Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The 'New You' America

"If you take advantage of everything America has to offer, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish", is a quote by Geraldine Ferraro and tells something of the mindset of Americans even today. The idea that a person can go and be anything has led to the vast over use of plastic surgery, and the normality of the procedures, even for youngsters.
Women had 92 percent of cosmetic procedures (2006), the number of surgery's performed on women was over 10.5 million, showing the want for a better body or younger face that people feel they so desperately need.

American celebratory is a very fickle friend, being the top billed star to a 'nobody' is a common situation. The American media, as well as all media, enjoy the fall of any famous person, so often they are led to 'reinvent' themselves with promises of looking 20 years younger. The youth then see this as the way to get people to like them, your to change something that does not need changing. There is nothing wrong with improving your look, its this combined with American excess that leads to tragedy.

Monday, 26 October 2009

New America!

When I think of a 'new' or 'exceptional' America, I first thought of the 2008 Presidential election.

This is when in America, and the rest of the world; a great drive appears, as if every four years the country is divided into seperate pools where each 'swimmer' shares a common cause or feeling towards a certain subject. Surely, this is the same with every country when a general election comes around, but, with the USA's mighty media industry, the whole process is excelled.

However, if there has ever been a reason to be overly excited for an election, it would to be that of 2008. This election was driven by powerful keywords, such as: 'Hope' and 'Change'; a hope for a new, brighter, accepting, America; and a change from the days of Bush's right-wing.

De Crevecouer asked what this 'new man' was, and I hope that it is a man that can spurr the world forward, forge new alliances, and correct the wrongs of the recent years.

new america

The website i found that demonstrates the idea of America as new is a self improvement and personal evolution website. The idea that a person can completely reinvent themselves and become anything they want seems to be part of the american psyche that has evolved over time. Even in De Crevecouer's letters, he talks about how a person can come to America and succeed and prosper. He uses the metaphor of a plant to put across his ideals; "Every thing has tended to regenerate them: new laws, a new mode of living, a new social system; here they become men: in Europe they were as so many useless plants, wanting vegitative mould, and refreshing showers; they withered, and were mowed down by want, hunger, and war; but now by the power of transplantation, like all other plants they have taken root and flourished!". The modern day equivalent of this is shown in the numerous different self improvement books, groups and websites like this one that exist in america, which all talk of new beginnings.


Letter from Casco, Maine, During King Philip's war

The account I found was written by a English settler in maine in 1676, during King Philips war. King Philips war was fought in new England, primarily on the maine frontier, between English colonists and native Americas and is considered to be one of the worst wars of its time due to numbers that lost their lives. The author of the letter talks about the number of colonists that are killed and how the distance between dwellings makes protecting themselves and sharing information difficult. This is demonstrated by the following quote; “On Friday last in the morning your own son with your two sons in Law Anthony and Thomas Bracket and their whole families were killed and taken by the Indians, we know no how, tis certainly known by us that Thomas is slain and his wife and children carried away captiue, and of Anthony and his family we haue no tidings and therefore think that thay might be captivated the night before because of the remoteness of their habitation from neighborhood,” Whats particularly interesting about the account is how the native Americans are portrayed and was is omitted. Whilst they did kill a number of colonists, the natives themselves suffered much heavier losses as a result of the conflict.

Cuba Denounces US Radio and Television Aggression


This news article covers the story that aggressive information against Cuba was broadcasted from US radio and television before the Fourth Commission of the UN General Assembly. It is taken from the Cuban News Agency, ACN.

The article explains that out of 23 stations which broadcast to Cuba from the US, 18 belong to organisations that are linked to terrorists that operate in US territory with the approval of US federal authorities. According to the article US Congress supports these broadcasts by annually spending more than 30 million dollars on them for the purpose of promoting subversion and encouraging hatred in Cuba.

