Photographer Drew Gardner created a photo series depicting descendants of historical figures, each posed as their ancestors. Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Napoleon Bonaparte, Charles Dickens... It's surprising how uncanny the resemblances often are. But none are so fascinating as his portrait of Shannon LaNier, the great^6-grandson of Thomas Jefferson.
The recreation was based on the famous portrait of Jefferson by American painter Rembrandt Peale, and Gardner shot his portrait using a Fujifilm GFX 50S and a Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 lens. LaNier, a black man who descended from Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings, tells Smithsonian that he has complex feelings about being a Jefferson descendant, and he chose to not wear a wig to more faithfully recreate his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather’s portrait.
“He was a brilliant man who preached equality, but he didn’t practice it,” LaNier tells the magazine. “He owned people. And now I’m here because of it.”
NPR's Throughline had a great recent episode about what's essentially the branding of the American Empire. Host Rund Abdelfatah speaks with Daniel Immerwahr, a history professor at Northwestern University, who the changing ways that America has identified itself over the years.
I always found it kind of strange to say "America" (even though I do it), as it also refers to two entire continents. And I've similarly found it interesting when I hear Europeans refer to the country as "the States." But Immerwahr took things a step further, and traced the history of self-reference through American presidential speeches. Prior to 1898 — the time of our rarely-mentioned war with Spain, which saw American expansionism grow beyond the continental borders and into the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Cuba and so on — it was rare to hear a President refer to the country as "America." It could be the Republic, or the Union, or the United States, sometimes even Columbia or Freedonia (like "land of the free people," yes that was apparently a real thing at one time).
Immerwahr smartly connects this to curiosity to the country's intrinsic relationship (and subsequent, neverending identity crises) with imperialism. We were founded on conquered land, and though we aspired to be a union of independent nation-states with open borders and shared currency, that never actually happened. The "free" people of the United States distinguished themselves from the black slaves who tilled their fields, and the various Native American nations with whom they sometimes shared the land. Read the rest
1300 Americans lodged complaints decrying the suggestive nature of the Superbowl's halftime dance show. Nothing is sacred.
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For some viewers, the outrage was about more than just costumes and dancing. It was about parenting.
"As a father of 2 teen girls I feel obligated, at this point, to file a complaint as I am at my wits end," a man from Maine wrote. "That “show” should have been reserved for late night cable TV ... As a society we are talking out of both sides of our mouths and confusing kids. We need to do better, much MUCH better. Please help put a stop this disgraceful type of behavior being pushed on our children."
Complaints poured in from 49 states.
Texas viewers had the most complaints -- nearly 140.
There were zero complaints from Vermont.
It's hard to find someone who doesn't love Dolly Parton. Now, a recently-launched podcast goes deep into the beloved country legend's life and times to examine why she appeals to the masses. Dolly Parton's America follows her journey through her early scrappy days surviving on mustard-and-ketchup "soup," to being discovered, to creating Dollywood and that's just in the first three episodes (there will be a total of nine). Good stuff!
It's hosted by Jad Abumrad, creator of Radiolab and More Perfect, who interviews Dolly herself.
Everything's coming up Dolly: This podcast isn't the only thing happening in the Dollyverse. Over on Netflix, a new series called Dolly Parton's Heartstrings begins airing November 22. Plus, she's got a new Christmas ornament. Read the rest
I'm coming late to this one, because it was posted last year -- but hey, better late than never: Behold this fascinating set of Pricenomics graphics about what types of objects Americans pawn.
One thing that jumps out in the data? Apple products dominate the realm of pawning. Here's the chart:
Basically, Apple products are amazingly good at holding their value. Electronics are the single biggest category of what Americans pawn overall, but even within that valuable vertical, Steve Jobs has created a storehouse of capital value for everyday Americans: "Apple’s products retain value far longer than its competitors in both personal computing and smartphones. They’re the Honda of electronics– or maybe the Volvo." Jewelry and guns are the only other things in the top 5. "It turns out that weapons serve as a remarkably durable store of value."
Speaking of jewelry and guns, they are, perhaps unsurprisingly, super gendered in their empawnment. Fully 76% of guns are pawned by men, and 69% of jewelry is pawned by women.
Also interesting is the geographic distribution of pawning, as rendered in the state-by-state dataviz of which items are disproportionately likely to be pawned; that's the chart at the top of this entry. As the Pricenomics folks note ...
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Perhaps most notable in the above analysis is the category of guns. In American pawn shops, there are “gun states” and “everything” else states. In Southern states and ones with larger rural populations, like the Mountain West, people pawn guns at a much higher rate than the national average.
The twitter account @TheScaryNature posted this image with the caption "these two Bull Moose died in battle and became frozen in ice", and the only thing I can think of is "Toxic mooseculinity."
The photographer, as revealed by Google's reverse image search feature, is Brad Webster:
Webster says there are several theories on what happened to the moose, but the most likely scenario to play out is that the two moose were fighting over a female when one was knocked unconscious or suffered a broken neck, taking the other one down with it.
"There was a fight and one of them won, and they both lost," Webster said. "Once it's knocked out or once it's dead, you've got a live moose that won the fight, but the other moose is dragging you down into the water."
I've already made a joke of it, but there's a weird power to Webster's photo and I can't stop thinking about it.
UPDATE: Found Brad's website.
