantation System in Southern life. Inside is an annotated collection of all 86 of the complete Coronet films in the Prelinger Archives as well as a few more. Its not like you had work to do or anything right? [more inside]
Savagery - Arcadia - Consummation - Destruction - Desolation. The five stages of The Course of Empire, a fascinating quintet of paintings by 19th century artist and Hudson River School pioneer Thomas Cole. In it, an imaginary settlement by the sea becomes the stage for all the dreams and nightmares of civilized life, a rural woodland grown in time into a glorious metropolis... only to be ransacked by corruption, war, and a terrible storm, at last reduced to a forgotten ruin. At times deceptively simple, each landscape teems with references to cultural and philosophical markers that dominated the era's debate about the future of America. Interactive analysis of the series on a zoomable canvas is available via the excellent Explore Thomas Cole project, which also offers a guided tour and complete gallery of the dozens of other richly detailed and beautifully luminous works by this master of American landscape art.
"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 1990, George Bush Senior had inaugurated a New World Order, based on uncontested US military supremacy and western economic dominance. This was to be a unipolar world without rivals. Regional powers would bend the knee to the new worldwide imperium. History itself, it was said, had come to an end. But between the attack on the Twin Towers and the fall of Lehman Brothers, that global order had crumbled. Two factors were crucial. By the end of a decade of continuous warfare, the US had succeeded in exposing the limits, rather than the extent, of its military power. And the neoliberal capitalist model that had reigned supreme for a generation had crashed. The End Of The New World Order and the Search for a Way Forward.
Looking Like Lincoln - photographer Greta Pratt shoots nineteen Lincoln impersonators, drawn from participants in The Association of Lincoln Presenters
Letter from America was a long-running weekly 15-minute radio series in which journalist Alistair Cooke introduced topical issues from the US to British listeners. Now, the BBC have made 925 episodes from across the years available online, beginning with a fragment from 1947 reflecting on the dropping of the atomic bomb a year earlier.
What ho, dearest cousins in the Western Colonies. You appear to be increasingly using the vernacular of the mother country. Splendid! [more inside]
Many people will never visit any of North Dakota's 837 named towns and places. MeFite afiler visisted...all of them. [more inside]
The American Presidency Project is a comprehensive archive of more than 100,000 documents related to the study of the United States' Commander-in-Chief, including transcripts of debates, public papers, state of the union addresses, White House Press Briefings, party platforms and election returns, as well as audio and video recordings. [more inside]
Wickets and Wonders: Cricket’s Rich Literary Vein - a meditation on the literary history of cricket, and a few of the more well-known books surrounding gigaioggie.
Ephemeral New York 'chronicles an ever-changing, constantly reinvented city through photos, newspaper archives, and other scraps and artifacts that have been edged into New York’s collective remainder bin.' [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]
A Conservative History of the United States - Jack Hitt for New Yorker's Shouts & Murmurs, pieces together America's storied history from quotes by Rick Perry, Dick Armey, Mike Huckabee, Dan Quayle and more.
"I don't see anything anti-American about not wanting to become an American citizen; it's similar to the fact that I don't know how to swim. I'm not anti-water; it just never mattered that much to me and my life is fine without it." Why I'm Still Not An American, an essay from a British green-card-holder with complex roots and complex feelings.
What are the secrets of former American President Bill Clinton noted oratory? Is it the writing, the body language or his unique human touch? Whatever it is, his gift for speeches was on full display at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. [more inside]
In another attempt to increase the popularity of cricket in America, a tournament based on T20 (Twenty-twenty), an extremely short form of the game where a match can last as little as three hours, is planned for next year. Though cricket is one of the oldest sports in the country, and the USA is one of the 106 members of the International Cricket Council, speculation still periodically emerges (Slate, BBC) on whether the nation is ready for cricket's big 'breakthrough'. [more inside]
Don't judge Honey Boo Boo, because the tv show doesn't care what it's saying about American culture.
J.R. Moehringer's essay discusses the end of football, the immortality of football, head injuries, and why what the sport means to America and to him.
"America may well be in a fateful decline. But given that the country has survived a civil war, two world wars, the Great Depression, 9/11, and the quagmires of Vietnam and Iraq, is our current crisis proportionate to the doomsday hysteria—or have we lost perspective?" Frank Rich, columnist for New York Magazine, explores the recurring phenomenon of declinist panic and our national tendency to burnish the past in "Mayberry R.I.P."
The drawings of Ron Franciere circa 1962-1988 — "Ron Franciere was something of a mystery to me. Ran into many dead ends trying to find information on him. I posted some images on my website Bighappyfunhouse. I received emails that held a few stories of Ron and his life - but nothing ever lead me to contacting Ron Franciere. Then, I received an anonymous comment on my website."
Guardian/Greenwald: US drones are coming back after initial attacks to target first-responder rescuers.
"I was upset because the political consultants and staff were talking about voter suppression and keeping blacks from voting. It had been one of those days,'' - Jim Greer, former state party chair of the Florida G.O.P, in a deposition for his lawsuit against the party. Scott Horton at Harper's covers the NYT's pox-on-both-your-houses story on vote suppression
Education, Income, and Fertility in America, and What They Mean for the Future of the Country "Since the average American woman has 2.1 children, you might think we aren't experiencing a national fertility crisis. Unlike some European countries whose futures are threatened by low birth rates, Americans, on average, produce just the right number of future workers, soldiers, and taxpayers to keep our society humming... Two new studies bring the contrasting reproductive profiles of rich and poor women into sharp relief. One, from the Guttmacher Institute, shows that the rates of unplanned pregnancies and births among poor women now dwarf the fertility rates of wealthier women, and finds that the gap between the two groups has widened significantly over the past five years. The other, by the Center for Work-Life Policy, documents rates of childlessness among corporate professional women that are higher than the childlessness rates of some European countries experiencing fertility crises."