I chose this article as I find it disturbing that US Congress actively supports illegal aggressive radio and television broadcasts against Cuba. The lack of objectivity and balance in these broadcasts are concerning and reminiscent of propaganda. Expanding this point on a wider scale, it is difficult to trust the media in general. The public depend on the news to inform them of events but it is hard to know whether news is being presented fairly, especially with the knowledge that news can easily be controlled and edited to fit an agenda.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

New York Considered And Improved 1695

This is an account by reverend John Miller in 1695 on how to improve New York City, as well as mention other issues he felt were of a concern. I decided to choose this article because it tells something of the way people were thinking in those times. What is the most interesting is not that he lists the problems out, but then goes about writing how to solve them. He breaks the problems down into
1. the wickedness & irreligion of the inhabitants
2. want [lack] of ministers
3. difference of opinions in religion
4. a civil dissension
5. the heathenism of the Indians
6. the neighborhood of Canada

He later refers to the Indians and how "the Heathenism of the natural Indians who here in the very heart of a Christian country practice their barbarous & devilish customs & modes of worship...," I find it interesting how he can believe it is their wrong for practicing a belief in their own country, let alone calling it devilish. Anther point that interests him greatly is his plan for the resettlement of Canada by the British, going into detail about how that invasion might play out.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Map of the USA

The map I have chosen is named America-The Mall. What i think the artist of this map was attempting to show, was how cloned certain aspects of American life have become, with everyone going to the same chain stores, in the same type of malls, but not really caring as they meet their consumer needs. For me this map seems to sum up completely the consumerist nature that seems to prevail in the US, with people placing too much emphasise on material possessions. It also signifies in my opinion, looking at and recognizing some of the shops named such as Starbucks and McDonalds, the global reach that some companies have achieved.

Who will benefit from the end of the Cold War?


This article is taken from the Russian news agency RiaNovosti, and tells of how the Russians still mistrust America, 20 years after the cold war ended.

"Many people responsible for political decisions in Russia do not believe in the possibility of honest and practical cooperation with America even in the traditional areas of collaboration, mentioned when they need to project a positive tone, like the fight against terrorism, nuclear non-proliferation, poverty, or global warming. There is always rivalry in these spheres, and it always dominates cooperation. As for other areas of potential cooperation, prejudice and mistrust do not even allow for the launching of a constructive dialog."

I thought it was an interesting article after reading this section, and it tells a lot of how Russia still sees itself as a major power alongside America. It goes on to say that Russia is not yet ready to open up investment and business to the United States, as well as the western powers, and this only hurts Russian trade. The Russian people are being told that all things American are wrong and should be avoided, yet it is the same people that are suffering from this policy.

"At the same time, infighting for kickbacks from corruption prevents the development of predictable and understandable rules . . . Russia has no such rules, and everything here depends on the current political climate, the official who holds this or that post, his/her plans for a business, and God only knows what else."

Maps of the USA

I chose the map named 'Homeland Is Where the Heart Is'.

When I first saw the image, I thought of American patriotism. This prosumption was then reinforced by the inclusion of three little words under the title of the map; "We The People", which is the preamble to the Constitution of the United States. The reference to such a powerful and well respected document in US culture surely cements its patriotic values, yet, on further inspection of the site that the image derrived from; the reviewer doesn't mention anything like this. Instead, the reviewer argues that is to do with geopolitics, which I think simply means he/she took the image at face value.

You can find the original post for this 'map' here:

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Positive and Negative images of America

For me, a unique aspect of American culture is its peoples reverence for the ‘American Dream’ and in my opinion nothing captures that ideal like the Statue of Liberty. The fact that the statue was built as a monument celebrating America’s signing of the declaration of independence, signifies for me the Americans prevailing sense of optimism, that people are entitled to liberty and freedom, as well as a prosperous life. I find the concept of the American dream and the fact that so many people believe in it a hugely positive part of American culture. The fact that it empowers people so much that they believe that anybody is capable of succeeding in life is uplifting!