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Another word that I would [use to describe Alaska], [and] would take probably more explanation would just be: culture. … The culture of the village; the culture of the people; the beauty of the language and the beauty of the traditions and the heritage and the knowledge that’s been passed down. And wanting to learn from it and respect it, but still in a way that respects the people to continue to be who they are. Some kind of a weird balance, of an outsider coming in and wanting to see and experience those things, without imposing or changing the experience for them.
This isn't a long post, but damn it's an important one. Read the rest
This past Friday, the citizens of Nicaragua declared a national strike in protest of their president, Daniel Ortega, and his oh-so corrupt government. In the city of Managua, pro-government paramilitaries and the police cornered roughly 200 protesters in a church and opened fire on the building. During the siege, the pro-Ortega forces murdered two of the unarmed protesters trapped inside of the church and wounded several others.
The Pro government El 19 called the protestors “terrorists” and “thieves”: in effect, they declared the people, brave enough to demand that a dictator return their country to them, an enemy of the people. This labelling of Nicaraguans who would dare to speak out against their government as terrorists, is kind of a thing now. According to El Nuevo Diario, Roger Martinez, a respected psychologist with a practice in the Nicaraguan city of Granada, has been given the same label. He was picked up, along with 23 others by, you guessed it, police and paramilitaries, during a national “cleanup operation.” At the time that this post was written, Martinez was still in prison. Yesterday, Dr. Blanca Cajina and Dr. Irvin Escobar, were whisked away from their lives as well. They’re the latest in the growing number of professionals and intellectuals and community leaders, to be accused of terrorism by the Ortega government. As this handy guide from the U.S. Holocaust Museum notes, cracking down on a nation's intellectuals is one of the signs that your nation is well on its way to being controlled by a fascist regime. Read the rest
On April 18th, Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega, announced that changes would be made to the country’s social security system: workers would be forced to pay more but would receive fewer benefits, despite their increased contributions. Understandably, people were pissed. They staged peaceful demonstrations. Then came the not so peaceful ones: the outrage the nation’s citizens felt over the changes to a system they had paid into the whole of their working lives, spilled over into resentment for the Nicaraguan government as a whole.
Since then, 300 civilians have died.
On July 14th, Nicaraguan police and pro-government paramilitary types trapped a group of student protestors inside of a church and commenced firing on those inside with military-grade arms. The whole, bloody, terrifying show was captured on video and in Twitter posts from inside of the church. One young man named Gerald, was from the city of Masaya. He was in Managua, Nicaragua's capital, attending university. Gerald was shot in the head—dead at 20 years old. His last rites delivered by a priest who was trapped in the church with him. Those trapped in the church have since been allowed to go free. Its said that there is at least one other dead and several wounded as a result of the incident.
Daniel Ortega’s been in office as the President of Nicaragua for 11 years. To get there, he ran for the position from 1990 until 2007. It was with a promise to improve the lives of the poor, to end the rampant corruption that infected Nicaragua’s political elite. Read the rest
If you want to erode the public's trust in the legal system, making a court house an unsafe place to be, even during what's supposed to be a joyful occasion, is a great place to start. Just ask Alexander Parker and Krisha Schmick: They went to a courthouse in Pennsylvania, intent on getting married. The pair had known one another since high school and it seemed like the right time. There was just one problem – Alexander's skin was brown and the judge he and his bride were to stand before was a raging bigot.
According to Newsweek, when Parker and Schmick stood before Judge Elizabeth Beckley in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, instead of presiding over their wedding ceremony, she called Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents to check out Parker.
Parker, originally from Guatemala, was adopted by American parents and brought to the United States when he was eight months old – he is legally allowed to be in the country. He has the paperwork to prove it, too. But for some reason, maybe because, I dunno, HE WAS GETTING MARRIED, he forgot the official documents that proved his right to be in the country at home. All he had on him was a Guatemalan identification card. Court staff, believing for some reason that the document was a fake, contacted ICE to check Parker out.
On his wedding day, when he should have been exchanging vows, Parker was answering questions. Instead of having a ring slipped on his finger, he was forced to provide fingerprints. Read the rest
Donald Trump wrote to the Guggenheim Museum asking if he could borrow a Van Gogh to hang in his living quarters in the White House; curator Nancy Spector wrote back and demurred, offering instead to lend him "America," Maurizio Cattelan's "18-karat, fully functioning, solid gold toilet" made as a "pointed satire aimed at the excess of wealth in this country." Read the rest
Trailers have a mostly negative reputation, these days, drawing working-class resentment and middle-class contempt. But they once embodied a compact, affordable rendition of the American Dream. So let's talk about "Tiny Houses" and how it navigates a stigma that must end...
The trailer-trash myth took off after World War II, when soldiers coming back from the war were faced with a housing shortage. Much of the travel-trailer and mobile-home industry got its jumpstart at that time. Confronting the housing situation, a lot of returning servicemen chose to move into RVs and mobile homes, at least for the short-term. It’s unfortunate that our veterans were also then associated with this notion of being “trailer trash.” In the ’40s, people living in “regular” homes also looked upon those in RVs and mobile homes as “trailer trash” because they had to go to the outhouse or the campground wash facilities just to use the toilet. We have hundreds of postcards in our trailer-themed collection just about outhouses.
Trailers are stigmatized because the poor can afford them, and when the first generation of Tiny House dwellers start selling up in earnest, Tiny Houses will be stigmatized too. Read the rest
Uncle Bill, in keeping with tradition, please lead us in A Thanksgiving Prayer.