America

A New Symbol For The South.

HatI’ve never lived in the South. I have cousins that live there and my brother moved to Alabama a few months back, and that is about as deep as my relationship to the southern United States gets. I know the south has a rich and diverse cultural heritage, and I know that the confederate flag is a symbol of controversy for many living there and not living there. It is a symbol that has long been divisive and polarizing, occasionally popping up in the news when there is a call to ban or abolish it from public use by a state or local government. So I can’t imagine the challenge of designing a new symbol for the south that would be inclusive, embrace the traditions and heritage of the region, and not spark arguments from those that believe the confederate flag is sacred.

Last year PRI and WNYC asked 70k ft to do just that, and they did. Below is the imagery that they created and some of the thinking that went into the redesign. The embedded links go to the South website and to the PRI site where the team discusses in detail the process, the thinking, and the reaction to the new symbol for the southern portion of the United States. It is an interesting read and listen if you have the time. I have mixed feelings about the end results. I like the new symbol better than the tired old confederate flag, but I’m not sure it will resonate with southerners. It’ll be interesting to see if this new symbol takes hold and develops traction in the future.

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Fireworks, or Bombshells. You Choose.

Well, it’s Fourth of July weekend here in America and that means people are blowing up their hard earned money with fireworks. I like fireworks, well the professional ones that is. Don’t get me wrong if you want to blow shit up in your backyard to show the world how patriotic you are that’s fine. I’m not going to stop you. I just prefer to spend my money on things that aren’t going to go up in smoke, or run the risk of causing me pain and possible dismemberment. So you can celebrate the nation’s birthday with fireworks, or you can feast your eyes on pin-up girls sporting the red white and blue and in some cases holding fireworks. Frankly, I think I prefer looking at leggy gals sporting an outfit made from old glory and holding explosives. So here we have movie stars, models, and illustrations of just that. By the way, 1960’s bombshell Raquel Welch, and 1940’s Broadway star Anne Miller seem to have been very popular icons for the 4th.

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“Seven Days”, April 1968.

This video is a masterful blend of archival footage, newly captured video, animated stills, and CGI. it encompasses one of the greatest tragedies for America in the 20th century, and one of our greatest triumphs. If you are old enough to remember April 1968, this will bring back plenty of memories for you. If you weren’t around, or to young, hopefully it will inspire you to learn a bit more about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., The Fair Housing Act, and the state of politics and race in America in the late sixties. We’ve come a long way since then, but have miles to go.

The 1 MIllion American Jobs Project.

I can get behind the “Made in America” craze that seems to have made huge progress in just the last two years. As a matter of fact I was behind this movement decades ago when RCA, the company my younger brother worked for, closed down one of it’s TV factories in Indiana. They closed because one of their largest purchasers wanted the wholesale price of TV’s to be lower, and RCA decided to send manufacturing to China to cut costs. There is a grass roots movement taking place to bring jobs back to the USA. Watch the video below, take note of a few facts, and then share it with your friends.

Living Large in America.

mcmansionI have never lived in a large house. Not even when I was growing up. My parents had a modest house of about 1400 square feet that worked just fine for 5 humans, two dogs, and a cat. Out of the three houses I have owned in my life, the largest was just under 1400  square feet of living space. My current dwelling is just at 1000.

Over the last 30 years, the average size of a single family house in America has ballooned to a whopping 2300+ square feet on average. America, and Americans have been sold on the idea that bigger is better, that more space equals happiness. On the opposite end of the scale, in Hong Kong there are groups of people living in apartments the size of walk-in closets. No I’m not advocating doing that.

Recently there has been a growing interest in the United States in smaller more efficient homes. Living in 1000 square feet or less is something that is actually fairly common in the rest of the world, where land is tight and properties are expensive. The images below show the vast disparity between property sizes through out the world, with the United States and Australia rounding out the top two, when it comes to McMansion sized homes.

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Who is Uncle Sam?

Uncle Sam is one of America’s most familiar icons, but most Americans have little to no idea of his origins. If asked most Americans will probably point to the early 20th century Army recruiting poster, which was actually borrowed from Britain. The final version of Uncle Sam that we are most familiar with today, came about in 1917. The famous “I Want You” recruiting poster by James Montgomery Flagg set the image of Uncle Sam firmly into American consciousness.

The reality is, that Uncle Sam dates back much further, with beginnings during the colonial period of the United States.

The actual figure of Uncle Sam, dates from the War of 1812 where the setting was ripe for a national icon. Before the War of 1812 most icons had been geographically specific with most centered on the New England area. The War of 1812 sparked a renewed interest in national identity which had faded in the years following the revolutionary war.

Like many mythological and symbolic figures, Uncle Sam has origins in actual fact and, in this case, an actual man. Born in Massachusetts, Samuel Wilson settled in the town of Troy, New York. Known locally as “Uncle” Sam, he would be the impetus for a regional saying which would eventually become a national icon.

Sam Wilson moved to Troy New York with his brother, Ebenezer, in the late 1700’s where they established a meat packing business. E. & S. Wilson acquired contracts for the U.S. Army as meat suppliers in 1812. The contract stated that all supplies be stamped with the manufacturers name and point of origin. Troy residents associated the “U.S.” on the sides of the barrels of troop rations with “Uncle Sam” — who they all knew was feeding the army.

The connection between this local saying and the national legend is not easily traced. As early as 1830, there were inquiries into the origin of the term “Uncle Sam,” which first appeared in print in 1813. The connection between the popular cartoon figure and Samuel Wilson of Troy, NY was reported in the New York Gazette on May 12, 1830, and later confirmed by Samuel Wilson’s great- and great-great-nephews.

By the early twentieth century, there was little physical resemblance left between Samuel Wilson and Uncle Sam. As a symbol of an ever-changing nation, Uncle Sam had gone through many incarnations. Initially cartoon versions of Sam were very familiar to those of Brother Jonathan. The Civil War saw a major transition in the development of Uncle Sam as his image was associated with that of Abraham Lincoln. It was during this period that Sam aged and acquired a beard.

Although there continue to be numerous variations on the image of Uncle Sam, the Flagg version from 1917 is now considered to be the go to standard from which all others deviate.

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Mamma Mia That’s One Fancy BBQ Set.

Would you look at this, a fancy BBQ set designed by Italians, with metal made by Germans, and hopefully serving food to Americans on the Fourth of July. If it isn’t it should be. This stuff looks so nice I’m not sure I’d want to let it near my BBQ. The set is made from rust-resistant, brushed steel from Germany, and Indian Rosewood handles with an oiled finish. I love the clean lines, and minimalist aesthetic.

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Maserin’s BBQ set is made in much the same way as their folding kitchen knives. Blades are laser cut from a sheet of steel, then attached to a thick wire that forms the core of the handle, around which goes the rosewood handle.

The set is made by Maserin in Magiano, Italy,which is known as the “city of knives”. Maserin was founded in 1960 and began by making sporting knives. They are now considered among the world’s best. Their tradition of artisanal blacksmithing continues to embrace the latest technologies in blade-making. They’ve since expanded their collection to include everything from mushroom foraging knives to corkscrews, and now, a barbecue set to end all barbecue sets.

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