In my opinion one of the most negative aspects of American culture is its stance on weapon ownership and availability. To me it seems backward to still allow people the ‘right to bear arms’ as is written in the bill of rights. Guns cause so many problems and misery in today’s America which could be greatly reduced if America were to rethink its standpoint on firearms. To me, the iconic image of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in the cafeteria of columbine school where they shot dead over a dozen people before killing themselves really captures the extent of the issue and the pain that is caused. Whats worst is that anti gun legislation still didn’t make it through government even immediately after the tragedy, which brings you to wonder how many more people are going to have to suffer before anything changes?

McDonald's America

The map I have chosen from Strange Maps is The McFarthest Place: 145 Mi to the Nearest Big Mac. Created by Spephen Von Worley, the map contains McDonald's locations throughout the United States and displays the distance between them. Interestingly, the coast is scattered with McDonalds restaurants and this visually creates an almost perfect border of the US.

Von Worley found that "The McFarthest Spot" is in South Dakota, 145 miles away from the nearest McDonalds. This is not surprsing considering South Dakota's rural roots. Other "McSparse" areas of the US include Oregon, Nevada and Idaho. These are states known for either their forests, rivers, mountains or vast deserts.

Predictably, the densely populated east coast is saturated with McDonald's restaurants, closely followed by the west coast. Conclusively, Big Mac addicts are not advised to venture out into rural areas of the US.

Since watching Morgan Spulock's documentary film Super Size Me I have been fascinated by McDonald's popularity not only in America but also the fast food chain's globalization across the world. Despite an obesity "epidemic" and clear evidence that fast food can damage physical and psychological well-being, the principles of fast food dominate many sectors of American society as well as the rest of the world. This is undoubtably because of convenience among other factors. The chain's worldwide popularity can perhaps be explained by the "Americanisation" of many countries, especially in regards to corporate influence. Spulock's film certainly impacted the fast food industry as marketing strategy for McDonald's and their competitor Burger King has significantly changed since. That being said fast food still remains popular as ever.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Positive and Negative Images of America

My possitive image is of the Capitol
Building, where Congress is housed. The two chambers of the US Congress are the Senate and the House of Representatives.

I chose this as a positive image b
ecause I believe that the USA has an almost sound poltical system. While this may not seem as a truly amazing thing, such as the USA's natural beauty or the inspiring image of the moon landing in 1969; without Congress's backing, niether of these could be achieved.

Congress, and the Federal Government, have ownership over the US's many nature preserves and only recently passed legislation to fund research into hydrogen-powered transport. They have also begun to debate a brand new climate change policy, The United States is "now ready to lead" on climate change, said President Obama when news of this new bill came about in April this year.

Without Congress, the moon US moon landing may not have taken place as early as 1969. After the Soviet Union flipped off the US with the launching of Sputnik in 1957 House Committee on Science and Technology which would go on to spend federal funds on the creation of a cosmonaught programme.

My negative picture represents the US's wasteful nature. While it may be all very well that Congress is trying to pass bills on climate change and tackling bio-fuels; but in the end, it is American culture that will have to change. It is this wastefullness of their own resources, that leads them to selfishness and conflicts with other countries over soverignty of resources out of the USA's jurisdiction.

(sorry about the misjointed layout, for some reason the blog decided to disobey me.....)

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Does It Matter If The World Loves The US ?

This is an interesting take on our theme for week 3, taken from a blog on The New Republic dated October 5. To read the comments on it, click on the link below.

Does It Matter If the World Loves Us?

Isaac Chotiner


In The New York Times on Saturday, the conservative writer and politician John R. Miller made a more-or-less convincing case that America's standing in the world is more-or-less irrelevant when it comes to conducting a successful foreign policy. Today, on Foreign Policy's website, two scholars summarize an American Political Science Association report on the same topic. The report's conclusion is the opposite of the one reached by Miller, and is broader in its argument. The authors claim that Obama's election has not yet solved America's image problems, for example, and they describe what they see as increasing post-cold war partisanship on foreign policy issues. The summary's central claim, however, is muddled. The idea that America's standing in the world is unimportant is called "dead wrong" by the authors, who begin their section on this issue by writing:

During the Cold War, the United States was anxious that its reputation for protecting its allies, especially those in Europe, be seen as credible by both Soviet leaders and Europeans. As Lyndon Johnson explained to Martin Luther King, Jr. in early 1965, "If I pulled out [of Vietnam] ... I think the Germans would be scared to death that our commitment to them was no good, and God knows what we'd have in other places in the world."