Wisdom, Age, and Society in America and Japan "ONE stereotype of wisdom is a wizened Zen-master smiling benevolently at the antics of his pupils, while referring to them as little grasshoppers or some such affectation, safe in the knowledge that one day they, too, will have been set on the path that leads to wizened masterhood. But is it true that age brings wisdom? A study two years ago in North America, by Igor Grossmann of the University of Waterloo, in Canada, suggested that it is. In as much as it is possible to quantify wisdom, Dr Grossmann found that elderly Americans had more of it than youngsters. He has, however, now extended his investigation to Asia—the land of the wizened Zen-master—and, in particular, to Japan. There, he found, in contrast to the West, that the grasshoppers are their masters' equals almost from the beginning.... Japanese have higher scores than Americans for the sort of interpersonal wisdom you might think would be useful in an individualistic society. Americans, by contrast—at least in the maturity of old age—have more intergroup wisdom than the purportedly collectivist Japanese. Perhaps, then, you need individual skills when society is collective, and social ones when it is individualistic."
"I believed based on my politics that government mandated health care was a violation of my freedom." When a "die-hard conservative Republican" woman moves to Canada and encounters the universal healthcare there, hilarity ensues as cultures clash.
The latest record from Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Americana (released June 5, 2012), is a surprising collection of grungy covers of classic American folk songs, many of which are better known for their contemporary use as children's songs or camp songs. Of the record, Neil Young said:
Every one of these songs has verses that have been ignored. And those are the key verses, those are the things that make these songs live. They’re a little heavy for kindergarteners to be singing. The originals are much darker, there’s more protest in them...[cite]Nevertheless, many of NY&CH's renditions skip some of the juicier bits from the history of these songs' performance. Read on for a listing of tracks with some of their darkest verses. [more inside]
Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor at The Atlantic, recently touched on a couple of interesting aspects of the American Civil War. First, Racism Against White People briefly looked at how Southern intellectuals argued that Northern whites were of a different race. Then a subthread in the comments on that post spawned an investigation of American Exceptionalism in History and the notion of preserving democracy in the context of the American Civil War. After all, "if a government can be sundered simply because the minority doesn't like the results of an election, can it even call itself a government?" Definitely check out the comments of both posts.
Is America the Most Philosophical Society on the Planet? "For the surprising little secret of our ardently capitalist, famously materialist, heavily iPodded, iPadded and iPhoned society is that America in the early 21st century towers as the most philosophical culture in the history of the world, an unprecedented marketplace of truth and argument that far surpasses ancient Greece, 19th-century Germany or any other place. The openness of its dialogue, the quantity of its arguments, the diversity of its viewpoints, the cockiness with which its citizens express their opinions, the vastness of its First Amendment freedoms, the intensity of its hunt for evidence and information, the widespread rejection of truths imposed by authority or tradition alone, the resistance to false claims of justification and legitimacy, the embrace of Web communication with an alacrity that intimidates the world: All corroborate that fact." [more inside]
You eat too fast, and I understand why your antidyspeptic pill-makers cover your walls, your forests even, with their advertisements.
In 1891 author and lecturer ”Max O’Rell” (being the pen name of one Léon Paul Blouet) published an amusing account of his travels through the States and Eastern Canada - "A Frenchman In America" - that, along with the charming illustrations, reflect on then popular national stereotypes and character and is presented on Project Gutenberg in its entirely. (via)
Listen to Sousa introduce his band playing The Stars and Stripes Forever. Or listen to his band play without him, as he was wary of recordings. Or listen to a take by a more recent symphonic band. Or renditions on the guitar (one, two), the organ (one, two), or the piano (one, two). Or performed by the muppets.
"During the proceedings, the prosecutor took the time to mention that no other printer in the world could do what Kuhl had done."
Hans-Jurgen Kuhl was able to create "shockingly perfect" copies of the American $100 bill by using his artistic talents to conquer the various security features present in the bill.
Drawing on recent work by anthropologists Elinor Ochs and Carolina Izquierdo (working draft in PDF format of relevant paper here), The New Yorker asks: Are Americans raising the most incompetent and spoiled children in the world? The Wall Street Journal also considers Ochs' and Izquierdo's conclusions...
Paul Fussell, author of The Great War and Modern Memory and winner of the first National Critics Award for Criticism, but who is probably best known for writing Class: A Guide Through the American Status System, is dead. [more inside]
According to the U.S. census bureau, from July 2010 to July 2011, more than half of all babies born were members of minority groups, a first for the United States. [more inside]
He considered himself an artist, but his work, while popular and incendiary, showed little talent or originality. Later in life he took up working with precious metals, and that would be the craft he’s remembered for, but earlier in his career he printed his own engravings, or his version of the work of others. Earlier this year at Brown University’s John Hay Library, something very rare was discovered. One of Paul Revere’s prints depicting the Baptism of Christ was found tucked in an old textbook. While not a particularly valuable work or great art, this rare print does tell us a bit about the man as an artist, and about his faith. [more inside]
We Japanese Americans must not forget our wartime internment - George Takei on the the treatment of Japanese-Americans during WWII and Allegiance, his new musical. Previously.
And when the day comes that you, the American taxpayer, own this Bank, you will be ready to make it a Bank for America—one that brings benefits not to the privileged only, but to all of our customers, and to all of our stakeholders too.