I Made America, You're All Welcome!

The Founding Fathers, as depicted by modern actors.  They are arranged in two rows; standing from left are John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison; seated in front are George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.  They are posed before a background resembling the red and white stripes of an American flag; all are wearing eighteenth-century costumes.

Image Credit: I Made America

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one person to distract herself from work, Facebook provides. Through the The Second City Network I found a video entitled “Founding Fathers History Pick-Up Lines.” Clearly, I couldn’t resist. I was deeply amused to watch Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington, and John Adams seduce modern women with such lines as “It’s not the Louisiana Purchase, but it will double in size,” “Never leave for tomorrow what you can screw today,” and “I take the virgin out of Virginia.” The full video below features many more salacious lines, some of which might not be SFW:

Horsey Beginnings: Setting the Stage

Wild Horses

Image Credit the Bureau of Land Management

In George Lucas's Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo rides a tauntaun out into the frozen wastes of Hoth; he needs to find his friend, Luke Skywalker. In George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones, Deanerys Targaryen, a princess in exile, takes center stage in a ceremony for the sake of her child-to-be. She has to eat a raw, fresh horse heart. In Washington County, a Portland woman and her friend buy a near dead horse, shoot it in the head, cut it open, and take pictures, lots of bloody pictures. The following post does not contain these images (a future post will, though). 

The City upon a Hill at Halftime: Detroit, Unions, and the USA

Clint Eastwood in Chrysler Super Bowl commercial

Image Credit: Screenshot from YouTube

While baseball is more my sport, I haven’t missed watching the Super Bowl for the last couple of years. If nothing else, I enjoy analyzing the Super Bowl commercials—and this year’s Chrysler commercial featuring Clint Eastwood presents an irresistible opportunity to discuss some interesting controversies. Both conservative critics like Karl Rove and the Wall Street Journal’s Steve Goldstein and liberal ones like Michael Moore and Charles Mudede have read the commercial as promoting Obama’s reelection campaign. The ad’s copy and visuals directly connect the fates of Detroit and the auto industry with larger economic and political trends, as you can see:

From Sea to Shining McDonald's, and Other Americas: Critical Cartography II

Map of distances to McDonald's

Image by Stephen von Worley

Last week, I wrote about the power of cold-war era maps when it comes to visualizing Western attitudes towards the Soviet bloc, and, in the work of William Bunge, visualizing themselves.  This week I want to continue my trip down critical cartography's rabbit-hole with an overview of maps that attempt to locate forms of the "American experience."  How can aspects of daily life in America be represented visually?  The following maps try to answer that question, in playful, political, and subversive ways.

Meat America - a photographic celebration by Dominic Episcopo

ground beef spelling WTF

WTF, by Dominic Episcopo, from Meat America

Dominic Episcopo wants to explain to you "the indefinable adjective that is 'American'." And as far as he's concerned, the best way to do that is with meat.  The images are funny, deeply ironic, and often ambiguous given Episcopo's purported mission. 

An American Tale

Image Credit: Empire Movies

There has been some controversy—though less than might be expected—about the racial politics of the new Twilight movie, New Moon.  I went to see the film the other night and while I was prepared for smoldering gazes, repressed embraces, and some retrograde gender relations, I was not prepared for its representations of race.  While several critics have protested the casting of predominately non-Native American actors in Native American roles, far less comment has been made about the portrayal of Native American characters as bare-chested pack animals that morph into wolves when they become angry. The main character in this storyline is Jacob Black who falls in love with Bella Swan and then comes down with puberty-induced werewolfism.  He and the other wolves are all members of the Quileute tribe, which long ago signed a territorial treaty with the vampires.  Sound familiar?

The United states of Nations: a juxtapositional reading

James Richards's Map of the US

Image credit: James Richards, via Strange Maps

The dark corners of the intertubes are populated by weirdly animated detritus. In one particular corner I found Strange Maps, an intellectual terra incognita. Here is one map from the site, in which map-author and vexillologist James Richards has filled in United States states with the flags of other nations with populations equal to that of the correlate United States state. What is the point of such a map? It takes us nowhere. It is trivia, contrived comparison, meaningless. Indeed.

This *is* an odd land, and there is perhaps no better way to understand, as a stranger in a strange land, the strangeness than that quintessentially American experience and myth, the road trip. "Buy the ticket, take the ride," someone screams in Jack's ear as he discreetly tries to fill in his fantasy baseball roster.

In the Lonestar People's Republic of North Texorea . . . imagine it . . .

The high plains meth labs have been bulldozed. Justice remains swift. And decisive. The governor's call to secession has been fulfilled. President Rick Perry, in his paramilitary uniform of high commander, sings along to the Lonestar Republic's national anthem and reviews the People's Army, parading forth from Camp Mabry and into the Austin city streets. "Keep Austin Weird," the buzz-cut forces shout in unison as they pass the review stand. The death penalty endures, but the process has been expedited. The workaday Texicans have traded in their Pearl for Pulrosul (an alcoholic concoction bottled with a dead adder inside), and good ol' boys, no longer satisfied with whiskey and rye, swill the juice of the alcohol addled adders, and later bite their heads off. The mezcal worm has turned, into a snake. Our trip begins just out of reach of the center of State power in Austin, on Interstate 35. We drive north. "Keep the Weird in Austin."

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