The fact that this story is cited as evidence of the importance of America's standing is bizarre, and the notion that we stayed in Vietnam to reassure our allies is nauseating.

More recently, the Bush Doctrine was reversed in Bush's second term in part due to falling support abroad -- involving both credibility and esteem -- that made it harder for the United States to get what it wanted.

It was always confusing when people who thought that 90% of Bush's foreign policy was wrongheaded also wanted the Bush administration to have more credibility (and thus, presumably, more room to operate). Regardless, the authors never specify what Bush's lack of credibility prevented him from accomplishing.

Of course, many other factors affect foreign-policy success and we should not delude ourselves that standing is the critical factor. Moreover, standing should never be the sole consideration behind U.S. foreign policy. There will inevitably be trade-offs between other pressing interests in particular situations; for example, the United States may need to act to protect itself from an imminent threat, and this action may diminish its standing among some audiences.

It is important, however, to acknowledge more explicitly the costs and benefits of maintaining standing in policymaking. For decision makers under pressure, it is tempting to focus only on what is concrete and immediate and has short-term impact. But just as it is dangerous for business leaders to focus only on quarterly profits and ignore their firm's long-term health, so too must U.S. leaders consider the nation's stock of credibility and esteem.

Credibility, esteem, interests, threats, standing, etc etc. The authors cite no specifics, and speak only in the broadest generalities. After a few more paragraphs of this, they conclude by adding:

Finally we need better data and analysis on U.S. standing. The United States supports periodic National Election Surveys at home; questions about standing should be added to the survey and public funds for other indicators -- such as foreign media analysis -- are needed. The dynamics of U.S. standing are complex, and we grasp only imperfectly the sources and impact of U.S. credibility and esteem in the world. Yet standing matters for U.S. foreign policy, and American leaders must pay attention to it or face real-world consequences.

The first three sentences here almost completely nullify the final sentence. Maybe America's standing in the world has real importance, but this piece does not shine any light on the subject.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Images Of America

For me, nothing signifies America more than their huge sense of optimism, and this image represents it well. It is a image of the first moon landings in 1969, something that many people thought would be impossible. It is because the American people truly believe that anything can be achieved, and it should be the Americans that show the rest of the world this.
It was spurred on by the Cold War with the Soviet Union which made it even more important to step out into the unknown. The same can be said for the ’America Dream’, it is this notion that anything is possible that keeps all Americans convinced that there will be better times ahead.

This image depicts a village being burnt to the ground during the Vietnam war, and for me shows the dark side American thought, that they should spread democracy and freedom all over the world by military means if necessary. As in the case of Vietnam, It lead to around 58,000 soldiers loosing their life's, trying to force American and Western ideology on a distant land. As the case is now in Iraq and Afghanistan, America has gone in to change a country for the better, but has become bogged down against militants, and like the Vietnam War, with no clear exit strategy.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Positive and negative images of America

This image signifies my positive view of America. It may just be a desert road but this simple photograph represents to me how America is essentially a vast and majestic land, a blank canvas that invites a rich mixture of religions, races and cultures to begin their journey. Founded on the basis of freedom for all, America thrives on diversity.

This iconic image signifies my negative view of America. The 9/11 attacks are widely believed to have changed the world. However, when I see this image, I do not just remember the catastrophic disaster as several other images are also struck in my mind. I think of George W. Bush's presidency consumed with lies. I think of Fox News presenting these lies as truth. And I think of the media silencing those who believe otherwise. This image reminds me to look beyond the evidence that we see and question the evidence we do not see.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Welcome to the blog for AM1111

How to blog

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When done, click "publish post." It is really easy - and if you get it wrong, you can always edit the post - just click on the little pencil you see underneath the published post to edit.